Konga terrorizes village. Artist: Steve Ditko.


Original medium: Live-action film
Adapted to comics by: Charlton
First Appeared: 1960
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In the 1950s and early '60s, there was a regular epidemic, in the movies, of ordinary creatures, turned into giants and terrorizing the world. Them (1954, giant ants), The Beginning of the End (1957, giant grasshoppers) and The Killer Shrews (1959, giant shrews) were only a small sampling of them. Konga (1961, giant gorilla) would have blended right into the crowd, except for one extraordinary circumstance. Almost a year before its May 3, 1961 release, Charlton Comics issued a comic …

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… book version, adapting the movie into that medium. It was written by Joe Gill (The Blue Beetle, Peacemaker) and drawn by Steve Ditko (Doctor Strange, The Creeper). The comic was dated June, 1960.

Even if the comic did appear first, being a comic book adaptation of a live-action movie would make Konga (no relation, by the way) no more a toon than The Magic Sword (1962), Operation Bikini (1963), Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) or any other Hollywood property that got turned into a Dell "Movie Classic". What made it different was that Charlton put out a second issue, and continued it bimonthly afterward. This put it in a class with Charlton's Gorgo and Reptilicus, rather than that of Gold Key's Fantastic Voyage or Fawcett's When Worlds Collide. As it is, Konga is better known as a comic book character than for his role in an American International Pictures production.

Konga started out as a chimpanzee in the possession of Professor Charles Decker (Michael Gough, who played Alfred in 1990s Batman films). Decker had acquired cute li'l Konga during an African adventure in which he'd also acquired a chemical way to make living things grow to enormous size. Needless to say, the chimp and the chemical got together before too much screen time had gone by (or before too many comics pages had been turned) as Decker attempted to use Konga in a typical mad scientist scheme. The transformation seems to have had the unexpected side effect of turning Konga into a gorilla. Poor guy — the only reason he committed murder was because he was under Decker's mind control, and they treated him the way they always treat giant apes, i.e., killed him. His only consolation was, Decker got it in the neck before he did.

But Konga, at least, got better. He was de-killed in Konga #2 (August, 1961), also by Gill and Ditko, then got involved in a new adventure with each new issue. Later issues were drawn by the team of Bill Montes, pencils and Ernie Bache, inks (Fightin' Five, Sarge Steel). The series lasted 23 issues, ending in November, 1965. With #24 (September, 1966), it was re-titled Fantastic Giants, which lasted one issue, reprinting early Ditko Gorgo and Konga stories. Along the way, he appeared in two issues of Konga's Revenge; and in 1968, that title was also used for a one-issue revival, which reprinted a 1964 story. The title Konga's Revenge doesn't seem ever to have been used for a movie.

At one point in its production, the movie Konga had the working title I Was a Teenage Gorilla, reminiscent of I Was a Teenage Werewolf and I Was a Teenage Frankenstein (both 1957), which sparked a minor genre of spoofs with titles like I Was a Teenage Intellectual (1999) and I Was a Teenage Geek (2004). It's hard to imagine that title being put on the film as it finally turned out, but one can imagine an alternate version with no chimp, where a teenage character gets shot up with the mad scientist juice. How that would have affected any comics version is anybody's guess.


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Text ©2008-10 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Charlton Comics.