Kurt Busiek recently introduced a talking, drumming gorilla to his creator-owned series Astro City and it was a long-time coming or, as Busiek himself wrote, “I’ve always said that a superhero universe that doesn’t have talking gorillas in it simply isn’t done yet, so it’s good to get such an essential element established here, after almost twenty years.”
And with that, let’s look at some talking
monkeys apes primates in the DC Universe, shall we?
Our first talking ape is, of course, the one that was just reintroduced via television this year, the Flash’s perennial enemy, the gorilla known as Grodd.
Unlike in the show, in the comics Grodd comes from a city of intelligent gorillas called, of course, Gorilla City. He first appeared in The Flash #106 in 1959 in a story titled “The Menace of the Super-Gorilla” where he planned to steal telepathy from Solovar, a good talking ape from the aforementioned city, and take over Gorilla City. And he has returned many, many times, often using that telepathy he eventually gained.
There have been so many puns with his name, it’s hard to think of some that haven’t been used. Just a few: Grodd of War, The Wrath of Grodd, Grodd is in the Details (okay, not that last one, but seriously, so many puns).
The Ultra-Humanite has the distinction of being the first supervillain faced by Superman in the Golden Age and also as the prototype for Lex Luthor. This was because, originally, the Ultra-Humanite was a bald mad scientist that was Superman’s arch-enemy...and when they replaced him with Lex (who was red-haired), one artist just kind of forgot which character he was drawing and drew the Ultra-Humanite instead. So Lex became bald and when the Ultra-Humanite returned, they put him in the body of an albino gorilla, just so nobody would be confused.
The Ultra-Humanite’s big thing is that he can transfer his mind into other people’s bodies and he’s done that a lot, although he always comes back around to that albino gorilla.
Monsieur Mallah is a talking French gorilla who is also an anarchist. And also in love with is partner, the Brain. Who is a disembodied mad scientist brain in a jar.
In fact, Mallah’s intelligence was increased by the Brain himself in order to make a genius-level ape. (Why? Because of SCIENCE!) And so Mallah joined the Brain’s Brother of Evil and fought against the Doom Patrol.
Later on, they would seek to gain a new body for the Brain so they could finally consummate their love. Unfortunately, they have been thwarted time and again, leaving their love still sadly unconsummated. For if a French anarchist gorilla and a mad scientist brain in a jar cannot find true happiness, what chance is there for the rest of us?
Titano was originally an ape who was shot into space and bombarded with radiation (like the Fantastic Four) and came back to Earth as a giant gorilla with KRYPTONITE VISION. Holy crap, he shot KRYPTONITE RAYS from his EYES, y’all! Titano was metal as hell!
Lois Lane actually ended up saving Superman’s skin on this one. Later on, post-Crisis, Titano returned as a chimpanzee experimented on by the government in a story called “Tears for Titano.” And then in the New 52, he returned again, this time as a GIANT CHIMPANZEE ROBOT.
At which point, everybody pretty much gave up and said, “Okay, comics, you win.”
Other supervillain primates include:
Silverback, a robotic mercenary gorilla.
Jackanapes, a clown gorilla (trained, of course, by the Joker).
Giganta, who was an ape transformed into a woman.
Pryemaul, a talking Nazi ape from a story in a book called Weird War Tales (an anthology comic literally hosted by Death) called “Primate Patrol” about an all-ape platoon of Nazi soldiers. And then, in a much later book called Tales of the Unexpected, he was bitten by a vampire and became a talking Nazi vampire gorilla.
I want you to repeat those four words back to yourself: talking Nazi vampire gorilla. You’re welcome.
Up next: the heroic primates of the DC Universe! Including Congorilla! Detective Chimp! And the Ape from Angel and the Ape! Prepare your brains for more primates!