Talking animals were something that used to happen all the time in comics. Sometimes they were outright sidekicks. Sometimes they were lead characters in back-up stories. And sometimes they gave a raccoon a gun and made him a movie star alongside a talking tree.
But a character like Detective Chimp probably could do with a comeback. That sort of silly belongs in comic books.
Detective Chimp began life as a sidekick to a small-town sherif. He couldn’t talk, but he could understand humans and helped the sherif solve the murder of his old circus trainer. It seems the trainer in question took the chimp, generally named Bobo, and taught him to do “detective work” of some sort, the kind that usually involved giving the ape some signals to make it look like he was solving mysteries for the circus audience.
By the by, note the names from the page there: writer John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino did a lot of work with the Silver Age Barry Allen, so these guys also gave us some of the most memorable moments for the Flash before the Crisis hit.
At some point Bobo learned to talk, so when was that exactly? A better question might be how. Originally it was because of microscopic aliens in his brain. I think I saw that on an episode of Futurama. In 1981, that got retconned when, on a trip to Florida with his traveling circus, Bobo met Rex the Wonder Dog, a telepathic dog that DC had for a while there. Rex took Bobo off to the Fountain of Youth. Bobo had a drink of the magical waters and gained eternal youth plus the ability to be understood by all species on Earth including humans. With a genius-level intellect, Bobo soon found a circus act is no good when he could, you know, solve actual crimes, like accuse a woman in the audience for his show for an actual murder she’d committed.
From there, Bobo took a job with the Bureau of Amplified Animals, a DC concept where intelligent animals all worked for a government agency to do the sort of things government agencies full of intelligent animals do in a comic book world. Generally seen in a deerstalker hat like you-know-who, Bobo was a brilliant private eye who even had his own agency for a period.
Around the time of the second Crisis, Bobo had basically moved into the Oblivion Bar, a bar for supernaturals. His drinking from the Fountain of Youth qualified. A heavy drinker and smoker, Bobo joined the group Shadowpact, a supernatural superhero team that was there to deal with stuff in the shadows. While mostly there as the team’s brains, Bobo was still a chimpanzee. During one of the team’s first missions, a villain named Carnevil learned that to his disadvantage. Shadowpact had been separated and attacked by what could be seen as their evil opposites, and the aspiring kid Joker in the boy scout uniform got the jump on Bobo. But just because Detective Chimp is a lot smaller than a human doesn’t make him weak. Chimps are a hell of a lot stronger than any human being, and Bobo was more than glad to remind that punk of that little fact.
The New 52 has seemed to forget about Detective Chimp for the most part. That’s too bad. A character like that doesn’t work in a grim universe, so adding him makes things a heck of a lot less dark. Besides, who else will help Batman solve a case from an Internet chat room?