Monday, March 31, 2008

Superheroes Battle Super-Gorillas #1

Superheroes Battle Super-Gorillas #1, Winter 1976, DC Comics
by Wayne Boring, John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Sid Greene, and other anonymous contributors

Blogger's note: Entry for Saturday, March 29, 2008.

When you see a comic book called Superheroes Battle Super-Gorillas, you buy it. It's a rule.

Superheroes Battles Super-Gorillas #1 reprints three classic stories starring DC's most popular characters fighting -- you guessed it, super-gorillas. These Silver Age yarns are campy and perfectly outrageous, though in each instance, the circumstances are undeniably dire, if you're to believe the cover's suspenseful proclamation, anyway: "Superman, the Flash, Batman and Robin in life-or-death action against the mightiest beasts of all!" Sure, they're the world's finest heroes, but have you ever fought a super-gorilla? Me, either, but I reckon they're formidable foes! Let's see . . .

In "The Super-Gorilla From Krypton," Jimmy Olsen discovers a super-gorilla while on assignment in South Africa. When Superman arrives to help, the beast mimics the Man of Steel's powers and even manages to commandeer and wear the hero's cape! When Superman finds a shuttle similar to the ship that rocketed him to Earth, he concludes that Kryptonian scientists must have experimented with monkeys and space travel like humans do, and that, since the big ape is from Krypton, it must be vulnerable to Kryptonite, too. Fortunately, a huge chunk of the green stuff is handy, and it exposes the gorilla as a de-evolved scientist that was coincidentally sent to space seconds before the ill-fated planet exploded! In the end, the poor monkey man shelters Superman from the Kryptonite and dies from exposure. This story really had everything fans should expect from these campy classics -- a foreign environment (seems Supes and Batman spent more time in the jungle than in their respective cities during the Silver Age!), a super-animal, angry natives, and a twist ending. Still, I don't think "King Krypton," as Jimmy called the gorilla, be be making an appearance in Smallville anytime soon.

"Grodd Puts the Squeeze on Flash" is a much more formulaic tale of the hero versus villain variety. When the inhabitants of Central City speed up around him, the Flash can only keep up with his super-speed, until his nemesis Gorilla Grodd telepathically contacts him and takes credit for the crime. The psychic Simeon promises not to do it again if Flash releases him from prison, and the Scarlet Speedster chooses the lesser of two evils and unleashes Grodd upon the world. Fortunately, Flash's scientist buddy Dr. Torrence discovers that Grodd was not responsible for the phenomenon and was merely taking advantage of it -- turns out the whole thing was caused by intense solar radiation! Flash battles Grodd, who, as the title of this tale suggests, gets our quick-footed hero in a bear, er, gorilla grip, until the Flash slips out of his uniform and punches the villain out! Don't worry, Barry had this civilian clothes on. It wasn't that kind of wild monkey dance.

Finally, in "The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City," death row inmate Mob Boss Dyke arranges to have his brain transplanted into a huge gorilla after his short stint in the gas chamber, and, though the mob's mad scientist agrees, the Doc has doubts when Dyke explains that he then would like to swap brains with the Batman! Batman and Robin take a little too long than I thought was necessary to realize that there's something strange about the big gorilla robbing banks in Gotham, and Batman manages to elude Dyke's plan and slay the monstrous mob monkey. He used the old "dress up the doctor with the spare Batman suit he keeps in his utility belt and make everyone think that the bad guy's plan succeeded until the time to strike presents itself" trick. I think Morrison is planning on reviving it for his latest run.

Hey, you can't take these stories that seriously, which is why they're a blast to read and review. The Hostess ad about the Joker eluding a police barricade with fruit pies makes more sense in modern continuity! Comics need more super-gorillas, man. They might help alleviate the weight of all of those monkeys on our backs.

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