TNB Night Owl – Detective Chimp

Chimpanzee, photo by Aaron Logan of Lightmatter

Detectives have a long history in the annals of comic book heroes. Batman, Elongated Man, Misty Knight, Moon Knight (no relation)… it’s pretty much a given that if a character doesn’t have significant physical powers, they’re going to have top-notch observational skills and be a marvel of both deductive and inductive reasoning. Among the plethora of comic book detectives, one stands out as particularly unusual; that character is Detective Chimp.

To get the obvious out of the way: it’s an actual chimpanzee. When the character was created in the 1950s, he was the pet of an animal trainer who had unusually high intelligence, equivalent to that of a normal human. With his natural physical abilities and the tendency to be overlooked as a simple animal, he was able to help local law enforcement catch criminals.

That’s pretty much where things stood until the 1980s, when someone noticed that the golden-age properties of Rex the Wonder Dog and the backup feature of Detective Chimp hadn’t been used for decades. One problem, however… chimp and dog lifespans aren’t quite as long as human lives. Obviously some time travel was called for. Or super-science. Or genetic traits being passed from great-grandparents.

Or, what the heck, the fountain of youth. Deciding to go with a magical explanation (a dubious choice for a detective character) Rex the Wonder Dog took Bobo the Detective Chimp to the Fountain of Youth while in Florida, and drinking from the water gave the primate eternal youth as well as the ability to speak with all mammals, including humans.

This incarnation of the character even appeared on television.

The character then opened a private detective business, which did well until people noticed that, as a talking chimp, he didn’t possess the same legal rights as humans. Stiffed by clients and unable to be officially licensed, he became a regular at a bar for the magical community. After a crisis developed, he formed a team of magical heroes and fought for justice…

…but the titular team formed of second-tier DC magical heroes, Shadowpact, had poor sales figures for their comic and was soon disbanded.

Detective Chimp went back to the bar, which he now owns (don’t ask why he suddenly has legal rights, or how he shifted from normal to super-genius intellect. It’s comics.) There, he’s the world’s greatest super-detective simian bartender. And sixty years after the character’s introduction, it still doesn’t make much sense.

But hey, it’s a chimp.

Question of the night: Who’s your favorite fictional detective?

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.