365 Reasons to Love Comics #99
Ape-ril lumbers on! Who is the world’s smartest simian? With dumb clues like these, dear readers, it’s elementary.
99. Detective Chimp
Detective Chimp, a.k.a. Bobo T. Chimpanzee, is the world’s greatest detective. Really. Better than Batman. And he’s the best detective to wear a deerstalker. Sherlock Holmes has nothing on Bobo.
Created by the brilliant John Broome and Carmine Infantino (coincidentally enough, the creators of my favorite comics character, Elongated Man– these guys knew how to create an interesting detective) first appeared in Rex the Wonder Dog #4, and showed up in dozens of issues of Rex. Originally, Bobo was just an exceptionally smart chimp with a good grasp of the English language (though he couldn’t talk) who wore a cool hat and helped a Floridian Sherriff named
The Man in the Yellow Hat Ed Chase solve crimes. The premise was basically “Curious George fights crime!” but, y’know, that’s actually genius. You can read old-timey Detective Chimp bios here and here.
The stories were relentlessly charming, however. Check out some plot recaps and classic artwork over at Gorilla Daze or the happy look back from Dial B for Blog. The internet loves Detective Chimp. I can see why. Those old stories were wonderful. Scuba chimp! Cowboy chimp! Chimp with a gun! Ostrich-ridin’ chimp! I love ostrich-ridin’ chimp:
Click it for the CHIMPLOSION! Wait. That doesn’t make any sense. It is chimploded. Curse my play on words!
After his series of back-ups, Detective Chimp didn’t appear so much. There was his bizarre retconned-in alien origin in Secret Origins, the “Whatever Happened to Rex the Wonder Dog?” back-up in DC Comics Presents, a one-panel appearance in Crisis on Infinite Earths in which he suddenly gained the ability for human speech, and a cameo during the JLApe crossover– but that was pretty much it. It seems quite a few creators and editors thought Detective Chimp was… an embarassing concept! Blast them. Yes, Detective Chimp is silly, but by God, comics need to learn to embrace their inherent silliness! It can be a very good thing.
Luckily, the Day of Vengeance mini in 2005 brought Detective Chimp back to the forefront of comics. In fact, the return of Detective Chimp is probably the only good thing to come out of Infinite Crisis. He’s talkative, surly, brilliant, and a bit of alkie– I suppose that ain’t half-bad, considering the horrors we could’ve gotten out of a modernization. Now we can see him written by Bill Willingham every month in Shadowpact! He also pops up around the DCU on occasion and got his own Helmet of Fate one-shot.
Best detective in the world? Bobo seems to think so. He does seem to do quite a lot to prove it. I’d say there are few things more fun in comics than a crime-solving chimp. However, Detective Chimp is only my second-favorite comics non-human ape! For my favorite ape, check back tomorrow for #100. For my favorite monkey (and yours too, I bet), read Wednesday’s column.