Showcase #77, September 1968

This period was a pretty strong one for DC’s tryout book, Showcase. Whether by accident or design — I suspect the latter — a lot of the concepts premiered at this time quickly went on to their own books. Most didn’t last long, but there was some good stuff coming out. Angel and the Ape is probably one of the most fondly remembered.

The Bob Oksner cover introduces the world to Angel O’Day, a deceptively daffy-looking, platinum blonde private investigator, and the hirsute hands of her partner, Sam Simeon. When not helping Angel on a case, Sam works for Brainpix Publications as a comics artist. Sam also happens to be an ape.

Opening with a Jack Davis/MAD-style, sound effects-heavy comedy sequence, this debut story brings a certain Mr Trumbell to our heroes’ attention after he becomes aware of several hoods trying to kill him. Sam scares off the baddies, and Angel agrees to take the case. She escorts him to safety while Sam makes for Brainpix — he’s on a deadline!

Editor Stan Bragg (no points for guessing whom he resembles — in character if not in looks!) pushes Sam around, before jumping up onto his desk and acting out how he thinks a story ought to be drawn: “To draw like a gorilla you’ve got to think like a gorilla…!” Sam is none too impressed, and swings away out of a window.

Back at his pad Sam receives a frantic call from Angel — she’s been kidnapped! He makes for Trumbell’s house, and then follows his nose to the city zoo. There, in a hidden room beneath the seal pond, he finds the bound Angel. Various misadventures ensue as Angel and Sam try to stay one step ahead of the zoo authorities — who a convinced Sam is an escaped exhibit — and find Trumbell.

Needless to say it’s all eventually wrapped up, the denoument involving secret missile plans and the use of Trumbell as an unwitting “mule”. With the villain locked up, Angel and Sam treat themselves to a fine meal, but Sam is prevented from entering the restaurant by a busybody waiter — he’s insistent that Sam’s turtleneck sweater doesn’t meet the dress code!

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Written by John Albano and drawn by Oksner, this is a riot. It’s not quite as funny as it clearly wants to be, but it works as a piece of offbeat slapstick. Angel is gorgeous — and Oksner was exactly the right artist to bring her to life — while Sam is every inch the archetypal Silver Age gorilla: no gorilla in history ever actually looked like this, but you somehow wish they had. He talks in a series of nonsensical grunts, but his words are handily translated for the reader. That a comic book artist just happens to be a gorilla strikes no one as strange in the slightest — least of all Stan Bragg.

Ah, Stan Bragg… this is Stan Lee to the max — he even dresses in a pastiche of Captain America’s costume! In real life, by some accounts, Lee did indeed used to jump up onto desks to act out how he thought heroic scenes should look. The Brainpix secretary, who secretly lusts after Sam, looks quite a lot like the real Marvel secretary, Flo Steinberg.

This is all great stuff. Really. And it gets even better as the series progresses. Go and track down a copy today!

Image ©2010 DC Comics