For DC Comics fans, one of the most satisfying aspects of watching The Flash on The CW is how the superhero series has enthusiastically embraced its comic book roots. The advent of Barry Allen becoming the Fastest Man Alive opened the door for other metahumans who were granted superpowers as a result of the particle accelerator explosion at STAR Labs that created the Flash. However, that’s just the beginning of how strange Barry’s life has become in just under three short seasons. Season 3 introduced the alternate timeline Flashpoint, and by the end of year one, the gateway to the Multiverse had been opened. 52 parallel Earths are out there, just waiting to be explored.
Weirdness is part and parcel of The Flash, a show has also rotated a doppelganger of one of its main characters, Harrison Wells, every season, and casually has evil Earth-2 versions of many of their main cast drop by. The series has even featured King Shark – a half-human/half-shark creature – as one of Flash’s villainous Rogues. In terms of weirdness, however, nothing on The Flash quite tops its growing cast of super-intelligent gorillas. When The Flash‘s original comic book creators, writer John Broome and artist Carmine Infantino, decided that one of their crimson-clad super speedster’s foes should be the super-intelligent evil Gorilla Grodd, they created one of Flash’s most memorable and popular enemies.
In the DC Universe, Grodd is not the first super-intelligent, talking ape. Grodd is predated by Detective Chimp, a crime-fighting chimpanzee who debuted in 1952. Congorilla, a former pulp adventure hero named Congo Bill, was transformed into a talking gorilla in January 1959, a mere five months before The Flash comic would debut Grodd in issue #106. Later came Monsieur Mallah, a villainous super-ape and enemy of The Doom Patrol, who debuted in 1964. However, in the hierarchy of DC’s super-apes, Grodd is king. Though he does have a rival among the apes.
The “Attack on Gorilla City” two-part episode continues The Flash‘s integration of the larger cast of super-gorillas Flash has encountered in the comics. Not only does Grodd return but the episodes also introduce us to Gorilla City, the fabled enclave of super-intelligent gorillas hidden deep in the jungles of Earth-2’s Africa. Last but not least, “Attack on Gorilla City” debuts the ape who is traditionally Grodd’s arch rival and counterpart, Solovar.
Who Is Solovar?
Barry Allen debuted as The Flash in the pages of Showcase #4 (1956). A few years later, in issue #106 (1959) of his own self-titled series, Flash first encounters Grodd, a would-be conqueror from Gorilla City who travels to Central City searching for a mysterious being who possesses the Force of Mind, which is the psychic power to make others do one’s bidding. Grodd soon found his quarry in Solovar, a fellow gorilla from Gorilla City who was held captive in the circus. Solovar was captured by humans but acted as if he was a normal gorilla so as to protect the secret of Gorilla City. Grodd soon steals the Force of Mind from Solovar, who then frees himself from the circus and recruits the Flash to help him defeat Solovar. In Gorilla City, Flash and Solovar succeed in imprisoning Grodd.
Depending on which early Silver Age issue of The Flash you read, Solovar was alternately described as “chief scientist” and “chieftain” of Gorilla City. Eventually, Solovar was established as the ruler of Gorilla City, with Grodd usually eager to depose him (sometimes succeeding) and lord over all of his fellow apes. Depicted as a wise and just ruler, Solovar is nonetheless a relatively underdeveloped character compared to Grodd, who is known for his ambitious and nefarious schemes usually foiled by the Flash. Solovar’s main function in most Silver Age Flash comics is to contact Flash so that Flash can defeat Grodd.
One instance where Solovar was to marry a female gorilla named Baka was totally upstaged by Grodd, who used a new “neo-magnetism” power to make himself super-popular. Grodd wooed Baka away from Solovar and became the toast of Gorilla City, but he soon decided to travel to Central City and run for governor. (No, really. The Flash stopped him, of course.) Despite being the rival Grodd needs to depose whenever he wants to conquer Gorilla City, Solovar was usually a background player to the continuing battle between the Flash and Grodd.
In the 1999 crossover event titled “JLApe: Gorilla Warfare,” Solovar attempted to open Gorilla City’s borders to the rest of the world and applied for United Nations membership. Solovar is murdered by a car bomb, which ultimately was revealed to be the work of Grodd. During the 2009-2010 Blackest Night event, Solovar was resurrected as a Black Lantern but was defeated by The Flash. Following the 2011 reboot of DC Comics called The New 52, Grodd, Solovar and Gorilla City were reintroduced into the new continuity. Solovar is now an ape who was alive during the Mayan age and gained his intelligence and psychic powers after bring touched by a piece of the Speed Force that the gorillas called “The Light.”
Both Grodd and Solovar have appeared in numerous DC animated series, including Super Friends (with Grodd as a member of the Legion of Doom), Justice League, Justice League Unlimited, and Batman: Brave and the Bold. In the DC Animated Universe continuity, Solovar is depicted as a white ape and is introduced as Chief of Security of Gorilla City.
Attack on Gorilla City
In The CW’s The Flash, their monkey troubles began with Grodd, who in the series was a silverback gorilla owned by STAR Labs. Caught in the same particle accelerator explosion that created the Flash, Grodd developed psychic abilities and escaped. Grodd terrorized Flash and his friends on a few occasions, working with Reverse-Flash Eobard Thawne to capture and control his original captor General Wade Eiling. Grodd also attempted to force Caitlin Snow into creating more super-intelligent gorillas like himself. Finally, Flash and his friends were able to force Grodd through a dimensional breach into Earth-2.
When the Harrison Wells of Earth-2 is held prisoner in Gorilla City, Barry, Caitlin Snow, Cisco Ramon, and Julian Alpert traveled to the other Earth to save their friend. They are quickly captured and caged by Grodd, who tells them Solovar (voiced by Keith David), the ruler of Gorilla City, plans to lead a gorilla army to invade Earth-1. In truth, it was all a ruse by Grodd, who manipulated Solovar and the Flash to fight each other in a gladiatorial arena. Not powerful enough to challenge Solovar himself, Grodd needed Flash to kill Solovar, whom he hated and wanted to depose as ruler of Gorilla Kind. Though Solovar had no plans to invade Earth-1, he still needed to kill the human intruders to prove his strength and justice to the denizens of Gorilla City.
Depicted on The Flash as a huge white ape similar to how he looks in the DC Animated Series, Solovar is telepathic like Grodd and is a deadly fighter, able to withstand Flash’s superspeed attacks. However, Flash ultimately manages to defeat Solovar, though he refuses to kill the fallen ape. Regardless, Grodd assumed command of Gorilla City while Flash and his friends escaped back to Earth-1. “Attack on Gorilla City” concluded with Grodd assembling the full might of the gorilla army for his invasion. However, the fate of Solovar, last seen lying unconscious on the ground of the arena, wasn’t revealed. If Solovar lives, no doubt some retribution for Grodd will be in store. We can look forward to the conclusion of the two parter, “Attack on Central City,” next week.
The Flash airs @8pm Tuesdays on The CW.