skip to content or skip to search form

Secret of the Man-Ape!

“Secret of the Man-Ape!” Published in From Beyond the Unknown. Story by Otto Binder, art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.

Who knows what past civilizations dominated ancient Earth—and vanished without a trace? Who knows what other intelligent creatures may have reigned over our world?

By a twist of evolutionary fate, an alien from outer space finds he has chosen the wrong disguise to spy on Earth!

[Scientist:] If my machine works, I’ll be able to transform this gorilla into a human!

[Gorilla (thinking):] It better work—or my plan to conquer the Earth will fail!

You see, 100,000 years ago, Earth was ruled by a civilization of intelligent gorillas. And, as we all know, if some aliens on a planet 100,000 light years from our solar system viewed Earth through a telescope, they would see the Earth of 100,000 years ago, ruled by gorillas. If said aliens then, operating on this 100,000-year-old intelligence, decided to send a spy to Earth in preparation for a full-scale invasion (as aliens are wont to do), they would naturally send an alien spy transformed by a ray into a gorilla. The tragedy of the situation, you will note, is that Earth is no longer ruled by a civilization of intelligent gorillas, but by humans. (It doesn’t matter, if you’re wondering, who will be ruling Earth in the distant future, because the aliens, despite having light-speed-only telescopes, do have faster-than-light space travel. One might wonder why they don’t simply send an invisible spy camera or something, if one were a hard-hearted curmudgeon with no appreciation for the lovely absurdity of 1950s comics featuring gorillas.) Luckily, our gorilla protagonist finds himself captured by a scientist with a ray which transforms gorillas into human form:

When the mind-reading gorilla is delivered to the scientist’s laboratory in America—

[Scientist:] I’ve been waiting for this specimen, to try out my evolving ray!

[Gorilla (thinking):] I hope it works! My whole mission depends on it!

As the rays bathe the alien gorilla…

[Scientist (thinking):] Gorilla to human in ten minutes! According to my calculations, only the body has changed, not the brain!

[Gorilla (thinking):] Now if I can escape this cage…

But the next moment, the ray is turned on the alien again…

[Scientist:] This experiment is too dangerous for me to continue on my own! I’ll change him back…

[Gorilla (thinking):] No—no!

[Scientist:] As soon as I dismantle the machine, I’ll turn my plans over to the science society for further study!

[Gorilla (thinking):] Trapped in gorilla form again! I must get those plans for myself, somehow!

Meanwhile, Professor Scott finds another “spy” lurking outside his window…

[Scientist (thinking):] That face in the window again! It’s Hal Todd, my former assistant! I never trusted him, and fired him! I wonder if he’s scheming to steal my plans for evil purposes?

Now we begin to understand that mysterious cover, as Prof. Scott decides to smuggle his secret notes past Hal by hiding them in his nephew’s library books: Moby Dick, Robinson Crusoe, and Treasure Island! As Prof. Scott takes his notes to the science society, he is so worried about this stalker Hal, he walks right in front of a truck! Hal kneels to examine the professor’s cane, hat, and books, scattered in the street (the corpose is nowhere to be seen, perhaps stuck under the truck), his thoughts are ironic: “Professor Scott—dead! I wonder if he planned to use his discovery for evil purposes, as I half suspected at times?”

(Philosophical question: To what evil purposes do you suppose somebody might put a ray which makes gorillas look like humans, but doesn’t make them smarter?)

A passer-by returns the prof’s books to the library (this is apparently minutes after the prof was run over by a truck, and there’s been no indication that anybody called an ambulance or anything…), where our alien gorilla, having escaped his cage, checks them out. (As she hands over the books, the librarian thinks, “At first I imagined that gorilla was talking to me—but it’s his thoughts I hear! How is such a fantastic thing possible?” In a display of flagrant negligence, she fails to ask the gorilla for his library card.)

The gorilla steals a car and speeds out of town—trailed by Hal, who made to the library only after the gorilla got the books, despite having been standing in front of the library a couple pages ago when the prof was hit by the truck. The gorilla, who does not have a driver’s license, drives right off a cliff. Hal muses that “The world will never know” just what the gorilla’s nefarious plans were. The end.

And so “Secret of the Man-Ape!” is a tragedy, a cautionary tale of the peril of acting on insufficient information. It is happy that the aliens are willing to jump to conclusions based on suspect intelligence, since we certainly don’t want Earth falling to the aliens. If only, though, Hal and the prof had not allowed themselves to be ruled by suspicion! They give in to paranoia, and the sad result is the prof’s violent death and Hal’s looking like an idiot for losing some library books to a gorilla.

Stay tuned for “Language-Master of Space!” and “World of Doomed Spacemen!”


  1. Bruce Baugh says:

    Amazing. Just amazing. Bless you.

    — 30 March 2004 at 4:48 am (Permalink)

  2. David Fiore says:

    great stuff Steven!

    Let’s hope that the rest of the stories are equally rewarding…not to mention the letters page (is there one? I know Marvel’s reprint series, such as Fantasy Masterpieces, usually did) What did those kids from the seventies think of this stuff?

    Also–if you don’t already have it, I heartily recomend DC’s Greatest 1950’s Stories Ever Told… it’s full of great stuff, including a scene in which Kirby’s Green Arrow, stranded in Dimension X, asks himself: “Will we ever get back? Will we ever see the arrowcave—or the arrowcar? Will we see those days again when kids flocked around us in department stores, asked for our autographs, and played with the Green Arrow toy arrow kit.”

    They don’t skimp on the gorillas either!


    — 30 March 2004 at 6:53 am (Permalink)

  3. Rose says:

    I’m excited about “Language-Master of Space!” I can’t wait to read about the Man-Ape either, but Steven’s going to have to remain in charge of synopses, because I could never do it this well.

    — 30 March 2004 at 12:16 pm (Permalink)

  4. Steven says:

    David, as it happens, I do have The Greatest 1950s Stories Ever Told on my bookshelf. I haven’t got around to reading any of the stories yet, but I most certainly will… sometime. From Beyond the Unknown has a letters page, so you may expect a report on contemporary attitudes toward reprints of weirdo 1950s sf comics.

    — 30 March 2004 at 1:39 pm (Permalink)

  5. Shane says:

    THAT is the greatest comic ever.

    — 30 March 2004 at 3:26 pm (Permalink)

  6. Ursula Vernon says:

    Thank you. Thank you. I was goin’ nuts wondering…

    Man, I was WAY off, too.

    — 1 April 2004 at 2:30 pm (Permalink)

  7. Steven says:

    You managed to come up with a theory as to what the gorilla was going to do? But what was it?

    — 1 April 2004 at 2:32 pm (Permalink)