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"Distant Cousins"

(41 pages)
Writer: Rick Veitch
Artist(s): Rick Veitch, Shawn McManus, (Jim) Fern, Stan Woch, Tom Yeates
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Letterer: Agustin Mas
Editor: Karen Berger
Special Thanks to Alan Moore

Cover: Brian Bolland (signed)


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They say that in the late 1950's Julius Schwartz of the DC Comics staff proved through marketing tests that comics sell better with a gorilla on the cover. Hence, an explosion of gorilla stories commenced, until the mid-1970's management supposedly limited them to featuring a gorilla on only one cover per month.

1:1 This page and page 25 strongly resemble the first page of SUPERMAN ANNUAL (volume 2) #1 ("Tears for Titano", art by Ron Frenz and Brett Breeding, at right) published three months previous to this issue. The resemblance is probably intentional, given that the Superman story is referenced on page 5.
The evil Gorilla Grodd first appeared in THE FLASH #106 (1959) by John Broome. Grodd's mental powers make him a formidable villain. That issue also introduced Solovar, King of Gorilla City.
Gorilla City (first seen in CONGO BILL #6, 1956) is a secret advanced society of hyper-intelligent, telepathic gorillas created when a radioactive meteor landed in an African jungle. That story is reprinted in a trade paperback called "The Greatest 1950's Stories Ever Told". (See panel at left, art by Nick Cardy) Congo Bill and Janu appear in this Swamp Thing story.

2:1 ST inadvertantly slighted Abby at the end of SWAMP THING #65.

5:2 These captions are from the first page in the above-mentioned SUPERMAN ANNUAL (volume 2) #1, written by John Byrne. The original Titano was created in SUPERMAN #127 in 1959 when experimental space-chimp Toto was exposed to a collision of kryptonite and uranium. He grew to giant size, but refrained from climbing a building until 11 issues later.

5:4 Monsieur Mallah and the Brain (Created by Arnold Drake and Bruno Premiani) first appeared in DOOM PATROL (vol. 1) #86 (1964). The Brain was a mad scientist who had his brain preserved in a special tank. The Brain turned Mallah from an ordinary ape into a genius. They led the Brotherhood of Evil.

6:7 "C'est la vie" is a popular French phrase meaning "that's life".

7:2 Anton Arcane, Abby's evil uncle and long-time enemy of ST, turned Abby's father into the horrifying Patchwork Man and posessed the body of Abby's late husband Matt.

8:4 Angel and the Ape (created by E. Bridwell, Howie Post and Bob Oksner) first appeared in SHOWCASE PRESENTS #77 (1968). It was a comedy about an ape cartoonist , "Sam Simeon",who solves crimes with the sexy, yet brillant detective Angel O'Day (half-sister to Athena Tremor, a.k.a. Dumb Bunny of the Inferior Five). The characters were revived in a 4-issue mini-series, in 1999, which made the wacky duo more compatible with the DC Comics universe. That mini-series explained that, like Grodd, the Ape was a denizen of Gorilla City who could use "force of mind" to influence people (so that they wouldn't be freaked at seeing a talking gorilla.) Simeon is reportedly a close relative of Grodd. Sam is employed by Stan Bragg.

8:3 The masthead is the statement of title, ownership, editors, etc. which usually appears at the top of the first page of a comic book.

9:1 Jerry Falwell led the Moral Majority campaign to fight what they considered to be immoral influences in the media during the 1980's.

10:3 McCarthy-esque Congressional hearings were called by Dr. Frederick Wertham in the 1950's to censor comic books.

11:4 ST is reliving his origin as seen in SWAMP THING #1 (first series) and SAGA OF THE SWAMP THING #28.

12:3 This may be Archbishop Mogatusi, who later appears with B'wana Beast in Grant Morrison's ANIMAL MAN, but he seems based on African Bishop Desmond Tutu, a real life activist for civil rights.

Bwana Beast (alias ranger Mike Maxwell) first appeared in SHOWCASE #66 (1967). He (understandably) wasn't seen for a long time after that two-issue run, but got a dignified return in ANIMAL MAN #1-4 (1988).

13:1 Juju is a West African word for an object of supernatural power.

13:5 This scene seems to imply a romantic relationship?

14:1 Bwana Beast has the power to temporarily blend two animals into one. Here he has mixed a zebra and a bird.

15:2 "Bwana" is used as a form of respectful address in parts of Africa.

18:1 Congo Bill first appeared in MORE FUN COMICS #56 in 1940 and had his own strip in ACTION COMICS for many years. He was the hero of a 1948 movie serial. WATCH VIDEO Congorillia first appeared in ACTION COMICS #224. In ACTION COMICS #248 in 1959, Congo Bill attempted to save the life of witch doctor Chief Kawolo, and he gave Bill the ring which allows him to switch bodies with Congorilla.

18:2 Roy Raymond and his assistant, Lipchitz, play supporting roles in SWAMP THING starting in issue #67.

18:4 Janu was Congo Bill's sidekick.

24:1 The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City (from BATMAN #75 in 1953, cover at left) was the "world's largest gorilla" with the brain of crime boss George Dyke transplanted into its skull. (He still couldn't talk.) His appearance here still requires an explantion, since the brain was removed when that gorilla died and was seen on display in 1978's WORLD'S FINEST #251 and destroyed in #254. Fans often confuse him with an Animal Man villain, the Mod Gorilla Boss from STRANGE ADVENTURES #201 (1967), but he was a chemically-transformed human with strange fashion sense.

24:1 Link from 23:6 "What will I do?" and "I don't give a damn" are famous lines from the film "Gone With the Wind". [WATCH VIDEO]

24:2 This is a reference to Marlon Brando's line from "On the Waterfront" (1954) which Robert DeNiro re-enacts in the 1980 film "Raging Bull". [WATCH VIDEO]

24:3 This is a reference to Clint Eastwood's line from the 1971 film "Dirty Harry". [WATCH VIDEO]

25:5 This is a reference to a line from the 1966 film "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". [LISTEN]

25:6 This is a reference to a line from the 1980 film "The Blues Brothers". "We're on a mission from God."

26:4 Brain refers to events from 1987's NEW TEEN TITANS (second series) #27.

26:6 He shouldn't feel anything crawling on him. A brain has no tactile sensory nerves.

27:2 This scene evokes the 1985 televised footage of the hijacking of a TWA passenger plane. For three days, Hezbollah hijackers demanded the release of 766 Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. At one point, a hijacker waved his gun above the pilot as they looked out of the window.

27:3 "Bedtime for Bonzo" was a 1951 film about a monkey starring Ronald Reagan, who later was President of the U.S. (Reagan, not the monkey. I think.) [WATCH VIDEO]

28:1 Rapidograph is a brand of inkpen.

28:4 The "pointer" attached to the word balloon in the lower left apparently moved out of place before this was printed.

The title of this issue comes from the first verse of the Captain Beefheart song "Big Eyed Beans from Venus."
Beefheart (a.k.a. Don Van Vliet), a favorite musician of Veitch, Alan Moore and artist Steve Bissette, is also referenced in issue #68 page 3 and issue #72 page 6. Beefheart passed away in December 2010 and was eulogized in Veitch's blog:

All his art was a reaction to what he saw as the dehumanization of people and the destruction of the natural world by modern society. That’s the way I see it too, and all my art, even the mainstreamy stuff, has been informed by that same observation and belief.

28:6 "Bonjour, mon frére" is French for "Good day, my brother".

29:2 "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is a 1975 cult musical film involving alien transvestites. [WATCH VIDEO]

29:3 The scene they refer to with the chainsaw was probably one of the "Friday the 13th" films. "Old Time Rock & Roll" is a 1978 song by Bob Seger. The gorilla probably learned it from the 1983 film "Risky Business" starring Tom Cruise. [WATCH VIDEO]

29:4-5 Sulu and Scotty are characters from "Star Trek".

29:6 Ralph and Norton were characters on the 1950's Jackie Gleason TV series "The Honeymooners".
Was that supposed to be Prince Charles?

29:7 This is a reference to a typical opening scene from the 1950's TV series "Dragnet".

32:3 The Mytronic Beacon keeps humans from remembering that Gorilla City exists.

32:6 This is a reference to the famous scene of Jack Nicholson breaking through the door in the 1980 film "The Shining". [WATCH VIDEO]

33:1 "C'est l'guerre" is French for "That's war".

34:2 Barry Allen, the "Silver Age" Flash, died in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS #8 (1985), but was immediately replaced by his nephew Wally West.

35:6 The Gorilla Boss here resembles Bill the Cat from the BLOOM COUNTY newspaper comic strip.

36:2 An Uzi is a type of machine gun.

36:5 "C'est l'amour" is French for "That's love". In Grant Morrison's bizarre DOOM PATROL #34 (Vol. 2 in 1990), Mallah and the Brain confessed their love for eachother.(!)

40:4 There were actually only five Planet of the Apes films (from 1968 to 1973), a 1974 TV series, a 1975 animated series and a 2001 film re-make.

40:5 This is a reference to the trademark line of comedian Rodney Dangerfield. [LISTEN]

Comment: One wonders why Detective Chimp (who was, with surprising success, revived in 2007's SHADOWPACT series) did not appear in this story. has a list of real and comic book monkeys. DC Comics' SECRET ORIGINS #40 (1989) was dedicated to apes and included (disappointing) stories of Gorilla Grodd (and Gorilla City), Congorilla, and Detective Chimp.

COMMENT: In late 2006, DC Comics collected issues 77-81 and ANNUAL #3 in the trade book "Swamp Thing: Infernal Triangles". This is odd, because that annual did not come out near the time of issues 77-81. ANNUAL #4 was published between SWAMP THING #76 and SWAMP THING #77, but it has not be reprinted in a trade paperback.

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