At last week's KEVIN GEEKS OUT ABOUT MONKEYS we shared a popular story of how in the late 1950's DC Comics Editor Julius Schwartz discovered that gorillas-on-covers = SALES. Eventually all the comic editors wanted apes on the cover. But Schwartz didn't want to kill the goose (or gorilla) that laid the golden egg; he said only one gorilla cover each month. Since then, gorillas have been a staple of comic artwork. Below are some of those covers. (Story continues after the jump.)
NOTE: Just before the show began, I was rehearsing with M. Sweeney Lawless, who did this segment with me. Some guy saw the color copies and introduced himself as a DC Comics editor. (weird, right?) We asked, "Is gorillas-on-covers true or an urban myth?" He said "It's true. Gorillas sell." There you have it.
That gorilla has style! I'm rooting for the Mod Gorilla. I also wonder if today's readers think A-Man sounds like a dated, sanitized curse-word.
First off -- I think this gorilla is confusing "conquering the world" with "teaching 9th grade."
Second -- This cover has one element too many. It would be enough if a human robbed a library in a mad attempt at global domination. Do we need the gorilla? Or rather, does the gorilla need the gun? Wouldn't it be enough if a 400-pound talking ape threatened your life? At least here, when the Librarian re-tells her story and the boss says "You gave him the books?!" She can explain, "He had a gun!"
Update: since doing the show last week, I discovered that the above issue of FROM BEYOND THE UNKNOWN is, in fact, a reprint of "The Secret of the Man Ape!" which appeared on the cover of STRANGE ADVENTURES. You'll notice a lot of changes have taken place. For one thing, the price of a comic has doubled. But the re-print is worth the extra dime, what with it's exciting artwork and flashy dialogue. The dopey-looking monkey on Strange Adventures is rather underwhelming, between the "medicated" look on his face and the dry dialogue "You will now put those books inside this valise!" (pretty tame compared to the commanding "Hand over those two books!") It's no wonder the red-head librarian keeps her cool. Also, after Friday's show I'd joked that the above cover manages to squeeze in the image of a library patron (see between the gorillas legs.) This must've been to establish that the story takes place during the library's regular operating hours. My friend Jamie pointed out the man's reaction "shows that we're looking at something surprising." You would never know that from the original Strange Adventures cover.
It is my sincere wish that there's a third re-imagining of this cover, so that I can commission an artist to paint a cover where a gorilla goes into a comic book store and demands all three issues, in order to rule the world.
One of the best things about seeing these old covers is wondering what the hell is going on in the story. Typically, the plotlines are never as outrageous as we imagine. But "The Secret of the Man-Ape!" is still pretty nutso. (If you are ready to have your imagination staggered, you can read this synopsis, complete with wise-ass commentary.)
These two Strange Adventure covers are somewhat similar, no? Nothing succeeds like success.
Meg observed that in the bottom story, the guy's obviously had his chest waxed -- perhaps by the ungentle hands of the gorilla nurse.
Meg says, "Green Gorilla" is 50's slang for absinthe.
Meg says the whole story is right there on the cover. Save your 12-cents.
I say, this 1962 Gorilla-Man story looks a lot like the 1942 Bela Lugosi movie The Ape Man.
A classic example of the Gorilla as Genius. This cover also reminds us of when the "National Science Academy Awards" really meant something. Back in the old days, before they were ruined by guys plagurising from monkeys.
Know who woulda loved this cover? Hitler. (His favorite movie was King Kong.)
It's a classic example of gorilla as mega-brute.
I'm amazed this cover hasn't been optioned as a Rob Zombie movie.
Pay close attention to the way the gorilla is forcing its big, hairy digit into Jimmy Olsen's tiny ring-hole. This is called "foreshadowing."
Meg says "Superman is King of Mardis Gras"!
Finally, the Godfather of Gorillas on covers: Gorilla Grodd...