Gold Key Comics printed a number of movie adaptation comic books, including Fantastic Voyage (1966) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970); their King Kong adaptation is a remarkable example of the company’s cinematic retellings. From its unforgettable painted cover by George Wilson to the fascinating artwork with pencils by Giovanni Ticci and inks by Alberto Giolitti, this version is a lot of fun. This 68-page one-shot was printed in 1968 as a “giant classic” and had a cover price of 25 cents.
Writer Gary Poole sticks fairly close to the screenplay of the 1933 classic source film by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose, from a concept by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace, but even more so to a 1932 novelization of the movie by Delos W. Lovelace. The story of the film is well synopsized, with a few minor changes on hand.
The classic story of King Kong is rather well known --- and full of amusing surprises for first-timers --- so I won’t go into great detail about it here, though I will give a brief synopsis. Filmmaker Carl Denham hires Captain Englehorn’s boat “Wonderer” (“Venture” in the film) for his latest motion picture project set in an exotic locale. Unable to secure an actress for the project, Denham meets a poor young beauty named Ann Darrow, who joins him as he promises the adventure of a lifetime. First mate Jack Driscoll falls for Ann as the crew heads to Kong Island (Skull Island in the movie).
On Kong Island, the crew encounters a tribe of natives in the middle of a ritual. One tribesman insists that Ann stay with them but naturally the crew refuses. Tribesmen kidnap Ann that night and offer her as a sacrifice to Kong, a mysterious creature that the tribe believes is a god. As the giant gorilla Kong carries Ann away, the crew follows in pursuit, leading to a series of exciting clashes with prehistoric beasts.
Members of the crew who survived the ordeals on the island rescue Ann, capture Kong, and bring him back to New York City, where he is put on display for paying customers. He breaks free of his bonds and escapes, capturing Ann once again and leading to the famous showdown with fighter planes as he scales the Empire State Building.
The artwork is gorgeous, with marvelously rendered fight scenes between Kong and other enormous beasts, Fluidity and action inhabit virtually every frame, giving the comic an authentic sense of adventure. Ticci is as adept at penciling action-packed scenes as he with expressive faces, and Giolitti’s inks boldly detail the proceedings. Giolitti does a fine job of conveying eerie nighttime sequences and he is equally adept at making scenes in broad daylight come to vivid life. My one minor complaint is that sometimes Kong’s face seems a bit too human; most of the time, though the artists do a fine job of capturing the classic beast’s visage.
When Dino De Laurentiis’s 1976 remake of King Kong was released, this comic book version was reprinted in the United States by Golden Press. International versions were also published at that time.
Gold Key Comics’ King Kong adaptation is a fine example of the company’s fantastic output. At 60-plus pages, the story is given time to develop slowly and breathe, almost never feeling rushed. The artwork is fabulous. Fans of the mighty ape and lovers of Silver Age comics alike will find much to love here. King Kong is both a perfect introduction to the world of Gold Key Comics for first-timers and a reminder of fond times for those already well versed with the company.
Besides contributing to When It Was Cool, Joseph Perry also writes for the retro pop culture website That’s Not Current (thatsnotcurrent.com), the Gruesome Magazine horror movie website (gruesomemagazine.com), and several other print and online film critique magazines.
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