The world is learning what faithful DC Comics fans have known for decades, Gorilla Grodd freakin’ rules. Since his first appearance in 1959, Grodd has been one of DC’s most enduring and unique villains somehow transcending the innate silliness of the concept and becoming one of the biggest badasses in comics.
Seriously. Grodd is like a fevered mash-up of Caesar from Planet of the Apes, Professor Xavier, and Stalin. That’s one scary ape right there.
Recently, the world has learned that it is Grodd’s world and we just live in it. So to catch new fans up on some of the greatest Grodd moments over the years, we present this list of Grodd’s greatest capers, atrocities and monkey shines. Moments that speak to why this despotic super ape is one of the greatest foes the heroes of the DC Universe, particularly The Flash, ever faced.
So join us as we present…
The Prime 8: 8 Moments that Prove That, Grodd Damn It! That’s One Awesome Gorilla!
1. Flash #106 (1959)
by John Broome by Carmine Infantino
How much is that homicidal, despotic, feral gorilla in the window?
Before Gorilla Grood made his debut in The Flash #106 in 1959, Flash fought his fair share of gimmicky human criminals and non-descript aliens, but when a certain super gorilla debuted, the insanity of the Silver Age can be said to have truly begun.
Now keep in mind, that back in the early Silver Age, most comics contained two or three stories, so in like half a comic, John Broome and Carmine Infantino introduced the world to Grodd, Gorilla City and Solovar, the wise king of the gorillas. In this issue, Grodd invades Central City to learn the secret of mind control in order to take control of Gorilla City’s mighty army. Why Grodd thought the secret of mind control was located in Central City is anyone’s guess, but hey, it was 1959, just go with it.
Infantino’s renderings of Grodd rippled with raw sinew and power as the legendary artist established Grodd’s physical presence. But it was the look in Grodd’s eyes that made the character so enduring…a look of malevolent intelligence to go with his raw brute strength. Yeah, Flash defeated Grodd in this, the gorilla’s debut, by running around the ape so fast that Grodd couldn’t think straight and passed out, but Grodd would return, again and again.
Before we leave this issue, just think about what an insane concept Gorilla City truly is, a city where a race of gorillas gained sentience through exposure to a UFO (later retconned into a meteor) and built a super secret advanced society. It was like Edgar Rice Burroughs meets…I don’t know what. And it worked, becoming one of the strangest but constant locales in the DC Universe.
Who woulda thunk it?
2. Flash #115 (1960)
by John Broome and Carmine Infantino
It’s like a crossover between The Flash and The Biggest Loser.
So “The Day Flash Weighed 1000 Pounds!” began with our ape of the hour, Grodd, sitting in his cell in Gorilla City contemplating how the Flash always defeats him when he clearly has a superior intellect. You see, Grodd has a pill that allows his mind to leave his body and take over a human of his choosing. Grodd chooses and pill possesses a man named Willie Dawson and gets a job in a circus so he can communicate with and have access to apes. Grodd uses the monkeys to commit petty crimes instead of, I dunno, the President of the United States or the Flash never occurs to anybody, but hey…Silver Age!
As Dawson, Grodd creates a gun that will increase a target’s weight by 1000 pounds, so he’s now like the opposite of the gypsy from Stephen King’s Thinner. Anyway, Grodd zaps Flash who now looks like Homer Simpson in that episode where he got really fat and wore a Mumu. Another side effect of the gun was amnesia so the confused Flash becomes a circus freak now that he looks like a scarlet blimp. When fatty Flash passes a funhouse mirror, he remembers who he is and sadly doesn’t get a reality cable show. He then dehydrates himself to get rid of the weight and defeats Grodd. All total in this issue, Grodd used a mind swapping pill and a fat gun.
Hey Berlanti! Hey Johns! I dare you to adapt this issue for TV. I freakin’ dare you!
3. The Challenge of the Super Friends
“Revenge on Gorilla City” Season 1, Episode 8. Original airdate Nov. 4, 1978
Saturday Morning Simian.
Oh, to be young again. Most people’s exposure to the greatness of Grodd was in the Challenge of the Super Friends cartoon where the simian psycho was a member of the Legion of Doom. Who can forgot Grodd’s snarling voice (masterfully performed by television vet Stanley Ralph Ross, who also wrote almost a third of the 1966 Batman series. Who knew?) his fevered visage and his crudely drawn but imposing ape physique. Grodd really stood out amongst the saccharine villainy of Saturday morning and must have scared the Cocoa Puffs out of more than one pajama clad child.
In “Revenge on Gorilla City,” Grodd did what he did every night, Pinkie…he tried to take over Gorilla City. The Legion of Doom backed his play, feeling that conquering Gorilla City and then Africa would allow them to conquer the world.
Anyway, Grodd uses a penis shaped power neutralizer invented by Brainiac to nullify the Super Friends’ powers. It even works on Batman and Robin for some reason and renders their utility belts useless. Without their belts, the Dynamic Duo crumble like a house of cards as the Super Friends ‘toon taught kids across the world that Batman and Robin were pathetically useless without their toys. Oh, ’70s.
As silly as this and all other episodes of the Super Friends usually got, Grodd stood out among the usually disposable weekend villainy that was featured on Saturday mornings. He really was a frightening, snarling bundle of rage and even in the confines of ’70s children television, there was vast badass potential for our fave super gorilla.
4. The Flash #295 (1981)
by Cary Bates and Don Heck
The Gorilla of Your Dreams.
Writer Cary Bates had one of the longest runs of the Flash of any writer in the character’s rich history. Bates worked on The Flash in three separate decades and much of the greatness of The Flash TV series is owed to concepts and characters utilized by Bates. So here’s to you Cary.
Of course, during his long tenure on the Flash, Bates utilized Grodd because no true creative spirit can resist an evil psychic monkey dictator. This issue not only shows Grodd in all his putrid glory, it gives him a new ability, the ability to enter and control someone’s dreams. I don’t want Gorilla Hitler in my dreams, do you? (shudder)
In this issue, something called Operation Wordwash has wiped out all memory of Gorilla City from the memories of every human being except the Flash. It opens with confused New Yorkers gazing at the Gorilla City Embassy building, wondering what its purpose could be. That’s right, in the DC Universe; there is an embassy smack dab in New York that houses super intelligent gorilla diplomats.
God, I love comics.
Anyway, Grodd sabotaged the Orwellian Operation Wordwash to erase all memory of himself from King Solovar and the Super Apes’ mind as well. Solovar and Flash began having dreams that they are fighting each other in intense battles. Turns out, this was actually real as Grodd was twisting reality to make each champion think they were fighting each other. See, the Flash and Solovar were actually fighting Grodd who shielded his true self from his enemies’ minds by using the dream forms of Flash and Solovar. Oh, that damn, dirty ape.
Flash figured the whole thing out because he dreams at super speed and these Grodd induced lucid visions were happening at regular speed. Now, think of the consequences of this, a super powered, sociopathic ape can control dreams. No wonder I have been waking up flinging poop lately with a hankering for bananas.
5. Flash #69–70, Green Lantern #30–31 (1992)
by Mark Waid, Gerard Jones, Mark Bright, and Greg LaRocque
A giant evil gorilla and a guy with a huge head walk into a bar…
There are about a billion and a half Grodd stories entitles Gorilla Warfare and there will probably be about a billion and a half more before we’re done, but this crossover between Flash and Green Lantern is certainly the best of the bunch. This can be considered the first modern age Grodd tale and while he is still recognizable from the Silver and Bronze Ages, master ’90s scribes Mark Waid and Gerard Jones crafted a more politically fueled Grodd.
In this four parter, it is revealed that the villainous Hector Hammond (the big headed villain from the Green Lantern movie…don’t hold that against him) was actually mutated by a similar meteor to the one that transformed the apes of Gorilla City. Hammond and Grodd team up and take on Hal Jordan and Wally West. Allied with Hal and Wally are the Bureau of Amplified Animals led by Silver Age classics Rex, the Wonder Dog and Detective Chimp.
Any story that features Detective Chimp automatically rules.
Over the course of the story, readers got to meet the insurgents that blindly follow Grodd’s every whim as Jones and Waid explored Grodd as a charismatic dictator, a gorilla terrorist who now has an army backing his evil whims. With Hammond by his side, this more megalomaniacal Grodd is a new threat for a new age and actually succeeds in transforming Green Lantern into a gorilla by exposing him to that fateful meteor. This story has it all, a modern Grodd, a monkey Green Lantern, and a chimp wearing a deer stalker with a magnifying glass. It needs to be sought out in back issue bins immediately.
6. Martian Manhunter Annual #2 (1999)
by Len Kaminski and Gus Vazquez
Martian Monkey Shines.
In 1999, DC Comics bound that year’s JLA annuals together with the story, (wait for it) JLApe in which Grodd tries to transform humanity into apes to use as his army against King Solovar and Gorilla City. In this issue, the Martian Manhunter utilizes his keen detective skills and gathers the greatest apes in DC history to gather information on Grodd. The issue features Detective Chimp, Monsieur Mallah (monkey with a beret!), Sam Simeon (the ape half of Angel and the Ape, who is revealed in this issue to be Grodd’s brother!), and Congorilla.
That’s a heaping helping of monkeys for your comic book dollar.
It concludes with Martian Manhunter and Grodd having an epic psychic battle as the two most powerful mentalists in the DCU go at it, Martian versus gorilla. Once again, this is the more despotic, Machiavellian Grodd who pushed the Justice League and the Martian Manhunter to their absolute limits.
Seriously, it’s a detective from Mars versus a psychic gorilla dictator. What’s not to love?
7. Flash Vol 2 #178 (2001)
by Geoff Johns and Scott Kolins
Not So Funny Anymore.
Grodd didn’t appear for a few years following JLApe but when he did, boy, was he freakin’ scary. This issue was the first time legendary Flash writer Geoff Johns utilized Grodd, and it was so unforgettably brutal, it changed the character forever. You know that rampaging beast you have thrilled to on CW’s The Flash? yeah, that version of Grodd began right here. Scott Kolins rendered Grodd as a snarling, unstoppable force of nature while Johns created a perfect balance of animalistic fury and serial killer cunning.
Basically, a new company called The Cage Factory creates a cell that they brag could hold any being. When Grodd is transported to Iron Heights prison, the unstable villain known as Magenta releases the lock on Grodd’s cage and the following rampage has become the stuff of nightmarish legend. Johns presents Grodd as a being who takes great joy in mentally showing his victims just how he is going to rend them limb from limb by imprinting the image in their brains, and then actually did it, leaving a trail of carnage and death behind. That JLApe stuff was now a thing of the past as Grodd wasn’t a joke anymore but one of the most savage and feared creatures in the DC Universe.
8. The Flash #13 (2011)
by Brian Buccellato and Francis Manapul
Don’t Worry, he’s ‘armless.
It took thirteen issue of the New 52 Flash comic, but when the new version of Gorilla Grodd made his debut, it was quite memorable for all involved. Barry Allen first encountered the bloodthirsty gorilla despot after being shunted to Gorilla City by the Speed Force. Barry narrowly and luckily defeated Grodd but when the murderous beast arrived in Central City, this new Grodd proved to the world that he was just as savage as his pre-New 52 predecessor.
During Grodd’s rampage, the young Rogue known as the Trickster decided to get into the ape’s good graces. Well, being the grumpy goose that he is, Grodd answered the Trickster’s offer of friendship by tearing the Trickster’s arm off. So that was Grodd’s first introduction to the DC New 52…limb removal. Hey, the Trickster was played by Mark Hamill, who is well known for losing a limb as Luke Skywalker and here we have the modern version of Hamill’s character losing a limb at the hands of Grodd. Whoa…mind-blown!
So there you have it, and there are so many other great Grodd stories in addition to our Prime 8. One wonders if any of these Grodd tales that we listed here will be featured in CW’s The Flash someday. Will Grodd mutate other gorillas in Planet of the Apes Caesar like fashion and create a new version of Gorilla City, or will Grodd be the lone ape beneath Central City ready to strike when Barry and company least suspect it?
We’ll just have to wait and see, because…
This article originally ran in May of 2015.