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The Hall of Justice graphic by Jeremy Greene

It's been said, online anyway, that when a comic book writer is stuck for an idea, he goes for the classic strategy of the ninja attack. However, this is a relatively recent concept. In the late Golden- and early Silver Ages, there was one trick guaranteed to sell copies. Join us now for the article we just had to call

Going Ape

His name was Julius Schwartz, and he cared about comics. So much so, that he actually used to take surveys to find out what background color of comic sold best (purple, by the way). After an issue of Strange Adventures, in which an unfortunate gentleman was trapped in the body of a zoo animal, he discovered a bizarre fact.

Gorillas on covers sell. A lot.

And so, DC artists started using gorillas as plot devices, issue after issue. It finally reached the stage where DC Editorial, tired of monkeying around, allegedly decreed that no more than one cover a month could feature a gorilla.

However, this did not necessarily reduce the number of writers who aped the technique. At one time or another, most of the heroes of the DC line were either transformed into apes, fought ape-like beings, or had
ape sidekicks. For example, in another issue of Strange Adventures, readers met the Mod Gorilla Boss, a snazzily dressed anthropoid criminal mastermind.

Now he is not to be confused with: the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City, who arose when the mind of gang leader George Dyke was placed the body of an ape. He now resides in the Gotham zoo, rebuilding his collection of classic movies.

When the criminal genius The Brain (a disembodied brain, not any mice you might be aware of) desired a new body, he enhanced an ape. This creature, Monsieur Mallah, became instead his partner ion crime, and they fought side by side until their eventual deaths.

There were a handful of heroic apes as well. Bobo, the Detective Chimp, used his surprising intellect to reveal the guilty, as did Mogo the Bat-Chimp, and two members of the Green Lantern Corps, although both Voz and Tylot were sentient aliens in their own right, and merely resembled simians. Probably the most heroic of the bunch was Congo Bill, who through the aegis of a magical ring, was capable of exchanging his mind with that of the great Golden Gorilla, Congorilla. He fought the good fight for many years, until a former sidekick caused his demise.

As DC's flagship hero, Superman naturally met his share of gorilla-based characters. As we revealed last month, his arch-enemy in the 40's, the Ultra-Humanite, eventually transferred his essence into an artificially created white gorilla body. But he was not the only ape to face the Man of Steel.

Before the Crisis, three simians survived the destruction of Krypton. One, Beppo the Super Monkey, stowed away on the young Kal-El's rocket, eventually joining the ranks of the Legion of Super Pets.

The second, King Krypton, was an evil scientist transformed into a larger, more villainous beast, but was defeated in his only appearance. The final survivor, Yango, protected a city of intelligent apes beneath the continent of Africa.

Krypton also had an effect on one other monkey, Toto, who was exposed to kryptonite and uranium during a spaceflight, and became the giant chimpanzee Titano, cursed with kryptonite vision, until his untimely death.

However, there were two other cities of gorillas in DC comics. One, a ruined city of the far future, was ruled by the ruthless hand of Czar Simian, and waged an ongoing war with the young orphan Kamandi. The other, created when a meteor struck the veldt, was ruled by the benevolent Solovar (sometimes spelled Solivar), who used his considerable psychic power to hide his land from outsiders.

Unfortunately, there was a muscular serpent in this Eden, in the form of Gorilla Grodd, who shared his monarch's "Power of Mind', and desired the throne. Perhaps the most successful of the villainous super apes, Grodd has battled such heroes as the Flash, Supergirl, and even his own grandson, a cartoonist named Sam Simeon, who in partnership with Angel O'Day runs a detective agency, using his lesser abilities to hide his simian ancestry. Rumor has it he will face the JLA this upcoming year…they had better be prepared..

But one monkey stands head and shoulders above them all, a dark genius hidden in the body of a harmless lab animal. I speak of Koko, who served his master Braniac in the 20th century…and now resides with his descendant in the 30th. His history, however, is tied to that of the Brainiac clan…about whom we will speak of next issue.

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This article is © 1999 Mario Di Giacomo.
All characters are © DC Comics