Saturday, September 3, 2016

Gay characters are few and far between in comic books. But one of the earliest was Monsieur Mallah.

This super-villain first appeared in Doom Patrol #86 (March 1964), and was created by writer Arnold Drake and penciller Bruno Premiani (who'd created the Doom Patrol). An unnamed French super-scientist, who one day would become The Brain, began performing experiments on animals to see if he could boost intelligence. He found a gorilla that was faster, stronger, and more agile than any of the others, and began subjecting the ape to various tortures and treatments. Soon, the great ape's I.Q. rose to 178. The scientist named the gorilla Monsieur Mallah, educating him and allowing Mallah to work as his assistant. Mallah became a skilled surgeon, biochemist, and neurologist. When the scientist died, Mallah transplanted his mentor's brain into a storage recepticle, and connected the tank to a highly sophisticated computer. Through the computer's extensive monitors and sensors, The Brain could see, hear, and sense everything in the complex in which he resided, and could communicate through speakers.

The Brain now organized the original Brotherhood of Evil to achieve his goals. He kidnapped Laura DeMille, a French actress who had been in a horrific automobile accident that left her with a split personality -- half good, half evil. Brain and Mallah operated on DeMille, suppressing her goodness and enhancing her evil and intelligence and creating a new personality for her -- Madame Rouge. Althugh initially she had no powers, The Brain eventually found a way to give her the ability to stretch her body, and to alter her facial features to mimic the look of anyone she met. The Brain and Mallah also stole a robot developed by the super-scientist Niles Caulder, and named it Rog. They recruited a henchman, Mr. Morden, to operate the robot, and a Nazi U-boat commander, war criminal, and strategic genius named Captain Zahl.

The Brotherhood of Evil became the chief opponent of the Doom Patrol. But after Madame Rouge met Niles Caulder, her good side began to fall in love with him -- and it re-emerged. Furious, The Brain and Mallah kidnapped Rouge, operated on her, and tortured her to suppress her good personality again. Their efforts were a success, but the evil personality was incensed at being used as a pawn by The Brain and Mallah. Madame Rouge then killed them both by destroying the island on which they resided with a missile.

Later, The Brain and Mallah reappeared, having used doubles to fool Madame Rouge.

In Doom Patrol Vol. 2, #34 (July 1990), writer Grant Morrison retconned Mallah's origin slightly. In the new story, The Brain intended to transplant his own brain into the beast. But when he looked into the animal's eyes, he pitied it. So instead, he raised the gorilla's intelligence.

In the same issue, Mallah sneaks into the Doom Patrol's headquarters and implants The Brain into one of Robotman's old bodies. The Brain admits that he loves Mallah, and the two kiss. Unfortunately, Robotman's body was rigged with an explosive that would go off if any brain other than Cliff Steele's were implanted. Thus, The Brain and Mallah died.

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In Doom Patrol Vol. 2, #57 (July 1992), Grant Morrison retconned The Brain's origin. In a flashbach, Caulder admits he was the super-villain, and The Brain merely an unnamed assistant. Caulder became jealous of his assistant's successful work on Monsieur Mallah, and caused an explosion that killed the young man. Caulder planned to install the assistant's brain in a robot body he had built. But before he could do so, Mallah implanted the assistant's brain into a storage receptacle, creating The Brain.

Caulder, intent on proving his worth, now created a series of accidents that craeted Robotman, Negative Man, and Elasti-Girl. Determined to wreak revenge on Caulder, The Brain formed the Brotherhood of Evil.

* * * * * *

In The Flash Vol. 2, #214 (November 2004), Mallah and The Brain are shown in jail, and no explanation is given as to how they survived or why they are in jail.

In November 2007, DC Comics began publishing a seven-issue limited series titled Salvation Run. In the series, the majority of Earth's supervillains are captured by the Suicide Squad and imprisoned on the distant planet Cygnus 4019, which the villains name Salvation. The villains split into various alliances, some trying to find a way to escape while others compete to rule Salvation. In Salvation Run #4 (April 2008), Mallah approaches Gorilla Grodd and proposes that, as great apes, they should form an alliance and seek to lead or conquer the others. Grodd calls Mallah an "absurd science experiment", and Mallah responds by attacking him. Grodd defeats Mallah, and is about to kill him when The Brain pleads for Mallah's life. Grodd picks up The Brain and beats Mallah to death with the storage receptacle -- killing The Brain in the process. As Monsieur Mallah dies, he cradles the shattered remnants of The Brain's cerebral cortex and declares the two of them will be happy at last. Their deaths drew widespread criticism, both for being incredibly pointless and for the savage way two gay characters were murdered.

Monsieur Mallah reappears in Animal Man Vol. 2, #15 (February 2013). This story line occurs one year in the future, with the Earth afflicted by a mutating plague known as The Rot. In this issue, The Brain and Monsieur Mallah are alive -- without explanation -- and allied with Gorilla Grodd. They've helped Grodd to take over what remains of Central City. Frankenstein and his Patchwork Army defeat Mallah and allow Animal Man to escape. During the battle, The Brain is once more killed, his receptacle smashed with a sword.

Monsieur Mallah appears in several episodes of the animated series Teen Titans, as well as Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Gorillas in Our Midst" and "The Last Patrol", and the Young Justice episodes "Alpha Male", "Misplaced", "Insecurity", "Auld Acquaintance", and "Summit".

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