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...


107. Angel and the Ape

(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:

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:

(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:

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:

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.

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.

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