365 Reasons to Love Comics #109
Sometimes, great super-villains go unappreciated. It’s even more shameful when this happens to villains who are apes! Alas, that’s what has happened to our friends in today’s “Ape-ril” entry. Readers have been clamoring for this one, though, so they know a good baddie when they see one.
109. Red Ghost & his Super-Apes
These villains are the epitome of early 60’s comics, because they combine that era’s two favorite things: Communism and apes! The Red Ghost and his “Indescribable Super-Apes,” as described in their first appearance, Fantastic Four #13, are amazing. Far be it from me to disobey Stan Lee, but I think I will attempt to describe them. (And the original cover isn’t here because… there are no apes on the cover, and only the Red Ghost’s arm appears.)
For one thing, Red Ghost’s Super-Apes are better than Titano, the one true DC Super-Ape. I know, some of you are going to consider this blasphemy, but it’s true. These apes have the same origin as Titano, basically, only they’re Russian. Dr. Ivan Kragoff, mad Soviet scientist, took his trained apes and launched himself into space with them, hoping to be subjected to cosmic rays and receive powers like the Fantastic Four. Yes, Red Ghost and his Super-Apes are the Commies that the FF was trying to beat to space in their first issue! Also, none of the apes were turned into gorillas. Well, the one gorilla remained a gorilla, so… They did, however, gain superpowers!
Mikhlo, the gorilla, become super-strong and durable. Igor, the Baboon, gained shape-shifting abilities. Peotr, the orangutan, received magnetic powers. And Dr. Kragoff gained the ability to turn invisible and intangible, and so he became… the Red Ghost! I suppose their powers are relatively similar to those of the original FF.
The Red Ghost and his Super-Apes don’t just limit themselves to fighting the Fantastic Four, though. They’ve also encountered Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the New Warriors. And in a Black Panther/X-Men crossover, the Red Ghost was trying to form a new nation called Socialist Simian Republic of Niganda, where, according to Wikipedia, “a new form of Marxist-Leninist socialism can grow, based on the purity of the ape world.” I dare you to defy the genius of that mission statement.
I know fighting Commies isn’t in fashion anymore, and that makes the Red Ghost seem like a throwback villain, but I think he’s totally worth using more often. He is, after all, a mad scientist with super-powered apes for henchmen. Maybe “henchmen” isn’t the best term, though. After all, they’ve gotten smarter over time, learned to talk, I believe, and once, were super-smart while the Red Ghost was regressed to the mentality of a monkey or something. But he got better.
The Super-Apes have flown solo a couple times. What do you say, readers? Is that a good thing? Would the Red Ghost work better on his own? Would the Super-Apes? Should the concepts be divorced from one another, or are they too brilliant to be separated? Could comics survive if they parted ways? Since they appeared on both FF cartoons, does that make them extra-legitimate? Why are they mocked so much? Doesn’t everyone else love Commie Super-Apes?
Were I to write Fantastic Four, I’d have Red Ghost and his Super-Ape friends show up within the first six issues, probably for the big epic they never got to have. They could use a pinch of revamp– Ivan could use a visual facelift/redesign, maybe, and they could stand to be slightly more badass– but they don’t need it as much as other FF baddies. In fact, the Red Ghost and his Super-Apes may just be my favorite FF villains. More than even Diablo (Shut up. Diablo’s awesome). Infinitely more than Doom. Oh yes.
Communist ape villains and the crazy mad scientist who feeds and houses them. My God, that would be the best sitcom ever.