The Origin of Gorilla Grodd
by Kent "Unca Cheeks" Orlando
God, but Unca Cheeks has been simply waiting and waiting for the opportunity to play with this'un -- !
"The Reign of the Super-Gorilla" [THE FLASH #127; March, 1962; John Broome, author; Carmine Infantino, artist] opens up with a shot within the warden's office of the Central City Penitentiary, where "a prisoner has served his full term." (... which is considerably more along the lines of Man Bites Dog than one might ordinarily suppose, given the jaw-dropping regularity with which convicted super-felons "parole" themselves right back out onto the city streets, Central City-wise. Not that Unca Cheeks is pointing any fingers, mind.)
"Dawson," the warden (a portly and officious sort) grudgingly unctuates before a thin, balding recidivist; "... all outgoing prisoners are supplied with a new suit of clothes and a ten dollar bill! You've got the clothes, here's the money..."
"Keep it, warden," the laconic Dawson drawls, by way of reply. "Buy yourself a cigar! Ten bucks wouldn't take me far... and I've got a long way to go!"
"A strange one, that Dawson!" the warden reflects, as the (now) ex-con ambles his way out of the office. "And I never noticed it before about him... he's become a lot more hairy since coming here!" (Yup. Uh-huh. Especially around the palms. Prison life is damned hard on a man alone, way I hear it.)
"The warden noticed my hair," Dawson muses, out on the Central City streets once more. "I'm sure of it! But, fortunately, he couldn't suspect the real reason why it's begun to grow out so heavy all over me!" [sic]
"He couldn't possibly guess that I'm really --" [Pick One]:
A.) " ... Grodd the Gorilla... temporarily occupying this human body!"
B.) "... Ted Nugent... temporarily occupying this human body!"
C.) "... going through an arrested case of puberty faster and harder than Tommy Lee through Pamela Anderson!"
D.) "... Italian!"
"Editor's Note:" [the accompanying footnote helpfully provides]; "Grodd seemingly died in a Gorilla City prison, but in reality transferred his mind to Dawson's body in FLASH #115 (Sept. 1960)." Which accomplishes pretty much jack-all in The First Annual Clearing-Things-
Up-For-the-Readers Competition, actually.
"And, in due course, some weeks later," the following caption breathlessly enthuses; "... the ex-convict is in deepest Africa, facing the incredible sight of Gorilla City... secret stronghold of a super-scientific civilization!"
(" [...] some weeks later"...? What... he hoofed it all the way there...?)
"At last!" Dawson/Grodd rhapsodizes inwardly, upon casting grateful gaze upon the graceful spires and minarets of MonkeyTown, U.S.A. "I've made it! No other human eye could see this city... because vibratory rays make it invisible to humans! But it's visible to 'Dawson's' eyes because 'he' has the mind of a super-gorilla!" (You're all taking notes, here, right...?)
"I suppose my enemy Solovar is still running things, here," the sullen monkey-man seethes; "... he and his pals, those good gorillas! BAH! How I hate them... as much as they hate me!"
Series artist Carmine Infantino, meanwhile -- having blown a perfectly good buck fifty, American, on this really waycool plastic protractor at the local Art Mart -- decides to go plumb crazy loco with the concentric circles, right about now; leading Dawson/Grodd to hammily re-enact the whole Forced Evolution bit from the opening minutes of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, as a result.
"My powerful gorilla mind," the staggered man-ape soliloquizes; "... it's finally bringing about a complete change in me! *gasp* Turning my human body... back through centuries of evolution... into the gorilla I was originally!"
(... and -- somewhere; in whichever patch of ground it is his mortal remains lie -- the tortured shade of Charles Darwin lets out a strangled shriek of commingled pain and rage.)
Loping his anthropoid way along the gleaming marble corridors of stately Kubla Kong, the ol' Groddster's narrowed, gimlet gaze settles upon a shapely little simian by the name of Boka...
... and -- all of a sudden, like -- it's: "... is that a banana in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me...?" time.
"She... she's the most beautiful creature I've ever seen!" a lovestruck Grodd simpers, as the she-ape sashays her way past him, oblivious. "Her lips... her eyes..." (My stomach.)
"Today you marry Solovar, Boka," the hirsute honey's companion offers, conversationally.
"Yes, Mother," the fuzzy femme fatale responds. "It is the happiest day of my life!"
"Marry Solovar -- ?!?" the super-villainous simian seethes. "Not if I have anything to say about it! She won't marry Solovar! Now I know the first thing I have to do when I get to my laboratory!" (... and thus was the first strap-on, simian-oriented "marital aid" devised, within the DCU.)
The scene shifts to one of Grodd, lolling about on a raised laboratory platform and bathing himself in rays of an awful and unknown incandescence.
"If my calculations are correct," the shaggy stinkerdoodle reflects; "... this special machine of mine is giving my body --" [Pick One]:
A.) "... a certain neo-magnetic radiation, which will have the extraordinary effect of making anyone who looks at me admire me... instantly and uncontrollably!"
B.) "... a once-in-a-lifetime rationale to freely employ pseudo-scientific neologisms such as 'neo-magnetic radiation' in a sentence, without giggling!"
C.) "... one sweet, holy hell of a perm!"
D.) "... multiple orgasms!"
"There is no limit to the power of my super-brain," the Dale Carnegie-
enhanced Grodd exults, "for thinking up fantastic ideas... and then finding a way of putting them into effect!" (Obviously, then: that "neo-
magnetic radiation" has already caused at least one person, hereabouts, to "admire [Grodd]... instantly and uncontrollably!" I'm only sayin', here.)
Strolling out, henceforth, onto the local Primate Promenade, Grodd espies the aforementioned Boka; whose much-anticipated wedding procession is well underway.
(Lookit, troops: if author John Broome could write a sequence involving marital monkeyshines with a perfectly straight kisser... then Unca Cheeks can jolly well write about same, sans flinching. Now: no more sniveling, you great lot of sissies.)
"You... you're wonderful!" the buxom Boka breathes, adoringly, at the sight of her (newfound) primeval Prince Charming. "How handsome you are!"
(A lonely, l-o-n-e-l-y man, was our esteemed Mister Broome. Used to answer the door pantsless, most Halloweens; demanding that the whey-
faced and goggle-eyed urchins standing there "shake hands with Mighty Joe Young!" Tragic, really.)
"My neo-magnetism has put her completely under my spell!" a gleeful Grodd gloats, eyeing the curvaceous Boka's 86-54-86 measurements hungrily and suppressing the urge to drool noticeably. "But what will Solovar do now? If he tries to fight me for her... I've got to be ready to defend myself... destroy him!"
Said "worst case" scenario, however, fails to come to pass; as the remainder of Gorilla City's population rushes forward, instead, to laud and adore the object of their apish adulation.
"Welcome back, Grodd!" they all chant, in ululant unison. "We... missed you... so much!"
In short, simian order, then: Grodd and Boka are installed (respectively) as reigning King and Queen of Gorilla City.
"If my new super-scientific stunt works on gorillas," the primate potentate posits, whilst lolling in the lap of luxury; "... it may work on humans! [...] Compared to the heights I could attain now, this being 'king' of Gorilla City is just small bananas!"
(Y'know... compared to stuff like this: the dialogue from those old episodes of LANCELOT LINK, SECRET CHIMP was David freakin' Mamet.)
Quicker'n it takes to say "... hey, hey, we're the Monkees -- !": our hirsute Hannibal has jet-journeyed his way halfway 'round the world; disembarking (at last) smack-dab dead center in the bustling heart of Central City.
As Grodd confidently strides forth from his zingy (if aerodynamically questionable) air ship: the local populace, thereabouts, goes completely and unabashedly full-goose goony over the sight of the anthropoid avatar.
"I... I can't take my eyes off him!"
"I want another look at him!"
"Say! Isn't that Sandra Bernhard -- ?!?"
At this point, the author (briefly) takes pity upon his sobbing and shaken audience; and the scene shifts to "the scientific detection laboratory of the Central City Police Headquarters"; where scientist Barry [THE FLASH] Allen is chugging down a Triple Mocha, and entertaining obscene fantasies involving Marvel Comics' Quicksilver. And a large cardboard box filled with completely shaven hamsters.
"Special Bulletin!" a nearby radio blares. "Grodd -- the Super-Gorilla -- has returned! He is now making a triumphant entry in Central City! Thousands have lined the streets of his approach! They can't take their eyes from him!"
"Great Scott!" a bug-eyed Barry exclaims. "The people yelling like mad in praise of Grodd? I can't understand this! All I know is... that Flash better go into action at once to stop him!"
(This begs the question, however: on what grounds, really...?
(Seriously, now: just what "crime," specifically, has Grodd committed, at this juncture?
(I mean: I'm reasonably certain there's no actual law on the books -- even within the cockeyed confines of the Silver Age DCU -- prohibiting the self-actualized migration of super-sentient simians from one continent to the next... so: that's out, right?
(Likewise: I'm reasonably certain Congress never foresaw the necessity of actually enacting "anti-enhanced charisma laws"; on prescient behalf of either monkey or man.
(... and: if simply being big, hairy and ugly was enough to net a felony conviction within the DCU... then that would wipe out the entirety of the World Wrestling Federation in one swell foop, f'chrissakes -- !
(Myself: I think Our Boy Barry, here, just plain ol' likes busting heads, is all.)
Rocketing his way towards a planned rendezvous between his foot and some big, blubbery monkey butt, then: the Fastest Fascist Alive ponders on the essential nature of Good Ape versus Bad Ape.
"If it is really Grodd who's come back," the grim-visaged speedster seethes; "... he's managed, somehow, to pull the wool over the eyes of the people in this city! But he can't fool me! I know he's just about the most villainous creature that ever appeared on Earth!" The big, spandexed speciesist.
Upon hyper-accelerative arrival, however: the Crimson Comet's famous iron resolve promptly proves no more adamantine in the face of Grodd's newly charismatic countenance than that of any other Central City schlemiel.
"Grodd," the Human Hurricane simpers, arms outstretched as if to embrace his former foeman in a big, sweaty hugaroonie. "You're wonderful!"
"Of course, Flash," the self-satisfied simian smirks, by way of preening response. "I thought you knew that all along! Ha, Ha!"
(It is only just now -- as he faithfully transcribes these events on selfless behalf of the whole, scruffy lot of you, out there -- that your normally intuitive Unca Cheeks understands the dark and terrible significance of this story's script having originally been scribbled [and submitted] on a series of cocktail napkins bearing the moistened legend: THE PASADENA PASS-OUT PIT: "Where the Elite Meet To Eat. And Drink. And Projectile Vomit.")
Manfully wresting himself away from the awful radiance of the genius gorilla's narcotic nimbus; a plainly puzzled Flash ponders upon the dire ramifications of what he'd experienced, only nano-seconds earlier.
"... can't understand!" he moans, inwardly. "A moment ago... I knew what a terrible creature Grodd is! Yet, now... suddenly, I feel he's a... a sort of hero! I-I've got to think... got to clear my head...!"
Still in full-throttle, fleet-footed retreat mode, scant heartbeats later: the Flash chances upon a startling discovery.
"... the effect of the strange force probably works only in hundred mile radius around Grodd!" the spandexed speedster deduces, upon having super-scampered his way past the the outermost edges of said field's pernicious influence. "It won't take me long at super-speed to find out if I'm right!"
Well... yes: he is right, as a matter of fact.
For all the bloody good said revelation does him, I mean.
"By raising my speed to the utmost," the Flash theorizes; "... maybe I can get to Grodd so fast... that his radiation won't have time to affect me... unnhh!"
"By vibrating the molecules of my body," Our Hero posits, shifting tactics; "... I can travel underground through the earth, faster than the fastest earthquake wave... but no good! The mysterious ray is potent here, too!"
"I've tried to call friends in Central City," we see the speedster sulk, as he stands forlorn at a (presumably) remote pay phone; "... telling them the truth about Grodd! But no one there will believe me! They're all under his power!"
... and that's Strike Three. (... and a damned embarrassing one, too, when one pauses to think about it. I mean: when your desperate, last- ditch effort, inspiration-wise, involves frantically dialing up your old college poker buddies... )
Meanwhile, back in Central City: this crazy clown funnycar of a funnybook makes a sudden, sharp turn into sheerest, balls-out dementia, as... as...
... oh, bloody hell.
Just take a good, goggle-eyed gander at this one your own selves, all right...?
"What?" an incredulous Central City politico exclaims to one of his well-heeled fellow ward hacks. "Run a gorilla for GOVERNOR? Are you out of your head, Denby?!?"
(Obviously: this story takes place well before the successful Ventura candidacy, re: Minnesota.)
"Now, wait a second, boss!" said underling protests, by way of reply. "You haven't seen Grodd! He's been invited to appear on television! When you've had a look at him, you'll understand what I'm raving about!"
"But a GORILLA -- ?!?" the party boss protests. (Oh, please. Like this would be the first time a lower primate had ever run for public office.)
We then witness the beaming, beatific image of Herr Grodd, his own shaggy self; opening up his televised address to the Central City populace, entire, with a simple, sincere and straightforward [Pick One]:
A.) "My friends..."
B.) "Ape Shall Not Kill Ape! That Is the LAW -- !"
C.) [singing along to the pulsing and insistent disco beat playing in the background]: "... won'tchu take me to... Monkeytowwwwwnnnn... won'tchu take me to... Monkeytowwwwwnnnn...!"
D.) "Vote For Grodd. Or I'll Rip Your Heads From Your Shoulders and Do Terrible, Unspeakable Things To Your Neck Stumps. Thank You. Good Night, and... God Bless."
"So," the self-satisfied primate preens, after the successful conclusion of said broadcast; "... the statewide party wants to run me for governor!"
[UNCA CHEEKS' ASIDE: "... the statewide party"...? You mean Central City only has the one? Where the holy freakin' heck is this open-air lunatic asylum located, anyways: Pottsylvania, f'chrissakes -- ?!?]
"This is what I always hoped for," the malevolent man-beast then concludes, in a line of dialogue which bears a direct and concrete responsibility, doubtless, for more than one innocent and unsuspecting pre-teen's lifelong drinking problem, down the road. "First the governor's chair... then the PRESIDENCY -- !"
As almighty God is my witness: I will always, always revere the Silver Age of Comics.
We then shift our stunned attentions (mercifully) to an isolated hunting lodge, just beyond the hundred-mile edge of Grodd's psychic sphere of influence; where a despondent Flash is still puzzling over this whole crazed, city-wide GroddMania! business.
"I've noticed," the human thunderbolt muses, leafing his way desultorily through a yellowing copy of The Central City Picture News, "that one particular day, the strange radiation around Grodd was weaker than other days! I still couldn't get through it... but now I see that on that certain day, there were strong solar flares!"
(... and your journalistically persnickety Unca Cheeks would just like to take this opportunity to point out that -- in a city where sentient telepathic apes shamble along the streets, confidently contemplating high political office; and the occurrence of "strong solar flares" is considered newsworthy enough to rate mention somewhere between the society column and the crossword puzzle -- a newspaper blaring the headline YANKS BEAT REDS! is just...
(... well: it's just perfect, is all. Just bloody perfect.)
"It could mean," the crimson centurion concludes, "that the radiation given off by the solar flares acted against Grodd's radiation, and weakened it! And, if that is the case, I may have a way of getting at Grodd after all...!"
Now... were it Unca Cheeks tricked up and traipsing about in that well-known scarlet union suit: said "way" of "getting at Grodd" would involve a Justice League of America signal device, and a great deal of shrill, panicky shrieking. (At the very least.)
The Incredible Master Plan of Barry Allen, Boy Scientist, however, hinges upon an entirely... different stratagem, altogether.
"By vibrating the atoms of my body to the proper frequency," The Fastest Man Alive exposits, by way of thought balloon; "... I can [Pick One] -- ."
A.) "... give off a radiation myself... similar to the radiation caused on Earth by the solar flares!"
B.) "... allow the so-called writer of this cockamamie 'story' to cobble up some reasonably plausible-seeming pseudo-scientific gobbledygook, so's we can cut to the freakin' chase and write fini to this whole mess in time for the letters column and the mandatory American Seed Company ads."
C.) "... pick up tonight's broadcast of the King Biscuit Flour Hour! Lynyrd Skynyrd: Unplugged! WOO-Hoo! FREEEEEEEBIRRRRRRD -- !"
D.) "... re-live those hot, sweet mem'ries of the time I taught my young protégé, Wally, how to 'vibrate'... MMMMmmmm... oh, yaaasssss -- !"
Tracking down his fuzzy foemen in something just under lickety-split flat: the Flash promptly favors the follicularly-enhanced finkazoid with one of his patented hyper-accelerative horsey rides; culminating in a sudden, jarring (and long-overdue) appointment between Grodd's skull and a particularly unyielding portion of Central City pavement. [See page reproduction, above]
Moments later: a crowd of curious onlookers congregates about the fallen simian, rubbernecking in commingled shock and revulsion.
"UGH!" one fastidious-seeming gentleman exclaims, drawing back at the sight. "It's a gorilla! And an ugly one, at that!"
(Kinda makes one wonder what this guy's whole basis for actual comparison is, in this particular instance, doesn't it? I mean: as opposed to which other gorilla[s], f'chrissakes...?)
"Hmm," a manifestly self-satisfied speedster speculates. "Looks like Grodd's crash knocked all of that 'neo-magnetic radiation' out of him!" (Five bucks says this guys not even a for-real scientist, for cryin' out loud. Just likes poncing around in a white lab coat, is all. Works the graveyard shift at the local Taco Bell. Responsible for cleaning out the grease pits every night. With his head.)
The story lurches and gasps its way to conclusion, ultimately, with a sequence wherein the two political masterminds introduced earlier are shredding a GRODD FOR GOVERNOR poster, snarling in evident confusion.
"Running a gorilla for governor?" one of them splutters, incredulous. "How did we get hoodwinked into a thing like that, Denby?"
"I dunno, boss," the other responds, red-faced. "It... it seemed like a good idea at the time!"
Shyeah. Right. And so did CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS.
Kent G. Orlando a/k/a "Uncle Cheeks", had one of the most acclaimed comics-analysis sites on the web until he lost his free webspace. Several mirror sites are still online, and Fanzing is proud to help preserve some of his essays.
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by Kent Orlando
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