A Tribute to the of

While I was a bit of a late bloomer, I truly began to love Joe Kubert’s work as this Silver Age journey began in earnest. As I’ve likely explained before, I’d seen Murphy Anderson’s Hawkman prior to Joe’s and to me, that was the definitive version for a number of years. The webmaster and I were never into the war books much and Joe didn’t often do superhero books, at least when we were getting them off the spinner racks in our hometown, so to a certain extent, Joe was an unknown quantity to me.

Fast forward all these years later and since Joe was one of my early interviewees [Sage #170], such as it was and I began to get better acquainted with his work (not to mention absolutely devouring Bill Schelly’s excellent biography, Man of Rock [Sage #216],) and I became an unabashed fan of Joe Kubert, so when he produced a couple of mini-series in the years before he died, including Tor and the Joe Kubert Presents books [Sage #303, #319, &#414], I simply had to have them. I was in no way disappointed and was even pleasantly surprised at the Joe Kubert Presents series (partly due to the fact that it was a take-off on our beloved Showcase Presents) because in addition to new Kubert artwork to enjoy (kicked off by a wonderful self-portrait of the man on the first page of issue #1) they were also anthology books and I was kind of intrigued that someone (Brian Buniak) had chosen to tackle the old Angel and the Ape title.

Well, we seldom get into the humor mags, but unless he’s changed his mind, the only prohibition the webmaster has ever given me was on funny animal stories and while technically this qualifies, it’s also yet another title that saw it’s beginnings in the pages of the Showcase Presents series, so I’ve decided to spotlight Showcase #77 with a publication date of September 1968 where the original Angel and the Ape was first rolled out. Bob Oksner did the cover art, apparently based on an idea by Sergio Aragones. The great Gaspar lettered the cover. Oksner also handled interior art with an assist by Tex Blaisdell on inks and Joe Orlando was the editor. There seems to be massive confusion over the script credit. The Grand Comics Database says this:

There is no definite conclusion on who wrote this story. In Amazing World of DC Comics #10, January 1976, in "There's No Cases Like Showcases", Jack C. Harris wrote, "Orlando was up again with... Angel and the Ape... by E. Nelson Bridwell, Al Jaffee, Bob Oskner, and Tex Blaisdell... with the cover idea of [Sergio] Aragones. In the letter column of Adventure Comics #414 (January 1972), when a fan recalls AATA, E. Nelson Bridwell replies, "That was a creation of Publisher Carmine Infantino, Editor Joe Orlando, and yours truly... with Bob's art." On The Drawing Board #67, June 1968, credits Bridwell with plot and Howie Post with script. Other writers cited in the past include Howie Post and Bob Kanigher (creation and writing).

One more thing before I get into the story. Much like the Bat-Lash house ads, the ones for Angel and the Ape piqued my curiosity back in the day. If I remember correctly, the text said “Who are they? What are they? Angel and the Ape.” It was accompanied by a halo and a banana.

So, at long last, I’m about to find out who and what Angel and the Ape are, and you, dear reader, are along for the ride.

The story opens with a gent on crutches and in a cast, navigating a big city and apparently he’s upset someone as there are multiple attempts on his life with everything from a machine gun to a stone axe. He soon finds himself at the base of some steps and says that he needs help.

He crawls up flights of stairs until he’s outside the door of “O’Day and Simeon, Private Investigators.” An attractive blonde is sitting on a desk, taking out a fly with a whip and the battered gent discloses he is “Trembull” and someone is trying to kill him. To illustrate his point, a round goes through his derby. He further explains he’d recently been on a ski trip in Switzerland, which caused his broken leg. It was set by a Swiss doctor. The young lady says she and her partner will work on the case and then Trembull notes that said partner must have left his pants on the coat rack, or else the sleeves would be long enough for a…gorilla.

Outside Trembull’s field of vision, a gorilla wearing a suit is heading in, but the man’s attention is soon taken up by the arrival of Barney and Clyde, who intend to do him harm. Just then the suited gorilla literally leaps into action, pushing the thugs down the staircase and thinking to himself, “…I despise it when someone calls me ape!

He then heads back into his office, which contains a drawing board. He thinks, “Stan’ll fire me if I don’t make this deadline!” The young lady walks in and informs “Sam,” that their new client is marked for murder. Sam the ape replies, in ape-like gibberish, handily translated, that he’ll just quickly ink this page and… A brick with a note flies through the window of Sam’s studio/office and caroms off his skull, causing him to drop his ink bottle onto his page. Sam is jumping up and down and swearing in “Gorillese” and it is translated into classic comic swear words.

Ms. O’Day looks at the note, which is addressed to Simeon and O’Day and warning them that if they help Trembull, they’re in for a series of misfortunes that may lead to an untimely demise. Non-plussed, the trio head for the street where Ms. O’Day tells Sam to deliver his cartoons to Brainpix Magazines while she watches over Mr. Trembull. Just then, she is accosted by thugs, but this is no shrinking violet. Using martial arts moves that would make Chuck Norris jealous, she quickly dispatches the thugs while an admiring Sam looks on, noting that the poses and sound effects and dialogue would be ideal for his future strip chapters.

Sam is content to watch while enjoying a banana until he sees Angel being grabbed by the hair. Then he jumps into the fisticuffs, sending baddies flying every which way. Just then the law shoes up and Sam simply climbs the building up to the roof with an “Alleee Ooop!” and ponders another strip idea: “Hey! Not a bad idea for a comic strip. I see a sort of ape-like character…maybe…with a dinosaur and…naw…too ridiculous!

Soon Sam is leaping across the rooftops with his briefcase to meet up with his editor at Brainpix Publications, Stan Bragg. Once he swings through the open window, he is attacked by a caped figure with stars and stripes on his ensemble. “Captain Bragg” revels in the ambush and says that he has struck and justice triumphs again.

Stan’s secretary enters the room and is obviously taken with Sam Simeon and offers to help pick up his scattered pages. Stan then proceeds to berate the jungle action pages. Sam reasons he’s only trying to get him to work for a lower page rate and vows to keep his cool, but Stan continues to harangue, arguing that a gorilla should look and behave in a certain way, which he proceeds to act out.

Stan then drags in his favorite artist from the bullpen, Tex Bumblewell, to further explain how to depict gorillas. Tex proceeds to describe a big, ugly, stupid character with the power to throw men around like matchsticks. Having heard enough, Sam plows into Tex and begins to turn the place out, to which the small assembly unanimously agree that “…he’s got it!

Having had enough of “…the stupidities of the commercial world of art,” Sam heads for home, where he has a tastefully appointed bachelor pad complete with tire swing, guitar and all the other comforts of home. His reverie is soon interrupted by a brief phone call, advising him of a kidnapping at Trembull’s home on Pine Road. It’s Angel and she’s in trouble. Sam is quickly on his way and when he reaches the address, there are signs of a scuffle, but no one is home. He is soon doing the bloodhound bit and follows their scent to the zoo.

Meanwhile, the trussed-up pair of O’Day and Trembull are in a snake pit. Angel begins to charm them with a dance that makes ample use of her curves when Sam bursts in and proceeds to tie the reptiles into knots. While he’s busy, Trembull is whisked away through a trap door. Sam rushes outside and is soon dealing with security. After a brief fracas and at Angel’s suggestion, he shows them his private eye credentials and then continues his search for Trembull.

The search leads through a lion’s cage and Sam is snagged by a trapdoor into another enclosure with highly unfriendly big cats. Sam takes on all comers while Angel works her way down to the admiring stares of more thugs. Her martial arts moves save the day yet again. Behind another door, the pair of detectives locate Trembull along with his antagonist. Sam takes him down and it turns out to be the zookeeper, who was in the process of trying to steam off Trembull’s cast. Angel and Sam investigate further and discover that the cast conceals the plans for a super rocket and the Swiss doctor had used the cast to smuggle the plans into the states. What no one realized was that rather than some top secret set of military weapon plans, the document was actually for a rocket ride at Disneyland. The keeper is taken away in a straitjacket and Trembull offers to let O’Day and Simeon eat at the Waldorf Ritz on his tab, wrapping up this case and the debut of Angel and the Ape.

This was kind of a fun read and I got a kick out of the not so subtle digs at the competition (Stan Bragg, anyone?) The doppelganger for Tex Blaisdell was a nice touch, too and sight gags abounded. The translations of Sam’s Gorillese got a little old (probably for the poor letterer, too), but it was a fun little romp and Bob Oksner was a very good artist, especially with the delectable Angel.

Angel and the Ape were given their own series after this tryout and went a mere 6 issues before being 86’d. Apparently, it was revived in 1991, but ran only 4 issues and judging by the covers, Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five showed up. Makes sense. They have the same flavor. Finally, before the backup stories I mentioned at the beginning by Buniak, there was another 4-issue run in 2001 with some nice Arthur Adams covers that looked to be taking things in a more serious direction…if a gorilla in a suit can be taken seriously to begin with.

I had a pretty good time scratching the itch of learning about the original Angel and the Ape. I don’t believe I’ll rate this series, because it’s so far off the beaten path of what we usually review here at the dear ol’ Silver Lantern, but I can recommend checking them out for yourself if you’d like some good clean Silver Age fun. Angel and the Ape will fill the bill.

It’s always a good day at the Silver Lantern and the only thing missing is your feedback, so drop a line anytime to my handy e-mail and express yourself: professor_the@hotmail.com.

We’ll be back with a fresh review around the 15th of September and, as always…

Long live the Silver Age!

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