Friday, March 6, 2015

Super-(Revolutionary War)-Heroes Battle Super-Gorilla: Tomahawk #107 (Dec. 1966)

What's the old comics editorial trope?  Increase sales by putting a gorilla on the cover.  This piece of advice was followed by every editor at DC comics in the 60s, including, strangely, Murray Boltinoff, the editor of DC's Revolutionary War title, Tomahawk.

I'm so glad Boltinoff did follow that advice, because I've been chomping at the bit to take a look at another of the strange Tomahawk's Rangers v. any assortment of monster/alien/prehistoric beast issues that I stubbornly chose to ignore for too long a period of time.  Tomahawk #107 (Dec. 1966) is a great example of one these issues, and it's actually a bit of a 'silliness two-fer,' as Tomahawk's team of frontier patriots don't only tangle with a giant gorilla raised by Native Americans, but also with a honest-to-goodness costumed super villain!  Who comes up with this stuff?

Well in this case, it's writer Ed Herron (a long time DC scribe dating back to the dawn of the Golden Age and no stranger to Tomahawk) and artist Fred Ray (who also had had a long history with Tomahawk at this point) who are the team asking its readers to suspend disbelief even beyond what is customary of a typical comics reader.  The 1st of 2 stories in the issue, 'Double-Cross of the Gorilla-Ranger' begins with some fast action as Tomahawk's band are blind-sided by the attack of a strange creature - a feather-wearing, bow & quiver-carrying giant ape!

No build-up, this story starts out with all-out ape action!
After tangling with Big Anvil, the biggest & strongest Ranger, the ape is stopped by a native warrior, who explains that the ape was merely spooked and is in fact, friendly to the Rangers' cause.  Seems Mikora, as the ape is called, was brought to the New World by a 'paleface' who had visited Africa.  When his benefactor died, Mikora, a member of a mysterious gorilla species which grows to great size, fell into the care of a tribe of Native Americans under the leadership of Chief Tanka - it was amongst this tribe that the gorilla gained his great archery skill.

Turns out Chief Tanka has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom by a band of British deserters under the command of a mysterious figure named Thunder-Man.  As this was the mission Tomahawk's men were en route to complete when they were interrupted by the giant gorilla, they agree to take the beast along.

Thunder-Man, a surprisingly menacing villain
After easily handling an advance guard, the Rangers and their new member are attacked by Thunder-Man, himself.  Thunder-Man cuts a strangely menacing figure, as drawn by Fred Ray.  Contorted features and wildly radiating electrical force, the costume design is actually not bad for a Silver Age villain (this really could have been, sans lightning bolts, a much better original look for JLA foe, Owl Man).  The Rangers and Mikora all succumb to the might of Thunder-Man, who takes the giant gorilla prisoner.  Rather than simply hold him for ransom (honestly, who'd pay?), along with Chief Tanka, Thunder-Man plans to (weird science moment) use his electrical power to alter the beast's mind and sway him to Thunder-Man's side.

T-Man's plan seems to have been a great one, as when the recovered Rangers storm the stronghold, a therapy-shocked Mikora tears into them.  Things look mighty bleak for Tomahawk & his crew, until Big Anvil manages to get his hands on Thunder-Man, revealing a battery-powered back-pack as the source of his electric power.  Big Anvil shakes the device free, and uses it himself to give Mikora an additional jolt of juice which settles the ape's mind, making him once again friendly.

With Thunder-Man and his crew in cuffs, Tanka is freed, and the Rangers & their new friend part ways, but not before Big Anvil and Mikora get a chance to hug it out.

Hugging it out
A rather silly, but fun story - I'm glad I opened my mind up a little bit and allowed myself to enjoy it. It's never been reprinted but it's also not impossible to find, low-grade for a couple of bucks - recommended!

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