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365 Reasons to Love Comics #107

Our chimp friend in the deerstalker wasn’t the only ape who worked in the detective genre. Today’s “Ape-ril” star crossed over all sorts of genre lines, and shared the marquee with a buxom young lady. Who are they? What are they? Why, they’re…

4/17/07

107. Angel and the Ape

Angel and the Ape 4.jpg

(Our ape-y friend is totally fighting the urge to just stare at her bum. Look at his inner turmoil, there.)

Angel & the Ape is the story of a pair of private investigators. The lady is Angel O’Day, a beautiful, ditzy blonde, and the fella is Sam Simeon, a big gorilla. Created by E. Nelson Bridwell and first appearing in Showcase #77 (with a fantastic cover), the duo graduated to their own short-lived series in the late 60’s.

Sam was a great character. The brains of the group, and occasionally the muscle (fear not, Angel was quite adept at martial arts and weapons), he mostly wanted to follow his dream of being a comic book artist. This caused him to come in contact with Stan Bragg, a ridiculous, over-the-top parody of Stan Lee, who constantly touted his own abilities and importance and took credit for everything. Stan was a recurring character for the first three issues. He later ended up in an asylum with a guy who thought he was Hitler.

At several points in the series, Sam’s comic strips were actually published! You may have seen this one before:

Angel and the Ape gag.JPG

Check the signature– “Sam Simeon.” (In reality, it was Sergio Aragones! Awesome.)

The ladies were known to find Sam irresistible. Many characters didn’t even notice he was a gorilla. He couldn’t quite speak English, on account of being an ape, but Angel understood everything he tried to say, and the comic usually provided a translation.

The series was ludicrous; really, it was completely bonkers. Angel and the Ape faced off against things like go-go-dancers, circus performers, “haunted castles,” a Charlie Chan parody named Charlie Chum (in #4, an issue filled with casual racism– click to see an example panel), talk show hosts, giant pigeons, robots, witches, and dirty hippies, where Angel and Sam went in disguise:

Angel and the Ape 1.JPG

(Is… is that the iron cross?)

It was a madcap romp of a series filled with gorgeous cartooning by the late, great, Bob Oksner and Wally Wood. I mean, the book was gorgeous. And since Wally Wood was involved, you know that good girl art appeared, thanks to Angel.

The series changed formats a few times. The first three issues were humorous adventures with a dash of mystery. The next three changed the logo to emphasize Angel and focused primarily on the comedy, with multiple stories per issue and occasional one-page gags like this one:

angel_&_ape_6_20.jpg

With #7, the book changed its title to simply “Meet Angel.” Sam still appeared inside, but he no longer shared the title. Was he being phased out? It didn’t seem to matter– the book was cancelled with this issue.

(An aside: Remember when Brian talked about Superman and Batman appearing on Sesame Street? Well, here’s an ad found in Meet Angel #7 promoting their appearances, from before the show ever aired! It was on the educational station… and in color! Wow!)

What I find really bizarre about #5-7 is that Dracula and Frankenstein’s monster appear on the covers but have nothing to do with the interiors of the book. For example:

Angel and the Ape 5.jpg

I just don’t get it.

That was the last we heard of Angel and the Ape for a long time. They had one or two appearance here or there, like the requisite Crisis cameo, but it was Phil Foglio who brought them back in an early 90’s mini-series. It was wacky and humorous, so of course the idea to turn it into an ongoing was shot down. It was this series, I think, where it was revealed that Angel was related to Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five, and Sam was Gorilla Grodd‘s grandson.

Angel and Sam also appeared most recently in a 2001 Vertigo mini-series by Howard Chaykin, David Tischman, and artist Philip Bond. It was a bawdy detective adventure filled with sexual innuendo, and I hear it was actually pretty good. I should track it down.

Angel and the Ape 2.jpgAngel and the Ape 7.jpgAngel and the Ape 6.jpg

Will Angel and Sam reappear? Here’s hoping; it’s a silly concept, sure, but I love well-done silliness. I would certainly be interested in a return.

You can read more on Angel and the Ape at Thrilling Detective and Toonopedia.

17 Comments

The Oksner Frankenstein and Dracula on the Meet Angel cover look just like Dr. Van Pyre and gym teacher Frank N. Stein from Adventures of Bob Hope‘s Benedict Arnold High School faculty…a comic also drawn by Oksner at about the same time.

Just wanted to share.

Actually, that did occur to me, and I almost typed up something akin to “do they rent next to Benedict Arnold High?” but I ended up cutting that line. I am glad the blogosphere’s resident Super-Hip expert thought the same!

You forgot their one-panel cameo in Darwn Cooke’s SOLO issue.

Andrew Collins

April 17, 2007 at 9:30 pm

The Chaykin mini was quite good. It’s been a couple years since I last read it but now I feel like digging it out. Definitely worth tracking down. Too bad they never did more with the Vertigo version of the characters…

Sam and Angel also appeared in Showcase #100. It was an anniversary issue featuring every character that had ever been featured in the title.

It’s worth reading the two revival mini-series back-to-back, as a test case of how you can take what is recognisably the same concept and go in opposite directions with it. The Foglio series is a superhero story, which goes to great lengths to stress its place in the DCU (the Guardians and GL Corps are in there too). Chaykin, Tischman and Bond did a murder mystery in a world of its own. Foglio had Sam talking English. Chaykin & Co had him completely silent. Foglio played down the cheesecake, Chaykin & Co played it up. And so on.

Everyone knows hippies supported the Germans in both world wars. That’s why everybody hates them.

Foglio had Sam talking English. Chaykin & Co had him completely silent. Foglio played down the cheesecake, Chaykin & Co played it up.

I’ve read neither but I’m taking a wild guess by saying Chaykin presumably wins this face off.

If you collected all their appearances, could you get a ‘Showcase Presents’ out of it? Because I’d totally buy that.

The biggest revelation for me here is learning Sergio Aragones’ secret identity!

“If you collected all their appearances, could you get a ‘Showcase Presents’ out of it? Because I’d totally buy that. ”

I second that.

-M

Did Art Adams do the covers for the Vertigo series? It looks like him.

oh hell yeah

I can’t help but think of them as the DCs version of Cloak and Dagger (yes, I know Angel and the Ape were first…). Also, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

Andrew Collins

April 18, 2007 at 5:36 pm

Matt Brady said:
“Did Art Adams do the covers for the Vertigo series? It looks like him.”

Yep, that’s him. He did the covers for all 4 issues. He was the reason I took a chance on issue #1 in the first place and I’m glad I did.

Art Adams has done some GREAT King Kong pics that should be included somewhere this month.

I just now noticed…Sam is totally looking up Angel’s skirt on that cover to #3…!

Re: those last three covers: the one of the left wasn’t part of the Vertigo miniseries. It’s from Phil and Kaja Foglio’s revival miniseries in the early 90s. I remember it being a damn good read.

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