My anniversary romance with those damn, dirty apes.
UPDATED 2/8/21: Planet of the Apes premiered 53 years ago! Perfect time to re-present this piece, which first ran all the way back in 2014 and was revised for 2018’s APES WEEK. It stands up as well today as it did then. Dig it. — Dan
None of us are one thing. A “comics fan,” an “X-Men fan,” whatever. We’re usually a collection of fandoms and interests and relative obsessions that vie for attention or come out at both expected and unexpected times.
Well, when it comes to the Planet of the Apes, I GO APE!
I love the Planet of the Apes. My love is deep and abiding and goes back to just about as long as I can remember. I have seen all the movies many, many times over and I own them all (except for that Burton weirdness). (Hell, this is our third APES WEEK!)
Seeing John Slattery as Roger Sterling do Dr. Zaius’ “The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise!” rant on Mad Men had me howling with laughter for weeks afterward and it is now part of the family lexicon. My son — my own son — can do a dead-on impression of the first movie’s opening score that is so uncanny I laugh like an idiot every time he does it.
Of course to people like us, being a fan of something means collecting stuff, and as a kid I collected whatever I saw when it came to the Planet of the Apes. None of it survived to adulthood, though I have pieced together a lot of it — and then exceeded it with irresponsibly spent disposable income.
In fact right above my computer is this:
Anyway, here are a few of my favorite things that I recall from those days when I was but a young chimp:
The Alpha and Omega of Apes for me is, naturally, Megos. Now, unlike Batman, I did not have the full run. I actually only had two of them: Cornelius and Dr. Zaius, who in my still-evolving mind were the key adversaries of the movie, without realizing that Zira was the hero the whole time.
Why no Taylor? There was no Taylor. And for whatever reason the generic “Astronaut” figure didn’t really register with me.
This despite his key role in this Mego commercial, which is actually pretty damn faithful to the movie — sans Nova-va-voom and with “Also Spake Zarathustra,” an inspired choice to replace the Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack.
How awesome would it have been for there to be a post-nuclear holocaust Statue of Liberty playset?
In any event, I seriously wanted the Apes treehouse. Badly. I asked my Dad for it. Why, I don’t know. It was usually Mom who was the soft touch about these things. But anyway, Dad thought it was kind of junky and he fancied himself something of a woodworker, or at least he was good with a saw, so he built me one from scratch, complete with a roof trap door.
I didn’t like it. It wasn’t “official” enough. Of course, looking back, I wish I still had it because it was a case where Dad’s heart was really in the right place. And in my memory it looks cool enough.
It had two levels, held up by four poles, the back ones shorter so that the who thing rested at a neat-looking tilt, sorta like the real one. Ah, the things we learn when hindsight’s 20/20.
I didn’t have many Apes comics. You’d think I would have but I just wasn’t aware of them enough. What I did have was a pretty awesome Power Records adaptation of Escape From the Planet of the Apes, which was a comic accompanied by a record. You’d play the record and read the comic along with it. Pretty nifty.
(Plug: I was so taken with this whole shtick that I wrote about Power Records’ adaptations in the the book The Sacred Scrolls: Comics on the Planet of the Apes, from Sequart. Also, check out Rob Kelly’s REEL RETRO CINEMA column on Escape. It’s cool.)
I also had an issue of Marvel’s Adventures on the Planet of the Apes, an adaptation of the film series, or at least the first two films. By Issue #10, which I’d picked up somewhere along the way, possibly in the first comics shop I ever visited, in Highland Park, N.J., they were deep into Beneath the Planet of the Apes. (Click here for more on the Beneath adaptations.)
Pretty cool, cover, eh? Pencils by Paty Anderson, with inks by none other than Klaus Janson!
Now I never really dug the TV series starring Roddy McDowall, James Naughton and Ron Harper. My friends LOVED it but it struck me as half-baked and inauthentic. Galen? What? No. Even Mego knew he was really Cornelius.
But I did have a stack of Planet of the Apes trading cards. I’d walk around with them in my pocket and it was like having a little bit of POTA to go.
Some of my faves, all of which can be found in Abrams ComicArts’ awesome book on the Topps cards series:
Galen’s Plan? Call Batman!
Now, oddly and strangely, what I was really into was Planet of the Apes coloring books. I had a bunch of them. Some were “activity books,” with puzzles, paper-doll cutouts and the like. Others were adaptations of the first movie, some more complete than others.
I would spend hours reading and re-reading them and would plead for a new book whenever I saw one, even if it was basically the same as one I already had, just with a different cover. I guess you could say I was the Completist of the Planet of the Apes.
Here are some highlights from one of them, at Hunter’s Planet of the Apes Archive:
— 13 MEGO PLANET OF THE APES Figures We Want to See — RANKED. Click here.
— REEL RETRO CINEMA: 1968’s PLANET OF THE APES. Click here.