The Simian Swordsman
Introduction & Overview
The Earth is dying and the Gods don’t care, they hoard the life-giving energies of the World Tree and the mortal realm below suffers. Across seven lifetimes, SILVERBEARD, a cursed gorilla warrior battles demons, monsters and the blighted land itself to overthrow the greedy deities that would turn the planet into a wasteland.
If you recognise this origin recap then you’re one of the favoured few who remember SiLVERBEARD, Catfood Comics’ very own ‘Gorilla God of Gore’. He first appeared in the 1940s monster anthology book ‘Catfood Attacks!’ before being revamped into a sword & sorcery title in the late 60s. The Simian Swordsman valiantly hacked & slashed his way through various titles until 1994 when Catfood Comics went out of business.
Unfortunately, due to terrible production values, toxic ink and sub-standard paper all copies of the company’s books have perished and disintegrated. No copies of these classic comics have survived into the present day.
Over the course of his 25 year publishing history, Silverbeard was lucky enough to have some of the best creative teams in comics working on his adventures; Morty Fields, Ken Castle, The Preston Bros & Stu Engelson to name a few. Each brought a unique genre twist to their tales of the Ape Eternal and fans loved it. Readers sent in letters offering theories of when certain stories occurred and where they fitted into Silverbeard’s life. Then, in the ground-breaking Hail Silverbeard! 10th Anniversary Special in 1977, Morty Fields officially adopted some of these concepts and presented previous stories as happening in chapters or sagas, initially five, they eventually became known as The Seven Sagas of Silverbeard.
The Seven Sagas
- Untamed – Monstrous Jungle battles
- Lawless – Urban based fantasy crime stories
- Relentless – Chasing the Tree, rip roarin’ adventure
- Lost – Strange encounters at the edge of the world
- Merciless – Rise of the Squid Cult, war grips the Wildlands
- Shrouded – Horror-tinged shamanic tales
- Fated – The end of the Ape Eternal…
SAGA #1 – UNTAMED
The bestial, ferocious stage of Silverbeard’s life occurred after he’d been cursed and transformed into a mindless monster. Reeling after his fall from the heavens, he spent his first years in Vergrund battling the many monstrous denizens of the Wildlands: dinosaurs, giant snakes & crazed mutant buffalo. It was the companionship and care of the Savannah Siren, Sintra that helped his memories and humanity to return.
This period was retconned into Silverbeard’s life story by Morty Fields in the mid seventies. Panels from the Ape Eternal’s first pre-revamp appearances in Catfood Attacks! strips were altered and big game hunters were redrawn into Wildland savages enabling his early jungle adventures to be republished as Untamed era tales.
SAGA #2 – LAWLESS
While learning the ways of his new world, Silverbeard’s natural dexterity & agility enabled him to carve out a successful career as a burglar and outlaw, stealing the artefacts & knowledge required to return to Ash-Halla.
The original author of most of the tales in this era was Ken Castle. Riding high on the success of his re-invention of Mike Wednesday, Catfood Comic’s first published character, Castle’s next chosen project was Silverbeard. He stunned fans by creating a series of fantasy crime tales that mixed his trademark noir sensibilities within a Sword & Sorcery framework. Castle brought in a whole heap of new supporting characters including assassin Choppy Bob, Crime Boss Pig Latin, scribe Avadue and corrupt City Marshal, Brackett Seraph.
Now confident in the ways of the world, Silverbeard explores and plunders the wider world while pursuing the ever changing location of his celestial homeland. The Relentless stories are largely recalled as his sea-faring era but this isn’t strictly true as he also spends time as a gladiator, miner & pit fighter. It’s a period where SB is regularly surrounded by a large supporting cast and many of his long standing adversaries are introduced such as the jaguar assassin, Obsidior, the wretched zealot, The Splintered Saint and the Blood Witch, Circe.
Relentless is also known for the re-introduction of Frijna, the Forge God’s daughter, last seen in the origin pages of The Savage Silverbeard #1. The Ape Eternal’s world is turned upside down as his mission of revenge against the Gods is turned into one of rescue. Ultimately leading to the heart breaking events that bring this saga to a close.
SAGA #4 – LOST
The defining image of Silverbeard comes from this time, a war hammer slung over his shoulder, long unkempt beard with hair and cloak blowing in the wind. His hair changes colour to white in most of his adventures reflecting the ‘heartbreaking events at the end of the Relentless saga’ but outside of his appearance, nothing else links the tales. It’s a period of vastly differing tones and settings, that range from the lonely and violent ‘Sho-Waddo Coffin’ stories to the western-tinged, buddy-movie antics of the Huginn years when he is partnered with the irascible raven soldier. It reaches its high point with ‘The Butcher Tree’ a stand out issue that many SB scholars maintain influenced Stu Engelson to later establish the entire Shrouded saga. Other notable highlights include the first hints of the growing power of the Leviaroth Squid Cult, the introduction of the warrior, Ror-Kuss, scourge of the sabretooths and of course, the discovery of The Temple At The Top Of The World where we first meet the captivating monk, Lin-Gon.
SAGA #5 – MERCILESS
The darkest period of his life, Silverbeard is forced to side with his accursed foes, the gods of Ash-Halla, against the rising evil of the Leviaroth squid cult. War rages across realms as the worshippers of the squid demon,
led by General Macabro, enslave the people of the Wildlands.
Initially stories by Morty Fields used this period for tales of adventure, placing Silverbeard in the position of rightful defender but later creative teams wanted to avoid the glamorising approach of standard war stories and sought to explore the horrors of battle more realistically. The Ape Eternal’s actions were called into question particularly by The Preston Bros. who produced authentically drawn and researched combat stories with a self-professed anti-war slant.
SAGA #6 – SHROUDED
After the atrocities of the Squid Wars, Silverbeard seeks to atone for his wartime actions by becoming a shaman. He is shown the way to ‘The Untarnished Path’ by Catfood Comics’ Master of Magic, Allan Exit. Following this mystic route led Silverbeard to explore new dread filled realms, battling foes such as Crom Cruak and gaining the knowledge needed to overthrow the greedy Deities of Ash-Halla.
Writer Stu Engelson, brought a mix of trippy 70s psychedelia and 80s ‘Brit Invasion’ Horror to the saga SHROUDED. Dark supernatural tales were a surprisingly good fit for the Simian Shaman and this period became one of the most well regarded runs in comic book history, stretching the boundaries of Fantasy story telling.
SAGA #7 – FATED
The final age sees an alliance between the gods of Ash-Halla and the newly returned Squid Cult, this time led by the priestess, Valdiva and her underling, Brother Eel. Silverbeard battles both forces and the twisted, corrupted land itself. Can he restore the energies of the world tree to the mortal realm before it is turned into a wasteland?
This was the story line that was under way when Catfood Comics folded and the ultimate fate of the Ape Eternal remains unrevealed.
A character like this with such epic stories couldn’t be allowed to remain out of print which is why Pete Taylor had brought back Catfood Comics. Starting with the Simian Swashbuckler, Pete is using the memories and recollections of surviving Catfood comics staff & fans to recreate the biggest, boldest & strangest stories from the gorilla gladiator’s epic run of bone-crunching adventures.
Read next > Silverbeard returns to comics