The Humans – TPB Vol.1 (2015)

The HumansPierre Boulle’s original novel La Planete des Singes which was the basis for the 1968 Planet of the Apes, did not feature the primitive ape society that we ended up seeing in the film. His original concept presented a simian society which used contemporary advanced technologies, only suited to ape physical features and with slight differences to those of modern man. (OK, 1960’s modern man.) His simians had cars, planes, helicopters and television. It was only for budgetary reasons the filmmakers decided to regress the apes to x sciences and adobe housing.

As much as I loved the film versions and the many sequels and spinoffs that followed (the Tim Burton abomination excluded), many of my fellow ape-o-philes and I have often wondered what could have been had Boulle’s original concept been realized on film or expanded with continuing stories as they did with the version that was filmed.

The creative team behind Image comics’ The Humans (artist Tom Neely and writer Keenan Marshall Keller) now fill that void with panoramic alternate Earth world set in the late 60’s and early 70’s in which apes, suitably garbed, deal with the issues, culture and events of the day. One key point of interest is that the main characters are members of an outlaw motorcycle gang.

Brandishing a middle finger salute as their gang patch, The Humans, while wild at times are one of the more calm, cool, collected biker gangs. Their stoic leader Bobby makes sure they keep their nefarious deeds under a threshold, but don’t thread their Bakersfield California territory or they will unleash their full animal fury. Sporting leather duds, rawhide boots, sleeveless jean jackets, and all manner of 60’s fashion trimmings, the Humans ride hogs and choppers proping their bouffant hairdooed, miniskited ape gals in tow. Members include a beatnik poet, a burly gorilla, and an tag-along orangutan named Clyde (obvious homage to Clint Eastwood’s “Any which way…” series of movies). Their prime nemesis are the Skabbs, a rival gang constantly provoking the Humans, but with neither the brains nor brawn to best them.

The storylines in this first trade paperback volume entitled “Humans for Life” (collecting the first four issues) include confrontations with the Skabbs, a funeral for a departed Human, a Human that has just returned from the equivalent of the Vietnam war and dealings with a corrupt official leading a drug distribution ring serviced by many gangs including the Humans. There are non simian humans are in a few scenes, often depicted enslaved, but there is nearly no mention of them, much less any explanation of the upside-down universe.

As can be expected with a gang centric cast, the stories are action packed and the mature nature of the comic includes unabashed simian sex (you get to see plenty of monkey boobs and weenies) denoting the ‘free love’ spirit of the times. The funky art accurately depicts the glorious groovy threads of the day while the characters are rich and interesting, either one of which are sufficient to recommend reading. My one grumble was the inclusion of a mosh pit at a concert which contrasted with the otherwise faithful rendition of the era.A minor slip in an otherwise great comic.

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