That’s right, kiddies, this is a list of the greatest of the great apes. Now what, you ask, exactly is a great ape? Well, I’m gonna tell ya. You see, one of my biggest pet peeves (second only to idiots who say could care less instead of couldn’t) is someone calling an ape a monkey. Apes and monkeys are different creatures people! Let’s get it right! Monkeys are (usually) little guys with tails, who mostly live in trees. Apes are bigger, and live mostly on the ground floor. Egads, I hate when someone calls an ape (and it usually is aimed toward the chimps of TV and movie fame), a monkey. But I digress. Actually there are only five kinds of apes. First ya have the gibbon, these guys are part of what are known as lesser apes, and actually never show up in our list today, so why even mention them. The other four, known collectively as the great apes, or Hominidae for the more scientifically minded, are the Gorilla, Orangutan, Chimpanzee, and the good ole basic Human Being. Now since some of the more right-bent folks out there would argue that humans are not apes (evolution is a scientific fact morons, no matter how many ridiculous bible quotes you spout off!!), and since it would be kind of silly to include them in such a list as we have going here today anyway, said list will consist of the big three only. So there.
But, before we get to the list proper, let’s drop a few runners-up on ya’ll. First there are such comic book world great apes, as Ape-X of the Squadron Supreme, Gorilla Man from Agents of Atlas, and Matt Fraction’s criminally little known cult superspy, Rex Mantooth, Kung Fu Gorilla. Then ya have such TV simians as Professor Bobo (MST3K), Mr. Teeny (The Simpsons), King Gorilla (The Venture Brothers), Zippy the Chimp (a regular on Ed Sullivan) Bingo (The Banana Splits), Mojo Dojo (Powerpuff Girls), and Bear (of B.J. and the.. fame). Other great apes of note are Cheetah, the sidekick of Tarzan, Bubbles, the sidekick of Michael Jackson (no jokes, please), and Mighty Joe Young, the smaller version of King Kong. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget Congo, the Abstract Impressionist painting chimpanzee of legend and lore.
And awaaaaaaay we go…
Okay, probably nobody but the most die-hard of comic book fans will even know who this is, but since I happen to be one of those die-hard fans, here he is. This special guy was created by Alan Moore as an inside joke about how comics sales will increase with a gorilla or a crying character on the cover. He first appeared in Moore’s Promethea series, and has since made cameo appearances in dozens of other comics, most notably in Tom Strong’s Terrific Tales, scripted by Moore’s daughter, Leah.
Special Mention: Robot Monster
Technically, Robot Monster, the hairy-ass antagonist of this cult classic ultra B 1953 movie (it’s one of those continuously voted one of the worst movies of all time kinda things) is not an ape, so much as an alien who just so happens to have an ape’s body. That should be enough to get the big guy in as a special mention. Not to mention that Robot Monster in 3D is one of the most fun stupid movies you would ever want to watch (the Citizen Kane of bad movies) and therefore needs to be mentioned as often as possible. So there.[divider]
Okay, this one’s a bit of a cheat, since I am putting two different apes in one spot, but this is my list, so if I wanna cheat, I’ll cheat. But let’s face it, Grape Ape is basically just a big purple rip-off Magilla Gorilla anyway, though that doesn’t make the big guy any less worthy of being on this here list. And, I thought, why not just put the two together (both denizens of my misbegotten youth in front of the tube every Saturday morning and afternoons after school), and that way, there’s room for an eleventh great ape on the list.[divider]
This little trouble-making chimp is always getting himself into silly predicaments in Speed Racer. Along with his pal Spritle (Speed’s little brother for those not in the know), these two are the Scooby and Shaggy of Speed Racer, sans the obvious drug references (though somebody was doing some sort of illicit drug in the creation of this show). Basically they are the silly counterparts to the action-heroing of Speed Racer himself, and maybe could have been successful as a spin-off series on their own.[divider]
Every which way but loose, baby there’s no excuse, to turn me every which way but loose. That line is from the hit Eddie Rabbit song that acted as the theme to this rather ridiculous movie. Clint Eastwood has done some great movies, but he has also done his share of crapola too, and Every Which Way But Loose may have been one of the crappier ones, but that doesn’t mean Clyde the Orangutan (played my Manis the Orangutan) doesn’t rock. In fact he steals pretty much the entire film from Eastwood.[divider]
Koko is the only member of this list who wasn’t a movie or TV star, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t get her fair share of publicity in her day. Born in 1971, this now 42-year-old female gorilla, is said to have a vast knowledge of both the English language and American Sign Language. This brilliance is the reason the Gorilla Foundation is at Koko.com. Hell, this old girl is smarter than a lot of humans I know. Evolution, schmevolution. And hey, she’s a fan of Mr. Rogers too. Howzabout that![divider]
First appearing in Flash #106, back in 1959, Grodd is a hyper-intelligent (and hyper-telepathic) gorilla supervillain, in DC Comics continuity. Grodd is the evil-minded ruler of the futuristic hidden enclave known as Gorilla City (which he took over by force at one point), as well as one of the arch-nemesii of the heroic speedster Flash. There are a slew of apes throughout the comic book world (several mentioned as runners-up in the intro) but Grodd is the kick-assiest of ’em all.[divider]
This famed chimp was the co-host of the Today Show back in the day. The primate pal of Today Show host David Garroway, this sidekick even had his own sidekick (Phoebe B. Beebe – all three are pictured above). He was so popular in fact, that at one time the chimp was receiving more fan mail than Garroway himself was getting. A lot more. By the by, J. Fred and his live-in-girlfriend, Phoebe, are still alive and well, enjoying retirement in the great state of Florida.[divider]
As a kid (and perhaps as an adult as well) I spent many a so-called wasted hour down at the local arcades (back in the day when every mall had a full-sized arcade) playing video games, and this barrel-tossing primate was one of my faves. Sure, I would eventually move onto things like Super Mario Bros. and Mortal Kombat (both stalwarts of my lunch break from work at the time), but hey, it was Donkey Kong who helped to spawn Mario in the first place. Lookout Pauline![divider]
Granted, there are a lot of great ape characters in Planet of the Apes (Cornelius, Zira, Urko, Ursus, and Caesar, just to name a few), and any of them could have made this list, but none of ’em can match wits with the arrogant, egotistical, intellectual Minister of Science and Defender of the Faith, rock star Orangutan bad-ass extraordinaire that is the legendary Dr. Zaius. I mean really, as they say, 50,000,000 Zaius fans can’t be wrong. The Elvis fans in the crowd will get that last joke.[divider]
My favourite Disney movie has always been The Jungle Book (well, when I wasn’t acting all pretentious, and saying Fantasia was my fave, that is) and my favourite character from The Jungle Book was always that jungle V.I.P., King Louie. He is the king of the swingers, after all. Also as a kid, I had the record of the film’s soundtrack (yeah, record!) and Louis Prima doing “I Want to be Like You” was the most well-worn track on the album. Oh oobie doo, indeed.[divider]
C’mon, how could a list of the greatest of the great apes, not end with the king of all apes? Starring in one of my all-time favorite movies (the original 1933 classic), as well as a couple of far inferior remakes in 1976 and 2005 (and in a notable crossover film where he kicks Godzilla’s ass all over the place), Kong is without a doubt the best of all the apes – the greatest of the great apes. Don’t even try to deny it, because you would be wrong. In the end though, it was beauty killed the beast.
That’s it gang. See ya ’round the web.