NOTE: This article may contain minor SPOILERS for The Flash
It stills seems impossible to believe that after sacrificing the more fantastic or ‘comic book’ elements of Green Arrow’s story to launch the current CW Arrowverse, The Flash is sprinting full speed into the most outlandish (and borderline silly) side of its own. It was hard enough to believe that the showrunners were truly intending to bring Gorilla Grodd – the super intelligent, telepathic simian – into their TV world. But after tackling the signature Flash villain more than once, they sent him off to follow his own journey in Earth 2’s Gorilla City. But baddies don’t stay down for long in DC’s Universe.
Now Barry Allen and his friends are heading across the multiverse to deal with a brand new threat – over a two-part story – as those super-intelligent gorillas are rearing their bellowing heads once more. But even if the fiction of The Flash has dealt with one smart ape already, there’s no question that “Attack on Gorilla City” will stretch the bonds of the show’s own universe significantly. It may be a dream come true for experienced readers of DC Comics, but for those indulging only in The CW’s programming, we’re here to help.
Depending on just how much the showrunners will be lifting from the comic book history for this particular tale, there may be some SPOILERS ahead. But as Barry leaps into the unknown, it seems a good time to give viewers a crash course on The Flash: Gorilla City’s DC History Explained.
The First Appearance of Gorilla City
The mythology surrounding Gorilla City and its inhabitants like Grodd, Solovar, and a dozen other key players may seem like it was developed piece by piece, but most of it was dropped in a single issue of The Flash – Issue #106, back in 1959. The story introduced Gorilla Grodd first, the sole occupant of a rocket fired out of Africa before landing in Central City – home of Barry Allen a.k.a. The Flash. Sneaking throughout the city in search of “the greatest mind in the world,” he eventually found it: in a gorilla help captive as part of a traveling circus. Forming a telepathic link with the gorilla, Grodd claimed victory, and departed – leaving the captured ape to track down the only hero he could turn to.
We mean that literally, since the gorilla actually stepped into the apartment of Barry Allen, having tracked his ‘speed radiation’ as The Flash. Revealing himself to be no ordinary ape, but ‘Solovar,’ a brilliant scientist taken by humans just outside his home of Gorilla City. Since then he has concealed himself from a villain named Grodd, a fellow Gorilla City resident hoping to use his ‘Force of Mind’ in order to dominate their people. Building an army of gorillas using mental manipulation, Solovar now seeks help in stopping Grodd’s evil rise before it could start.
The Flash helped him save the day, but it was just the beginning of a new chapter in The Flash’s history, with Gorilla Grodd’s mental powers forming a new and recurring threat – with Solovar his friend throughout.
The Mythology of Gorilla City Grows
The version of Gorilla City first introduced was indicative of the comic book world at the time, condensing a hidden city of intelligent apes in Africa plotting world domination in the span of sentences, not even issues. Over time, the mythology grew to meet reader curiosity. Piece by piece, and with more significant retconnings to reflect the shift from fantasy to science fiction, the entire story of Gorilla City was told.
The story began when an unknown alien spacecraft crashed into the jungles of Africa (usually the Congo Basin), blessing the gorillas who saw it with a boost in evolution. Exactly how isn’t really the point – it’s still comic books, after all – but these smart simians immediately began to realize that organizing into a social collective was best achieved concealed from the world at large. With super-intelligence came super-technology, far more advanced than the world at large. And when that technology evolved to the point of erecting an invisible shield around Gorilla City, it was free to grow into a refined, gold-spired metropolis – almost entirely under the leadership of Solovar.
In later books, Solovar would even lead the charge to bring Gorilla City into the outside world, dropping their protective barriers and petitioning for enrollment in the United Nations. It was a step towards progress and a new age for their people, but as always, his enemies were far more brutal in their methods. Solovar was assassinated, leaving the leadership of Gorilla City in upheaval, triggering more diabolical dealings and threats. In the end, though, it was Solovar’s son, Nnamdi who took his place as his father’s successor in role and outlook (but the idea of Gorilla City joining the global community ended permanently).
Since then, the location and its changing leadership has remained a friend to the Flash Family, provided they have not been manipulated into fear or hatred by their leaders (usually Grodd). So what little we know about the version of Gorilla City set to debut on The Flash raises some… interesting questions.
Earth 2’s Gorilla City
Fans got their very first look at Gorilla City (from a distance) when Gorilla Grodd was sent there by the Flash team – a plan hatched by Earth 2’s Harrison Wells, aware that there was a society of intelligent apes on his own planet where Grodd could find a place. And find a place he has, apparently able to send a message to be intercepted by Wells, who would organize a party to make contact, and fall back into the clutches of Grodd. He hasn’t gotten any kinder with his change of scenery, having killed the rest of Wells’s group to minimize the loose threads.
When Barry and the rest of his allies were recruited to rescue Harry by his daughter (Grodd really did think this plan through), they stepped into the kind of troubling scenario most familiar with the comics would expect. The apes under the leadership of Solovar may be peaceful, but only by gorilla standards. And no matter how friendly they may have eventually gotten with The Flash, they never take kindly to unexpected visitors.
And for the reasons we’ve explained so far, comic fans would have known to suspect something was up when Grodd claimed to his former friends that Solovar was hungry for war against humanity… since that’s typically his game.
The version of Solovar in the Arrowverse is white – a difference from the comics, but a visual distinction introduced in the animated DC programs (making him a visual opposite of Grodd, as well). And while the reasons behind the intelligence of Earth 2’s apes is never explained – meaning we can only assume the comic book origin is the answer – Solovar is as fearsome a leader as Grodd, when he chooses to be. Unfortunately for Solovar, the kind of deceit and betrayal needed to seize the throne and drive his people to war is Grodd’s strength, not his own.
By the conclusion of the first half of this gorilla-centric storyline, Grodd has played his enemies like a fiddle, having Flash remove Solovar from authority by defeating him in front of his people. That’s all the power vacuum Grodd needs, along with a clear example of why humans are to be feared. So all humanity of Earth 1 can hope for is that Solovar is alive, wherever he may be. But for an answer to that question, we’ll need to wait for the second half of the story.
The Flash airs Tuesdays @8pm on The CW.