Wednesday, March 18, 2015

5 Reasons You Should Care About … Gorilla Grodd

Contrary to what the show would have you believe, The Flash’s biggest long-game tease isn’t about the murder of Barry’s parents or time travel or Harrison Wells revealing himself as the Reverse Flash.

In the very first episode of the CW series, as the camera pans through the wreckage of STAR Labs after the particle accelerator explosion, we see an empty, open cage with a sign on it that says, simply, “Grodd.” That was when I knew I was going to like that show.

Since then, we’ve seen mostly brief glimpses – a hand here, a body cast in shadow there – until the most recent episode, when Wells sicced Grodd on Mr. Krabs General Eiling, revealing the 800-pound telepathic, talking gorilla in the room.

There’s a certain amount of ridiculous to the Flash’s rogues gallery. There’s nothing edgy about names like Captain Cold or Weather Wizard or Professor Zoom. The best thing to do is lean into it and accept them for what they are, little slivers of the Silver Age that, for whatever reason, stood the test of time. And it really doesn’t get more Silver Age Flash Villain than a talking gorilla who believes himself superior to man, uses a mind-control helmet and constantly tries to dominate the human race.

So here’s a love letter to comics’ greatest sinister simian.

The basics: Grodd was created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino and first appeared in The Flash #106 in 1959.

1. He’s from a city of gorillas: Gorilla Grodd is from a village in Africa called Gorilla City, which is inhabited by hyperintelligent gorillas. They got that way after a radioactive meteor alien spacecraft crash-landed into their village.

2. Did I mention he’s got mind-control powers? Though all the gorillas in Gorilla City were supersmart, only two, Grodd and Solivar, are telepathic and telekinetic. It was Solivar who alerted the Flash to Grodd’s villainy, leading to decades of speedster-on-simian matchups.

3. The Rogues are his fault: Grodd first caused some of the Flash’s other villains to team up, breaking them out of jail to distract the speedster during a story in which Grodd’s brain had been transferred to that of a zoo gorilla named Freddy.

4. “He’s made no fewer than 18 attempts to wipe humanity from the Earth.” This fact, I confess, is from Wikipedia, and could be outdated or completely made up. But I do like the idea that someone’s keeping count. Does pale in comparison to the number of times Pinky and the Brain have tried to take over the world, though.

5. He killed his father and ate his brain: According to Grodd’s New 52 origin, when Grodd came of age, he challenged his father for control of Gorilla City, impaled him on his horned helmet and celebrated by eating his brain to consume all his knowledge and memories, because, y’know, that’s how that works. He later leads an invasion of Central City and gains access to the Speed Force.

Read this: The New 52 Flash Vol. 3: Gorilla Warfare, by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato

Watch that: It’s a tie. Justice League Unlimited sees Grodd set up the Legion of Doom as a supervillain co-op in which he gets a cut of the profits of any and all nefarious deeds and ends up fighting with Lex Luthor for control of the operation (and tacitly is sleeping with a human witch). For a more light-hearted take, check out Batman: The Brave and the Bold, which is the perfect example of a show leaning in to the ridiculousness of the Silver Age. Grodd first appears in episode 2 of the series, in which he turns Batman into a gorilla.

Dan Grote’s new novel, Magic Pier, is available however you get your books online. He has been writing for The Matt Signal since 2014. He and Matt have been friends since the days when making it to issue 25 guaranteed you a foil cover.

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