A Tribute to the of

Welcome to April, DC Silver Age Fans! And no, it was no April Fool when I mentioned last time that I’d kick off the new month with a good ol’ gorilla tale. It was another staple of the Silver Age (even though the idea of apes in comics predates it handily) and you had everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. I even have my copy of Michael Eury’s Comics Gone Ape! as a handy reference.

So, what inspired me this time? Another recent visit to the local comic shop and the bargain long box section. I came across a copy of DC Special #16 published in the Spring of 1975 titled “Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas,” and it’s filled with some wonderful old reprints of classic simian appearances from Titano to Grodd with a couple of other stories to boot. Curiously, you’ll note squarely in the center of the cover is says, “1st DC Issue.” But it’s #16… Of course, I also noted that the text feature on page 21, “Gorillas in Fact and Fiction,” ends with a standard query to the readership: “Would you like to see a regular magazine devoted to DC’s Super-Gorillas? If so, write and tell us. The address is SUPER-GORILLAS, National Periodical Publications, 75 Rockefeller Plaza, New York, NY 10019.

There must have been a fair amount of interest expressed because this appeared on the racks in September, 1976.

Editorial detail on this reprint book is Julie Schwartz with an assist by, naturally, E. Nelson Bridwell. It contains four stories from Superman #138 (July, 1960), The Flash #127 (March, 1962, a great month and year), Detective Comics #339 (May, 1966) and finally Wonder Woman #170 (May, 1967.)

Each of the stories are good, and it wasn’t an easy decision, but I’ve chosen the Wonder Woman tale for this review. The original tale, “Wonder Woman—Gorilla!” was written and edited by Bob Kanigher, with Ross Andru and Mike Esposito working the art boards.

The setting is Paradise Island, home to the Amazons and Wonder Woman is in attendance along with her mother, Queen Hippolyta. The other Amazon’s are having a contest, which seems to often be how they spend their time and Wonder Woman leaps in to compete as well, ultimately proving, once again, that she is the mightiest of them all.

Relaxing later, the Amazon Princess is about to take a dip when a UFO lands and out come alien gorillas, complete with space helmets and gear. Fortunately they speak colloquial English and announce that they come from a highly civilized planet beyond the sun, but they need mates, so the leader is going to take Wonder Woman to be his queen while his companions will pick from amongst the other Amazons.

Fearing that having men on the island, even alien gorilla men, may cause she and her sister Amazons to lose their powers, she pleads with the leader of the landing party to leave peacefully, but you know he will refuse, so she goes on the offensive, but soon finds she is no match for the alien gorilla leader.

After tossing her to and fro, and even being unaffected by the magic lasso, he finally loses interest in the sport and uses his molecule transformer weapon on her, changing her into a gorilla, albeit one still wearing her familiar uniform. The gorilla king, however, is not amused at the results of the transformation and exclaims that she was beautiful and “queenly” before the transformation, but now, not so much. She suggests he reverse the process and he quickly compiles, but our favorite Amazon princess must now use her wits to figure a way out of this situation.

Diana proposes that the gorilla change himself into a human so that they can rule as equals. He agrees, but just as the transformation is complete, he finds himself bound in the magic lasso again, but this time, due to the change, it’s powers are affecting him. He obeys her command to leave in peace with his crew and the magic does its work. After only 9 pages, Paradise Island is again safe for the Amazons.

So, not the weirdest gorilla tale I’ve ever read, but alien gorillas have to be right up there with the winged variety that showed up in Hawkman’s title.

So whether it’s the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City, Congorilla, the numerous and often unnamed cast in the jungle books, like Tarzan, Solovar and the gang at Gorilla City, Sam Simeon, Monsieur Mallah, or even Detective Chimp, (and this is far from a comprehensive list) the apes were around to keep things interesting at DC and this short story was yet another entry in that long category. I’ll give it a 6 just for the novelty factor. Kanigher could crank out the pages on the typewriter, but this wasn’t exactly a stunner of a story.

Don’t’ forget to have your taxes filed by the time this feature returns on April 15th and of course, don’t forget to check in with your feedback. Send me an e-mail with questions or comments. You know where: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you then and, as always…

Long live the Silver Age!

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