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Monsieur Mallah and The Brain

DC Signature Collection
by yo go re

My preferred scale for superhero figures is 6", which is why I subscribe to Mattel's "Club Infinite Earths" - I know that if these figures were in stores, I'd probably buy them all. Anyway, since I'm subscribed, I don't have to pay attention to when things go on sale every month; and since I don't have to pay attention to the sale date, I also don't have to pay attention to what's being sold. Anyway, long story short, I didn't even know there was going to be a Monsieur Mallah and Brain set at all until they showed up in the mail.

The super-intelligent Monsieur Mallah is the product of a French scientist raising the IQ of a gorilla to the genius level of 178. The gorilla was not only taught to read and write but eventually gained a thorough understanding of the fields of science and medicine. So much so that when his creator was killed, he was able to remove his brain and transfer it to an expansive computer network, thus creating the villain simply known as The Brain. The two soon went on to form the infamous Brotherhood of Evil, with a singular focus of conquering the world.

Monsieur Mallah is exactly the sort of character who can fit right into the DC Universe, but would just never work at Marvel. DC has a long, proud tradition of gorillas in its comics, but every time Marvel's tried to ape their success (pun fully intended), it's failed to catch on. But at DC, you can have a French monkey with a machine gun, and nobody bats an eye. Of course, it probably helps that they usually fought the Doom Patrol, who were a bunch of weirdos anyway.

Obviously M. Mallah uses the same mold as Gorilla Grodd, because sculpting an all-new gorilla body from scratch would be crazy. He's not a clone of Grodd though, because instead of being grey, he's got a slight brownish tint. His exposed skin is still dark grey, but his fur is a lighter color. The hair fades out as it nears his chest, but the hands and feet have distinct edges because the fur is thicker. Most of the shirtless male characters Mattel released don't have nipples, but this gorilla does - what kind of sense does that make? There's a ridge of fur along the back of his legs that makes his butt look square.

The head is the only newly sculpted part of his body. It's not just a question of adding his raspberry beret, either: his monkey face is entirely different from Grodd's monkey face. His nostrils are wider, he has more wrinkles on the bridge of his nose, and instead of big silly sideburns, he has shorter fur on his cheeks and more fur on his chin. Plus, his eyebrows are completely covered in hair. There's no mistaking one giant ape for the other.

Since the hat is not removable, Monsieur Mallah only has two accessories: a belt of bullets slung over his shoulder, and the gun they'd get fired from. It's more "fantastical tech" than the normal, mundane guns he usually uses, but who's to say the Brotherhood of Evil didn't just raid a high-tech weapons factory? It's been modified to be used by gorilla hands, and there's a hole on one side so the gun can be plugged onto the bandolier.

The set also includes The Brain, because it would be stupid if it didn't. An identifiable character being sold without the well-known and beloved smaller character who's always paired with him? No company would be so dumb!

The Brain is, as the bio above informed us, the scientist who elevated Monsieur Mallah to the genius he is today. What it doesn't mention is that the explosion that ruined The Brain's original body was caused by Niles Caulder (the Professor X to the Doom Patrol's X-Men). He planned to put the man's brain in body that was eventually given to Cliff Steele, but Mallah stole it away first. The Brain's appearance varies quite a bit, but the general theme is always "brain under glass on top of a metal pillar with a skull face," and this toy delivers. He looks like a cross between a Dalek and a Brainiac-themed chess piece. There's a sunken technological panel on the front of the robotic body, and the entire affair is very fancy.

Since this is a DC Signature Collection release, you know what that means: a character painting on the back of the box done by Mike Thompson. He obviously wasn't given any reference by Mattel, because his version of The Brain is a more modern take on the design than the vintage design the Four Horsemen went with. He also painted Mallah with a pistol and an AK-47, leading to the graphic designer having to put tiny type reading "Accessory not available" near the top of the box. It's a shame, too, because those kinds of guns would have made more sense than the one we got. The ape is looking good, and there's a soft blue glow coming from The Brain's housing that illuminates the left side of the picture nicely.

Amazingly, this isn't the first time this pair of lovers have had action figures: they were previously available in Mattel's god-awful Infinite Heroes line, sold only in a six-pack with four other figures that no one wanted to pay money for. And now in DCSC, they're only available to subscribers (like last year's Metron, but without the shiny foil logo). This isn't quite the rehashed Gorilla Grodd that it looks like at first glance - Mattel did right by Monsieur Mallah and The Brain.

-- 04/28/13

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