Witness The Rise Of The Mad General In Planet Of The Apes: Ursus #1 With David F. Walker
by Brendan M. Allen
David F. Walker (Luke Cage) returns to the Planet of the Apes with artist Christopher Mooneyham (Five Ghosts) for a limited series about the franchise’s most notorious villain! General Ursus has always hated and feared mankind. Get a glimpse at his rise through the ranks to General and what experiences brought him to the Forbidden Zone.
General Ursus is easily one of the most recognizable and memorable characters from the original Planet of the Apes pentalogy. First appearing in 1970’s Beneath the Planet of The Apes, Ursus is a brutish gorilla, obsessed with conquest, power, and personal glory. He is the main driving force behind the holy war on humans.
Planet of the Apes: Ursus takes place prior to Beneath POTA. Series writer David F. Walker sets out to provide background and depth to the Ursus character, while exploring the relationships between the different species within apekind.
In POTA: Ursus #1, an infestation of humans threatens the apes’ food supply, so they’re regularly culled in brutal hunts. Ursus recognizes the impending danger humans pose to apekind, but finds the hunts beneath him and his station. He’s left standing orders for his troops to bring him any humans from the hunt that appear “unusual” in any way. When a couple humans from the most recent cull fit the bill, the general’s fears are proven correct, to the chagrin of his superiors.
Christopher Mooneyham’s pencils and colors by Jason Wordie have a pulpy, throwback feel. Likenesses are fantastic, and it’s easy to mentally file this story into the timeline established by the original films. The aesthetic is familiar and nostalgic without crossing the line into dated and campy.
I had an opportunity to grill David F. Walker about POTA: Ursus. This is what he told me:
Brendan Allen: Hey David, what’s the story you’re telling with POTA: Ursus?
David F. Walker: General Ursus is one of the most memorable and iconic characters in the original POTA franchise, but he’s also something of an enigma. He’s such a terrifying villain, and I wanted to explore how he came to be the gorilla he is when we first see him in Beneath. This series is essentially the life of Ursus.
Brendan Allen: Why is Ursus so important to the POTA Universe?
David F. Walker: When you look at the original POTA films, there aren’t a lot of ape characters that we get to know really well–most are just extras, or supporting characters like Dr. Milo. Ursus is one of those characters, but he is charismatic (and terrifying), and because of that, he leaves a lasting impression. Everyone remembers Ursus. He’s probably not on screen for more than twenty minutes total, but we all know him. Or at least we think we know him. Now, we’re about to really learn a thing or two.
Brendan Allen: The POTA films from the 60’s had some pretty overt themes of racial tension and class warfare. How do those themes carry into POTA: Ursus?
David F. Walker: The original POTA films were never all that subtle about what they were saying about race and class, so for me, it was all about digging deeper beneath the surface. I wanted to show that there is prejudice among the apes–the orangutans look down on everyone, the gorillas feel oppressed–that kind of thing. But through a character like Ursus and some of the others in this story, we can address these things in a more personal way. I wanted to play with ways to dig deeper into the ideological constructs that inform the apes of this world. We see how class and religion and prejudice shape many of the characters. It will be a fun ride.
Planet of the Apes: Ursus #1 (of 6) drops on Wednesday 03 January with a cover price of $3.99. Published by BOOM! Studios, written by David F. Walker. Featuring art by Christopher Mooneyham, color by Jason Wordie, letters by Ed Dukeshire, and covers by Paolo Rivera, Michael Allred, Becca Carey, and Bob Larkin.
Huge thanks to David F. Walker for letting me pick his brain.