One would think that Marvel’s most King Kong-ish creation would be Yetrigar, the enormous yeti monster (duh) who battled Godzilla (and later, the West Coast Avengers).
However, we’re not going to talk about him, because the comics group has an even more Kong-inspired inspired creature, going back to the early days of the company: Gorgilla! This creature was introduced in Tales to Astonish #12 in 1960, a little over a year before the debut of the Fantastic Four transformed the brand into something synonymous with superheroes, and monster books were still the company’s bread and butter. The issue was written by Stan Lee, penciled by Jack Kirby, and inked by Steve Ditko; a winning combination!
The story revolves around a scientist leading an expedition to Borneo in search of the missing link (how complicated that will get in Marvel continuity!), only to be assaulted by hostile natives. The party scales a giant wall to escape, and the headhunters proclaim that the protagonists are in the hands of their god “Gorgilla” now. Without much time to ponder this, our heroes are beset by a giant primate! Well, for a little bit, then they’re attacked by a T-rex and the beasts duke it out, the ape saving them from the dinosaur. The gang decides that while they could capture the weakened monster, they’ll leave it be and never see it again. This is poppycock, since just a few issues later Gorgilla returned to take on the Big Apple.
In that story, a two-parter, it’s revealed that Gorgilla felt lonely after the humans left him behind, so he climbed over his wall and stowed away on a cargo ship. The ship lands in New York, and the creature goes on an inadvertent rampage, burrowing his way into lots of trouble, including a terrorist cell intent on blowing up the subways. The creature pursues one of the terrorists up the side of the statue of liberty before being gunned down by the authorities in a tragic demise quite reminiscent of a certain 1933 feature film.
All of this was retconned in the woefully-named Marvel Universe series from 1998, because things can’t be simple when talking Marvel. Under this version, Gorgilla and the t-rex were actually genetic experiments created by the Deviants, and he only went to New York because he was mind-controlled by Warlord Kro. The Monster Hunters broke this control, the terrorist Gorgilla went after was also a Deviant, and Gorgilla was actually saved from death and brought back to his island. Also, there are lizard people.
…and then things get wacky. To atone for his crimes of being a rampaging monster, Gorgilla was shrunk and drafted into a superhero team with Elektro, Googam, and Fin Fang Foom, called the “Fin Fang Four”, in 2005, in two comics best not to take super seriously (he’s a janitor for a while, to boot). It’s a hoot and available in the Marvel Monsters collection. Gorgilla also appeared in a Defenders issue I’m not familiar with, so won’t talk about.
Gorgilla was one of the classic monsters whose origin story was included in the Monsters Unleashed Prelude collection, which is meant to catch readers up for Marvel’s current Monsters Unleashed event, mainlined by Cullen Bunn. I can’t wait to see what all they have in store for the big monkey going forward.
…god damnit, Marvel.