It’s no secret that I’m a comic book fan. But I’m a bigger fan of real science fiction; that is, fiction whose narrative necessarily depends upon a fanciful or not-yet-possible scientific element. I struggle with whether traditional superhero comic books qualify as science fiction, since mostly the sci-fi elements are an excuse for having extraordinary characters. Any other excuse can often suffice: magic, for instance.
However, for the purposes of today’s article, I will accept for the nonce that most modern, American, superhero comicbook fare is well seated in the mainstream skiffy tradition.
But today I don’t want to go on about what qualifies as science fiction and what does not. Rather, our topic is considerably less interesting. Nevertheless, it had been a source of consternation for me for some time. It is this: ever notice how DC comics seems to be obsessed with gorillas?
Here are some examples:
Depending on whose origin story you believe, Giganta was either a gorilla who, through scientific shenanigans was transformed into a size-changing human woman, or she was a human woman whose consciousness was transferred first into a gorilla than into another human. In either case, her gorilla history is an important aspect of her villainous background.
2. The Ultra-Humanite
Well this one is weird. The Ultra-Humanite is a supervillain with the ability to transfer his mind into other bodies. Yet his favourite body for depositing his mind is that of a giant mutant albino gorilla. Because, you know, it’s useful to be inconspicuous and stuff.
I am loathe to acknowledge anything in the atrocious “New 52” continuity. But sometime in that continuity’s future, Batman’s son Damian Wayne confronts yet another gorilla villain, Jackanapes. Sigh.
4. Gorilla Grodd
Sigh. The stupidity rolls on. Yes, at one point Superman and Dr Light must fight a multi-armed robotic gorilla named, sigh, Robo-Octo-Ape.
7. Gorilla Boss
Here we go again. On the mean streets of Gotham, a mobster’s brain is removed and placed into the body of a giant gorilla, because why not? He is… the Gorilla Boss! And Batman gets to throw down with him from time to time.
Now, DC comics is not alone in their disparagement of gorillas. Marvel has had their fair share of apism. But with DC, it’s a weird obsession. Sort of like how Fox News is obsessed with immigrants, or Donald Trump with Obama’s birth certificate. In fact, Dc Comics has an entire “Gorilla City” from which any number of super-intelligent, super-powered gorilla friends and foes can be drawn. And check out these other DC book covers!
Why is the poor gorilla always the villain? I’ve met some gorillas. Truly. Ten years ago, I trekked into the central African jungle near the Uganda-Congo border, explicitly to spend time with some of the last remaining mountain gorillas in the world. They are a peaceful, joyful, lovely and vegetarian species.
You know who are assholes? Chimps. Chimps are assholes. Why aren’t there any chimp villains?