Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sugar & Spike Meet a Gorilla...or a Bear

Here’s a comics mystery that I’ve never seen mentioned anywhere but which has bugged me from time to time since 1969! Like many super hero fans in the late sixties, I was a closet fan of Sheldon Mayer’s brilliant SUGAR AND SPIKE comics for DC. In 1967, SM (as he referred to himself during that period) introduced a new character into the strip named Bernie the Brain. Bernie’s precocious intellect was perhaps overly milked for the next couple of years before the book settled back into more traditional patterns. Still, that first story was quite a good one in which Bernie, Sugar and Spike take on an evil mastermind named the Octopus.
Okay, here’s the mystery: In 1967, when the story first appeared, Spike is tossed into a cage with a baby gorilla. In 1969, only two years later, the story is reprinted and that baby gorilla is now a baby bear! No other artwork seems to have been changed (other than a new splash page anyway). The bear and parts of the panels in which he appears seem to have been paste-ups. Why? Did SM or someone decided that a bear wasn’t as scary as a gorilla? Were there letters complaining about the gorilla? Quite frankly, the bear looks scarier to me! Since 1969 I’ve wondered why this was done! Steven? Sam? Anybody? You guys haven’t let me down so far.
Oh and DC, howzabout a SUGAR & SPIKE Showcase edition? Surely you realize that it’s the fanboys who would buy it, not kids!


  1. Steve, perhaps on reflection they felt the gorilla looked too much like ______________ (fill in the name of any disliked overweight celebrity here).

  2. if i knew this, i've long forgotten (ask Ken Gale or Charles Lawrence)

    I can say that I've seen the original art for this book - and Mayer added new art to virtually every single page, most of it minor, but he obviously couldnt let a page go untouched.

  3. Anonymous6:59 PM

    Sorry to "let you down", Steve.
    I have no idea why Shelly Mayer
    changed the gorilla into a bear
    for the reprint! It does reflect
    the fact that Mayer was more than
    a writer and artist...he was also a
    talented EDITOR who didn't mind
    tinkering with a story in an effort
    of making it better.
    Even if it was his own!
    Sugar & Spike Archives? Sugar &
    Spike Showcase Presents? Sugar &
    Spike Little Golden Books? These
    classic, fresh stories should be
    out there for a new audience to
    discover! They're fun to read to
    children and fun for children to
    read aloud to each other!
    If DC can't find the format, maybe
    Fantagraphics or some other publisher could take a stab at it!

  4. Anonymous3:24 PM

    Just a wild guess, but perhaps use of the gorilla in the earlier issue was a remnant of DC's off obsession with gorillas throughout most of the early silver age. As most longtime fans of DC's silver age know, the company was neigh on to obsessed with sticking gorillas wherever and whenever they could--apparently around the time of Titano's intro, someone at DC figured out that the average DC title with a gorilla on the cover outsold the average issue without a simian presence. Thus the success of Grodd in Flash, Congorilla, and Titano himself, who showed up way more than his limited story possibilities would suggest.

    Perhaps Shelly was merely hewing to the company's pro- primate agenda when he originally drew the story, and then thought better of it when he reprinted the tale a few years later, presumably after the rise of the relatively gorilla-less Marvel comics line caused the new generation of DC editors to rethink the company's conventional thinking when it came to the great apes. (And, really, I'm only half-kidding here.)