Writing superhero comics must seem like the easiest job in the world: You take some wish fulfillment, mix it with a dash of modern mythology, and just naturally end up with a story about a guy in a colorful spray-on bodysuit who saves the world. But you try cranking one of these out every month for, say, 75 straight years.
That shit isn't easy, and so over the decades comics have gone through all sorts of fads and phases in an effort to change with the times. And sometimes, shit got weird.
#5. At One Time, Every Comic Had to Have an Ape
Fun fact: According to comics, in the course of Superman's life, he has A) been attacked by a gorilla multiple times, B) seen his best friend transformed into a gorilla twice, and C) been transformed into a gorilla himself.
If that seems a little odd, it's because in the 1950s and '60s DC Comics found that monkeys and/or apes would instantly boost a book's sales. Thus began DC Comics' obsession with inserting a primate into every comic, at all costs. It turns out it's actually not easy -- for example, one of the earliest was Detective Chimp, an intelligent, trained chimpanzee sleuth who helped the local sheriff solve crimes:
He was later rebooted as a miserable bastard with an unhealthy appetite for cigarettes and hard liquor. Seriously.
In reality, this would actually make life super easy for the suspect's defense attorney, but we digress. Riding high on Detective Chimp's success, the company then rolled out Angel and the Ape, a comedic story about a talking gorilla who was -- wait for it -- a private detective (which is completely different, you guys). DC also revised some of their old pulp heroes to better fit their new "all apes" vision, taking their jungle-trekking adventurer Congo Bill and making him a superhero that could take mental control of a giant golden ape named Congorilla.
"Yes! I could NEVER have done this as a human being!"
And as we mentioned, somehow Superman's friend Jimmy Olsen wound up in the body of a gorilla on two separate occasions:
"Superman, do you honestly not remember the last time this happened?"
Presumably there was then a late-night session with the creative team, who decided that it was time to really take a risk and start adding ape villains to their stories. Thus we wound up with the Flash's enemy Gorilla Grodd, a superintelligent gorilla that can also use telepathy (because of course he can), and the Ultra-Humanite, a mad scientist villain whose brain is placed in the body of a giant albino ape. But perhaps the most ludicrous DC Comics gorilla baddy was Titano, an ape sent into space and bombarded with cosmic radiation, which increased his size and bestowed upon him the superpowers of convenience, like his sudden ability to shoot Kryptonite beams out of his eyes:
"Knock it off, Jimmy!"
Nowadays, DC Comics has largely kicked their strange ape habit, but they do have the occasional callback to the company's gorilla-obsessed past. In 1999, the whole thing culminated in the furry insanity that was JLApe: Gorilla Warfare! a story where the entire Justice League was turned into gorillas.
Green Lantern is about to get bombarded with thrown turds.
Say anything you want about Marvel, but at least they never pulled any of this shi-
#4. Wacky Animal Sidekicks Galore
With comic book fans inexplicably shelling out cash hand over fist for any comic with apes on the cover, the next logical step was to try out other animals to drive up sales. We've talked about Supergirl's creepy superpowered horse before, but the Superman universe actually had a whole host of animal sidekicks, including Krypto the Superdog, Beppo the Super-Monkey, and Streaky the Supercat.
"Why does the monkey get pants?"
That's right -- the animals formed their own Legion of Super-Pets, which was maybe the most embarrassing thing to ever happen to comic books. The legion continued to show up semi-regularly until the 1970s, once even turning on their owners, Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes of the 30th Century, in a comic full of animal-on-human violence worthy of America's Funniest Home Videos.
Please notice Streaky the Supercat doing his best to help out the team.
Decades later, Marvel Comics tried to create their own team of superpowered pets, led by Lockjaw, a sort of future-seeing bulldog thing and founder of the Pet Avengers, which also included a dragon. It's no surprise then that over the course of four issues, the Pet Avengers managed to outdo the entire regular Avengers by collecting all the Infinity Gems and kicking the shit out of Thanos.
Suddenly, Hawkeye isn't the dumbest thing to ever be associated with the Avengers.
By the way, the frog in that picture dressed as Thor is from an older Thor story where Loki transforms his brother into a frog in Central Park. Frog Thor then comes across another guy-turned-into-a-frog, put into this predicament by a fortuneteller he owed money to. By the end of the story, the man-frog, Simon Walterson, finds a small piece of Thor's magical hammer, creating his own mini-Mjolnir (henceforth known as Frogjolnir) and being bestowed a fraction of the power of the god of thunder as the mighty Throg.
#3. Marvel and DC Go Japanese
By the late 1990s and early 2000s, anime like Sailor Moon, Gundam, and Dragon Ball Z had begun to be widely embraced by American audiences, which Marvel apparently took as a personal insult. And thus, the Marvel Mangaverse was launched in 2000, featuring the complete reimagining of Marvel's major characters in a manga art style that finally gave fans the chance to masturbate to Captain America:
As though they weren't masturbating to him anyway.
In this universe, Spider-Man is the last ninja of the Spider-Clan and swears an oath to avenge his fallen sensei, Uncle Ben, while still going through all the problems of being a high school-age superhero. On the X-Men front, the manga Wolverine and Cyclops are now brothers who get into a brawl over Jean Grey. Like all trivial sibling fights, Wolverine ends up poking out one of Cyclops' eyes, while Cyclops blasts off one of Wolverine's hands, forcing him to replace it with a Terminator-like prosthetic equipped with laser claws.
Now try to picture how his claws poked out just one of Cyclops' eyes.
Iron Man is now Tony Stark's sister, Antoinette, more commonly known as Toni (which must make family gatherings confusing). Another big change in the Mangaverse is the Punisher, a young woman who loses her parents to a tragic pogo stick accident and fights crime with the powers of BDSM by whipping, tickling, and spanking Korean mafia members. It's at this point that we must point out that absolutely none of the above is a joke.
And because every good Japanese-influenced story needs a Godzilla analogue, the Mangaverse Bruce Banner is a scientist working for Stark Industries who ends up summoning a bunch of gods from another dimension, including a kaiju-size Incredible Hulk.
If you're not fantasizing about an Iron Man vs. Kaiju Hulk story right now, what are you doing with your life?
Several years after the Marvel Mangaverse ended, DC Comics tried their hand at anime-influenced comics with their Ame-Comi Girls line that took popular characters from the DC Universe and made them a team of Sailor Moon ripoffs. Ame-Comi Girls didn't exactly light up the sales charts, though, and was cancelled within a year, ending the American comic book's fixation on anime and manga when superheroine costumes became even more ridiculous than they already were.
"Isn't Supergirl a teenager?"
"Yes. Yesssss she is ..."