ANGEL AND THE APEMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1968
Creators: E. Nelson Bridwell (writer) and Bob Oksner (artist)
Please contribute to its necessary financial support.
Amazon.com or PayPal
Juxtaposing an extremely beautiful woman with an extremely ugly guy has been a staple of comedy since long before Vaudeville. But when DC Comics teamed Angel O'Day with Sam Simeon, they took the concept to new heights. The contrast between them was much
greater than can be had between members of the same species, as Angel was a drop-dead gorgeous human being and Sam was literally a gorilla.
Angel and Sam were partners in O'Day and Simeon, a detective agency. Angel's detectiving skills included great ability at judo, karate and other forms of hand-to-hand combat, and expertise with all kinds of weapons. (She was once seen fighting boredom by casually flicking flies out of the air with a bullwhip.) Sam contributed gorilla-like physical prowess, and also exhibited great ability to follow clues and to think clearly (tho with his non-human larynx, he did have some trouble getting his thoughts across — only Angel was consistently able to understand him). It was a running schtick that most people didn't notice Sam's ape-like appearance — in fact, women often found him irresistible.
Sam also moonlighted as a cartoonist, working for Brainpix Comix and its egomaniacal editor, Stan Bragg (apparently a somewhat crude send-up of Marvel's Stan Lee), who wore a red, white, blue, green and purple superhero suit. A few months into the series, Sam quit and went to work for editor Morton I. Stoops at DZ Comics, where he created hits like Shimia, Queen of the Jungle (reminiscent of Fiction House's Sheena). Stan wound up where he belonged, in the Mildew Asylum for Sprung Brains.
Angel & the Ape debuted in the 77th issue (September, 1968) of Showcase, the DC try-out comic that had already introduced such characters as Rip Hunter, Metal Men and Sea Devils — to say nothing of Challengers of the Unknown and Green Lantern. They moved out into their own title almost immediately, with its first issue cover-dated December of the same year. The creators were writer E. Nelson Bridwell (Mad magazine, Super Friends), with assistance from Howard Post (Anthro, Jimminy & the Magic Book); and artist Bob Oksner (Super-Hip, Leave It to Binky).
In the fourth issue, the comic's logo was altered to make Angel's name much more prominent, and "and the Ape" almost a footnote. Three issues later, the title was officially changed to Meet Angel, and Sam was completely off the cover. He also didn't appear in the first of that issue's two stories, which concerned Angel and her hitherto-unseen Aunt Evilisha, an ugly old witch. Was Sam being eased out of his own comic, as The Fox & the Crow had been the previous year? Could be, but we'll never know, as that issue, #7, dated December, 1969, was the last. A few years later, DC ran their final unpublished story in an anthology, and that was the last time they were seen in their familiar form.
They next turned up in Showcase #100 (May, 1978), an ungainly conglomeration of all the Showcase alumni. Most, including Sam, got mere cameos, but the only two female title characters who had gone from there into regular publication, Angel and Lois Lane (Superman's girlfriend had appeared in #s 9 and 10 before getting her own comic), were instrumental in keeping the entire fabric of time and space from collapsing around their ears.
Then they disappeared until a 1991 four-issue mini-series by cartoonist Phil Foglio (Buck Godot, XXXenophile), in which, as had become common practice, they were firmly tied in with the DC Universe. Of course, it made sense to hook Sam up with The Flash's long-time enemy, Grodd the Gorilla, as Grodd's grandson, because talking gorillas are fairly uncommon even in comic books. But making Angel the half-sister of The Inferior Five's Dumb Bunny seemed like gratuitous pandering to the hard-core fans' tendency to want everything tidily inter-connected.
A second four-issue mini-series came out in 2001-02, under DC's Vertigo imprint. Vertigo, which was launched in 1993 with The Sandman and Swamp Thing, specializes in darker stories for older readers. Which, considering the original thrust of Angel & the Ape, kind of misses the point.