Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Horatio V. Ellis (1895-1945)

Salesman, Author
Born March 9, 1895, Sheboygan, Michigan
Died August 27, 1945, Hennepin County, Minnesota

Assuming I have the right Horatio V. Ellis, of which there appears to be just one in the census records, Horatio Vernon Ellis was born on March 9, 1895, in Sheboygan, Michigan, to Albert and Rosella Ellis. Ellis worked as an elevator operator and a plumbing salesman. He lived in Duluth, Saint Paul, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife Bertha; also in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He wrote just one story for Weird Tales, "The Gorilla," from the September 1923 issue. I wish we knew more about Ellis. Instead all I can say is that he died on August 27, 1945, in Hennepin County, Minnesota, and was buried at Guardian Angel Cemetery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin.

Horatio V. Ellis' Story in Weird Tales
"The Gorilla" (Sept. 1923)

Further Reading
Unfortunately none except for the story.

Weird Tales, June 1923, the first Weird Tales gorilla cover except that the gorilla is actually an orangutan, the killer in Edgar Allan Poe's "Murders in the Rue Morgue." (Thanks to Anonymous for the correction.) This was not the issue in which Horatio V. Ellis's story, "The Gorilla," appeared. That came along three months later. The cover artist was William F. Heitman.
Then came the gorilla of all gorillas, King Kong, from 1933. King Kong was Adolf Hitler's favorite movie. Mussolini was a fan of Mickey Mouse (called Topolino in Italian). And as we all know from watching Team America: World Police (2004), Kim Jong-Il was a big fan of American popular culture. (By the way, Gary's brother was killed by gorillas.) So what is it about American popular culture, created in a vat of democracy and free market economics, that attracts totalitarians and socialists so strongly? The world may never know.
RKO Radio Pictures, writer and producer Merian Cooper, special effects man Willis O'Brien, actor Robert Armstrong, and other members of the crew who worked on King Kong revisited the gorilla genre in 1949 with Mighty Joe Young. The gorilla is still clutching the girl in his hairy paw, but this time he's trying to protect her. Mighty Joe Young is an enjoyable movie. Unfortunately it didn't do well at the box office. According to Wikipedia, if the movie had done well, there would have been a sequel, Joe Meets Tarzan. I don't know about you, but I would watch a movie like that.
Gorillas appeared elsewhere in the pulps, as in "The Gorilla of the Gas Bags" by Gil Brewer, the cover story of the inaugural issue of Zeppelin Stories, June 1929. This is to me one of the most striking images from the pulps. For it we can thank illustrator, author, and aviator C.B. Colby (1904-1977).
Comic books (along with paperbacks and men's magazines) were of course the successors to the pulps, and there were plenty of gorilla comic book covers. The editors at DC comics noticed that gorilla covers sold books, so there were more and more throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. Long before that, in spring 1943, this big ape appeared on the cover of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. The cover, by Dan Zolnerowich (1915-1995), is an example of what's called "good girl art." 
Apes have been in popular culture for almost as long as there has been such a thing. An ape--in this case an orangutan--proves to be the murderer in what has been called the first detective story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe (1841). (See the first image above.) The illustration is by Harry Clarke (1889-1931). 
Berni Wrightson interpreted the same scene in 1976.
Sometimes gorillas are bad. Sometimes gorillas are good. And sometimes gorillas are Magilla.
Text copyright 2013 Terence E. Hanley


  1. The WT cover illustrates Poes Rue Morgue reprinted inthe same issue and not Triems short novel

  2. Thank you, Anonymous,

    I will make the correction.