Congorilla, originally a human character known as Congo Bill, is a superhero appearing in comic books published by DC Comics and Vertigo Comics. Originally co-created by writer Whitney Ellsworth and artist George Papp, he was later transformed into Congorilla by Robert Bernstein and Howard Sherman. The character first appeared in More Fun Comics #56 (June 1940).
Promotional art for Justice League: Cry for Justice by Mauro Cascioli
|First appearance||More Fun Comics #56 (June 1940)|
|Created by||Whitney Ellsworth (writer)|
George Papp (artist)
|Alter ego||William Glenmorgan|
|Team affiliations||Forgotten Heroes|
|Notable aliases||Congo Bill|
|Abilities||Body of the Golden Gorilla, healing factor, ability to grow larger|
Congo Bill was a long-running DC Comics adventure comic strip, running in various DC Comics titles from 1940 until Action Comics #248 (January 1959), when Congo Bill was transformed into Congorilla (the title of the strip was likewise changed). The Congo Bill strip was a standard adventure strip, often reminiscent of Alex Raymond's Jungle Jim newspaper strip.
Action Comics #191 (April 1954) saw the introduction of Janu the Jungle Boy, a young boy brought up in the jungle after his father had been killed by a tiger. The strip was a moderate success and moved from More Fun Comics to Action Comics with issue #37, where it stayed until issue #248, when it was transformed into Congorilla. In 1954, DC awarded Congo Bill his own title, which lasted for seven issues (August/September 1954 – August/September 1955).
The Congorilla series ran in Action Comics until issue #259, after which it was transferred to Adventure Comics, where it ran until issue #283. Since the demise of its own series, Congorilla has mainly been seen as a guest star in other titles, including as part of the Forgotten Heroes. The character finally received a mini-series of his own in 1992, where Congo Bill is betrayed by his (now corrupt) ward Janu, who usurps the Congorilla identity and Bill is forced to fight his adopted son to the death. Congo Bill became blind in his left eye, making it hard for him to see after fighting his son to the end. In 1999, DC Comics once again brought Congo Bill back for another four-issue limited series under the company's mature readership Vertigo Comics imprint. Congorilla returned in the 2009 series Cry for Justice, joining a proactive splinter faction of the Justice League. Following that series, Congorilla became a full-time member of the Justice League.
William "Congo Bill" Glenmorgan was born in 1898, the son of a Scottish gamekeeper. At one point he was a member of the IRA, and during World War I he served as soldier in the Battle of the Somme in France 1916 and also Battle of Flanders Field in Passendale, Belgium. He worked his way up a spy in Austria. He later became a globe-trotting adventurer, and for a time worked for the Worldwide Insurance Company, protecting policies they had written and saving the company from fraudulent payouts.
Bill grew content to live in his adopted African home, swearing to protect it from harm. There he befriended a witch doctor known as Chief Kawolo. When Kawolo was mortally injured in a fall, he summoned Bill to his bedside, and offered him a magic ring. Kawolo told the skeptical Congo Bill that, by rubbing the ring, he could transfer his consciousness into the body of the legendary Golden Gorilla. He accepted the ring to humor his friend's dying wish. Several weeks later, an earthquake trapped Bill in a deep cave. With no possible escape, Congo Bill hopelessly rubbed the magic ring. Instantly, his mind was transported into the body of the Golden Gorilla. Racing to the cave-in, he used his massive strength to clear the blocked entrance and wondering what had become of his body without him being "home". He realized that when his consciousness entered the body of the Golden Gorilla, the creature's consciousness entered his own body. Bill decides to use his new powers to fight crime in the jungle. He is later assisted by Janu, a young boy raised in the jungle.
Years later, Bill (now known as Congorilla) is trapped in his gorilla form upon the death of his human body. He becomes the protector of a band of gorillas, and friend of the South African hero Freedom Beast. When the gorillas and Freedom Beast are slaughtered by hunters, Congorilla decides to seek justice. After the trail leads to the villain Prometheus, Congorilla teams up with Starman, and eventually a splinter faction of the Justice League. After Prometheus's death, Congorilla becomes a full-time member of the Justice League.
During his time with the League, Bill faces off against such foes as the rogue Starheart and Eclipso, and becomes close friends with Starman and Supergirl. He is also part of a much larger makeshift Justice League squad when the return of Batman from a seeming death threatens to destroy time and space. After Batman Inc. appoints the vigilante Batwing as the official Batman of Africa, Congorilla realizes that the continent is too big for one hero to handle. He ultimately chooses to resign from the JLA in order to help organize the superheroes of Africa into a more efficient team, as well as to find a worthy successor to carry on Freedom Beast's legacy.
Before becoming Congorilla, Bill was a skilled hunter and aviator. As Congorilla, Bill's simian body grants him super-gorilla strength, endurance, agility, durability, and senses, a regenerative healing process, and the ability to increase his height to tremendous levels. To become Congorilla, Bill had to rub the magic ring he wore, which would swap his consciousness with that of the Golden Gorilla, and vice versa.
A future version of Congorilla appears in Alan Moore's rejected proposal for the limited series Twilight of the Superheroes. Now a crime boss in the superhero ghetto that hosts most of the retired or aged Golden Age crime fighters, Congorilla has remained in the body of the Golden Gorilla for decades, since his aging human body became too fragile. However, the body of Congo Bill refuses to die, is still inhabited by the spirit of the Golden Gorilla, and is now hidden away in Congorilla's apartment.
Congo Bill was filmed as a 15 chapter movie serial by Columbia Pictures in 1948. The series starred Don McGuire and Cleo Moore and was produced by Sam Katzman. The series was reissued in 1957 when Moore had become a famous film star.
Congorilla appeared in issue #19 of the comic book tie-in to Young Justice. This version is a gorilla deity who was a member of Solovar's troops until the entire gorillas were experimented upon by Brain and Ultra-Humanite. Congorilla was the only one to escape. In the present, he watched over some gorillas in a safe haven that is unknown to Monsieur Mallah. Following the gorilla troop's liberation, Congorilla left them.
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After a time, Janu left Congo Bill for formal education in America. When he later returned to Africa, he convinced Congo Bill that Africa's destiny was industrialization. The two became business partners and built a successful conglomerate. Bill eventually came to see this life as a betrayal of his former life. So he rejected Janu's new philosophy, packed in the corporate life, and returned to adventuring as Congorilla.
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