Angel and the Ape #3 (March-April, 1969)
“The Curse of the Avarice Clan!”
Writers – Sergio Aragones & Bob Oksner
Penciller – Bob Oksner
Inker – Wally Wood
Letterer – Ben Oda
Editor – Joe Orlando
Taking a look at something pretty weird today. Before we move into the spoilery synopsis, just want to mention that this issue had no creator credits… so I had to cobble them up from my usually researchery haunts.
Can’t speak to their reliability tho…
If anyone out there knows something different, please lemme know and I will make corrections!
We open with the brief history of Avarice Island. It’s plainly a take on the English Settlers buying Manhattan Island for a song… but different in the results. Turns out there’s something… not-so-kosher about old Avarice. That brings us to today, where Angel O’Day is being brought to the Avarice Estate by lawyer Mr. Quail to act as a live-in nurse for Cadwallader Avarice. Ya see, the Avarice Clan is cursed… they all seem to die tragically on their 60th Birthday… and you’ll never guess what today is!
Angel and Quail cross the rickety bridge over to Avarice Island… and no sooner do they arrive than the bridge collapses. Well, that’s probably not a good sign. Inside, ol’ Cadwallader isn’t pleased to see that he’s been given a nurse… that is, until he sees her in her nurse’s outfit!
Cad then starts bouncing around the room on his cane, Uncle Scrooge-style proclaiming that he is quite ill… and in dire need of Ms. O’Day’s healing touch. From here we meet his potential heirs… and ooh boy, are they a Who’s Who of Human Oddities. There’s Burton, the wannabe actor… Gabrielle, the gabby (get it?) gossip… Milo, the Musclehead… Gunga, a water-obsessive who looks like Floyd the creepy barber from Andy Griffith… Psyche, a Spiritualist… and finally Torquemada, a practical joker.
Suddenly… the lights go out! Then a spotlight hits… causing Burton (the actor) to rush in to accept his ovation. What he gets instead, if pumped full’a lead. Oh Burton, how little we got to know you!
We shift scenes to… well, whatever city Angel and the Ape normally operate out of. At this moment, Sam Simeon is climbing up the side of the DZ Comics building on his way to turn in some pages of art. While waiting for his editor (and reading an issue of Anthro), the Big Cheese of DZ Comics enters and regales our man with some horrible jokes.
Back with the Avarices’… that weirdo Gunga is getting ready for a dip in the pool. It’s raining out, so he’s carrying an umbrella so he “doesn’t get soaked”. Anyhoo, turns out there’s a man-eating shark in the pool… and before long, it’s got the weirdest indigestion of its life.
Back in the city, Sam is introduced to a frumpy secretary. This is a pretty mean scene, that doesn’t add a whole heckuva lot. Figure I’ll include it anyway!
Back to the Avarices’… where Psyche is holding a seance in attempt to deduce who the killer might be. She manages to summon a disembodied voice… who tells her that he’s dead… which gives her a fatal heart attack. I mean, what was she expecting? Aren’t seances held to speak to the dead? I’d be more freaked out if they got a “live” one…
In the doorway, Angel scans the (thinning) crowd. Among the Avarices (Avarici?) are the lawyer, a butler and a maid… hmm. Angel recalls that Gabbi was holding Psyche’s hand when she died… and decides to chat her up about it. Unfortunately, by this point… poor ol’ Gabby has fallen down an elevator shaft!
Back in the city… things are getting really weird (and that’s saying something!). Sam heads back to his apartment where his is assaulted with kisses by his near-sighted (well, I hope he’s near-sighted) landlord.
Then, we’re off to the Mildew Asylum for Sprung Brains… where we meet quite the array of oddballs, including Julius Caesar, Napoleon, and of course, Adolf Hitler. Luckily the heroic Captain Emeritus is also present! Cap is an offbeat lad named Stan Bragg… and he wields a garbage can lid, like a certain other Captain brandishes a patriotic shield. Also, Batman is here.
Well, okay… it’s not really Batman… but he thinks he is! Bat and Cap take the fight to the baddies.
Suddenly, Batman joins up with Hitler! Together they hurl Captain Emeritus out a window. Luckily, he falls into the water below. He uses a hollow reed to breathe… but, if you’ll recall… it’s raining! A single drop falls into the reed, almost causing our man to drown. His life is saved by some mouth-to-mouth delivered by… the Avarice Butler?! Well that’s convenient!
Wow, a lot of stuff going on here… and we’re only to the staples folks! Back at Avarice, Angel is searching for secret panels… and unbeknownst to her, finds quite a few. Back in the city, Sam begrudgingly reads some Darwin while the news reports that Stan Bragg might be headed to Avarice Isle. I guess Stan blames Angel and the Ape for his incarceration? So, he’s now out for revenge? Okay, we’ll roll with it.
Meanwhile, the practical jokester Torquemada uses one of the oldest tricks in the book to try and fool a passer-by. Unfortunately for him, the passerby happened to be a hungry lion. Well, maybe it wasn’t hungry… but it ate him just the same.
We join Sam, who makes the leap to Avarice Island. Upon arrival, he gets into a few fistfights… but, c’mon… he’s an ape. These geeks ain’t gonna be able to hurt him. And of course, Captain Emeritus is also lingering about… waiting for his chance to strike.
After some hooptie-doo, the Maid (Miss Hemlock…) tries to force a sandwich down Angel’s throat! You’d never guess, but a woman named “Hemlock” was trying to poison our gal!
Elsewhere, Meathead whatshisface is off lifting a barbell. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice that his weights had been replaced with (lit) bombs. Whoops!
After some more hooptie-doo, it’s revealed that Mr. Quail was in cahoots with the Maid and Butler to inherit the Avarice fortune! Also, Captain Emeritus gets monkey-flipped (literally) out a window. Cad finally manages to plant one on Angel… then succumbs to a heart attack! We learn that Angel is a distant relative of the Avarice Clan… and so, she inherits everything! The Manor, the island, and a cool $37.50 (that’s $256.06 in 2018 monies!).
Angel considers using the Manor as a base of operations for the Angel and the Ape Detective Agency… unfortunately, the entire island has been designated a National Shrine. The Manor will be demolished and be replaced with a Memorial. O’Day is paid off… $1.35 ($9.22 today!) for the whole kit and caboodle… and they set to blowing up the manor… including poor Captain Emeritus!
This is one of those books it’s hard to really “review” (if… that’s even what I do here). I can say that I had a lot of fun with it… but, at the end of the day it’s a Silver Age humor book… and those are always hard to be analytical about. I’ve got a few Peter Panda’s and Fox and Crow comics from the late 50’s-early 60’s that I haven’t shared here because… I mean, whattaya say about a humor book?
Was it funny? Yeah… there were funny bits here. Some haven’t aged all that well, but for the most part I felt my lip curl a few times.
Was it well-drawn? Hell yeah. I really like the way this looked. If it makes any sense… it has humor “elements” without going “full-cartoon”. I mean, it’s got a talking ape and all… but it still feels somewhat like a “normal” comic book. The addition of a dude in a Batman costume (while completely unexpected and ridiculous) really adds to that as well!
The story… while suitably silly, was a fun take on the classic “whodunnit” between heirs to a… er, “fortune”. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before, but it’s neat! The comic format allows them to be quite creative with the way they “off” the heirs. Probably the funnest “inheritance” story since The Laurel-Hardy Murder Case in 1930.
Overall… if you come across this one in the wild… I’d say grab it. Don’t break the bank (or your back), but I think you’ll have fun with it. It’s worlds better than the Angel and the Ape miniseries’ that followed! Doesn’t look like it’s been collected… nor has it been made available digitally.
(Sort of the) Letters Page (featuring Rob Reiner? Maybe?):