As I stated before, Kurt Busiek recently introduced “Sticks,” a talking gorilla who wanted to become a drummer, but ended up a superhero in Astro City. He isn’t the first superhero simian, however, and won’t be the last. Let’s get going!
“Congo Bill” Glenmorgan was an adventurer who was given a magic ring that let him transfer his mind into the “legendary Golden Gorilla.” He had many adventures as a backup comic in Adventure Comics along with his sidekick Janu the Jungle Boy.
Of course, while Congo Bill’s mind was in the Golden Gorilla’s body, the Gorilla’s mind was in his body. And then the inevitable happened: his body died while he was a gorilla, trapping him forever.
He doesn’t let that get him down that much, however, and fights on, even ending up joining the Justice League of America during the James Robinson-era.
Congo Bill also has the distinction of having a 15-part serial made in 1948 called Congo Bill. This was before he was a gorilla, of course, so he was just an African adventurer.
Djuba was the gorilla companion of B’wana Beast, a superhero with one of the weirdest superpowers ever.
Mike Maxwell had a helmet that allowed him to control animal minds and an elixir that allowed him to merge two or more animals together and create new animal monstrosities. Examples include: spider-horses. I’m sorry, I can’t go any further than that because: spider-horses.
In DC Challenge, he, Djuba, and Congorilla actually teamed up. Unfortunately, by the time he showed up in Grant Morrison’s Animal Man, Djuba had been kidnapped and infected with smallpox and then died. After B’wana got vengeance for Djuba, he then retired and passed on the mantle of weirdest superpower ever to a new hero called Freedom Beast.
So Detective Chimp is an actual chimpanzee named “Bobo T. Chimpanzee.” In fact, Detective Chimp first appeared in Rex the Wonder Dog simply as an intelligent chimp who helped the sheriff solve the murder of Fred Thorpe, his trainer.
Of course, then he and Rex the Wonder Dog went and found the Fountain of Youth and drank from it, resulting in Detective Chimp gaining the ability to speak to all living creatures (humans included) and also eternal youth. (If you are curious, Rex the Wonder Dog was a normal German Shepherd who was injected with a super soldier serum and became the Captain America of dogs.)
Detective Chimp was a superlative detective and even a member of the Croatoan Society, along with the Elongated Man, and then joined the mystical superhero group the Shadowpact. Also, he sometimes assists Batman on cases. Detective Chimp is awesome.
Sam was one of the main characters of Angel and the Ape, along with Angel O’Day. What did they do? Well, they were private detectives, of course!
Sam was from Gorilla City and actually was the grandson of Gorilla Grodd, giving him some mental powers. Angel O’Day, on the other hand, was a fairly ditzy blonde who was also fairly lethal when angered. (Angel was actually the sister of Bunny, one of the members of the Inferior Five. That’s a whole other article.) Together, they ran the O’Day and Simeon Detective Agency.
Here’s a fun fact: his other job was as a comic book artist for DC Comics.
Another fun fact: Angel and the Ape has had three different series over the years. There must be a winning formula to this, right? We need a New 52 Angel and the Ape series!
So you know how human scientists first tested rockets on monkeys? Well, so did Kryptonian scientists! Specifically, Jor-El! More specifically, Beppo (a Kryptonian monkey because sure why not) stowed away on Kal-El’s spaceship and then ran away when it landed.
Beppo (also called the Simian of Steel and the Monkey of Might) appeared in the Superboy comic and caused all sorts of trouble for the Toddler of Tomorrow before leaving Earth. Eventually, he joined Krypto the Superdog and Streaky the Supercat to become the Legion of Super-Pets. Because, sure why not?
By now, Beppo has been all but forgotten, showing up only during large crises as a reminder of sillier times. Or possibly because...why not?
Other simian superheroes include:
Gleek, the Wonder Twin’s pet blue space monkey. And unlike Wonderdog, he was never reimagined in the Modern Age as a gruesome monster that killed Zak and paralyzed Jayna!
Mister Stubbs is the talking pirate monkey sidekick of Nix Uotan, Superjudge. Nix Uotan is the last of the Monitors and the one assigned to investigate and protect the Orrery of Worlds during Multiversity. Together, Uotan and Stubbs met the Gentry, were tortured into being evil, and then went up against the combined heroes from the Multiverse. Stubbs eventually broke free and helped stop Uotan and the Gentry.
Man, Multiversity was weird and awesome.
Join us next time when we delve into Marvel’s super apes, including: Gorilla-Man, Moon-Boy, and holy crap Hit-Monkey.