Sunday, June 19, 2011
Happy Father's Day! Now Let's Go Ape!!
DC Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas #1
Karen: You might be asking yourself, How does a review about a one-off DC gorilla comic have anything to do with Father's Day? A reasonable question. You see, for me, there's a connection between this old, ridiculous comic, and a strong memory of an experience I had with my father, which gave me new insight into my Dad.
Karen: Thanks to the wonder that is eBay, I've been able to get my hands on this book, to replace the one I either got rid of or lost. I'm a big fan of apes and gorillas in comics, movies, you name it, so this goofy book had a strong appeal to me. But it's one of the few comics where I can remember exactly when and how I got it.
Karen: One night after dinner when I was about 12, my Dad was going to go to the drugstore to pick up a prescription for my mom. He told me I could come along. As we were driving, I realized we weren't headed for the drugstore. Instead, we went to the machine shop where Dad worked. He got out and went to the chain link fence and whistled. Two gorgeous German shepherds came running up, barking. It turned out that the shop had been burglarized recently and the owners decided to get some guard dogs to roam the grounds. Dad had discovered that the guy who owned the two dogs kept them half-starved all the time, to keep them 'mean'. My Dad may have looked rough and tough, but at heart, he was -and is - a softy, and a big-time dog lover. Dad pulled out a grocery bag from the back of the truck and emptied the contents over the fence. It was dog chow. Those dogs just devoured it, and after, were wagging their tails and friendly. It's a memory of my Dad that has always stuck with me, as I got to see a different, and wonderful side of him, that night. His act of kindness has always stuck with me.
Karen: So where does the comic come in? Well, when we did go to the drugstore he let me pick out a comic to take home. When I saw that cover, I knew which one I wanted immediately! So that's my tale, and this sentimentality is the main reason I went out and got this book again, after 35 years!
Karen: So what's in the book? Reprints from the Silver Age, of course -that's when 'DC' and 'apes' were practically synonymous. There are three stories, one each featuring Superman (1958), Batman (1952), and the Flash (1967). I guess that Batman one is really more Golden Age. I've gotta say, they're all pretty silly.
Karen: The Superman tale features one of the fattest giant gorillas ever seen -and he's orange, which makes him look more like a giant fat orangutan! Jimmy Olsen discovers the ape while in Africa. This primate has all of Superman's powers -which makes sense, since he's also from Krypton! Superman theorizes that Kryptonian scientists, just like Earth scientists, sent apes into space first before launching any human beings. That Superman is one smart cookie. Anyway, there's a lot of baloney with Superman chasing 'King Krypton' around Africa. For no apparent reason, a group of Roman descendants who just happen to have a bunch of Kryptonite are added to the mix and they force the super man and ape to go at it. Now here's the really strange part: turns out that ape wasn't an ape at all, but a Kryptonian scientist who was accidentally turned into an ape! His scientist buddy thought space radiation would turn him back into a man so he shot him off into space. What a pal! In the end, the Kryptonite causes him to revert to his true form, and he sacrifices himself to save Superman. I have to say, the panel with the ape with the human head on it was pretty weird; when I did this review I remembered seeing that image before! Ugh.
Karen: Next up is the Flash tale. Honestly, I thought this was the least interesting story-wise, but Carmine Infantino did some nice work on the art as far as simulating Flash's speed effects. This time our guest ape is Gorilla Grodd, who is one strange, beady-eyed gorilla. Flash wakes up one morning to discover that everyone in Central City is moving at superspeed! Grodd telepathically contacts the speedster and convinces Flash he is responsible. He says he'll continue to keep them at superspeed, so that they'll grow old and die in a day, unless Flash releases him from his prison. Which Flash does, allowing Grood to toddle off. Later he speaks to a scientist buddy and discovers that the superspeed state was all just a fluke radiation event! Huh? Whatever. Once Flash figures out that Grodd is bluffing he jumps him. Grodd grabs him and squeezes the speedster so hard he disappears, leaving only his costume. "I squeezed Flash out of existence!" Really? This is the brilliant foe Flash has so much trouble with? Obviously, he just vibrated out of his costume. Grodd is slapped back in his jail cell lickety split.
Karen: Batman rounds out the book, with the story of Boss Dykes, a big time criminal who is executed but has his brain transplanted into the body of a giant gorilla. I really liked the way this ape looked -monstrous, mean, but obviously still an ape. He starts committing all sorts of high profile crimes. Batman and Robin are puzzled over the ape's behavior, such as avoiding an electrical trap.They soon start to put the pieces together. Boss Dykes decides to catch Batman and have their brains switched. He almost succeeds, but Batman escapes and the big ape pulls a Kong, climbing a building and then plunging to the streets below when Robin zaps him from the batplane.
Karen: Well friends, this is another case where the memory is sweeter than the reality! None of these stories are all that great, but I have a fondness for the book regardless, because of the way I got it originally, and the memories connected with it. To all of the fathers out there, Happy Father's day.