Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Super Blog Team-Up: Seven Decades of Apes-mania, and We're Afflicted!



Doug: Hi, my name is Doug, and... well, I'm addicted to the Planet of the Apes. There - I said it! Are you happy now? Welcome back to the BAB, everyone! We are pleased to be in your company today, and also excited to have been asked once again to participate in this summer's Super Blog Team-Up. "Expanded universe" is our topic, so we are running with that across three blogs. Our premise here is that the variety of products available to kids in during the era of the Bronze Age of comics allowed our imaginations to make leaps into new territory for our favorite Apes characters.

Doug: Once you're done here, make the jump to Black & White and Bronze Age Comics and also to Karen's new space, Echoes from the Satellite. You'll find a 20-page Doug Moench/Herb Trimpe tale as well as our thoughts on a short story from the Tales from the Forbidden Zone anthology, respectively.

Doug: Over the years we've discussed the damned dirty Apes many times, and today we want to reflect on those previous thoughts about the films, merchandise, and comics. The Apes train keeps rolling; with the new trilogy now concluded, we're hopeful that Disney (having secured the rights from Fox) will continue to explore the possibilities of the expanded Apes universe. So join us on a trip through our childhoods, as we look at the expansion of the Apes mythos into toys, magazines, etc... and even on to "modern" merchandise, like the examples below.


Doug: Words cannot express my wide-eyed wonder when, as a mere lad of seven years, I watched my first Planet of the Apes movie. My family had recently relocated to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and while I was most disappointed to leave behind my beloved Channel 44 out of Chicago that showed Marvel Super-Heroes (the legendary 1966 cartoon show) or Spider-Man (the 1967 classic), I was excited to discover a few channels in my new home that would expand my love of science fiction.

Doug: Among reruns of the 1940's serials, such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, and a seemingly endless string of Tarzan movies (here my love of Johnny Weismuller and Buster Crabbe began -- it wouldn't be until many years later that I would read the Edgar Rice Burroughs novels and gain an even greater appreciation for Christopher Lambert's portrayal of the jungle lord in Greystoke), there came the Apes movies and still later the CBS television show. From that point forward, I was going Ape!

Karen: Every single movie was novelized, and of course, there was the original novel by Pierre Boulle (which got updated with a movie cover). I had all of these books when they came out but sadly somewhere along the way got rid of them. There were also novelizations of some of the TV episodes.

Doug: All of those novelizations have been collected in paperback - I think there may be five volumes, and that would include adaptations of several episodes of the TV show. 


Karen: Is there anyone who is unaware of the Mego Apes figures? I think these were the single most popular Apes merchandise. I was only aware of the figures based on the movies, which included Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, the Gorilla Soldier, and 'the Astronaut'. It was only recently that I discovered that Mego had also made figures based on characters from the TV show. There were also accessories and playsets. All I had though was three figures: Cornelius, Zira, and the Gorilla.
 
Doug: Ah, here is where I had mucho Apes! Back in the days of blow-apart Megos (held together with elastic, rather than the later use of heavy rubber bands), I had the astronaut in his blue jumpsuit. Along the way I also had Cornelius (or was it Galen? -- same figure, if I recall), Generals Urko and Ursus, and maybe a soldier gorilla. I believe I also had Dr. Zaius, and once the TV show came out I had Verdon and Burke. I also had the treehouse playset. These figures were exceptional, and provided fodder for many cross-universe adventures once I brought in my superhero Megos for some scrapping! 

Doug: I also had bubble gum cards, coloring books, etc. Wanting to soak up all things Ape at that point, I came across the Boulle novel at the public library, with the cover you mentioned; so I asked my mom to check it out for me. What a disappointment for 8-year old me! Now, this was long before I knew anything about such things as "based on the novel", etc. But what I'd seen on TV was nothing like this book -- Apes driving cars? ...wearing suits? Nah...
Karen: I remember building a lot of plastic model kits in the 70s. Although I guess the heyday of the hobby was probably in the 60s, with all the great Aurora model kits, it was still pretty popular in the 70s. The Apes had a spot here too, with a line of kits from a company called Addar. As far as I know, there were six kits, which featured Cornelius, Zira, Dr. Zaius, Caesar, General Aldo, and General Ursus. These were pretty cool kits, which included not only figures but some scenery; the Zaius kit, for example, include the bomb launching 'altar' from "Beneath the Planet of the Apes." I had that kit, as well as the two generals and Cornelius. They looked great next to my AMT Mr. Spock and Aurora Hulk and Spider-Man! 

Doug: I don't recall if I had any Apes models; I know I had the Spider-Man kit. I always hated the way they looked when I painted them. Nothing like the box... (picture me with a sad Charlie Brown face).

Karen: There were so many other types of Apes toys out there that we can't name them all in a blog post. But I will throw out a few that I had and loved. One was the Color Forms POTA set. Yes, bright primary colors for the apes, and an Ape City background. This was what we did before we had video games -- we made little scenes and told stories.  

Doug: Man, time clouds the memory. If I didn't have the Color Forms set, I must have had a friend who did. I remember playing with them somewhere...

Karen: There was also the POTA board game, which I think my brother played with me grudgingly once. It was reminiscent of the old "Mousetrap" game, as you had to build a cage out of the cardboard pieces included and capture your opponents but I have no idea how the gameplay worked. Again, it was colorful and had apes on it. That was good enough for me.

Karen: I was able to live out all my most oppressive fantasies as a gorilla soldier thanks to Mattel's ape rifle and mask set. That mask was like a typical Halloween costume mask, with only a front and an elastic string to hold it on your head. The rifle made a nice loud crack when you pulled the trigger. Don Post studios put out some very nice over the head Apes masks but I never had any of them.

Karen: To start my day I had a plastic bowl and mug set, which I recall had the glaring face of General Ursus -or was it Urko? - on it. It was the perfect companion to watching the Apes cartoon on Saturday mornings. 

Doug: Sheesh, you went Ape way more than me!

Karen: The comic magazine was published by Marvel from 1974-1977, and featured comic book adaptations of all five films, as well as original stories by Marvel staff. On top of all this there were articles and photographs from the movies and TV series. It was an Ape fan's dream (NOTE: Of course, Boom Studios has recently given those Apes mags the high-quality Archives treatment, and one of the stories is our topic of discussion over at the BWBC today - check it out!).

Doug: One of the regrets of my comics-buying life is that I didn't own more of the B&W magazines. I did, however, peruse many of them while my mom grocery shopped. I'm surprised I never got the "Hey, this ain't a library, kid!" line from the grocer. Yet, at the time they seemed so grown-up and even risque' that I don't think my mom would have shelled out the buck or two. And, as a parent now, that was most likely the right choice for a 7-8-year old kid. But to see those books today... And the Apes mags in particular were just beautiful.   

Karen: There are many, many more items, but these are some of the ones we recall fondly. We'd love to hear from any other Ape-maniacs. Let's discuss some of the modern toys and items available. 

Karen: It's funny how toys and merchandise continue to be made based on the original films. It's a testament I suppose to their enduring charm. One note: we're only looking at stuff based on the original POTA - so you won't see anything from the Tim Burton remake here (NOTE: When we originally wrote these comments, the latest trilogy had yet to see the light of day). This is certainly not an encyclopedic look at Apes merchandise but simply items we're aware of. 

Karen: Most of the modern stuff is in the area of figures -and some of them are quite impressive. There are the Diamond Select/Emce figures that recreate the Mego line (it might have only been four figures from the original line -I'm not sure). From what I gather, they actually used the original sculpts to create their figures, and copied the costumes meticulously. Even the packaging looks the same. It's like a time machine back to a toy store circa 1973. I just wonder what that did to the secondary market for the Mego figures?

Karen: There were
also the Hasbro line of figures. I'll just say I'm not a big fan of this line. I think they had a tough time with the apes' hair. I mean, look at this Cornelius figure. What's up with the wavy hair? It just looks weird. I do think the costumes and accessories weren't too bad. Some of these figures also came in tubes, which I thought was pretty odd packaging. 

 
Karen: Of course no discussion of modern action figures is complete without Sideshow Collectibles. Known for their attention to detail and high quality, their Apes line didn't disappoint. Not only did we get the major ape characters, but figures of astronauts Taylor and Brent, Taylor in his slave outfit, his love interest Nova, and even some of the mutants from Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Sideshow went with molded rather than fabric hair and it looks pretty good. I have the Dr. Zaius figure and it is outstanding. Most figures included some nice accessories too. A picture of my Dr. Zaius is at right.

Karen: But the very best Apes figures, in my opinion, were the gorillas made by Hot Toys. These figures are just the creme de la creme. There was a gorilla soldier, a gorilla captain, and General Ursus. Let me tell you, I have General Ursus, and he is a beaut. The costume details, the face sculpt, the hair -all perfect. He's also extremely articulated so nearly any pose you can think of is possible. His accessories include a rifle and pistol, and his awesome helmet is removable. I think this is the very best figure I have ever seen for POTA. Of course, the major catch with Sideshow and Hot Toys is the price. At anywhere from $40-70 a figure, it could be pretty costly to try to collect a complete set! I had a hard time getting the good General; I tried two on-line stores, both of which showed him as being in stock, only to have them contact me and tell me they were sold out. I kept bidding on auctions at eBay, only to get out-bid. I finally won an auction, but then the seller told me that somehow the General's hands had mysteriously gone missing! Finally I did win an auction and bring the big monkey home. 


Doug: All of Hot Toys figures are stunning, regardless of subject matter. That Ursus you've pictured is incredible!

Karen: A Japanese company called Medicom produced a pretty large line of figures from the original films that included even the ape-o
nauts! I also really like their Lawgiver statue.
They had fairly good sculpts but very limited articulation. Unlike the Hasbro, Sideshow, and Hot Toys figures, these ones were only 6" in size. I haven't gotten my hands on any of these yet but I might try in the future. 

 
Karen: I love mini-figures, so I get a big kick out of these POTA Kubricks. I only h
ave the ape soldiers with a horse but I believe there were at least eight different sets. Even at this small scale, there's a lot of detail, and even the packaging is pretty cool. I've seen these go for all sorts of prices.
I got lucky and bought my set at a convention for $10. I later looked at some eBay auctions and saw it going for as much as three times that. 


Doug: These remind me of Diamond Select Toys' Mini-Mates. We have a ton of superhero Mini-Mates stored down in the basement that my sons used to collect.

Karen: Although I never got the DVD set that included a bust of Caesar (the DVDs were actually inside I believe), I did manage to pick up the very nice Blu Ray set put out about two years ago (and at a bargain price). The films look simply spectacular -the first film in particular has just gorgeous color. There are a ton of extras, and I've spent hours watching all the documentaries and trailers. If you are an apes fan you really must see the Behind the Planet of the Apes documentary. It may have been shown on AMC or FMC, but it's worth repeat viewings. I still haven't listened to the commentary tracks on POTA yet (the only film with commentary by the way). The packaging is quite innovative, with a slip case that combines Taylor's ship and an ominous looking Caesar. The whole thing folds out, and inside is a detailed timeline that shows the two different timelines for the films. There's also a very nice book with great background on the films, as well as beautiful color photos taken from the sets. I love looking at this book! The only drawback to the set is the way the discs themselves are mounted on the inside of the case. There's a circular rubber disc for each DVD, which fits the hole in the center of each, but I've had difficulty getting mine to stay on, so they frequently wind up loose in the slip case. But that's quite minor when you look at everything you get in this set. This is a very worthwhile addition to anyone's collection.

Karen: A side-note: the photos of the apes on the discs themselves, as well as the cover photo of Caesar, are actually pictures of the folks from Apemania, who do amazing recreations of the ape characters. Their website is a virtual treasure trove for Apes fans. I highly recommend taking a look -or three! 


Karen: Besides the excellent book in the DVD set, I can recommend Planet of the Apes Revisited by Joe Russo, Larry Landsman
, and Edward Gross. It looks at the films in chronological order, supplying a lot of information about the behind the scenes work done to make each film. The brief TV series is also covered. There are black and white still throughout the book and an eight page color section.

Karen: Lastly, I couldn't sign off on this portion of today's post without mentioning my latest Apes purchase.
Because as we all know, chimpin' ain't easy.



Karen: Neca is producing a 7" figure line based on the original films (NOTE: This information would have been circa 2014). The first three figures in the line will be Dr. Zaius, Cornelius, and a gorilla soldier. The figures are supposed to be available this month, retailing around $20 each or about $52 for a three-pack. They really have great detail and remind me of of upscale versions of the old Mego dolls.




Karen: Also in the merchandise category, Famous Monsters magazines' Captain Company is offering special Apes packs of magazines, posters, t-shirts, and figures. How can you turn this stuff down? The poster image  is too cool, with the Icarus spaceship sinking slowly away.


Karen: In other Apes news, the marvelous Creatures Features store in Burbank, California is currently featuring an art exhibit, Art of the Apes, through July 27th. They have works by dozens of talented artists on display. Check out this video of the event. The artwork  is so incredible and of such tremendous variety! I sure wish I could go!
 

Karen: So Ape-ophiles, hang in there, and remember the words of the Lawgiver: Ape shall never kill ape -unless he's got his hands on the last available Dr. Zaius action figure!





Doug: Alright, kids - if that's not a blast from the past (both the BAB's past as well as your childhood and beyond!), I don't know what is. And as a bonus, we are also reprinting a review Karen did of the Star Trek/Planet of the Apes crossover from IDW. Talk about Expanded universes... You can see it below. One last thing - at the bottom of today's post you'll see links to our SBTU partners. Check out their work when you have time!





Star Trek/Planet of the Apes: The Prime Directive
Written by Scott Tipton and David Tipton
Art by Rachael Stott
Colors by Charlie Kirchoff
Published by IDW

Karen: It was almost exactly a year ago that I reviewed the first two issues of this series in a post. I liked it, but being an infrequent visitor to my comic shop, I didn't pick up the remaining three issues in this series. At some point last year I did grab the TPB and over the Christmas holiday I took it from my reading stack and sat down with it. And I thoroughly enjoyed it! POTA was the first science fiction franchise I fell for as a kid, with Star Trek following soon after. As a fan of both, I felt the writers and artist were able to capture  the tone of each to make this book feel like a true meld of the two.

Karen: The time is right after the events of the first Apes film, and sometime during the original series of Trek, after the first season episode "Errand of Mercy," in which the Federation and the Klingon Empire were forced into a peace treaty by the Organians, a powerful race of energy beings.  The Klingons have discovered an artificial space portal that leads to another dimension -an alternate reality? - and have been sending ships back and forth. The Enterprise uncovers this and follows them through, only to find what appears to be another Earth, although Spock's scientific instruments indicate that it is the year 3978 in this other universe. However, the sensors also indicate a primitive civilization. Intrigued by what the Klingons could be doing here, Kirk, Spock and company beam down. From a distance they spy their old friend,  the Klingon Commander Kor, talking to...apes!



Karen: The Enterprise crew soon figures out that the Klingons are supplying these gorillas with firearms. We saw this sort of behavior from the Klingons on the show before, most notably in the episode "A Private Little War." Back on board the Enterprise, Kirk and his officers go over the information they've gathered about the planet, and indications that a nuclear war in the past helped lead to the current condition of apes being dominant over humans. Kirk decides that even though this isn't their universe, the Prime Directive, the order which states that Starfleet personnel cannot interfere with the development of other civilizations, is still in effect. The Klingons, however, have no such rule; just the opposite in fact. Constrained by the Organian Treaty, they must be using the portal to seek out new planets in this universe to conquer or gather resources from. Kirk decides that they have to stop the Klingon efforts on this Earth. They prepare to beam back down and he tells Spock to have the computer put them near some landmark that they can identify. Oh boy...

Karen: The team materializes on a beach, with the classic shot of the demolished Statue of Liberty to greet them. Stunned, they take a moment to gather themselves, then notice human footprints and horse tracks in the sand. Following these, they find the still shell-shocked George Taylor and Nova. Taylor at first thinks that Kirk and company have been sent from his Earth, his time, but Kirk tries to explain, although it's obviously complicated. Taylor doesn't care where they are from though -he wants their help in taking the planet back from the apes. 

Karen: Here is where the story really starts to pick up. Kirk has to balance the need to stop the Klingons with trying to protect the ape culture, all while keeping an eye on Taylor. And that's not easy. Taylor manages to break off and get himself beamed up to the Enterprise. There is a fun fight between Kirk and Taylor -who wouldn't want to see prime of their lives Shatner and Heston go mano a mano? 



Karen: Our two favorite chimps, Cornelius and Zira, are also around, and it's a treat to see them interacting with McCoy, Scotty, and the rest. The first issue was almost all set-up.I felt that by the third book the voices were all there, and things were moving along very smoothly. The art also captured the likenesses of the actors well enough that I wasn't ever wondering who a character was supposed to be. It was always obvious.



Karen: The story may tip a little more towards the Trek side but there is plenty of POTA here. The scenes between Commander Kor and the rogue gorilla general, Marius, are excellent. The confrontation between Marius and General Ursus, from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, is also a highlight, and it feels like we are getting some great backstory on Ursus, who had always seemed fairly one-dimensional. Poor Dr. Zaius only makes a brief appearance though. The ending caught me by surprise, but in a good way. I don't want to say much more than that.

Karen: This  book probably gave me more pure, unadulterated reading pleasure than any other comic I've read this year. The love and respect for both series came through. I would highly recommend it for fans of either series. If you like both of them though, you will truly enjoy this.



Now it's time for you to jump all over the blogosphere and enjoy some cool content from our #SuperBlogTeamUp partners. Leave 'em a comment!


Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution


Between The Pages Blog: The Star Wars Expanded Universe


Comic Reviews By Walt: The Aliens vs Predator Universe 

Dave’s Comic Heroes Blog: Logan’s Run Marvel Movie Adaptation

The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews - Superstar

Radulich In Broadcasting: Flash Gordon Universe

The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters

Unspoken Issues: Mad-Dog 


The Daily Rios: Little Shop of Horrors

Black & White and Bronze Comics: “Beast on the Planet of the Apes” - a Review



Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe

Cavalcade of Awesome: Jumper Universe

MichaelMay.Online: Treasure Island Universe   

DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe (DC comics)





6 comments:

dbutler16 said...

I didn't have a ton of Apes merchandise back in the day, but I had a couple of the Mego figures and that exact same Escape from the Planet of the Apes record and book set! Those things were great!

The Star Trek/Planet of the Apes comic looks cool. I'll have to check it out. I read the Legion of Super-Heroes/Star Trek comic a few months ago and it was quite enjoyable.

Mike Wilson said...

Great to have you back! I've only seen the first Apes movie, so I never got heavy into it, but I am a gorilla fan in general, so all this does kinda speak to me.

Doug said...

Hence, your own blog title, Mike!

Thanks for stopping by, fellas - great to hear from you again!

Doug

Edo Bosnar said...

Yeah, I never had any PotA merchandise, and was only ever a peripheral fan of the property (meaning it wasn't front and center for me like other stuff), but I enjoyed the post. So nice to see the old team back together at the old digs, even if it's just a one-off thing.

James Williams said...

Great Information,
Thank you for sharing..

Karen said...

Thanks for coming by guys! It was fun working with Doug again on the posts. And seeing the comments from you and over at Twitter too.

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