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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Greatest Story Ever Told, Part Two

Back in November, I wrote about one of the finest examples of the power of the comic book medium. It was a little thing called Giant Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas, and since no major religions have adopted it as the source of their faith, I'm going to go ahead and assume most of you missed out on getting your own copies.

Me, I ended up giving mine to a pal as part of my month-long celebration of Christmas, but last week, I found something to fill that dreadful void in my soul. Prepare yourself, gentle reader, as we delve into...

Super-Gorillas II: The Monkeying

Yes, from the people who brought you the sheer genius of "Stop! You Can't Beat The Law!" comes DC Special #16, no doubt a reaction to the back-breaking bags of pro-ape mail that apparently inundated the DC offices in the mid-70s.

The result... will blow your mind.

Two of the four stories within involve Superman and the Flash squaring off against Titano and Super-Gorilla Grodd respectively, but really: You can get that any old time. It's nothing special for the Flash to fight a gorilla with super-powers, and a giant monkey's going to need a little bit more than kryptonite eye-beams to really present a problem with Superman.

Things start to pick up in the Wonder Woman story where gorillas from space--complete with ray-guns and spacesuits that are strangely lacking in both the "shirt" and "pants" departments--land on Paradise Island with the intention of dragging Diana back to the Space-Ape Homeworld to be their queen. Even worse, they're male Space-Gorillas, so Wonder Woman has to figure out how to beat them up and kick them off the planet before the Amazons lose their powers right in the middle of the Paradise Island Karate Tournament.

Fortunately, in a series of typically wacky events from the mind of Crazy Bob Kanigher involving a ray-gun that turns Diana into an ape for like three panels that she convinces the apes to use on themselves and a judicious use of her lasso, everything works out for the best and she's back in time to catch the all-girl board-breaking competition.

If there is a heaven, it looks like that.

It's got all the craziness you'd expect from a Robert Kanigher Wonder Woman story, crammed into eight pages that don't have time for things like "sense" or "transitional panels." But it pales in comparison to the senses-shattering tale that opens this comic, after which no story will ever be the same. Everything else is mere prelude to...


Assuming that your job description isn't "Look Upon the Face of God," this will be the best thing you see today.

For those of you who are new, this is why I love Batman. He doesn't just have to fight a gorilla, he has fight a gorilla with the brain of a human being who is also a suicide bomber. It does not get any better than that.

Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino weave this tale of "Worthless Wally," who--in his black turtleneck and slick tan jacket--looks a lot like Patrick McGoohan with a receeding hairline. Unfortunately, unlike Number Six, Wally doesn't do so hot at sports, a situation that he chooses to remedy through the tenuously scientific study of bionics!

As such, he invents a machine that can somehow transfer certain characteristics of animals, like the keen sight of an eagle or the jumping ability of a kangaroo. Oddly enough, Wally's "bioniformer" looks a lot like the mind-altering radiation device that Gorilla Grodd builds in the Flash story, which means that within the mad brain of Carmine Infantino, "super-scientific device" translates into "flourescent lighting."

Anyway, things--as you might imagine--go Horribly Awry™ when Wally tries to capture the strength of an ape, and in addition to a super-strong Wally, we end up with KARMAK! THE APE THAT THINKS LIKE A MAN!

And if that wasn't enough, the man-thinking ape can also control Wally telepathically. So of course he sends him to rob banks, the secret goal of every member of the Animal Kingdom. Think about that next time you consider becoming a vegetarian.

Wally flees to the police, but before long, Karmak takes control and Wally's forced to bust out and slug it out with Batman. This, my friends, is where it gets awesome: In order to knock out a man with the toughness and strength of a gorilla, Batman corners him on one of Infantino's typically massive sidewalks, grabs him by the feet...

...and throws him headfirst into the nearest brick wall.

Not surprisingly, Wally doesn't stand up for the rest of the story.

With his pawn out of the picture, Karmak comes out of hiding to do his own dirty work, and ends up luring Batman into a jewelry store, knocking him out, and shining a 30-watt lightbulb--er, "bioniformer" on him, thus gaining Batman's "cagy wisdom and fighting prowess." Yes, you read that right: A gorilla with the brain of the world's greatest detective and mastery over every martial art known to man. And believe it or not, it gets crazier.

Batman soaks his gloves in liquid anesthetic, and essentially calls Karmak out for a showdown in Gotham Park. Karmak, armed with Batman's sharp wit and keen deductive mind, shows up with enough explosives to level Gotham City duct-taped to his chest. Karmak then claims that only he can prevent it from exploding, assuring Batman that, yes, it will "annihilate everything and everyone in Gotham City" except for him, apparently forgetting that this is a bomb strapped to his own chest.

Batman deals with this problem in the only way possible: He picks Karmak up and cracks his head against the pavement.

Then, he and Robin figure out that--since with a "bioniformer" and a talking suicide bomber monkey in the equation, we're just going to go ahead and chuck anything resembling science right out the window--the bomb wont' go off as long as Karmak isn't touching the ground.

What follows: Six panels of Batman holding up a gorilla.

Can you feel the intensity? Anyway, he holds Karmak off the ground long enough for the bomb to decide it's not going to explode today, and then we all learn a valuable lesson:

Let other people know you like them, and they'll like you. As for me, well, I'm stickin' with the atomic monkey science.


On the off chance that your job description actually is "Looking Upon the Face of God," then the only thing I help you with his this intense and slightly frightening shot of Moses by Joe Kubert from a house-ad after the Batman story:

And it's just in time for Passover!


Blogger Ragnell said...

Batman deals with this problem in the only way possible: He picks Karmak up and cracks his head against the pavement.

That may just solve all my problems!

4/12/2006 1:42 AM

Blogger Michael said...

You know, I never thought I'd see the day when I can read a story about a talking suicide bomber mokey and laugh. If I had read this story (I have the first "Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas", I bought it hot off the rack at 7-11!) I would have though, "huh, a talking suicide bomber monkey, OK, it's a Silver Age story, that figures." Now you've ruined it for me, I can never think of a talking suicide bomber monkey without laughing.

4/12/2006 1:58 AM

Blogger Jake said...

Dude, I was just about to write up my review of Superman vs. King Krypton from the first issue of this fine comic. I'm also considering the Boss Dyke story for Blog Against Homophobia Day.

4/12/2006 2:35 AM

Blogger C. Elam said...

I hate to be the one to bring it up to everybody, but this was actually the first "Super-Heroes Battle Super-Gorillas" comic. That fact doesn't change the pure perfection they both entail.

I think we all need to see that issue of DC Super-Stars where Superboy loses his virginity get the ISB treatment.

4/12/2006 3:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is all reprint material, yes? ll

4/12/2006 7:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kubert's Moses has replaced Mel Brooks' Moses for the best representation.

4/12/2006 8:36 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What the hell is with Moses' head? It's like his neck is growing to try and get away from his beard. That has to be cut-and-pasted wrong, Kubert wouldn't pull that.
Was there any reasoning at all behind why the bomb wouldn't kill the gorilla? Because he was behind it and it would explode out? Counting on his natural gorilla invulnerability? Because God loves him? Why!?

4/12/2006 9:16 AM

Blogger Chris Sims said...

"I think we all need to see that issue of DC Super-Stars where Superboy loses his virginity get the ISB treatment."

Scott talks about this one all the time. "Don't call me Superboy anymore, Pa Kent! Now I'm Superman!"

4/12/2006 9:28 PM


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