Filing Cabinet of the Damned

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Comics, being ephemera and under great strain to produce Big New Stories at a tremendous clip, often produce excellent ideas and then abandon them to lie fallow.

Case in point: Monsieur Mallah and the Brain.

Sure, they’ve had some exposure, but to nowhere near the degree the concept merits.

Who are they?

The Brain is an evil scientist who is now, yep, a brain in a jar. Brains in jars are cool. Especially evil brains in jars.

Monsieur Mallah is his assistant, a silverback gorilla modified by the Brain’s experiments. Mallah is highly intelligent, carries around automatic weaponry, and can talk. Best of all, he speaks in a French accent.
In what medium aside from comics would a brain in a jar and its talking, gun-toting French gorilla assistant be considered a minor and forgettable idea? Put them on teevee and we’d never hear the end of it.

If Mallah and the Brain were on Lost, they’d be huge. They'd be the topic of conversation for decades. Imagine the water-cooler talk the day after they premiered:

Person A: “Did you see last night’s episode?”
Person B: “Yeah! There was a brain in a jar and a gorilla with a French accent!”
Person A: “I bet the Brain becomes Sayid’s new love interest.”
Person B: “That’d be hot. And Jack and the gorilla seem to have something going on.”
Person A: “Man, who would have thought of a French-speaking gorilla with a machine gun and a brain in a jar?”

Who, indeed.

Sadly, the Brain and Mallah were confined mostly to the pages of the Doom Patrol comic, with the occasional stop to bug the Teen Titans. (I think they even appeared on the teevee cartoon Teen Titans Go. One appearance on a kid’s cartoon doesn’t count as exposure, dadgumit.)

They are pure High Concept. They are visually striking.

They are asking, nay, begging for a shot at the Big Time.

For example, why not make them recurring Batman foes? The Brain could be a master planner type, while Mallah would be his strong right arm. Gotham’s gangsters are used to whackos in tights and guys with clown faces, sure. Crazies are an everyday thing to them. But show them a giant surly gorilla and a brain in a jar and they’ll do anything you ask. Gorillas are nasty and brains in jars freak people out. Plus, Mallah would be able to put a hurtin’ on Batman, giving the stories some menace.

They’d be a fine addition to anyone’s gallery of rogues, really.

But why stick to ordinary super-villainy? Why not expand the concept?

Perhaps give the Brain and Mallah a miniseries of their own. As Villains United recently showed, a villain-centered comic can be a lot of fun and a big seller. Tell the stories from the other side. Daring hair’s-breadth escapes from superheroes; double-crosses with other villains; the careful construction of intricate plans; the debates over deathtraps (“We used mutant sharks last time! I say we use lasers mounted on broccoli stalks.”) Brain in a Jar + Big Monkey + Villain-Centered Stories = Good Time Comics.

Or go even farther…

Have the Brain and Mallah become, if not heroes, at least not villains.

They could dedicate themselves to exploration, finding lost cities and travelling into outer space. Brain in a Jar + Big Monkey + Outer Space + Wild Adventure = Big Time Coolness.

Or perhaps one day they receive a summons from King Solivar, monarch of Gorilla City, a city of super-intelligent gorillas hidden in central Africa (which used to figure into issues of The Flash quite a bit). Solivar tells the duo that there have been a string of murders in the hidden kingdom, and the locals are, for mysterious reasons, incapable of locating the killer. They need an outsider who is also another gorilla.

Only one creature in the world can help: Mallah. And he'll need his father-figure-in-a-fishbowl to crack the case. He's out to clean up a city that likes being dirty, and it's gonna be one hell of a fight.

Undercover Ape would be a huge seller.

“There are six million apes in the naked city. One of them is different. He killed his brother gorilla. Now I’m pounding on doors and beating on skulls to find out who put Simian Sam on the night train to the Big Adios.

"Gorilla City is a city of secrets. And I’m here to rip the lid off all of ‘em.”

Brain in a Jar + Big Monkey + More Big Monkeys + Mystery + Exotic Locale = Top Seller, Baby!

Then again, they do seem perfectly suited for family comedy. As the old saying goes, "first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the disembodied brain of an evil scientist preserved in a steel containment unit in a baby carriage." What family couldn't be compared to the Brain and Monsieur Mallah? Their dynamics remind me a lot of my own family.

Well, okay, they don't, but they could.

It'd have something for everyone: laughter, learning, and Very Special Issues.

Brain in a Jar + Big Monkey + Touching Heartfelt Stories of Family + Fart Jokes = New Family Movie Starring Steve Martin and Koko the Sign Language Gorilla.

Or perhaps they could spur a revival of the romance comic. The Brain and Mallah do love one another, as they reveal in the panels below. The Brain had just stolen Robotman's body. And what is the first thing he does?

Declare his undying passion for his Lover-Monkey!

Yeah! You go, disembodied brain that just got itself a new body! Can you feel the love?

This book writes itself.

A Brain…A Gorilla…Romance!

Tales of forbidden love! Tortured passion! A love that defied the odds and a number of laws!

The world told them no! Their hearts told them yes! Even though one of them doesn’t have a heart and is a brain in a jar!

Brain in a Jar + Big Monkey + Love, Sweet Love = Eisner awards by the boatload and a three-picture deal with Paramount.

Ah, comics. Where a Brain in a Jar and an armed gorilla with a French accent can find love, adventure, and all kinds of fun in a crazy, mixed-up world.


Note: I know gorillas aren't monkeys. But the word "monkey" is much funnier than the word "ape," and therefore is better suited lends itself to Big Time Komedy Laffs.

Second Note: I refuse to include any "Pinky and the Brain" jokes, despite the fact that yes, Mallah and the Brain keep trying to take over the world and failing. I leave those jokes to you, my dear readers.


  • Monsieur Mallah and the Brain and the whole dang Brotherhood of Evil are supposed to be the main bad guys of this latest (and last?) season of Teen Titans. They've got the Steven Hawking voice going for the Brain, the French accent for Mallah, and I remember one episode where they're playing chess against each other as their evil plot unfolds.
    I feel like if they got someone to write a decent Doom Patrol (who can be damn fun and quirky in their own right) then we'd see some great use of Mallah and Brain too. (and yeh, Morrison's use of them was friggen fantastic)

    By Blogger Craig, at 11:21 AM  

  • I love Mallah and the Brain. I demand you write a Mallah and the Brain series. I don't care if Grant killed them off and God knows where Byrne's retcon left them.

    I need my bereted apes and jarred brains, dammit.

    By Blogger Bill Reed, at 3:21 PM  

  • Harvey, you're firkin' brilliant. I take back anything bad I ever said about you on the Absorbascon, even if you are willing to put your tongue on Hawkman's hairy back.

    Another Interesting Fact occurred to me: In the DCU, there are planets with jarred brains, and there are planets with apelike inhabitants that talk, but the only planet in the DCU that would have a talking ape and a brain in a jar is Earth.

    By Blogger Ragnell, at 3:39 AM  

  • "Ape" is more a term of abuse, brought to a fine point by Charleton Heston in some movie I can't remember.

    By Blogger Jack Ruttan, at 6:49 PM  

  • "Big Monkey" ALWAYS = "Good Time Comics".

    Harvey have you seen that Mr. M and the big B are on a forthcoming Heroclix... TOGETHER on one dial?

    By Blogger Scipio, at 11:48 PM  

  • OH MY GOD..."Undercover Ape" is GEEEEEENIUS, Harvey! I would buy that in a minute!

    Also finding the idea of the love story very funny when put with the idea of the Stephen Hawking voice.

    What was this post from, 2005 sometime? Still relevant.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:54 PM  

  • This made me laugh so very hard. Mostly because it's true. I'm SO disappointed they got killed off, but it won't last. They survived an explosion after that one, fateful kiss. Oh, they'll be back.

    By Anonymous Mimi, at 3:33 PM  

  • By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:54 PM  

  • Well i like comics, they are like movies but when i saw a bad quality comics like this i even get annoy on read them.

    By Anonymous best pharmacy, at 11:54 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home