Detective Chimp: Well, He Certainly Lives Up to His Name
Posted October 23, 2009on:
I know I promised this article like, a month ago in that post about the apes, but bear with me, I’ve been busy. Also, I forgot. Also, shut up.
I freaking love Detective Chimp. Wait, why do I love Detective Chimp? Is it the fact he’s a raging alcoholic? That he is a member of the Shadowpact, a sort of supernatural police force? That he’s been around since August, 1952? That he was once Doctor Fate? That he can speak and write in every language ever (no exaggeration)? Or maybe it’s that he’s a freaking detective chimpanzee (and occasionally helps freaking Batman via instant message)? Oh, it’s totally yes to all of these.
In every version of Detective Chimp’s (aka Bobo T. Chimpanzee aka Magnificent Finder of Tasty Grubs) origin, he started out as a regular old chimp. He was part of a circus sideshow where he’d wear a Holmes-style hat and solved little crimes by hitting “yes” or “no” buttons. His handler, Fred Thorpe, was good to him and so Bobo loved him back. Now, there are two ways this can go. There’s the pre-Crisis version where Thorpe dies, Bobo helps the sheriff solve the murder, and Bobo ends up becoming the sidekick of Rex the Wonder Dog. Then there’s the post-Crisis Day of Vengeance version where Bobo just kinda slips away in Florida and meets up with Rex. Either way, they end up sipping from the Fountain of Youth and Bobo becomes Detective Chimp! Unfortunately, chimps don’t have the same legal benefits as people, so when none of the clients from Bobo’s detective agency paid their bills, he got closed down and took up drinking. Tough break.
When Rex the Wonder Dog was canceled in 1959, Detective Chimp pretty much got buried with it. He didn’t return again until a co-feature in 1981’s DC Comics Presents#35 entitled “Whatever Happened to Rex the Wonder Dog?” After this, he was quietly snuck into one panel in 1985’s Crisis on Infinite Earths #11 and from then on occasionally popped up in other books as comic relief.
Finally, in 2005 Bill Willingham (yeah, the Fables guy) did an Infinite Crisis tie-in called Day of Vengeance which put the good detective back in the spotlight. He formed the Shadowpact to combat the newly host-less Spectre, who was going batshit crazy after being tricked by Eclipso into thinking that all magic was evil. They stop the Spectre, but end up losing Hammond Hall, the current Doctor Fate in the process. Captain Marvel chucked the helmet into space so it could seek out whoever was worthy, and it ended up landing back down and conking Bobo in the dome. For the duration of the Helmet of Fate: Detective Chimp (man, I have no idea why I don’t own this), he was Doctor Fate. In the end, he realizes he isn’t worthy, throws it on to the next guy, and keeps rolling with the Shadowpact. He was most recently spotted (along with the rest of the Shadowpact team) in Keith Giffen’s Reign in Hell limited series.
Anywho, I pretty much love this character because of how fucking absurd he is. I mean, he runs around drinking from a flask, saving the world from demi-gods, in a shirt that says “everybody sucks but me.” Long ways to go, for a guy who played second banana to the puppy dog equivalent to Captain America. My only question, why can’t I find any evidence of there ever being a Detective Chimp action figure?