DC Histories: Gorilla Grodd

Here at DC Histories, we try to make sense of the continuity that perplexes, befuddles, and intimidates. We discuss what worked and what didn’t. This week, we’re talking about the vicious and brutal Gorilla Grodd.

From Who's Who: The Definitive Directory of the DC Universe #9 (1985)

Gorilla Grodd first came onto the comics scene by way of nuclear-powered underground drill, which he used to burrow from Gorilla City in Africa all the way to Central City. That’s not a bad way to enter comics. Created by John Broome and Carmine Infantino, Grodd was on the hunt for another gorilla from his hometown, Solovar. Not just a dumb animal, Grodd had a high intelligence which let him not only understand English but to actually speak it.

From Flash (Vol. 1) #106 (1959)

At first, readers may have found Grodd to be one of the more adorable entries in Flash’s list of villains. He was, after all, a giant gorilla. Some people find gorillas adorable. In this first story, he really wasn’t much of a threat to anyone. Though Grodd did track down Solovar, the Flash managed to use his super speed to bring the villain to his knees. Even the mind control powers he sucked from Solovar weren’t enough to help him overthrown man’s world. He was brought back to Gorilla City as a prisoner of Solovar.

From Flash (Vol. 1) #106 (1959)

Solovar claimed that the Flash’s spinning technique had scrambled Grodd’s brains enough for Grodd to lose his mental powers. He was still an ultra smart gorilla, but that was now it. It turns out that Solovar was dead wrong. Grodd escaped capture in literally the next issue with his powers intact. Here’s the dirty little secret about Gorilla City: its prisons are awful. Gorillas simply don’t know how to properly jail someone.

In the next issue, the Flash was brought to Africa to help Gorilla City track down the freshly escaped Grodd. While attempting to find the city, he discovered that it was cloaked in such a way that it could only be seen if Solovar wanted someone to see it.

From Flash (Vol. 1) #107 (1959)

Once again, the Flash brought Grodd back to face simian justice. This time, it took a little bit longer than it did the first time. Grodd’s mental powers weren’t quite as gone as Solovar had promised and it took a lot of effort to bring down the great ape. At least this time, it was several issues before Grodd showed his face again.

Eventually, the Flash and his readers were told just how Gorilla City had been built. The evolutionary jump that these gorillas had been given wasn’t some random twist of fate or simple survival of the fittest. No, the knowledge gained by these these apes had come from an extra terrestrial who had fallen to earth in the heart of Africa. Found only by gorillas, the alien’s ship shot out an orb. Solovar and Grodd were among the first beings to touch the orb, which granted them higher reasoning skills, language, architectural knowledge, and mental powers. The other gorillas in the area didn’t turn out to be slouches but they didn’t have the mental abilities of these two.

From Secret Origins (Vol. 3) #40 (1989)

From there, Gorilla City was built. It was a beautiful haven for the gorillas and gave them a private space away from the world.

Eventually, Grodd’s plans began to change. He used his mental powers to take over a few random men in Central City and project himself into their bodies. These men would then physically turn into Grodd. During one such escape from Gorilla City, Grodd decided to take over Central City legally by using his mental powers to make average residents vote him in as the governor of whatever state Central City is in.

From Flash (Vol. 1) #127 (1962)

The readers were the real winners of this takeover attempt as we got to see Gorilla Grodd lounging on a giant pile of letters. Tom Katers covered this story to great effect on his old podcast Tom Vs. The Flash. His description of this tale can be found here.

The Flash was able to stop Grodd before he was elected governor, but it was closer than you might think.

Grodd was always a bit of a loner. There was only room for one ruler of the world and he felt that it should be him. Though many of the other foes of the Flash took on the name The Rogues, Grodd was never in their group. That isn’t to say he never had allies. Sometimes, Grodd would join organizations such as the Secret Society of Super Villains in order to further his plans. It was actually with this group that Grodd proved himself to nearly have the strength of Kalibak, son of Darkseid. It also showed Grodd to be quite the poor loser.

From The Secret Society of Super Villains #4 (1976)

Grodd would eventually have a role with other groups, like the Injustice League but mostly, Grodd went solo.

As Grodd continued in his plans for domination of Central City, Gorilla City, and the world, his methods changed. Finding that direct control of humans simply didn’t work, his focus shifted. After Wally West become the Flash, his first run-in with Grodd was when the gorilla came to Keystone City with the goal of overcoming the city by using its homeless animal population against it. Only the timely intervention of a Silver Age canine hero named, I kid you not, Rex the Wonder Dog saved the city.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #45 (1990)

When that plan failed, one of the next things Grodd tried was to create his own religion. Here, his mind control powers were at their peak and he created an army of devoted followers to his new cause. Among them was the Matrix Supergirl who had just been permanently crossed with a teenager named Linda Danvers. Gary Frank’s choice of drawing Grodd exactly like a silverback gorilla made for this story to be more unnerving than past Grodd stories.

From Supergirl (Vol. 4) #4 (1996)

Shortly after Geoff Johns began writing the monthly Flash book, he began to flesh out Wally West’s many villains. Early on in this run, Wally once again with head-to-head with Grodd. This time, it was a more brutal battle than any before. It was as if Johns was the only writer to realize that not only did Grodd have offensive psionic capabilities, but he was also a 600 pound gorilla. This story was filled with pages of an enraged Grodd laying waste to Keystone City. He nearly killed Wally and even threw a car through a building. It was an impressive debut of a decidedly less cuddly Grodd.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #178 (2001)

As tends to happen after another of Grodd’s battles against authority, he was locked away. This time, he was imprisoned in Iron Heights, a new maximum security facility for the worst crooks Keystone had to offer. It was a tight facility, designed to keep any number of super powered fiends locked away for years. It wasn’t, however, designed to withstand an attack of Gorilla City gorillas under the hypnotic trace of Grodd. They made short work of the facility and, once again, Grodd was free.

This assault by giant parachuting gorillas is still an arresting image.

From Flash (Vol. 2) #192 (2003)

Shortly after his escape from Iron Heights, Grodd lead an army of apes in an invasion into New York City. Not traditionally a city that was on Grodd’s radar, New York found itself woefully unprepared for a battle against an angry, intelligent gorilla army. Luckily, a newly formed group of Outsiders were on hand to help turn the tide of battle. Before all was said and done, it was revealed that Grodd’s offensive was simply a distraction created by the Joker to keep every busy while he went after then-president Lex Luthor. Usually, Grodd doesn’t take orders from anyone, but the Joker had sent a plague against Gorilla City in order to secure cooperation. It worked.

From Outsiders (Vol. 3) #3 (2003)

Even after all of these defeats against the various heroes of the DCU, Grodd kept up with his plans for domination over others. He got close once or twice, but he has never quite reached that goal permanently. However, during a simulation run by Batman to see what would happen if certain factors were different, he found that Grodd could very easily be running things. It made for an off-putting image courtesy of Rafael Albuquerque.

From Superman/Batman #63 (2009)

This week, a New 52 Gorilla Grodd hits comic pages as he starts an invasion into Central City. What will he do this time? Will he be as vicious and brutal as he has been portrayed recently? Will he attempt to run for governor again? I guess we’ll all just have to find out together.

Flash (Vol. 4) #13 (2012) Cover

Jeff Reid finds the idea of gorillas breaking someone out of prison terrifying. Learn more about what terrifies Jeff on Twitter.


  1. Loved Paul Cornell’s take on Gorilla Grodd in Action Comics

  2. Blood thirsty, battle spoon wielding Grodd is the best Grodd.