Birds of a feather may flock together, but it seems like when you get a bunch of apes together, they just go bananas. That will be especially true when Kong on the Planet of the Apes launches later this month.
Uniting the two most powerful primate parables in pop culture, Kong on the Planet of the Apes is a six-issue miniseries from writer Ryan Ferrier, artist Carlos Magno, and publisher BOOM! Studios. BOOM! has shepherded both franchises to dazzling new comic book heights in recent years, with a number of high-profile crossovers for the Apes — from Tarzan to Green Lantern — alongside mythology-expanding series for the Kong franchise, like Kong of Skull Island.
The first issue, out next Wednesday, is a compelling and tense blend of the two worlds that explores fascinating new territory for both franchises, and you can get a first look at it today with an exclusive preview of the first issue, which can be found in the gallery at the bottom of the article. It features six thrilling interior pages, covers by Mike Huddleston, Hans Woody, and Jae Lee, and the jaw-dropping connecting cover by series artist Carlos Magno, which spreads across all six issues of the series.
If that wasn’t enough monkey business for you, we also caught up with Ferrier and Magno for an extensive interview on the series, where they discussed bringing the franchises together, what the apes mean to them as fans, what other fictional apes they’d like to add to the world, and much more. So read on for more dirty ape action than you could ever hope to get your hands on.
This is one of those crossovers that’s so perfect that it’s hard to believe it hadn’t happened before. What was the spark of inspiration for this series, and how did you come on board the project?
RYAN FERRIER: I’ve been so fortunate to work with [BOOM! Studios] series editor Dafna [Pleban] before, who is totally brilliant, and luckily I didn’t bomb that work, and she approached me with the possibility. Somewhere along the way over the years we’ve worked together it came out that I’m a massive Planet of the Apes fanatic, as she is, so I’m sure that didn’t hurt at all. I’m such a huge fan of the BOOM! Studios Apes comics as well. They’re some of my favorite stories to reread. It really is no understatement when I say that writing this is one of my all-time bucket list jobs, and I’m beyond grateful, proud, and excited.
Were you a Planet of the Apes fan first, or a King Kong fan? Do you have favorite films or works from either franchise that influenced this project?
RF: I am a massive, die-hard, lifelong Planet of the Apes fan. For me, it’s my most beloved fandom. I absolutely adore King Kong as well, and both properties are huge for me. For Apes, I genuinely love every original series film and the aforementioned BOOM! Studios series from Corinna Bechko and Gabriel Hardman. I’ve got to mention James Asmus and Carlos Magno’s Kong of Skull Island series, which has been phenomenal and inspirational to me as well.
CARLOS MAGNO: I grew up with both universes, but Planet of the Apes interested me the most. Long before Back to the Future, Planet of the Apes fascinated me with the idea of time travel. The movies have their strengths and weaknesses, but they are all wonderful. The newest trilogy is beautiful, but in my opinion, there is no way to compare them to the old movies.
Carlos, with so many issues of both Kong and Planet of the Apes under your belt already, what made this a project that you wanted to take on?
CM: I love Planet of the Apes! When I was a kid, I used to draw Apes all the time. The editors at BOOM! Studios knew this, so they offered it to me first. It’s wonderful now that I can take this passion and translate it into something that everyone else can see and enjoy. And now, drawing Apes and Kong together, two of the most popular icons in pop culture, is simply fantastic. How could I refuse?
Did you enjoy the challenge of trying to merge the two visually?
CM: Finding the middle ground was a challenge. It’s like combining rock ‘n’ roll with classical music. For this book, I tried to do something cleaner, but without taking away the details, which are my main strength. I loved the challenge. Finding a common language was the thing.
Finding a Kong carcass immediately has enormous political, religious, and scientific ramifications for the world of the apes, and the crew setting out in search of answers has proponents of all three. What can you tell us about the conflicting motivations of Zaius, Ursus, and Zira and Cornelius?
RF: The thing that really pulls me toward these characters is just how passionate and convicted they are in their motivations — for however antagonistic Ursus and Zaius may be, they themselves never see it that way at all.
Zaius is power-obsessed and selfish, and sees Kong as a means to advance his own political agenda. Ursus thinks more selflessly, in a way, but wants to harness Kong as an ultimate weapon to eradicate the human race. There’s always a greater good in mind, for better or worse — in Ursus’ case, way worse. That, and the fact that their motivations clash so much, is what really excites me as a writer, and what excites me about getting my hands dirty with these properties together.
Then take, for example, the very complex dynamic between Cornelius and Zira, who are not only partners in science, but in life. The arrival of Kong, and subsequent expedition, will have a terrible toll on both their scientific and spiritual standings, both as a couple and individuals. There’s a lot of emotional moving parts that play wonderfully off every character, and will include some uneasy alliances and betrayals. It’s such a treat to be able to expand on these amazing characters in a new, deeper way.
While the setting is Planet of the Apes, the approach to the story is very much Kong, as we see a group of somewhat misguided people heading into the unknown in search of a giant ape. What makes this type of story work for both franchises, and what themes does it invoke that appeal to you as a writer?
RF: There is absolutely a theme of old versus new, a generational, rebellious theme that resonates huge with me as someone who grew up consuming punk rock and generally pushing back. Questioning authority and breaking confines is something inherent in both franchises, and something that’s still relevant today, again, for better or worse.
Kong is absolutely awesome, and such a fun, powerful, chaotic force to have at my disposal, but what makes Kong important is the stakes he brings with him. Ni’Ta, a Skull Island native we introduce in the series, is a huge element of the story and its themes, and ties these parts together. We also have a new Ape character, Argus, who brings all the wonderful, awful elements of Ursus to a head. Having these foils that both enrich the narrative and the characters simultaneously is a challenge that’s really rewarding to me as the writer, and something that I think readers will really pick up on and connect with. Not to mention, it’s just fun.
Was there ever a desire to maybe have Cornelius and Zira time-travel to 20th-century New York or something of that nature?
RF: For this series, no, bringing the Apes out of their time wasn't really on the cards. If it felt natural, then absolutely, but we really wanted to make this crossover logical; having Skull Island exist within the Apes universe means we can explore how this affects this entirely realized society. The ramifications are huge, and the personal, emotional stakes are so much higher than a culture-shock/fish-out-of-water story, which we still touch on with the Skull Island expedition. That being said, I would kill to tell another story in the Apes universe that brings these characters far out of their time and comfort zone. I would die a happy writer if I were able to keep playing in this sandbox.
Carlos, when we spoke last year about your work on Kong of Skull Island, you seemed to really enjoy the human aspects of the series, and developing how the tribes of Skull Island interacted with Kong. Though there definitely aren’t as many actual humans in this story, what human elements appeal to you about the series, and how do you approach them in your work?
CM: The thing that caught my attention the most about this new series is the new approach with the humans. We must remember they are still a native tribe that has developed far away from modern technology and civilization. But the point is they are a group that has survived the “end of mankind” and has been developing on its own ever since. That’s more than a thousand years. The humans in this story have the same characteristics as the humans in Kong of Skull Island, but they’re more advanced. For example, their clothes are more modern, utilizing leather and straps.
Another thing I love drawing in this new series is the housing. Following Mr. DeVito’s designs, I eliminated the traditional wooden and fabric huts. What you will see is simply surreal and beautiful.
One thing that strikes me about your work is how much work is put into the characters’ faces, balancing the ape with the human. Are there any types of apes that are harder than others to make expressive?
CM: All the different apes are difficult to make expressive on one level or another. In the 1968 film, while the makeup was great, you can only see their mouths move, a sort of up-and-down movement when the characters spoke. When I draw the apes, I disregard what I saw in the film and I try not to give them blank masks.
Ryan, you’ve written a few different kinds of “talking animal” stories at this point, between your series Kennel Block Blues and your Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles work. What kind of freedoms do you think animal characters provide you that human characters don’t? What about apes in particular makes them an interesting foil for humanity?
RF: I definitely have a propensity for non-human stories, even taking into account D4VE and Tiger Lawyer. For me, it’s always been a case of removing the human element to examine the character in a more human way. To objectively apply humanity to something distinctly non-human means peeling the layers back and examining the core of their emotions and motivations without certain biases and hindrance. It gives me a certain license to go a little deeper, especially with the tone of the Planet of the Apes films, and having Kong there to bounce that energy back allows us to turn things up a little louder.
And in certain cases, this means the characters are also immune, in a way, to breaking our hearts should they go wayward. Without getting too deep, I think growing up as an outsider made it easier for me personally to relate to animal and non-human characters. It’s always something I’ve gravitated to with confidence and interest.
What other fictional apes do you think might make for an interesting addition to this world? I vote for Magilla Gorilla as future ruthless despot of the Planet of the Apes.
RF: This is an incredible question. I would love to see a hotel in Ape City run by Dunston from Dunston Checks In. Throw Clyde from Every Which Way but Loose in there as the town brawler, that would be great. For good measure, let’s include Jack, the hockey-playing chimp from MVP: Most Valuable Primate, who could bring sports to the people of Ape City.
CM: Dr. Gori from the Japanese TV show Spectreman would be hilarious. I imagine him arriving with his ship and just trying to ruin everything. It would be an interesting conflict and very, very funny.
What has you most excited in upcoming issues of the series?
RF: I just can’t wait for people to see how this whole thing escalates, how high the stakes get, and how intense the action becomes. We’re really building each issue on each issue, and want these chapters to be substantial by themselves while building to something really, really huge. There’s also some great twists and reveals that have me practically biting my tongue off right now. We can’t wait for people to feel the love and care that’s going into this whole series.
CM: Combining these two universes is just the coolest thing. We’re building a world we’ve never seen before, and in this process, we’re seeing how these two very distinct worlds are so similar. We’re giving this our best, and I hope everyone likes the result when they get the book in their hands.
Where would you rather be stranded, on the Planet of the Apes or on Skull Island?
RF: Despite the obvious as a human, I’m going with Planet of the Apes. I don’t do bugs and monsters. I’d rather take my chances with prison and lobotomy. And who knows, maybe I’d find a sympathetic chimp to help me out.
CM: I would prefer to be stranded on Skull Island. It would not be good to be caged and whipped by Ursus and his colleagues.
Kong on the Planet of the Apes #1 is on sale November 8 from BOOM! Studios. Art by Carlos Magno, with additional covers by Mike Huddleston, Hans Woody, and Jae Lee.