BHOC: SUPER HEROES BATTLE SUPER-GORILLAS #1

Back at that same far-off stationary store maybe a week later to pick up whatever we had ordered for Cub Scouting, I came across this beauty, which never showed up at my regular 7-11. I’d seen the ads and so I was primed to read it. But to start with, boy, what an ugly mess Vinnie Colletta makes of Ernie Chua/Chan’s cover here. I was no great fan of Chua’s cover work, but these sloppy, rushed, blah inks did him no favors here. (There are some nice textures on the large gorilla, it must be said.) It’s a weird concept for a one-shot–I learned later that DC had used the same title on an issue of DC SPECIAL that must have sold well. And in the early 1970s, what kid wasn’t Apes-crazy thanks to the Planet of the Apes films (and short-lived TV series)?

The issue featured three reprinted stories, two of which were from an earlier period than I would have figured. For the opening Superman tale, rather than re-presenting one of the stories featuring Titano the Super-Ape, the encyclopedic mind of editor E. Nelson Bridwell pulled forth this older gem concerning King Krypton, the Gorilla of Steel. Wayne Boring, the main Superman artist of the period (1958–the date is left untouched in the reprinted panels, a variance of earlier DC policy on this score) handled the art duties in his usual idiosyncratic fashion. 

A Daily Planet expedition to Modern Africa brings Clark Kent and his cohorts into contact with the beast they swiftly name King Krypton–a huge gorilla with all of Superman’s powers. After the enormous ape proves to be a danger, Superman contrives to try to trap him with Kryptonite. But the attempt fails, they both fall into the hands of a tribe descended from the Romans (!) and are forced to battle one another for their freedom. But when a Kryptonite meteor is unearthed, King Krypton shields Superman with his own body, reverting to his true form as a Kryptonian scientist whose experiments to evolve himself backfired and who had been exiled to space as a result. The scientist perishes shielding Superman from the kryptonite, his body turning green and showing for the first time what such a death would look like. It’s an amazing amount of craziness packed into a mere 12 pages.

The main event for me, the Flash reprint, came next. But this one was a little bit different from the early Flash stories I had sampled previously. By this point, right at the end of his tenure as the Scarlet Speedster’s regular artist, Carmine Infantino had begun to be inked by Sid Greene. This combined wit the switch to a smaller size of original art altered Infantino’s style–and not entirely to my liking as a kid. 

The story opens with Barry Allen’s surprise as his wife Iris begins to speak and move at super-speed. It becomes apparent that everybody in Central City is so affected, and the City has been cut off from the outside world. Gorilla Grodd telepathically claims credit for the feat, and says that he’ll keep it up until everybody in Central City swiftly dies of old age unless the Flash springs him from prison in Gorilla City. Flash as no choice but to comply, and no recourse when Grodd threatens to do it again if the speedster interferes with him. But then Flash learns that the affect wasn’t caused by Grodd at all, but by an accidental burst of radiation from the sun (!!!) and Grodd was just taking advantage of it. And so, Flash tackles Grodd, and soon has him back safe and sound in Gorilla City’s lock-up.

The final tale in this oversized reprint collection was both the oldest and maybe the most memorable of the lot. This was “The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City.” a title that’s about as evocative as anything. It opens on the lawful execution of underworld figure George “Boss” Dyke. His body turned over to a sinister underworld doctor, the Doc transplants Dyke’s still-living brain into the body of an enormous gorilla. Because of course he does.

Dyke intends to steal a fortune and then have the Doc transplant his brain into Batman’s body and the Caped Crusader’s into the gorilla–the ultimate punishment. The notion of this made me a bit queasy as a child. And the Gorilla Boss is pretty unstoppable, and carries out his grim plan. Ala King Kong, the remote-controlled batplane topples the Gorilla Boss off a Gotham Tower to his death, but it’s only after this that we learn that Batman revived in time to prevent the final brain-swap, and so it is Dyke who was killed. To say nothing of a perfectly innocent gorilla.

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