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.

From Horror Movie To Horror Comic: Die, Monster, Die!

In the 1960’s Dell Comics was a major comic publisher who made lots of great comics based on cartoon characters, TV shows and movies. And among these titles, of course, many Horror Films got the comic treatment with many being the Edgar Allen Poe films of Roger Corman as well as a handful of others. One of the Horror films that got the Dell Comics treatment was the 1965 film Die, Monster, Die! This film stars Boris Karloff and has inspired many creative minds even in the world of music like The Misfits who based a song around this movie. This Horror Film is based off the story “The Colour Out Of Space” by H.P. Lovecraft and did its part to shock movie goers with its thrilling, mystery style of horror. So it’s my pleasure to bring you this very classic horror version of one of my “From Horror Movie To Horror Comic” updates as we take a look at this creepy horror film and the comic based on it.

The first thing we need to look at is the film’s evil villain that is the wheelchair bound Nahum Witley and his radiated meteorite that he uses on planets and humans. Nahum is a man who likes to be in control and hide what he is doing as he is just following in the weird footsteps of his late father. Nahum has in his green house his mutated maid as well as planets and animals that are not under his control with his maid Helga hating him, and even his wife and daughter seem to have a dislike for him and his demanding cold ways. After an accident Nahum himself is mutated into a glowing green monster who is filled with rage as well as has the will to choke and kill his target victim! As a man he is not a threat as he is a weakened old man whose mind is being poisoned by the meteorite and cannot cause any damage. But as mutated Nahum, he is more powerful and has the power to kill with his bare hands as well as use his glowing green skin appearance to strike fear into the hearts of his victims. He also is radioactive and gives off a loud humming noise that is distracting to his human prey. The thing about Nahum is that he did not intend to be a bad person, it’s his vanity of wanting his estate to be beautiful that has driven him to be the keeper of the radiated meteorite, and when trying to rid himself of it, he soon pays the price of owning it as it takes him over. He does have a weakness that can lead to his destruction and that’s being radiated leaves his body very combustible and with a good fall or if hit hard enough, he will break apart and catch fire! While Nahum might not be the most powerful or spooky monster we have covered in one of these updates, he still is a deadly one if given the chance.

So now that we have learned about Nahum Witley and his meteorite that causes mutations, its time for us to take a look at the movie. As always we will take the films right up from our pals at IMDB and after I will write a little about the production of the film as well as some memories of watching it for the first time and my thoughts about it. So if you’re ready lets get to the film aspect of Die, Monster, Die!

Die, Monster, Die! (1965)

“A young man visits his fiancée’s estate to discover that her wheelchair-bound scientist father has discovered a meteorite that emits mutating radiation rays that have turned the plants in his greenhouse to giants. When his own wife falls victim to this mysterious power, the old man takes it upon himself to destroy the glowing object with disastrous results.”

Die Monster Die! was released in theaters on October 27, 1965 and was an American and British co-production that was produced by Samuel Z. Arkoff and released by American International Pictures. Jerry Sohl, who also wrote novels as well as episodes of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek, wrote the script, and he based it on a story by H.P. Lovecraft, and the directing duties went to Daniel Haller who also directed the horror film The Dunwich Horror. The film brought on a solid and great cast with names like Boris Karloff, Patrick Magee, Suzan Farmer, Nick Adams and Freda Jackson all who delivered top notch performances. When released originally, it was shown as a double feature with the film Planet Of The Vampires and was met with mixed reviews from critics and movie goers. The film later found a fan base when it finally was shown on TV and later on home media like VHS and DVD. While not held as an all time classic horror movie Die, Monster, Die! has gained a cult following over its release.

The first time I saw this film was on cable when growing up. I can remember it was a weekend when it came on and I found it to be an entertaining and was always drawn to films that starred Boris Karloff. The thing that I have always liked about this film is the atmosphere of the old mansion and its over grown land that has think fog rolling around, the creepy silence of the massive home not to even mention the creepy mutated people, animals and plants! The other great thing about this film is that it mostly takes place at the Witley mansion and its grounds that is so far away from the town or any neighbors giving the viewers a sense of isolation and dread. The cast is fantastic with Boris Karloff as Nahum Witley who gives a fantastic performance as does Nick Adams as Stephen Reinhart.  The way they play off each other with distain and distrust is classic horror movie stuff. As a life long horror fan growing up watching everything from silent films to slashers films, I have always enjoyed this film and think that it’s a sometimes over looked horror thriller that blends both haunted house movie and alien unknown creature sub genres together and delivers a spooky film that relies on chills and not blood spills. If you have never seen this film and enjoy the works of Boris Karloff and even H.P. Lovecraft then make sure to check this film out, as it’s a good old school horror film with some great characters and a paperback novel like story.

Die, Monster, Die! Is an interesting film to make into a Horror Comic, as it will be very hard for DELL Comics to capture the eerie mood and atmosphere that made this film work and be so scary for viewers in the 60’s and beyond. I also want to point out that up to this point, I think this is the oldest film and comic adaptation that I have covered on one of my From Horror Movie To Horror Comic updates! So while we make our way through this fog, I want to remind you all that I grade these 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 its art and story. I want to thank Bell, Book And Comic for having this issue in stock and making this update possible. So we are now at the Witley Mansion, and I think it’s time to relax for a moment and take a look at the comic adaptation of this 60’s horror fright flick! Oh yes and I must say that this comic was a part of DELL’s “Movie Classics” comic line.

Die, Monster, Die!  # 1  **1/2
Released in 1966       Cover Price .12       DELL       #603 of ?

Scientist Stephen Reinhart has received a letter to come visit the home of the woman he loves, Susan, who lives in the small town of Arkham. But Stephen soon finds that no one wants to drive him to the Wintley Mansion, and once he walks there, he finds that her father Nahum does not want him there, but seeing Susan makes him not listen to her father’s words. Susan shows Stephen around the mansion and introduces him to her sick bedridden mother Letitia who speaks to Stephen alone and begs him to take her daughter far away from the mansion! Stephen starts to notice strange things and finds books on the occult as well as the family butler faints for no reason. All the while Nahum is mad over the young man being there and argues with his wife about it and his secret work that he thinks will bring the family riches. While wandering the grounds of the mansion is a strange hooded figure with long fingernails who seems to spy on Susan, causing Stephen to really want them to leave as soon as possible. And later that night the Butler dies and Stephen watches in the shadows as Nahum buries him in an unmarked grave in the green house. Stephen needs to speak to someone about the weirdness of the family and goes to town and talks to the mostly retired doctor, who shares info about how some of the past Wintley members died. Once back at the mansion Stephen and Susan sneak into the locked greenhouse and find that animals and planets have grown to large size and are very dangerous! The couple soon go back to the mansion where Stephen goes to the cellar and finds the massive rock that is causing all the sickness and death as well as is confronted by Nahum who finally sees the errors of his ways, but before anything can be done, Letitia who is now transformed rushes outside into the rain and has the water drops kill her as those infected cannot get wet! After the burial of Letitia, the family makes plans to split ways as Susan is to leave with Stephen and Nahum goes back to the mansion to destroy the rock that, when hit, spawns a living energy that enters Nahum who attacks Stephen, as the possessed energy Nahum leaps at Stephen he falls to the ground dying on impact and catching on fire his remains and the mansion. In the end Stephen and Susan escape the burning mansion, and so ends the legacy of the Wintley family.

I want to start off by saying this while this comic adaptation is really entertaining and a good classic spooky horror comic read, it does however seem to be lacking all the great atmosphere from the movie and speeds up the plot taking away the suspense. The plot is very simple and has a young man visiting his girlfriend’s family at the request of the sick mother and soon finds that the family has a very dark secret that revolves around a rock that fell from space and the father’s quest to make the family’s name mean something again. Our stories hero is Stephen Reinhart, a man who is smart and in love with his lady who rushes to her hometown in order to visit and has been chosen by her mother to take the young woman away from their mansion home. Stephen also really heroes up when needed and saves the day numerous times including fighting off killer planets and even going toe to toe with a radioactive killer. Susan is a normal young woman who is trapped in a home that is surrounded by mystery and does not want to leave her sick mother behind.  She is also clueless as things around her are clearly odd and she does not question nor seek the truth until Stephen forces her to see the stuff going on. Letitia Wintley is a sickly old woman who is slowly losing her mind due to the radiation off the stone.  She loves her daughter very much and is starting to question her husband and his attentions as she slowly gets sicker and sicker until she turns into a ghoul that is killed by water. Nahum Wintley is a man who is proud of his family heritage, and even after it was run through the mud, he craves to make the name mean something again and thinks that a rock he found that fell from space and makes things grow fast is the key to become the star he thinks he should be.  Sadly this consumes him and forces him to make bad decisions that even leaves people he cares about dead. While he’s not a bad person, he is a very self absorbed person who by the time he snaps out of it is possessed and taken over by the rock that turns him into a walking radioactive unstable firebomb. The comic does have some classic spooky moments, and while it does have deaths, none of them are bloody and gory. The cover for this comic is a photo of Boris Karloff as Nahum Wintley with an ax and is pretty eye catching for fans of the film and classic horror actor. The art was done by an Un-Credited Artist and is pretty good stuff and has that Dell Comics charm to it, as strangely enough the character art looks oddly like the actors who played them. Over all this is a pretty cool comic adaptation that does an okay job of bringing the film to pages, only down side is plot had to be crammed down and the atmosphere of the film is missing. Check out the art below to see the art style used in this comic, and really is worth a read and owning for fans of the film.

It makes you wonder if DELL Comics would have lasted past 1974, what other Horror and Science Fiction films would have gotten the comic adaptation treatment? Then it also makes me wonder why no one has brought Dell back to the world of Independent Comics. Imagine some of the other Karloff titles they could have made that would have gone along with the likes of Die, Monster, Die! For our next update, we will be staying in the world of Horror Comics but will not be looking at one based on a movie but one from a indie company that much like Dell makes you wonder what could have come from them. The company is B-Movie Comics, and the title is Vault Of Doomnation. So until then, read a Horror Comic or three, watch a Horror Movie or two and as always support your local Horror Host! See you next update for some spooky good times.