Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Titano, the Super-Ape
That one wins a booby prize for being one of the covers that give away the ending to the story; I talked about a Flash issue that did the same a few years back. Incidentally, this post was inspired by Silver Age Gold's "Ape-ril in January" suggestion.
The tale begins with Lois hosting a TV charity telethon. Among the acts is Toto, an intelligent chimp:
A pair of pie-throwing comedians accidentally hit Toto, and Lois wins his permanent affection by wiping off the filling from his back. His trainer alerts Lois to a real scoop; Toto is going to shot into space on a rocket as a "publicity stunt". Of course, this was at the time (1959) when manned space flight had not yet been accomplished (Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first, in 1961). Several monkeys were shot into space by the US around this time, including a South American squirrel monkey named Gordo in late 1958, so the story was pretty topical.
Lois demonstrates her versatility by broadcasting over the radio news of the space flight. Two glowing meteors, one kryptonite and one uranium, collide near the rocket. Will they have any effect on Toto? You betcha:
Because of his huge size, Lois renames him Titano. He grabs Lois, making her fear for her life. She calls over the radio for help from Superman, but when he arrives they learn that Titano now has kryptonite vision.
The ape takes Lois to a coal yard, where he tries to mimic a feat he saw Superman do on the telethon; squeezing a lump of coal into a diamond. But with his curiosity, Titano is a threat to society; he destroys an unmanned blimp and plays with a freight train. The army has Lois lure him into a trap:
That's when Lois has her brainstorm. Monkey see, monkey do, right? She gets Titano to mimic several actions, and eventually tricks him into putting on the lead-shielded glasses as shown on the cover. This enables Superman to hurl him into the past, where he can live with the dinosaurs:
That last scene is something of a swipe from the movie King Kong, where Kong and the T-Rex battle it out. Note as well that this time-travel vision is one of Superman's "superpowers that time forgot" as Mark Engblom put it.
Titano returned in Superman #138, with a cover even more obviously inspired by King Kong:
I should get that one CGC'ed; looks like mint to me! ;)
We learn that Superman had already forgotten his time-travel vision:
He spots a giant ape, and is momentarily confused, until he realizes that it's his old sparring partner, Titano. Unfortunately, with his trademark carelessness in handling alien objects, Supes failed to realize that the "time-television set" was actually a time-transporter, and it brings the chimp back to 1960.
This story comes after Mort Weisinger had taken over as official editor of the Superman line (although he was the de facto editor for years before) and so we see more of the Silver Age Superman than in the prior appearance of Titano (which came in the final issue credited to Whitney Ellsworth). He's got his robots, which would help handle the situation, but:
I swear, Clark's landlord was constantly redecorating his place back in the Silver Age. This is one of the more amusing things about the robots; they almost never really helped out Superman for the obvious reason that they would make the stories too simple. Still Superman has his lead-lined suit:
Supes had invented that about a year before in Action #249. But there is a complication; Titano has kidnapped Lois and so he can't kayo the ape without risking harm to her.
He notices that Titano seems interested in large, round objects; he grabs a hot-air balloon and then a bathysphere, but then discards them in frustration. What is he looking for? Superman flies into the past and finds giant coconuts where Titano was when he first spied him on the time-transporter. He returns to the present and drops the coconuts nearby. While the ape enjoys his meal, Superman saves Lois, then knocks out Titano and returns him to the prehistoric Earth.
Titano reappeared many more times in the Silver Age and even afterward; arguably he was a part of the Superman Family. There was even a Bizarro Titano.