May 27, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Characters Case File #407: Titano

Everyone loves giant apes. Except maybe Superman.

There’s this old anecdote about the Silver Age of DC Comics that, for a time, top editor Julius Schwartz felt that putting an ape on the cover of a comic was something of a guarantee to sell a lot of copies.  Did such a thing improve sales?  I have no idea, but DC does have a lot of ape characters.

Like Titano, a giant chimp that sometimes messed with Superman.

First appearing in Superman #127 in February of 1959, Titano was created by writer Otto Binder and artists Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye.  Originally named Toto, Titano was a chimp blasted into space as part of the space program where he was exposed to two different radioactive minerals.  One was Kryptonite, but the other was always kept kinda vague but may have eventually been revealed to be uranium.  Once back on Earth, Toto grew to gigantic size with Kryptonite eye beams.  Superman eventually defeated Titano, a character that wasn’t generally seen as actively malicious, by realizing he was too big for the present by taking him back to prehistoric times where he could wrestle dinosaurs or some such.

Yeah, he probably was inspired by King Kong.

Titano, in the Silver Age, did pop up from time to time, often when someone either did some time travel to see him or (generally accidentally) bring him back to the present until Superman could return the big ape.

But that was the Silver Age.  What about more modern fare?  Post-Crisis saw a Titano who was cruelly experimented on developing the size and vision powers, but who had bonded with Lois Lane.  Lois was able to calm the big ape down long enough to reverse the process, but he sadly died from the stress of the situation.  Later giant apes and references would come out from time to time, including one time when the Kryptonite Man did something to a monkey until Jimmy Olsen was able to fix things himself.

In the days of the New 52, Titano was just an extra large albino gorilla, or maybe a robot that may have been kryptonite-powered because we can’t just have a giant ape.  Oh, and he did get an episode of Superman the Animated Series.

This one had no kryptonite vision.

Titano is the sort of character that the Silver Age would produce.  A product of his time given the whole space program origin, he’s a little bit too silly to use today, but he’s also best as a character when he is that silly.  That seems to be because every other attempt to create a new Titano, one more fitting for the current continuity, doesn’t have the staying power of the original.

Which maybe leads me to wonder when DC decided they didn’t like giant apes.

Julius Schwartz would probably be a bit upset about that.