Detective Chimp Casebook Review

By | Wednesday, October 25, 2023 1 comment
So DC published this week The Detective Chimp Casebook. I believe it repints all of the Bobo (the titular Detective Chimp) stories from the 1950s, most of which appeared as backup stories in The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog. Each story is told anecdotally by Sheriff Edward Chase -- who somehow looks more like a drug lord from Miami Vice than a Sheriff -- but readers are still privvy to Bobo's solo outings and inner thoughts, often with a narrative sidebar from Chase about how he pieced together what happened afterwards. I won't review the stories themselves; these stories were published more than a half century ago. There's nothing new here. But I will say that these tales are all bonkers in exactly the way you would expect a 1950s DC comic about a chimpanzee detective would be.

So what's the value here? As in, why does this book exist? The charater was barely an afterthought until maybe 10-15 years ago and didn't really become a DC regular until 2018 when he joined the Justice League. And despite about five years having a greater spotlight than before, I don't know that fans have been clamoring for reprints of his original stories. After all, the Detective Chimp of the 1950s is almost an entirely different character than the Detective Chimp of the 21st century. And I believe this is the first reprint collection of any sort specifically focusing on the character in any capacity. He was in the Shadowpact series, I suppose, but that's been out of print for a while. Presumably because it didn't sell as well as anyone would've liked.

Why Detetive Chimp over, say, Wildcat? Or Dr. Mid-Nite? Or Mr. Terrific? All characters with more name recognition (and, presumably, more fans) than Detective Chimp yet all of them have never had more than their first handful of stories reprinted. And certainly not in a single volume dedicated to them. DC has a litany of old characters they could reprint for the first time, which are certainly no worse (i.e. 1950s levels of comic book logic bonkers) than these. Unless Bobo is scheduled to appear prominently in some upcoming story -- which he might, to be fair; but I haven't heard of such a thing -- I don't see why he got a nice hardcover treatment before many other characters.

Don't get me wrong. These stories are fun. They're nicely cleaned-up and the reprinting quality is excellent. I'm glad to have picked this volume up, and got exactly what I expected out it. But I'm just scratching my head over the business rationale here. Surely, there can't be that many readers with tastes and interests as mine to make this profitable, right? I would sorely love to see sales numbers for this book. I can't picture it selling more than maybe 10,000 copies which isn't nothing, but DC did a whole lot of clean-up work here, such that I can't see it being really profitable if it sells anything less than 20-25,000. But I don't know; I clearly don't have insights into their ledgers so I'm basically pulling numbers out of thin air. But still, it seems like they'd have to sell a LOT more than they likely will to make this worthwhile.

But, again, it's a fun book if you're into 1950s era comic stoytelling of John Broome. I just have trouble picturing there's much of an audience for that. Regardless, The Detective Chimp Casebook came out this week in hardback from DC. It retails for $29.99 US and should be available through your favorite bookstore or comic shop.
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DanielT said...

Well, the only reason I can think of that might have inspired this is there was a Justice League Dark TV show from JJ Abrams coming that got cancelled at the beginning of the year. I don't know if it was supposed to debut around this time, however. And I don't think DC even announced this until after the show was cancelled, so it's a mystery. Call in Detective Chimp to investigate!

But a big thank you to DC for putting this out, though what I really want is a Rex the Wonder Dog Omnibus.