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When I was watching the pilot for The Flash, and they showed the destroyed cage with the nameplate reading “GRODD,” I smiled. It was a nice wink to us Flash fans, but I figured that would be the end of it. After all, how the heck could a CW show have the budget to pull off a superpowered gorilla?
Then it was announced that Grodd would indeed be on the show. I got real nervous. I was positive that they would blow it. In my head, I pictured the snake mayor from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and how bad that looked. I decided there was no way in hell they would do something like that. The producers of The Flash are smart enough to know better, right. My first theory was that Grodd would be made to look human - that somehow the particle accelerator turned a gorilla into something more like a neanderthal. Thankfully they didn’t go there, and they didn’t know better. The Flash gave us a real-deal awesome looking gorilla with telepathy.
THAT IS AWESOME!
But who is Grodd? What’s his deal? Well, if you move on to the next paragraph, I’ll tell you…
Gorilla Grodd comes from a secret city in Africa unimaginatively called Gorilla City. The inhabitants of Gorilla City are all gorillas who were made super intelligent by an alien. Two of the gorillas were given extra abilities - that of telepathy and telekinesis. One of them, Solovar, was made king of Gorilla City. The other, Grodd, was a dick and killed the alien, becoming the greatest threat to Gorilla City.
Grodd first comes into contact with Flash when he is looking for Solovar. It seems that being super intelligent and building an entire city that is both technologically advanced and can be made invisible to hide from humans doesn’t mean that Solovar was smart enough to keep away from guys looking for gorillas to put in a traveling circus. Grodd ends up in Central City, where the zoo that has Solovar imprisoned is, and uses his telepathy to look into Solovar’s mind and learn a technique called Force of Mind, allowing Grodd to control other animals. Grodd returns to Gorilla City and uses his new power to become king, controlling the minds of the citizens of the city.
Solovar, who apparently decided to turn his being captured and forced into the circus into something of a vacation, finally gets tired of sitting around in a cage acting like a normal gorilla and breaks out. He finds Flash and tells our hero about the evils happening in Gorilla City. Flash, being awesome, agrees to help get Grodd out of power. In a move we don’t see happen all that often in the comics or on the show, Flash runs faster than Grodd can think in order to keep the evil gorilla from using Force of Mind on him. Flash moves so fast that he sets the ground on fire. I love it.
Flash beats Grodd so bad that Grodd forgets how to use Force of Mind. Then Flash goes to the zoo and stares down other apes, just to make sure they know who’s boss.
Grodd was an instant hit with fans; after all, gorillas have always had a special place in the hearts of comic nerds, and he would quickly become one of Flash’s most common enemies. He also regains his Force of Mind power, using it to control a race of winged people who live inside the Earth (why winged people live underground, I have no idea) and later turns himself human and starts a pharmaceutical company so he can make pills that will make him smarter. He turns back to a gorilla though. For a while, Grodd’s plans all include transferring his mind to other animals, including a gorilla named Freddy. As Freddy, Grodd is defeated not by Flash, but by Freddy’s mate who gets upset when Grodd mentions another gorilla he finds attractive. After that, I guess the powers that be at DC decided that Grodd was becoming too much of a joke, so he was put aside for a few years.
When he did show up again, it would be after the miniseries Crisis on Infinite Earths with his origin changed from an alien coming down and granting a bunch of gorillas intelligence to a meteor giving them their super smarts. This retcon helped fit Grodd in with some other DC characters - Vandal Savage and the Immortal Man gained their immortality from a meteor, and Hector Hammond (whom we’ll bring up again in a wee bit) gained his super intelligence from the same meteor as Grodd, Solovar and the other gorillas.
Writer William Messner-Loebs would bring Grodd back to the pages of Flash post-Crisis, and bring him back with a vengeance. In the story, Grodd has found a way to communicate with all animals and, using his Force of Mind, begins to turn people’s pets against them.
Central City becomes the start of an animal revolution as dogs, cats, birds and rats initiate the first wave, killing humans and releasing animals from the zoos. Pretty quickly, the streets of Central City are being taken over by lions, rhinos and elephants, all at the command of Grodd, who gives each of them a copy of Pink Floyd’s Animals (not really, but I love that album and wanted to fit in a reference to it somewhere in this article). When Flash tries to take Grodd down with the help of his buddy Piper and fellow hero Vixen (who can take on the abilities of any animal), they are defeated pretty easily by Grodd. Grodd turns Vixen against Flash and puts all three of them in cages, putting an electric collar on Flash, occasionally shocking him for fun and renaming him Skipper. William Messner-Loebs’ version of Grodd is nothing if not sadistic.
Lucky for Flash, the US government is aware of what is happening in Central City and sends in the one guy who can take care of the problem: Rex the Wonder Dog.
Rex the Wonder Dog was a regular German Shepherd who was dosed with a super soldier serum that gave him super strength and intelligence. The scientist that created the serum was killed by a Nazi spy shortly after giving Rex his abilities, so Rex is one of a kind. Clearly his origin, which was told 38 years after he first appeared, was poking fun at Captain America.
Anyway, Rex the Wonder Dog was sent into Central City where he found animals who were resisting Grodd’s Force of Mind and created a small army of his own. These animals, with Rex leading the way, attack Grodd, overpowering him long enough for Flash to get free and deal the knockout blow. In the battle, Grodd is overpowered by the machine he is using to expand his abilities, leaving him mindless.
It really is a great story, one I would love to see done on The Flash.
When we next see Grodd, he’s back to being smart and has teamed up with Vandal Savage. They get beat up by the Teen Titans.
Grodd was used as the main baddie for the DC Comics annuals in 1999. The storyline, titled JLApe: Gorilla Warfare had Grodd turning humans into gorillas while at the same time Solovar is assassinated by the Human Supremacy Movement. Like most event storylines that took place across multiple annuals, JLApe wasn’t all that good. It did allow for Martian Manhunter to be the one to save the day, which has been a rare thing in the DCU.
Grodd shows up to bother Flash again by teaming up with Green Lantern’s enemy Hector Hammond. Together they plan to take over Gorilla City but are stopped by Flash and GL. Once more, Grodd became something of a goof character in DC comics, showing up in the background of various stories or, in one instance, trying to beat Superman and Batman in order to collect a billion dollars from Lex Luthor (who was president of the US at the time, so we know what will happen if Donald Trump gets elected).
Somewhere around this time, Grodd started eating people.
It came down to Geoff Johns to once again remind everyone just how cool Grodd can be.
Johns brought something to Grodd that had mostly been ignored - the savage strength of a huge gorilla. Grodd, while being moved to Iron Heights prison, breaks free and destroys three blocks of Central City before Flash is finally able to take him down.
Shortly afterward, a group of gorillas loyal to Grodd invade Iron Heights to free their leader. In the ensuing battle, Hunter Zolomon, whom we’ve mentioned before, was paralyzed, leading to some really bad times for Flash.
And yet, once more, DC couldn’t figure out what to do with Grodd, so he became kind of a joke again. He even almost got killed by Joker.
I mean, I get it, Joker is cool and all, but how in the hell could he beat a super intelligent gorilla with telekinesis! I call BS.
After DC did the whole Flashpoint and New 52 thing, with Flash destroying and then recreating all of reality, Grodd’s origin was changed, and for once I’m not disgusted by the New 52 changes. Well, not fully disgusted.
In this new continuity, Flash discovers Gorilla City by accident, much to the chagrin of the denizens of the city. Turns out that the super intelligent gorillas who first built Gorilla City gained their super intelligence from a bolt of lightning that “sped up their minds” (this is the stuff I don’t like) and since then, the inhabitants of Gorilla City have been waiting for “The Messenger” - the one who would tell the world about Gorilla City. Grodd tries to eat Flash, but Flash beats him up, goes home and tells everyone about Gorilla City. This is where I start to like the New 52 Grodd.
Grodd gets an army of gorillas together and they invade Central City looking to kill Flash. Along with Flash, the safety of Central City becomes the responsibility of The Rogues. They are able to fight off the gorilla invasion, but only for a little while. When the Earth-3 Injustice League shows up and seems to kill the Justice League, Grodd and his gang return to Central City and, if you’ll excuse the pun, go ape.
The Rogues fight to free Central and Keystone City from the grasp of Grodd, at the same time dealing with the members of the Injustice Society who are trying to kill them. The Rogues, who are more into doing their own thing, refused to join with the other villains of the DCU in the aftermath of the Justice League’s defeat. This pissed off the Injustice League, who decided that the Rogues had to be killed.
The Rogues beat the crap out of Gorilla Grodd and his army, trapping them in the mirror world (something I hope we can go into more in the future if The Flash ever brings in Mirror Master) along with a few members of the Injustice League, but not without losses of their own. During these two gorilla invasions, Rainbow Raider (called Chroma in the New 52 universe) is killed, his head put on a pike. Also, Grodd rips the Trickster’s arm off.
Interesting to note (or maybe not), this arm being ripped off was part of a common occurrence in comics for a few years. Both Marvel and DC got really into people’s arms being torn off. I don’t know why. Maybe everyone was paying respect to Arm-Fall-Off-Boy.
I love Saturn Girl’s face in that panel. She looks like she is going to throw up all over that table, and who could blame her?
I was sad that on The Flash Grodd doesn’t come from Gorilla City. I understood why he didn’t - having the budget to do a single CG gorilla on a CW show must be pretty rare - and I was, seriously, clapping when Grodd was sent to Earth-2 and we get to see the start of a Gorilla City. Recently, on his podcast Fatman on Batman, Kevin Smith proclaimed that, more than any movie, The Flash was bringing the comics to live action because the show wasn’t shying away from what makes the comics, and Flash in particular, so special. Gorilla City is one of those things, and to see it represented on a TV show watched by so many people who never picked up an issue of Flash makes me so happy. At this point, I feel like we may well see more and more of the weird Flash stuff. By the by, Geoff Johns, if you’re reading this (which I doubt you are), I have a great idea for a Mad Men-influenced episode. Call me! Or tweet me, since you don’t have my number.
I do wish that Grodd weren’t connected to S.T.A.R. Labs. I get why they did it, but I’d like to see some problems for Flash that aren't connected to Harrison Wells. If this keeps up, we’ll be running into Kryptonite bees soon (see Smallville for that reference) and I’ll get real annoyed. Even the Earth-2 stuff is Wells-related! Don’t be worried about expanding where baddies can come from, writers! We can handle it!
Aside from the S.T.A.R. Labs connection, I really like how they have handled Grodd on the show. He looks great, and the choice of having all of his speech come telepathically makes him even creepier. They’ve also done a fantastic job, especially in this season two episode, of making Grodd sympathetic. I felt bad for Grodd when they tried to trick him by sending in Harry to pretend to be Earth-1 Wells. His face when he feels that Caitlin has tricked him was heartbreaking. Poor old gorilla just wants some friends! I mean, yes, he’s more than likely going to demand to be their king or threaten to kill them, but everyone has ambitions!