Detective Chimp is one of those characters you know whether or not you’ll enjoy just by name alone. He is exactly what the name implies. A chimp that is a detective, this year marks his 60th anniversary as a comic book character. For a chimp who wears a deerstalker cap, Detective Chimp has quite the mixed up back story thanks to decades of retcons. Who is this ape with detective skills to rival that of Batman? (Yes, this is true; he even consults for the guy sometimes.)
Originally, in 1952, Detective Chimp was Bobo, a chimp living in Africa who was taken by a man named Fred Thorpe, who noticed Bobo’s better than average intelligence. He was then trained to be a side-show act in Florida doing his detective bit where he’d understand Thorpe’s signals and point out things in the audience. This was until Thorpe was murdered and Bobo was the one to solve the case. He would then go on solving crimes in small towns in the area. While Bobo would help humans solve crimes, he didn’t speak with them and communicated with them in a more gesturing way.
It wouldn’t be until 1989 when we would get a further explanation as to why Bobo was so smart to begin with – before being found by Thorpe he was found by two aliens who would go on to grant Bobo greater intelligence, which would allow him to continue learning and developing so that he could learn to speak.
In another retcon, Bobo was found in Africa by Thorpe in 1953, no mentions of aliens this time, and when they were on their travels in Florida, Bobo met Rex the Wonder Dog. The two animals found the Fountain of Youth. This was mentioned in a story back in 1981 and brought back for this origin, in which the fountain granted both of them super intelligence, eternal youth, and the ability to speak to any living creature in its own language. Now Bobo could talk and had a genius level intellect that was in league with human geniuses. The side-show act proved to be not as entertaining, and Bobo was able to realize an audience member was a murderer through the power of deduction and went on to tell the police.
With his new skills, he and Rex would join the Bureau of Amplified Animals (I guess there’s enough animals who stumble upon fantastic things like the Fountain to warrant an entire government division). He worked for them for an indeterminate period of time, and after Thorpe’s death Detective Chimp would go solo and open his own detective agency.
After decades of having no real rights like a human being, Bobo would take up a habit of smoking and drinking, staying perfectly healthy due to the Fountain. Bobo would end up drinking himself into the Oblivion Bar, a dimension traveling bar that DC’s magical community frequents, where he’d team up with other members to take on the Spectre, the wrath of God. This team up would lead to Bobo forming Shadowpact, a team of mostly magic based superheroes brought together to solve the many new magic crimes that were the fallout of stopping the Spectre. Here is where we learn that Bobo’s real name, from his native tongue, translates to “Magnificent Finder of Tasty Grubs.”
At some point the Helmet of Nabu, the artifact that grants the wearer the abilities and title of Dr. Fate, the magical defender of Order in the war against Chaos, found its way into Detective Chimp’s hands. This was short lived as Bobo’s deductive skills made him too powerful for his own liking and he threw the helmet away. Bobo is now seen occasionally consulting with Batman online in a chat-room, with the Riddler helping them out not knowing the identity of the great detectives.
Rex, The Wonder Dog
Day of Vengence