America’s Greatest: 1953: Gorilla Warfare, Chapter 3: Lords of the Jungle

by Libbylawrence

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“You captured the so-called Jungle Princess! Excellent!” said the leader of the guard gorillas, who wore a burnoose with a matching white safari jacket.

El Carim, ever the performer, stepped forward and gave a masterful impression of the harsh-voiced gorilla who had threatened them in the theater. “Yes,” he said. “We succeeded, but not without cost. Our brother-in-arms was killed!”

The guards muttered amongst themselves and then ushered the newcomers into a Jeep. They were taken through the model community to a heavily guarded building.

“This was our school before they came!” whispered Lena Granger the Jungle Princess.

The gorilla driver parked the Jeep in front of a paved area where playground equipment now seemed sadly out of place. “Put her in the gym with the others. Dr. Granger will be thrilled to be reunited with his kinder!” he said with a harsh laugh.

The Dagger frowned as he thought, ‘Kinder’? Why is this gorilla speaking German? I don’t think Lena said Dr. Granger turned his pupils into multilingual types!

As he walked into the gym, he saw a pitiful sight. Gorillas of all sizes were huddled together on the floor. Parent gorillas were trying to calm their frightened children, and their distress was ignored by callous armed guards who marched back and forth with near-military precision.

That marching makes me think of the war. I saw Nazi troops following that same kind of stark discipline! thought the Dagger. Somehow those thugs made it to the States without using a private plane. At least I couldn’t find any record of one. Hearing them speak German and act like storm troopers makes me wonder again if there could be something even more bizarre about these rogue gorillas than meets the eye!

Lena frowned as if she also had picked up on his line of thought. She said nothing, but she was clearly in deep thought of her own.

El Carim’s spell seemed flawless. No one questioned the two humans as they made their way into the center of the gym, where an astonishing figure sat dejected between several small humans and a few gorillas.

The figure was very tall and had extremely broad shoulders. His face was marked with sensitivity and intelligence, but also by grief. El Carim recognized Dr. Lee Granger, the Jungle King, but the blond in a torn white shirt and gray pants with matching boots looked more like a broken man than a famous hero.

“Herr Granger, we have returned your prized pupil!” said the guard as he shoved Lena forward.

Dr. Granger looked up and said nothing as he moved over to clear a spot for Lena and said, “Lena, I am sorry to see that they caught you as well. I had hoped that at least one of my friends might not have to suffer because of my pride.”

Lena said, “Dr. Granger, this is not your fault!”

As the guards moved away from the captives, El Carim whispered, “Transformo!”

At the moment the word was uttered, he and the Dagger no longer looked like the criminal gorillas, but looked like two ordinary captive gorillas, as if such remarkable animals could ever be called ordinary.

“This will give us time to talk,” explained El Carim in a whisper. “Dr. Granger, we have come to help! We are humans from America!”

Dr. Granger stared at them and said, “Lena, is this true?”

Lena nodded insistently and said, “They are heroes from America! Trust them!”

“Dr. Granger, what exactly do they want?” asked the Dagger. “Why have they locked you all up and taken over this community?”

“They want power,” explained Dr. Granger. “They want control over others. They want to exercise their need for cruelty. In short, they want to act like humans! They are fatally flawed with the sins of humanity, because I arrogantly turned innocent animals into humans! Like Dr. Frankenstein of legend, I created these monsters because of my foolish ego! I thought to give them civilization, but I only brought them the chaos and hatred that comes from being human!”

“First of all, Frankenstein was not a legend,” said El Carim. “I met the doctor’s creation years ago before the war. Secondly, I think you are beating yourself up for no good reason. Your efforts have done nothing but benefit your subjects. You didn’t harm them by giving them this life and these advantages!”

“Your subjects didn’t speak German, did they?” said the Dagger. “These gorillas do!”

A strange transformation came over the Jungle King. His eyes became brighter, and he seemed to become a different man as the realization of what their words implied came to his keen mind.

“My subjects certainly have the capacity to learn foreign languages, but none of them should already speak German,” he said. “Are you suggesting that these invaders are not my subjects? I never considered the possibility that someone else could have duplicated my work! I fell apart because I blamed myself for supposedly turning animals into brutal minded — human-minded — killers! That was highly illogical of me!”

Standing up, he said, “And yet, if someone else evolved and educated gorillas, why would he want to conquer my kingdom and hold my subjects captive?”

As the gorilla guards suddenly raced over to him, the Jungle King demanded, “I want to see your leader! I want to face him and challenge his rule! That is my right. That has always been the law of the jungle!”

As his subjects cheered with new hope that their beloved leader might free them, the guards merely laughed at him.

“You may see the leader, but you will soon learn the only law here is whatever he says it is!” said the guard.

As the guard led Dr. Lee Granger out of the gym, El Carim clasped the Dagger’s arm and pulled him along behind the others. “My invisibility spell will allow us to follow them to this mysterious leader!” he explained. “Lena can stay behind and encourage the other captives!”

The two heroes passed unseen through the community to Dr. Granger’s laboratory, where a weird-looking gorilla lounged in a lab chair.

“King Zonga, the American scientist demanded to see you!” explained the gorilla guard.

King Zonga stared at Granger with beady black eyes and then smiled broadly. “It is an honor to meet the famous Jungle King,” he said. “You should understand that I am the only ruler here now, though!”

As the invisible Dagger and El Carim watched from the side, Dr. Granger confronted King Zonga.

“I see you’ve been looking through my lab files!” he said. “Exactly what is it you are after here? Clearly, you and your army already have the secrets of my evolution gas!”

Zonga shook his head and said, “Not exactly. You see, Dr. Granger, I was hired to bring a squad here to steal your evolutionary gas formula so my employers could study it and see if it might be used to create a superhuman, or as they like to call it, an ubermensch! They hired me because I already had a technique for turning normal humans into gorillas! My real name is Professor Ira Gloot, and I’m as human as you are! (*) In fact, all of my gorilla warriors are humans. They’re former Nazi soldiers, to be exact! I may be an American, but my services are for hire, even to the remnants of the old Nazi regime!”

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Marvel Family Battles the Primate Plot,” Marvel Family #85 (July, 1953).]

That’s how the gorillas that attacked us came to America! the Dagger realized. They merely changed back to normal men and flew on a regular plane!

Dr. Granger’s keen mind quickly realized that Professor Gloot’s words meant that his evolved gorillas had never turned violent or turned against the society he had taken such pride in creating. His resolve was restored, as was his courage. “You’ve restored my faith in animalkind!” he said. “Of course, I always knew the Axis were rats!

Jumping forward, the Jungle King abruptly knocked the nearest gorilla flat and grabbed his rifle. He fired it directly at a network of pipes that ran along the walls and across the roof above.

Steam quickly cascaded down to fill the room, and Dr. Granger dived to an odd-looking whistle. He pulled the cord, and a shrill sound rang out through the compound. Deftly adjusting the series of cords, he pulled once more, but no sound could be heard after the second pull.

“He’s summoning help of some kind!” gasped a startled and near-frantic King Zonga, alias Ira Gloot.

The Jungle King punched another gorilla, then managed to leap out the window as El Carim and the Dagger became visible, and the magician shouted, “Transformo evolvo!

King Zonga and his guards shuddered and transformed back into the men they had originally been.

“A pretty sorry-looking lot!” said the Dagger as he kicked Gloot in the chest and connected with a stinging punch to the nose.

El Carim grinned as he bound the others with snaking ropes that seemed to move and materialize on their own accord. “We’d better join Granger and free the prisoners while confusion reigns!” he said.

They ran out of the lab and spotted Dr. Granger swinging agilely through the tress above.

He’s as super as Lena said he was! thought the Dagger.

As the Dagger and El Carim raced out of the lab, they spotted a Jeep heading directly at them. The vehicle was full of gun-toting gorillas that had been attracted to the scene by the first alarm the Jungle King had sounded.

“Stand back!” said El Carim. “We have other concerns!” He drew the masked Ken Wyman aside as the Jeep raced past them. The Dagger obeyed the confident magician, who explained, “I figured a bit of misdirection might serve us best. I made us invisible again!”

“Dr. Granger sure perked up in a hurry!” said the Dagger. “Once we learned that the invaders weren’t animals turned bad by his experiments, but were instead humans transformed into gorillas, he regained his confidence!”

“Indeed!” said El Carim. “He was broken-hearted because he felt that he was to blame for everything. Now he wants to fight for his subjects again! I wonder what that second siren or signal device he pulled was supposed to do? I heard nothing, but he didn’t seem chagrined by its malfunction!”

The Dagger led his friend toward the gym. “How long will Gloot and the others remain human?” he asked. “Will your spell wear off?”

“Perhaps, but not until we’ve freed this community from their grasp!” said El Carim.

The two invisible men entered the gym to see a bizarre sight. A huge hole now dominated one wall of the gym, and inside the compound a scene of warfare was taking place.

Two identical dark-haired white men were leading a group of giant African warriors in combat against the gorilla guards, while a beautiful woman in red with flowing black hair who was armed with a bow and arrow was riding across the gym floor on a huge elephant. The elephant had broken through the wall, but there was no obvious explanation for the giant warriors who stood at twelve feet tall.

The Dagger shrugged and tackled the nearest gorilla guard. “Take that, you Axis creep!” he yelled, continuing to pound on the startled goon until he finally managed to knock him out.

El Carim had followed his friend’s example by dropping the invisibility spell and conjuring up more animated ropes to ensnare several guards.

Lena was fighting furiously as well, and the Jungle Princess was leading her friends and family into the fight. “Nedda the Elephant Queen smashed into the gym, and the Jungle Twins led their giant warrior tribe in her wake!” explained Lena. “Clearly, Dr. Granger must have summoned them with his signal device!”

El Carim watched admiringly as the huge warriors literally trounced the Nazi gorillas. The transformed Nazi soldiers each had the power of a gorilla, but they were shocked and outmatched by the weird giants.

The first dark-haired man turned to shake hands with the Dagger. “I’m Bill Dale. We were already on our way here, because we’d had a run-in with some ruthless German mercenaries back in our own village. My brother Steve led his tribe of giant warriors, here, and I brought my friend Nedda. Folks around here call her the Elephant Queen because of her control of the huge creatures!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Lee Granger, Jungle King, Master Comics #7 (October, 1940).]

Nedda laughed merrily from atop her elephant and said, “We heard the siren and hurried into battle! Dr. Granger befriended the Jungle Twins years ago, and I am an old friend of Dr. Granger’s!”

The Dagger stared openly at the newcomers in astonishment. He had heard of Steve Dale. Steve had been separated from his twin brother Bill when they were children, and their parents were slaughtered by bushmen. While Bill was taken back to New York City to be raised by the family’s lawyer, Steve grew up in the jungle as a real-life Tarzan called Sti-Vah by the giant natives, who practically worshiped him as a god. Only as adults were the twins reunited, and they decided to remain in Africa throughout World War II. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Jungle Twins, Nickel Comics #1 (May 17, 1940).]

The arrival of the remarkable newcomers and the revitalization of the Jungle King brought the invaders to their knees. The normal gorillas had disarmed their captors, and the heroes seemed victorious, until the scrawny but sinister Dr. Ira Gloot made a sudden entrance.

“That’s the so-called King Zonga!” yelled the Dagger. “He’s just a Nazi pawn with a formula that turned men into gorillas!”

Ira Gloot was a pathetic figure in some ways. The scrawny figure was wearing an overly large cloak and baggy shorts. His eyes still gleamed with an all-too-human malice. He had been exposed and beaten, but he was not trying to escape.

“You dolts! None of you understand who you’re dealing with now! I’m a genius!” he cried as he held up a vial. “I hold in my hands a chemical that will kill you all! You haven’t won anything. You’ve just motivated me to wipe this place off the map!”

“Don’t be foolish! Killing everyone won’t make you a winner!” said the Dagger.

El Carim started to raise his arm when he spotted an odd sight. Hundreds of ants were crawling across the floor toward the irate Gloot. A smiling Dr. Granger was also peering into the gym through the hole in the wall. He gestured to El Carim to remain quiet.

As Gloot continued to brandish the glass vial with its deadly contents, the ants swarmed over him, and the Dagger dived forward to catch the falling chemical vial as a horrified Gloot dropped it. Even as the Dagger managed to safely catch the vial before it could break, Lee Granger the Jungle King charged forward and grabbed Gloot as the smaller man shrieked in panic because of the ants.

“They won’t kill you,” Granger explained. “They obey my commands. I summoned them with the signal device I pulled. You couldn’t hear it, but the ants could. They are loyal to me. They have been for decades, since I first met their human queen and made peace with her after a few initial disagreements!” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See Lee Granger, Jungle King, Slam-Bang Comics #6 (August, 1940).]

“What kind of man are you?” said Gloot. “You created this modern community in the heart of the jungle. You have devoted followers of every species — even ants and elephants obey you! How can I fight that?”

“He’s the Jungle King!” shouted Lena. “No one can defeat him or his friends!”

Cheers echoed throughout the gym as the victorious heroes led the captive Nazis to a secure holding cell.

“I owe you all my thanks,” said Lee Granger. “Steve, Bill, Nedda, Lena, and you gentlemen!”

The Dagger smiled and said, “Are you kidding? This has been the most fun I’ve had in years! I should be thanking you!

El Carim laughed as he said, “Dagger, you are a grand fellow! I’m glad I met you!”

Lena embraced the two Americans and whispered, “I thank you both as well! You’ve freed my people and restored our ruler to his old self! I went searching for the Marvels, but although I couldn’t find them, I certainly did find real heroes!”

The Dagger smiled, but he also had some questions in his mind. I know Gloot was hired to use his primate potion to infiltrate and then conquer this community, because remnants of the Nazi Party wanted to steal Dr. Granger’s evolutionary formula. However, the reporter in me wants to know just how many of these modern Nazi types there are, and what else are they after.

Shrugging off his doubts, he managed to enjoy the moment. With this new resolve, he could really make some new plans for his life.

The End

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