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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #100

The recap: “You’re looking at a daily, yearlong look at what makes comics great. Some reasons are obvious, some are totally obscure; all of them, however, are reasons to love comics. The archive can be found here. It’s a little behind, but not as much as it used to be.”

So this is it. Triple digits! And during the month of Ape-ril! Readers, if you thought yesterday’s ape had a great choice of headgear, then you’ll love today’s! Presenting comics’ greatest ape character…

4/10/07

100. Monsieur Mallah

Mallah and the Brain.jpg

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

Come ’round, children. Let me tell you a story. A love story. A story about a brain, named… The Brain. And a talking, paramilitary French gorilla, who went by the lovely name of Monsieur Mallah.

The Brain used to be a scientist, you see, who captured a gorilla one day, and performed experiments on it. Don’t worry, though, kids, he was perfectly humane. Using a mind-expanding ray, he made the gorilla a genius, raising his IQ to 178 points. He named him Monsieur Mallah. Because all monkeys are French. Didn’t you know that? (In the future, children, your science teachers will tell you that gorillas are apes, not monkeys. Those teachers are dirty liars and you should never ever trust them.)

Then, one day, the poor scientist was caught in an explosion and his body was destroyed. Luckily, his gorilla friend took his brain and put it in a jar hooked up to a computer. The scientist’s brain named himself The Brain and the two founded the Brotherhood of Evil, an organization seeking to destroy their enemies (specifically Niles Caulder and his Doom Patrol) and conquer the globe.

Mallah 3.jpg

They first appeared in Doom Patrol #86 and were created by the esteemed and brilliant writer Arnold Drake and absolute genius artist Bruno Premiani. Scott Tipton, in his Comics 101 column, tells us how Premiani made Mallah so effective as a villain: it’s because he was drawn so realistically! Mallah looked like a real gorilla, not a cartoon of a gorilla. Because of the photorealism, it was really wild and scary when the French gorilla picked up some automatic weapons.

Mallah 4.jpg

All through the years, Monsieur Mallah and his best friend, the Brain, menaced and challenged that dreadful Doom Patrol until, finally, the Doom Patrol blew up and died one day. That didn’t stop most of them from returning, however, and Mallah and the Brain found themselves back in the game.

Mallah 2.jpg

In this story, writer Grant Morrison and artist Richard Case detail the return of Mallah and the Brain, who spend most of the issue discussing personal philosophy (it turns out the wonderful beret Mallah wears used to belong to Che Guevara) and breaking into the Doom Patrol’s headquarters. Meanwhile, Cliff Steele, a.k.a. Robotman, is spending the issue with his brain in a jar as his own robot body gains sentience and declares it wants to live a free life, with no brain inside of it.

Naturally, Mallah and the Brain bust in and take down the robot body. Mallah (because he’s actually a gifted surgeon–seriously) then implants The Brain inside of the robot body (after The Brain and Cliff’s brain have a braino-a-braino “slugfest”). This is the moment when they truly discover their feelings for one another:

Mallah 5.jpg

They do kiss. And then they explode, because the robot body was rigged to explode if a brain was placed in it. So they were dead, but happy, because they finally accepted their beautiful love. It’s the best brain/ape romance ever.

I know, children; it’s a sad ending. However, that was not the end of Mallah and the Brain! Because Superboy punched a wall, they’re back, in charge of a new Brotherhood of Evil, and sworn enemies of the Doom Patrol and the Teen Titans (you could argue that the return of Mallah and the Brain is the other only good thing to come out of Infinite Crisis, I suppose). The Brain even had a human body for a while, and, presumably, he and Mallah were able to finally consummate their relationship (ask your parents what that means).

Also, fairly recently, he even appeared on the Teen Titans cartoon! Voiced by Otho from Beetlejuice! That’s classy. The Mallah resurgence is on at full force! Huzzah!

On the surface, Monsieur Mallah is cool because he’s a talking French gorilla who wears a beret, packs heat, and straps ammo belts to his chest; deep down, Monsieur Mallah is cool because he’s a mad idea taken to brilliantly surreal and mildly emotionally effective levels. He is certainly my favorite comics gorilla.

Would anyone care to join my Merry Monsieur Mallah Marching Society (M.M.M.M.S.)?

Join me tomorrow, children, for comics’ greatest monkey. That is, assuming monkeys and apes aren’t the same thing. Which they totally are, damn the science!

In the meantime, you can view a ton of brilliant moments from the original Drake-penned Doom Patrol run at comic writer Matt Fraction’s website. They include some magnificent Mallah moments. Count with me: vun! two! tree! four! Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!

Thanks for reading. Here’s to 265 more. Cheers.

27 Comments

The perfect choice for #100.

I second that sentiment

On one than more occasion, Arnold Drake commented that the only Doom Patrol stories he really ever enjoyed reading once he was no longer writing the series were those by Grant Morrison. So it was cool to see the Morrison DP issue with Mallah & Brain get covered here.

Congrats on 100, Bill!

Tom Fitzpatrick

April 10, 2007 at 6:28 pm

I would definitely go for a Grant Morrison/Richard Case Doom Patrol Vol. 2!!!

Who’s in for it?

Wow. Gorillas, automatic weapons, cool robots, and a brain-in-a-jar. Oh, and Grant Morrison.

I think you just summed up an entire working philosophy of comic greatness, in one entry.

YES! I want to be a card-carrying member of M.M.M.M.S.!!! Mallah is awesome!

This is impressive. I would have totally been out of monkeys after I did Gorilla Grodd for the first entry.

You know, he probably hasn’t been in many or any comics, but Grape Ape deserves an honorary shout out.

That last panel on the page where Mallah and the Brain confess their feelings for each other has got to be the single greatest panel in a comic ever.

Alright, time to bring on Ape-X! Oh, and weren’t there winged apes on Thanagar or something? Does Gorilla Jimmy-Olsen count? Hmmm. How about Cheetah from Tarzan? He was a chimp right? B’wana Beast’s companion Djuba? OH and TITANO! How could I forget Titano?

And there’s King Solomon from Tom Strong, eh wot?

Good choice with Mallah…there’s an entry in Who’s Who with a kickass interpetation from Bill Sienkiewicz.

Don´t forget Cadaver from Guy Davis’ Nevermen.

Monsieur Mallah getting so carried away by the figthing that he throws the Brain into battle with a disembodied Robotman, is probably the most funny thing I have ever seen in a comic.

I remember after that issue of Doom Patrol came out they printed a letter from someone about how evil it was to depict homosexuality in a comic.

I mean this is a scene where a Gorilla (I’m sure I always thought he was an Orang Utan – but the pictures don’t lie) and a human brain in a robot body declare their love for each other but someone finds it offensive because they’re the same sex? That’s the least of their problems!

I hope nobody has forgotten Surrender Monkey from X-Statix. He was pretty much the only good thing about the Back From The Dead arc and further proof (if proof be needed) that all monkeys are French.

Heh, Bizarro Titano! That’s definitely a reason to love comics!

I thought it was neat how they’re a talking french gorilla and a brain in a jar, and yet they have one of the most stable romantic supervillain relationships ever.

I hope for some Titano love still. Perhap tomorrow will be the day of Titano

not to disparage MM, here as I thougth he was a good choice for 100 with 2 taboos for the price of one and a really good Arnold Drake origin story!

I will join M.M.M.M.S. too!

I hope nobody has forgotten Surrender Monkey from X-Statix.

He was actually a guy in a mask, though.

“He was actually a guy in a mask, though.”

Nah he was a mutant. But I think he should count as an honoury monkey cos he’s awesome.

I want a print of that Mallah and the Brain pic in my living room. Right above the couch. Pure class.

Knowing this character exists has made my life complete.

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I stumbled upon this series in some random blog browsing, and thanks to the first couple of examples I found I thought it might actually be good, and halfway informed and intelligent; so I decided to read it through from #1.

So here we are at #100 and the overall impression I get is “herpderp this am stupid concept combined with ridiculous idea that entertain low end of bell curve for 26 seconds: it am genius and awesome herpdederpdederp!”

You might not have completed 365 reasons to love comics, Bill, but your stereotypical man-child raving is one good reason to hate them. Heaven help the already-stagnant and inbred industry if someone ever lets you write all those miniseries you wished for over 100 entries. I’m only sorry that I put myself through that many in the vain hope of a glimmer of wit and insight. See ya.

Well Warren, thanks for watching. If you can’t understand that not everything is for everyone, then I pity your journey through life. Or at least, your journey through the internet.

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