What follows is a comprehensive look back at every original comic book ever set in the universe of the original Planet of the Apes franchise. From the 1974 Marvel magazines to the 2016 POTA/Tarzan crossover, these detailed reviews will invite you to relive the issues you once read, as well as easily catch up on those that you missed, with comprehensive plot summaries.
*Note: This thread will not include the Dark Horse series (2001) based upon the Tim Burton film, nor the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes series (2014) set in the rebooted POTA film universe. Additionally, while I own pretty much every film adaptation, I don't have the patience nor attention to detail required to review them all.
The reviews in this thread are organized in chronological order by publication date. However, since these POTA stories do not all occur within a shared continuity and do not all follow the same cast of characters, you may prefer following the reviews in this thread by the main character/continuity they follow:
The Curtis/Marvel series was a magazine format comic published in 1974, three years after Marvel launched the Curtis imprint and began selling a series of magazine format comics/fanzines, most based upon properties and areas of interest that had a fan base outside of comicdom (Dracula, Conan, The Hulk, Fu-Manchu/Kung Fu in general, etc). At the same time that this was occurring, the Planet of the Apes franchise was nearing the apex of its popular culture success, and with a new television series about to hit Prime Time in 1974, as well as the re-release of the five feature films in theaters, it was beginning to occur to merchandisers everywhere that very little had been done to cash in on the Apes craze. In this context, a Planet of the Apes comic magazine was a bit of a no-brainer, as Roy Thomas explains in his editorial at the beginning of the issue.
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Chapter 1: "The Lawgiver," and Chapter 2: "Fugitives on the Planet of the Apes" writer: Doug Moench (idea erroneously credited to Gerry Conway. This is later corrected) art: Mike Ploog
The first chapters of "Terror" are a bit slow to warm. Mike Ploog's pencils and inks are a bit more awkward than what they later become (by issue #8, they're drop dead gorgeous), and Moench's characters feel a bit one-dimensional. They are:
Jason: An impulsive human with a chip on his shoulder, living in a world in which humans, though technically equal to apes, are treated as second class citizens.
Alex: The more rational, sometimes wise-cracking Ape friend to Jason who doesn't seem to have a personality yet.
Brutus: The villain of the story, both the leader of the military and the secret leader of the anonymous group that is killing humans Klu Klux Klan style.
Xavier: The inept Orangutan ruling in the Lawgiver's place who essentially allows Brutus to run the show.
The Lawgiver: The ideal leader (even though he empowered both Brutus and Xavier and allowed humans to be socially and economically disadvantaged) who leaves Ape City to go on a mysterious mission.
The overall premise, set in the future shown at the end of the fifth film (approximately 600 years from present day), and after Caesar revised history (the fourth and fifth films) so that apes and man would coexist, involves Jason's parents being murdered by Brutus's people during a hate raid, Jason discovering Brutus' involvement in the secret society responsible for the raid, Brutus killing his wife and blaming it on Jason, and Jason and Alex fleeing into the forbidden zone in search of The Lawgiver so that they can tell him what Brutus is doing and clear Jason's name.
It's not a bad idea, but nothing about the first issue is particularly extraordinary either. Both Alex and Jason are highly simplistic, under-developed characters, and the plot hasn't had a chance to pick up any momentum yet.
And, for what it's worth, the Klu Klux Kan inspired group of hooded apes premise was also used in the 1975 POTA TV series episode, "The Deception." This was published before that episode aired, so it's entirely possible the TV show writers were inspired by this story.
"An Overview of the Apes Series" article by Gary Gerani -- a simple history of the making of each film, providing summaries of the plots, and also randomly inserting judgments about various aspects of the films, ultimately crediting Conquest as being the best of the franchise (I personally prefer Battle, but no one agrees with me).
"Rod Serling Recalls" interview by David Johnson -- An interview with Serling confirming his role in the writing of the original script. Serling goes on to explain that he agreed with the decision to have Mike Wilson rewrite his script and liked the playfulness he added to it. Unfortunately, the second and third pages of the three page interview are spent almost entirely on discussing Serling's non-Apes works.
"The Face of the Apes" article by Ed Lawrence -- The first of entirely too many articles published in this magazine about the make-up and prosthetics.
"Planet of the Apes" film adaptation in 6 parts, written by Doug Moench, art by George Tuska. While I don't have the patience to read through a full adaptation of a movie I know by heart (remember: adaptations made more sense back before the onset of home video), Moench and Tuska do their best to almost change my mind. Tuska's artwork is absolutely stunning (though he was required to draw Taylor to look nothing like Heston for legal reasons) and Moench changes the dialogue from time to time in order to intensify or improve specific moments in the film. His narration boxes are an excellent supplement to the action, as well.
This first installment of the adaptation depicts the film up until the moment that the astronauts are first captured by the apes. What I found most surprising was Tuska putting the astronauts in swimming trunks during the skinny-dipping scene. I'd assumed that one of the advantages to publishing in magazine format would be circumventing the comics code, and indeed the violent KKK-inspired killings in the "Terror" chapters would seem to validate this, but then we have skinny-dippers in swimming trunks. With all that Warren Publishing had been doing in magazines for a full decade by this point, one would expect Marvel to be comfortable showing some naked and thoroughly un-sexy male butts here.
Beyond all this, it's worth noting that Marvel does some very cute house ads in these issues, with Stan Lee starring in a one page photo-comic enticing you to buy Crazy Magazine, and with an original (and always highly amusing) ad for subscribing to Planet of the Apes each issue. You'll never see these in a reprint.
Solid first issue, though "Terror" isn't fully taking off yet and, for lack of a better way of expressing it, the writers of these articles (and even editor Roy Thomas) do not seem at all psyched about the Apes franchise. It feels like they're doing this for the money, with only Moench, Tuska (and later Ploog) pouring their hearts into the project.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:21:16 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Chapter 1: "Forbidden Zone of Forgotten Horrors!" and Chapter 2: "Lick the sky CRIMSON" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
"Terror" finally begins to grow some legs in this story, taking us into a few unexpected directions. Up until this point, Jason just seemed obnoxiously moody, but this time around, he takes revenge on Brutus, setting his entire tree-top encampment on fire with Brutus and his soldiers still inside. It absolutely crosses a line for comic book heroes, and Alex says as much while beside him. Not only does this make Jason a far more unpredictable and fascinating character, capable of taking the dark path and not becoming the hero we expect, but it better defines the Jason/Alex friendship, giving Alex a role as superego to Jason's id. The two are still both simplistic, under-developed characters, but together perhaps they can add up to a complex whole.
Beyond this, we finally get Jason and Alex out to the forbidden zone, where they first encounter the mutants, and we suddenly begin to realize that Moench has a much more fascinating vision in mind for the mutants than just being the sad bomb-worshipping folk we saw in both the Beneath and Battle movies. These guys have complex sci-fi machinery and an entire underground futuristic world at their disposal. This is fertile ground for great sci-fi storytelling.
This issue definitely won me over and convinced me that this series has serious potential.
Editor's letter: It seems like someone else is in charge of this book each issue. This time, I believe Roy Thomas is still in charge but has invited Tony Isabella to use the space to comment upon his role in the creation of this magazine. I'd read it again to make sure, but the mindless self-congratulating drivel in that column puts me to sleep. Why couldn't these guys take a page from the book of Stan and try to sell this book with enthusiasm, not just dry explanations of who did what?
"The City of the Apes" article by Ed Lawrence -- A detailed exploration of the design of Ape City, accompanied by photos.
"Simian Genesis" article by Gary Gerani -- both a review of the original Pierre Boulle novel and a comparison/contrast between it and the first film. Nothing here that you wouldn't read on Wikipedia, but there was nowhere else to find this information back in 1974. I probably would have read this article with great interest back then.
"Michael Wilson: The Other 'Apes' Writer" interview by David Johnson -- Most of the article is spent discussing Wilson's other projects (which he appears to find more interesting). Not much of interest in this one.
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], Chapter Two: World of Captive Humans" by Doug Moench and George Tuska. This chapter begins with Taylor waking up in the human prison cell and ends with Zira learning he can write his name and deciding to take him with her.
Definitely a stronger chapter of "Terror." The additional features are fun to look at, but nothing about them (beyond the house ads) is really particularly worthwhile to a modern reader.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:22:23 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Chapter 1: "Spawn of the Mutant-Pits" and Chapter 2: "The Abomination Arena!" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
Wow. "Terror" keeps heating up. This time around, Doug fully revisits the concept of the mutants and makes their world so much more intricate, fantastic, and thrilling -- filled with speeding subway rocket cars, armed cybernetic soldiers, and controlled by admittedly schizophrenic giant brains with specific personality deficiencies. It's funny, brilliant, and fulfilling stuff. Certainly, the pathetic mutants in a school bus from the final film must have been from a different tribe.
Meanwhile, the banter between Jason and Alex is getting more intelligent/witty, and they do an excellent job of exploring all sides of hatred, with Alex generally functioning as superego to Jason's trauma-triggered id. Brilliant stuff. If the series maintains its momentum, I'd easily rank this as a favorite POTA story, falling just behind Battle of the Planet of the Apes and the original film in my own personal hierarchy (for what it's worth, the new RISE of the POTA film ranks in at #5 on that list).
One area of thematic trouble -- Conquest made the clear case that, though humans were in power, Apes were the physically (and perhaps morally) superior beings, even while the two races were cognitively equal. Now that Apes have risen to power in this series, the same argument seems to hold for Jason and the humans like him. Is the unintended message that the downtrodden will always be superior (not just equal)? Where do you go with a message like that? Would a utopian civilization then consist of all beings subjugating each other? Or do you just concede that becoming free and a master of your own destiny makes you weak?
Anyway, other interesting aspects of this issue:
-Tony Isabella clarifies in this issue that Gerry Conway DID NOT come up with the plot for this storyline. That had been Roy Thomas' error. All Conway did was suggest that the series be made. The rest was all Moench. I believe the GCD still credits this incorrectly.
-The letters column contains a long and wordy letter of praise from one J.M. Straczynski, at 555 Naples, #304, Chula Vista, California, 92011. This is almost certainly current comic book writer J. Michael Straczynski, who was 20 years old and writing in California at the time.
-Chris Claremont (still just a lowly editorial assistant at the time) writes a lengthy column about visiting the set of the new Planet of the Apes TV show and backs off from offering praise for what he observes.
-Roddy McDowall is given an embarrassingly short interview that tells us very little about him.
So the lead serial is really blowing my mind right now, but the rest of the mag is not. It feels exceptionally amateur, and not in a Stan's Soapbox/I'm-going-to-break-the-fourth-wall-and-talk-to-you-as-a-human sort of approach. None of the articles sound like they are being written by people who know what they're doing. The interviews, in particular, feel clumsy and awkward. And even Isabella, while answering the letters column, throws Moench under the bus for what he deems to be a less than satisfactory explanation of something a fan questioned him about. Not at all professional.
It's exciting to be reading the original mags in their original context, but I think you could read a reprint of the Moench lead feature, ignore most of the other content, and not miss much beyond the cute house ads and Tuska's brilliant artwork for the film adaptation. If I were a fan in 1974, I doubt I'd be paying a dollar for this every other month (and it goes monthly next issue).
Speaking of the film adaptation, it covers the moment where Zira and Cornelius first learn who Taylor is from his writing on a pad to the moment where he speaks the "Damn dirty ape!" line. As usual, Moench makes a few new additions to the dialogue and, in this case, Taylor's writings, and Ploog does an excellent job with the art.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:23:34 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes, Part 4: "A Riverboat Named Simian" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
This is the issue where I personally feel the "Terror" storyline begins to find its center. Outside of Ape City, the Mutant underground city, and all that Moench had originally conceptually planned before getting knee-deep in the series, Moench is now free to experiment more freely and see what comes our characters' way in the spirit of the great fantasy stories where bands of characters travel from strange world to strange world.
Indeed, our heroes pick up four new traveling companions in this issue: -Gunpowder Julius (1st appearance) -Steely Dan (1st appearance) -Shaggy (1st appearance) -The Lawgiver
And they travel to a fantastic world in which apes and humans live side by side in a frontier society along a river. Gunpowder Julius and Steely Dan are absolutely endearing and hysterical frontier brawlers with hearts of gold who insult and threaten their friends far more than their enemies. Shaggy, the speechless hybrid ape/man makes a far different and incredibly memorable contribution to this story, but I won't spoil it here.
And yet, while we're having fun escaping into this post-apocalyptic fantasy, there is also complexity brewing back home, as we learn that Brutus has conspired with the mutants to plunge Ape City into a civil war through his actions against humans, leaving it ripe for a mutant conquest.
GREAT story that thoroughly blows open the confines of this storyline, leaving its potential seemingly limitless. Can't wait to travel to new strange lands, meet more compelling companions (who are all far more endearing than our original protagonists), and see the trouble brewing in Ape City develop and play itself out.
"A Half-Hour with Harper" interview with TV series star Ron Harper by Chris Claremont (y'know, before his X-Men days).
"Planet of the Apes Fashions" article by Ed Lawrence
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], part 4: The Trial!" by Doug Moench and George Tuska, covering Taylor's first conversations with Nova up to the trial scene.
This is a must-read issue. If you're at all on the fence about "Terror," this would be the chapter to fully win you over.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:24:12 GMT -5 by shaxper
This is the first time Moench takes a break from the "Terror" storyline, instead offering a stand-alone story outside of the regular storyline and taking place in a different time and/or place than Jason and Alex's adventures.
I wonder if Boom! will reprint these non-"Terror" stories.
"Evolution's Nightmare" writer: Doug Moench pencils: Ed Hannigan inks: Jim Mooney
This stand alone takes the cliche of two bitter enemies having to find their own separate peace in order to survive (best popularized, perhaps, by the Tony Curis film "The Defiant Ones") and throws one hell of a twist into the concept. I enjoyed it, though it was nowhere near as memorable as what we've seen of "Terror" thus far.
What's weird, though, is that this storyline clearly depicts a feudal human society existing on the Planet of the Apes. I'm curious whether Moench envisioned this story occurring during the same time frame as "Terror" or at a later date. Considering that he'll eventually create original stories that consciously place themselves in different time frames from "Terror," it's probably fair to assume that this question was on his mind, as well.
Of course, Gunpowder Julius' society, depicted in the previous issue, certainly established that the societies on the planet of the apes are diverse and disconnected from one another. It's entirely possible that a human race could exist on such a world, free of ape rule.
Another cool addition introduced in this story -- the forbidden zone contains mutant apes in addition to mutant humans. Actually, this might help to date the story. The human mutants in the 5th film were clearly looking for battle and probably wouldnt have allowed mutant apes to exist within the zone. Such a race of mutant apes could only emerge after the mutants were defeated in the 5th film, making it likely that this story occurs a long time after the 5th film, just like the "Terror" serial.
"An Interview with Dan Striepeke," interview with the Apes TV show make-up man by Samuel Maronie
"The Man Who Sold Planet of the Apes!" article about producer Arthur P. Jacobs by Gary Gerani
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation], part 5: Into the Forbidden Zone" by Doug Moench and George Tuska. This chapter takes us up to the revelation of the talking doll at the archeological site.
Not as strong as an issue containing a "Terror" installment, but still worthwhile reading.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 19:28:25 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes: "Malaguena in a Zone Forbidden" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
Our band of heroes encounters a traveling band of Ape and Human gypsies in this issue. The plot, itself, isn't all that exciting until Brutus enters at the end, but Jason clearly descends deeper into his rage this issue as a result of the events of the last one, actually unable to snap out of his memories and fantasies of revenge for the beginning of the story.
What I find troubling about this, though, is how the Lawgiver seems to sagely understand exactly what Jason is going through, even while refusing to condone his rage. The primary theme of Planet of the Apes ever since the fourth film has been racism: sometimes Humans treating Apes the way White American culture once treated African Americans, and sometimes Apes treating humans in this way, Well, in this storyline, if Jason represents the voice of understandably incensed African Americans, and if the Lawgiver represents the best intentioned voice of the oppressive White Culture, isn't it a little offensive for the Lawgiver to presume to understand Jason's rage at all, let alone attempt to advise him on the inappropriateness of his anger?
This brings me back to a point I made in the first issue that the Lawgiver is presented as a sort of ideal leader in this storyline, and yet the social and economic imbalances of Ape City were occurring under his watch and without his interventions, even going so far as to appoint Brutus to head the military, and leaving Xavier in charge in his absence (who was clearly going to defer to Brutus).
I think this is the one aspect of "Terror" that Moench has not considered carefully enough.
"Urko Unleashed," interview with TV show actor Mark Lenard by Chris Claremont. Not that interesting (even to me, and I'm a fan of Lenard's from Star Trek) until Lenard and Claremont begin dropping hints that the TV series isn't doing that well with either audiences or producers and may not get renewed.
"Ape for a Day" article by Samuel Maronie -- more about the experience of wearing the prosthetics
"Planet of the Apes [film adaptation] part 6: The Secret" by Doug Moench and George Tuska covers the end of the film, though Moench changes Taylor's famous last lines (AGH!).
Good issue, overall, but not as mind-blowing as I've come to expect from this series.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:53:17 GMT -5 by shaxper
This is the first issue in the series to have no lead feature, and editor Don McGregor (see? I told you they keep changing editors) pretty much throws Moench under the bus for this one, explaining that he's away in Chicago. He could have just as easily explained that the new film adaptation of the second film was starting in this issue and so they wanted to give it extra attention.
Indeed, the Beneath the Planet of the Apes film adaptation is given two chapters in this issue, and it's almost worth it since you've still got Doug Moench scripting and, best yet, Alfredo Alcala penciling and inking. Alcala is my favorite inker, and I'd been wanting to see him ink his own artwork for a long time. I was not disappointed.
Still...no "Terror" installment
"Interview with Marvin Paige" (Casting director for TV series) by Susan Munshower. How sad that they've sunken this low in seeking out interviews, and how sad that they are apparently unable to get the other stars of the TV series (beside Ron Harper) to do interviews for this mag?
"Monkey Business on the Planet of the Apes" article about Natalie Trundy by Sam Maronie -- Sadder still, we get an article (not even an interview) about the absolute most usless actor from the Apes films who clearly only got her three different roles in four films because she was married to the producer.
"Man the Fugitive" review of the paperback adaptation of the TV show episode by John Warner -- Sadder even still.
Alfredo Alcala aside, this is one sad issue.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:54:19 GMT -5 by shaxper
Terror on the Planet of the Apes: "The Planet Inheritors!" writer: Doug Moench art: Mike Ploog
I swear that "Terror" just keeps getting better. Any other writer could have just provided a new storyline for this magazine set in the Apes' world, much like the TV series being produced at the same time did, but Moench has really worked hard to flesh out an entire world of post-apocalyptic fantasy, full of vastly diverse micro-societies and strange cultures (some nodding to elements of the past, some looking ahead), and with a core group of heroes at the center.
In true fantasy style, Jason and Alex once more add members to their team as they continue on their quest, including the knife-wielding gypsy Saraband, his semi-deranged dwarfish companion Trippo, Jason's romantic interest/liberated love slave Maleguena, and Brutus (now their captive).
Unfortunately, just as the series appears to hit a new level of momentum with this expanded cast of characters, Moench accidentally gets to the ending too quickly. Our heroes take a bold frontal assault on their mutant enemies and end up in a situation where they absolutely should have won, defeating both the Mutant threat and Brutus once and for all, and you can almost see Moench furiously back-peddling to not let the series end so easily. The final victory only comes after lots of absurd delays that seemed unlikely, and then, after Saraband's heroic act to save the day, we see two of the evil brains controlling the mutant forces shattered (and our heroes' explanation for why they need to run instead of shattering the third one makes absolutely no sense), only to notice for the first time that Ploog has penciled two new brains behind them which clearly were not there in previous issues. So, obviously, nothing has truly been accomplished. Brutus has escaped (why did the heroes take Brutus in with them anyway or not retie him up after climbing down the ventilation shaft?) and there will still be three evil brains controlling the mutant forces after all is said and done. Ho hum.
And even Moench seems bugged by this, deciding to take a break from "Terror" next issue and starting a new lead feature series in its place. Too bad. "Terror" was absolutely enthralling me until this final conflict. I can't wait for it's return in three issues.
"The Remaking of Roddy McDowall!" article by Abbie Bernstein -- Yup. Just another article about wearing the prosthetics.
"Knowing Your Place on the Planet of the Apes!" article by Gary Gerani exploring the slightly different racial hierarchies of the book, the individual movies, and the TV series.
Also worth noting -- In the letters column, one fan writes in about the show being cancelled, though it is mentioned nowhere else in the issue (not even in the letter from the editor). Impressive, then, that the magazine was popular enough to keep going for another two years after this, only halted when licensing fees got too expensive.
"The Warhead Messiash" (Beneath the Planet of the Apes film adaptation part 3), by Doug Moench and Alfredo Alcala, cover Brent and Nova first going underground up to right before Brent's telepathic interrogation.
Still a great issue that had me on the edge of my seat, though Moench has clearly lost his direction with "Terror". I sincerely hope he regains it quickly and doesn't create these absurd back-peddle moments again.
Last Edit: Aug 24, 2014 20:55:14 GMT -5 by shaxper