Gorillas in comics
Before the "Silver Age", stories involving gorillas were inordinately popular in other media, most notably movies such as King Kong and Mighty Joe Young. The comic book industry attempted to cash in on this craze, and similarly increased the appearance of gorillas in their media. This continued into the 1970s, reflecting the continued popularity of "gorilla movies" such as Planet of the Apes. In the late 1980s, the appearance of gorillas in comic books sharply declined, partly due to the decreasing depictions of them in other media, as well as the end of the Silver Age of Comics, and the backlash against "silly" plot-devices in the comic book form.
Gorillas were frequently used as a gimmick to increase sales for comic books during the Silver Age of Comic Books; this was most frequently seen in DC Comics. A common criticism of the comic covers of the Silver Age in general was that the covers would rarely correspond with the actual plotline in the comic book, as they were usually just created to snag interest from casual browsers. The gorilla covers were no exception, as many of the books featured only a panel or two with the actual gorilla plotline. These plotlines tended to be extremely contrived, characterized by an abundance of King Kong pastiches and human-gorilla brain transplants. Though these plotlines are now viewed as ridiculous, especially at a time when comic books are ostensibly becoming a more respectable art form, these classic covers have gained considerable collector's value.
Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, for example, several times published covers featuring apes:
- #24 (October–November 1957) - "The Gorilla Reporter". The cover depicts Jimmy Olsen having switched brains with a gorilla.
- #98 (December 1966) - "The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!". The cover depicts Olsen forced to marry an ape.
- #116 (December 1968) - The issue reprints "The Gorilla Reporter" from #24, with a new cover also depicting Olsen and the gorilla he switches brains with.
There are several rumors surrounding the wide use of gorillas in comic books at the time:
- Publishers believed that placing a gorilla on a comic book cover, regardless of the context or relevance, would automatically correspond with an increase in sales for that title; Irwin Donenfeld was the first to notice this trend. The claim eventually became self-fulfilling as certain comic book collectors with an eye for "oddball" comics, would single out these issues, and purchase them for their collections.
- Due to the first rumor, it is also reported that DC Comics was worried about abusing the winning formula, so had an unwritten rule that there could be no more than one gorilla cover per month across all of its titles (except, of course, during the occasional "gorilla month").}
Silver Age characters
In addition to the cameo appearances and splash shots on comic book covers, several recurring gorilla characters were introduced during this time, most of them villains:
- Djuba - B'wana Beast's companion and friend
- Gorilla Grodd - A psychic gorilla supervillain that battles The Flash. He is part of a race of Gorillas from the secret Gorilla city. The leader, Solovar, was an ally of the Flash until he was killed due to Grodd.
- The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City, a Batman foe.
- The Gorilla Wonders of the Diamond, baseball playing gorilla villains from Showcase.
- Solovar - A heroic counterpart to Grodd, later the leader of Gorilla City.
- Monsieur Mallah - An intelligent gorilla created by an evil brain in a jar. He was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil, enemies of the original Doom Patrol.
- The Primate Patrol, Nazi gorillas from Weird War Tales and Tales of the Unexpected.
- Sam Simeon - Angel's heroic partner in The Angel and the Ape.
- Mikhlo one of The Super-Apes, agents of the Communist villain The Red Ghost in Fantastic Four
- Titano the Super-Ape - A Superman villain
- Ultra-Humanite - A mad scientist who took many forms, most famously that of an evil albino ape. While he first appeared in the Golden Age, his gorilla form first appeared in the Silver Age.
- The Mod Gorilla Boss - A gorilla gangster dressed in '60s Carnaby Street-style gear who fought the original Animal Man.
Since the silver age, several modern comic book writers have made references to the bizarre preponderance of gorillas in comic book history.
- "Ape-X", a member of The Squadron Supreme
- Also the name of a super hero who becomes a powerful gorilla after donning a magic Mexican wrestling mask
- "*Dmitri-9", a character vaguely resembling Detective Chimp, appearing in controversial graphic novel The Filth; a Russian ape who became part of the space programme, and came back superintelligent, with a natural talent for killing and an advanced hatred for humans and American space chimps. Killed by an enraged English mob and a speeding train.
- "Haiku Gorilla", a member of the LNH
- "Mondo Simian", a graphic novel by Patrick Joseph featuring a "Planet of the Apes"-inspired world of intelligent apes.
- The "Weeping Gorilla Comix" in Alan Moore's Promethea.
- "King Solomon", a gorilla with a genius-level human brain that serves as Tom Strong's assistant (also created by Alan Moore).
- "Rex Mantooth, Kung-Fu Gorilla", a ninja gorilla, created by Matt Fraction.
- "Sky Ape", a millionaire gorilla with a jetpack, written by Philip D. Amara & Tim McCarney.
- "The Trial of the 800 pound Gorilla", a storyline in Batton Lash's indie comic Supernatural Law paid homage to the iconic "talking gorilla" as well.
- "JLApe", a crossover through the various 1999 annuals of the Justice League of America members' series, in which a bomb planted by inhabitants of Gorilla City turned the United Nations and the League into gorillas.
- "Kriegaffe" ("War ape"), a series of bionically enhanced talking gorillas, created by Nazi scientist Herman von Klempt in Mike Mignola's Hellboy.
- "Don Uggie Apelino", head of the Ape Gang, a criminal mob of sentient gorillas in Judge Dredd.
- "Urban Gorilla", a commuting gorilla in a business suit created by Scott Shaw
- "McGimben 'Mac' Gimbensky" is a protagonist in Tim Eldred's Grease Monkey.
- "Axewell Tiberius" from Art Adams's Monkeyman and O'Brien.
- "Cy-Gor" (short for "Cybernetic Gorilla"), a half-man, half gorilla character in Spawn, published by Image Comics.
- "Brainiape", a gorilla which hosted a mutated, psionically-powered human brain encased in a globe on top of the gorilla's skull, a recurring villain in Image Comics' Savage Dragon. Brainiape's human brain was ultimately revealed to be the amnesiac mind of Adolf Hitler, rescued from death and mutated by the processes that preserved it.
- Marvel Apes "A new Marvel mini-series in which The Gibbon is transported into an alternate earth where all the Superheroes have simian counterparts (Captain Apemerica)." Covers by John Watson.
- "Nnamdi", Solovar's son and successor.
- A military unit of enhanced albino gorilla were created by Gorilla Grodd to fight foes like Superman and Wonder Woman only to defect and serve Wonder Woman in penance during Gail Simone's Wonder Woman run.
- Secret Origins issue 40 was an 'all gorilla issue' that featured Congorilla, Detective Chimp, and Gorilla Grodd. The issue's editorial discussed the Silver Age phenomenon and the issue sported a campy cover that featured a number of tricks formerly used to sell comics such as go checks, fires, motorcycles and questions.
- Ookla the Mok's song "Gorilla City" on its Smell No Evil album lists many of the Silver Age gorillas, as well as "apes, chimps, gibbons, baboons, and that one manta ray we can't seem to keep out of the men's room."
- King Gorilla, from The Venture Bros.
- Binder, Otto; Swan, Curt; Burnley, Ray (Oct–Nov 1957). "The Gorilla Reporter". Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- Swan, Curt; Klein, George; Schnapp, Ira (December 1966). "The Bride of Jungle Jimmy!". Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- Binder, Otto; Swan, Curt; Burnley, Ray (December 1968). "The Gorilla Reporter". Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen. Retrieved 23 June 2014.
- Interview with Irwin Donenfeld in Comic Book Artist # 5.
- Man of Two Worlds, Julius Schwartz.
- The Gorilla Age of Comics - A comprehensive list of appearances of gorillas on comic book covers and in comic book storylines.
- Everything's Better With Monkeys - A list of highlighted comic covers with gorillas, along with limited commentary.
- The Gorilla Cover Gallery - Hundreds of gorilla covers from golden age to modern comics.