Hawkman #6, March 1964

Now, we’ve seen flying gorillas somewhere before — HERE, in fact. Editor Julie Schwartz was never one to let a good idea — nor a very silly one — get away from him, so several years later we got this Hawkman adventure featuring similarly winged simians.

While pursuing some villains, Hawkman and Hawkgirl enter a house and find themselves transformed into cavemen-like creatures. The effect soon wears off, and investigation reveals a curtain of radiation that appears responsible. Entering the radiation, the Hawks materialise on the alien planet of Illoral, where they are promptly set upon by a bunch of man-like tigers!

Our married heroes fight off their attackers using medieval weaponry, but soon fall foul of a squadron of flying gorillas. Beneath the dual sun of Illoral the battle is joined and all appears hopeless for the Winged Wonders, until the tiger-men reappear and start fighting the gorillas. In the confusion, the Hawks escape.

In a nearby cliffside laboratory the last humanoid scientist on Illoral, a woman named Dwyanna Ral, recounts to Hawkman and Hawkgirl how she and her husband were experimenting with a way to kick-start evolution, when she had accidentally stumbled against the main control lever, which set off a mutagen bomb causing evolution to go haywire. The fauna of Illoral evolved becoming tiger-men and the like, while the humoid population (who are all winged) devolved into the flying gorillas.

Dwyanna explains where the Hawks can find a control device that can be used to reverse the bomb’s effects. She can’t go herself because if she leaves the lab she will succumb to the radiation. Finding the device quickly enough, the Winged Wonders have to set the flying gorillas against fearsome rat-men in order to secure it.

Once the device is triggered the sky is suddenly full of naked Illoralians, who are very grateful to our heroes for having devolved them. In thanks, they drain our world of the radiation that had initally turned the Hawks to cavemen at the start of the tale.

See how it all works out nicely in the end?

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Frankly bonkers story, of course, but a prime example of the ultra tight plotting Schwartz and his writers (here Gardner Fox) excelled in during the Silver Age. Characterisation was, for the most part, of secondary importance. Murphy Anderson’s lush artwork is a feast for the eyes. When an artist can even make flying gorillas believable, you know he must be good!

Cover by Murphy Anderson

©2008 DC Comics