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Gorgilla (Monsterbus p.360)

Another classic! And it's a beauty: Kirby's version of King Kong, with human evolution as the science topic. Don't be confused by the simple style: this is necessary in order to cram in so much information. This has the same ideas as a two hour movie:

  • pop culture: this is the third movie homage in a  row, after the Mummy and Invasion of the Body Snatchers 
  • human evolution (as understood in the 1950s)
  • uncharted jungles (uncharted in the 1950s that is)
  • Borneo: how many westerners think about Borneo at all?
  • dinosaurs
  • conflicts (poisoned arrows, apex predators)
  • ethics (leave them alone)
  • and more

And all in six pages (after the splash page), and can be read in under five minutes! This is why I love comics, and Kirby comics in particular: they are the most efficient means to spread amazing ideas.

Kirby the prophet

Kirby has the missing link found in Borneo. Decades later, an actual missing link was found in another island in the chain, Flores. And this one was also of a radically different size.

Kirby the biologist

Kirby knew that a larger jungle was more likely to hide something. The larger body size is explained by great ape biology: when a chimpanzee or gorilla male defeats the incumbent leader and becomes the alpha male, hormones kick in that make them grow larger and stronger. If forced into competition with other predators, the pressure would be for the leader to grow larger and larger. A million years of further evolution allows time for a lot of growth.

The whole race was not as large, as the locals refer to just one giant, not many. A race of giants would place too much pressure on food sources. As it is, the alpha giant would be fed by the others, but spend most of his time resting, for reasons I will now discuss.

Kirby says that after the big fight, six ordinary humans could have subdued the giant. Yet there was no indication of major injury like a broken leg. That is, Gorgilla is extremely weakened, almost fatally so, simply by fighting. This does not happen to normal sized humans or apes: even a tired or injured silverback could kill you. This extreme post-battle weakness is the key to understanding Gorgilla's biology: Kirby shows an intuitive understanding of scale.

Growing larger creates major problems: twice as tall means four times the muscular cross section (hence four times the strength), but eight times the weight. This is why land animals don't generally grow to such sizes. To support such a size, Gorgilla would need to evolve not just the strongest bones and muscles possible, but he would have to push them past their normal breaking point. He would be designed for general inactivity, ready for short bursts of extreme energy, damaging much of the body, but kept going by adrenalin. Once the short battle was over, the body has no choice but to rest and recover the catastrophic internal damage. This is the only way that such a creature could survive at that height.

Such a giant would rely on the rest of the tribe to feed and care for him, so he conserved energy for the occasional extreme battle. Such battles would be very short and very infrequent. And if he died in battle, the tribe would presumably disperse for years until the next alpha could grow to sufficient size for them to reclaim a larger territory.

This is why I love Kirby's stories in particular: the more you study them the more real they become. Kirby makes the impossible become real!