From Horror Movie To Horror Comic: Konga

Giant Monster Movies were all the rage back in the 1960’s and many followed in the giant footprints of the 1933 film King Kong and none followed more closely than the 1961 film Konga as it as well featured a giant gorilla running wild in a major city! And I figured covering the first issue of Konga by Charlton Comics would be a great way to talk about the film and its title monster as it’s an adaptation of the movie! So if you’re ready to once more take a look at a giant hairy movie monster with me this winter and take another journey on a From Horror Movie To Horror Comic update. It’s a great honor that I bring you this look at Konga, a very underrated monster movie.

We need to take a look at Konga himself before we dive into the film that he comes from. Konga was a baby chimpanzee from Africa who is brought to London, England by Dr. Charles Decker, a famed botanist who has discovered a serum to make planets and animals grow very large. Konga is the test subject for this serum and grows to the size of a full-grown gorilla, and, after being given too much of the serum, he grows to super size! Konga has a very violent streak and uses his brute strength and power to choke the life out of humans when he’s gorilla-sized and has been given the orders from Decker. As a giant ape, he has no loyalty and wants to crush and smash people in his way. Konga’s way of killing includes choking, throwing and crushing, and he can easily do so no matter his size. He not only can use his power and strength to dispatch his victims but can also use his massive size to his advantage as he towers over buildings and homes and can carry a person in his hands like a doll. But while he is a giant and strong, Konga does have weaknesses as he can be hurt by weapons like guns and rockets and while large, it also appears as if he loses some of his smarts and becomes confused easily, leaving himself open to attacks. But while he can be stopped and killed, Konga is still a force to be reckoned with and is a killer primate brute who don’t realize he is a killing machine frightful bad guy.

So as you can see, Konga is a massive powerhouse of fury and animal instinct who is a giant monster who can smash and crush us humans. But now that we all know about Konga the giant monkey, we now have to take a look at the movie he stars in! So I will be taking the film’s plot from our pals as IMDB and after I will talk a little about my connection to the film as well as some cool other facts. So let’s learn a little about Konga the film that was supposed to be the first colorized version of King Kong.

Konga (1961)

“Dr. Decker comes back from Africa after a year, presumed dead. During that year, he came across a way of growing plants and animals to an enormous size. He brings back a baby chimpanzee to test out his theory. As he has many enemies at home, he decides to use his chimp, ‘Konga’ to ‘get rid of them’. Then Konga grows to gigantic proportions and wreaks havoc all over the city of London!!”

Anglo Amalgamated and American International Pictures teamed up in around 1959 to make a release of the film Konga thanks to British producer Nat Cohen asking American producer Herman Cohen to make another Horror Picture in the U.K. after “Horrors of the Black Museum” was a major hit in theaters and drive-ins. Herman, who was a big fan of King Kong, decided that he was going to make a colorized version of a giant gorilla this time around running wild in London. So Herman, along with Aben Kandel, wrote the script to the film that was being called “I Was A Teenage Gorilla” and was later changed to Konga. Herman would hire John Lemont to direct and brings on actors like Michael Gough, Margo Johns, Claire Gordon and Paul Stockman as the man in the Konga suit. Gerard Schurmann was brought in to score the movie and was filmed in Croydon and Merton Park Studios in England. With a budget of $500,000.00 production went by pretty easy and smooth and was ready to take cinemas by storm. For marketing the film Herman also paid RKO Pictures a pretty big sum in order to use the words King Kong on his posters and marketing. When released, it was shown on a double feature with the film “Master of the World” and would go one to be a cult classic film. The year of Konga’s release, it was joined in the cinemas by such other Horror titles like Curse Of the Werewolf, Doctor Blood’s Coffin, Beast Of Yucca Flats, Gorgo, Reptilicus, Snake Woman and Brainiac to name a few. When released the film also spawned a comic book series as well as a paperback novel adaptation.

My first memory of Konga was watching it on cable when I was a youngster as I think it was on TBS and I was glued to it as it was like a generic King Kong.  Over the years, the film faded in my mind and it was not until MGM released it on DVD and VHS that I remembered it and was able to watch it again, and man did I enjoy this cheesy and fun giant monster run amok film! While Konga is no King Kong, he is a nice knock off version that offers some great moments and a super sad ending that will leave an image of a street and a small chimp forever burned into your memory. Another way I remember Konga is the comic series that was released by Charlton Comics in the 60’s as I would see them at comic shops and even in a few antique stores growing up. The thing about Konga is that he is not super respected by fans of Kiju Films as many do not even put him in that category of Horror and Science Fiction Films and look down upon his rampage and size. Now most of the Kiju we think of all come from Japan or some weird island and are the likes of Godzilla, Gamera and King Kong and most lists of these films leave Konga off, but I feel he belongs.  While smaller than many of the above mentioned, he still is a giant monster on a rampage. So here right now on Rotten Ink we are going to give Konga the respect that is long over due and say he is a Kiju Monster and that his film is entertaining and underrated.

So now that we have taken a look at Konga as a monster and the film that spawned him, I think we should dive into his comic adaptation released by Charlton Comics in 1960 a short time ahead of the films release as a tool to promote it before it hit theaters and drive-ins. I want to thank the Ebay seller who had this comic in stock and made this update possible. I also want to remind you that I am grading this comic on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and it’s art and story. I also want to say that I am only reviewing the first issue in this series as it’s the adaptation of the film and it would cost me a small fortune to get all the issues in this series as well as its follow up series. So if you’re ready, let’s take a look at Konga in the world of comics.

Konga # 1 ***
Released in 1960       Cover Price .10      Charlton      # 1 of 23

Doctor Decker along with his pilot are flying over Africa when the plane starts to have issues. Before it crashes, Decker is able to jump out and is found by a small monkey named Konga who takes him to a village of giants. While with the giants, Decker discovers a plant that brings growth when eaten and can bridge a link between planets and humans! Decker returns home to London with some seeds and Konga and has some experiments in mind that will help mankind become more powerful than ever before. Along with his wife Margret, they inject Konga with some of the seed serum and he grows showing this experiment will be a success, but also Decker must return to his teaching job and takes on a new student aid named Sondra who’s boyfriend Bob is not happy nor is the Dean of the school who thinks Decker’s claims of planets and man being linked looks poorly on the school and says he is going to request that Decker takes time away. Decker returns home very upset and injects Konga with more of the serum and now the monkey has turned into the size of a gorilla and he picks up the anger of Decker for the Dean and escapes his cage and kills him! After the attack, Decker meets a fellow scientist who is coming close as well on figuring out planet growth being used on humans and once more after Decker thinks bad of this man Konga escapes and kills him! The crimes are going unsolved and when Sondra steps down from being Decker’s aid due to her boyfriend Bob he once more returns home and upset with the young teenage lovers, and Konga once more escapes and this time injects himself with more serum and grows to be giant and busts the house in pieces. By this time Decker has figured it out and is able to call the police before he and his wife are killed by the house falling apart after Konga busts out. The massive Konga is now in the streets of London and thanks to the Police and Army, they are able to kill the beast who shrinks back down to small monkey size.

This comic was used to help promote the movie a year before it was released, and boy is this story way different in this comic than in the movie! The plot here has Doctor Decker returning from Africa with the idea to help mankind with his experiments done with the seeds of massive planets, and when using his friend, a small monkey, as the test subject the primate grows and picks up the anger thoughts of his friend and kills his enemies for him. But things really get out of hand when the monkey injects himself with lots of the serum and grows into a massive ape that terrorizes London and must be brought down by the army. So as you can see, in the comic Konga is the true bad guy who kills and is out of control with Decker being a kind man who just wants to help mankind, while in the movie Decker is the one who uses Konga to kill and he himself is a sleaze ball with Konga being the gentle one who is forced to be a massive ape. Plus in the comic, Margret is Decker’s wife when in the film she is his assistant who loves him, not to mention in the comic he only wants Sondra to help in in class, while in the movie he wants to have relations with her! Decker here in the comic world is a nice guy who took a bad situation like a plane crash and turned it into a plan to help mankind. He has a big heart with lots of goals in life and wants nothing more than to get his experiments done and become famous for doing something that a positive. Konga starts off as a small ape who is friends with Decker as he watched after him in Africa and comes to London to be a help and soon turns their friendship into a gateway to murder as the more Konga grows, the more bloodthirsty he gets. Just like in the movie, Konga dies in the comic when he is fired on by the Army and Police and in death shrinks back down to his normal size. The comic does not have any blood or gore and the horror element comes from the off panel deaths and the fact it’s a giant ape running loose in a city! The cover for this issue is great and classic and showcases Konga bringing in fans of giant monsters as well as King Kong fans. The interior art is done by comic artist legend Steve Ditko and is really great early comic art from a man who first drew Spider-Man for Marvel and by all accounts co-created him. I think about it two years after this comic that Ditko did Amazing Fantasy # 15. Over all, this is a great early Horror Comic that was based on a film that never has gotten the respect it should. Check out the artwork below to see some of Ditko’s early comic work.

Konga is a cool cult classic film that is also a great comic book that is worth checking out in both forms of media. And think, while the film was only one, the comic series lasted 23 issues and had a second series that lasted 3 issues. So if you love Konga, his giant sized adventures continued in ink for you to enjoy. So while we must leave London and Konga behind, our next update will place us on Christmas Eve and after some major thought and eliminations I decided that I will take a look at Garfield’s Christmas Special as well as have a NES Challenge of the unreleased Garfield video game! So until next time, read a comic or three, watch a giant monster movie or two and as always spend some time with your loved ones. See you next update for a fun time with Garfield as well as the NES.