Friday, August 10, 2012


Why We Love Detective Comics

The Elephants' Graveyard

The concept of the elephants' graveyard is one of the most famous cliches of jungle-based adventure tales. Apparently, the reason you never see a dead elephant - except for those who met with sudden death - is that when an elephant, after a long and fruitful life, feels like he is going to die soon, he makes tracks for the elephant graveyard. He travels across deserts and mountains and rivers and all sorts of whatnot until he reaches the elephants' graveyard.

And then he dies.

The idea was used in the film "Trader Horn," as well as in a few Tarzan movies, including the first two Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies. (It seemed like they were always going to the elephants' graveyard in the Tarzan movies.) More recently, there was a scene in "The Lion King" about this legendary pachyderm burial ground. And then, there's this song by "The Boomtown Rats."

According to Gorla, the goddess of the elephants:

"Know also that never is an elephant found dead of natural causes! There is a true tradition that when the elephant senses death coming, it leaves its normal haunts and travels far away ..."

Gorla continues with some very specific information:

"In remote areas -- near Adam's Peak in Ceylon -- near Lake Rudolph in East Africa -- near Bhutan in Asia, these death valleys of the tusked beasts are secretly located ..." 

Who is this Gorla? And whence comes this surprising -- and detailed -- information?

Well, she isn't really a goddess. She's Alice Foss, and her boyfriend has disappeared while searching for the elephants' graveyard. She decided that the best way to save her boyfriend was to dress up as Gorla, goddess of the elephants, and make up a bunch of junk about the elephants' graveyard, and she would trick Batman and Robin into searching for her boyfriend.

Oh, that Alice!

Well, her plan worked, in a way. Batman and Robin aren't tricked by her strange ruse, but they agree to help her and soon they are zipping over the Atlantic in the batplane on the way to East Africa.

It happened here:

It's Detective Comics #333, with a cover date of November 1964. I love this cover! You really can't guess what's going to happen! Is the elephant going to break Batman's back by smashing him against a tree? What is Robin hoping to accomplish by striking the elephant on its eyebrow with a bit of driftwood? Why doesn't Batman just use his elephant-repellent and save the day?

They're in Africa by page six and they find an elephant herd by page seven. Soon they are being thrown into holes and are fighing hostile natives. Eventually, they find the guy are looking for and return him safely to Alice Foss in Gotham City.

But they never do find the elephants' graveyard.

This is a bit of unfinished Batman business that perhaps Grant Morrison should look into. (This is a joke. God help us if this happens!)

Awesome art by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, by the way.

In the back is an adventure of The Elongated Man, Ralph Dibny, aided and abetted by his wife Sue. The Dibnys are a couple of freaks! I love them, but they are freaks!

I have mentioned them a few times, but I have never really given them the attention they deserve. So tune in next week for a few words about the Dibnys. (They are freaks!)

Also in the back, the very back, is this advertisement for Aurora monster models:

I think they re-released these exact same models over and over for years because I'm sure they are the same ones I put together eight or nine years later. I had Godzilla, The Creature from the Black Lagoon and a few others. They were so cool!


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