A long time ago, Kenneth Hale sought immortality but got more than he bargained for after slaying a magical gorilla holding the key to living forever. He turned into the Gorilla-Man and now he’s an agent of the evil-fighting Atlas Foundation alongside his 1950s team, the Agents of Atlas!
A Curse and a Gift
Around 23 generations ago in a Kenyan valley a few hundred miles from Wakanda, valley people mystics created the “gift” of the Gorilla-Man, an enduring enchantment expected to last for as long as their homeland did. The Gorilla-Man’s legend spread far afield; whoever killed the beast that stood like a man would never age nor die from natural causes. Over the centuries numerous men, kings and beggars alike, travel to the valley from across the world, sharing only one thing in common; all seek the promised immortality that would come with slaying the valley’s great ape.
During the 1950s, Kenneth Hale is a successful soldier of fortune who becomes obsessed with cheating death. He tries medicines, spells and potions to no avail. His quest draws the interest of the ancient Chinese Lung dragon Mr. Lao, royal adviser to the Atlas Foundation, an organization that covertly seeks to return the Empire of Genghis Khan on its path to glory. Seeing an opportunity to create a powerful agent and ally to its next prospective leader, Woo Yen Jet, AKA Jimmy Woo, Lao poses as a human scholar and tells Hale of the Gorilla-Man legend. Taking up the hunt, Hale tracks down the Gorilla-Man, but when he has the creature in his sights, he finds the beast too manlike, and cannot bring himself to kill it. Trying to find his way out of the jungle, Hale gets lost; running out of food and racked with fever, he encounters the Gorilla-Man, who puts on a terrifying display, seemingly unafraid of the armed Hale. Unable to flee, a desperate Hale shoots the beast in the chest and the dying gorilla changes into an elderly man, who apologizes to Hale with his final breath.
The moment the Gorilla-Man died, the astonished Hale transforms into the new Gorilla-Man, finally realizing the full price of his new immortality; unless slain by another’s hand, he would live forever as an ape, not a man. Although he retains his intelligence and capacity for human speech, Hale cannot return home in his new gorilla form, so he remains in Africa. After his wife tracks him down and sees his new state, she reacts in horror, leading Ken to withdraw completely from human society and into the animal kingdom.
Gorilla-Man possesses superhuman strength, lifting 1,500 pounds, and the endurance and agility of a mountain gorilla, while retaining his normal human intellect and power of speech. His sense of smell is acute enough to identify different humans by scent.
He does not age, and cannot die from natural causes; if slain by another’s hand, his killer would inherit Hale’s curse and become the next Gorilla-Man.
He is a skilled fighter and firearms expert, and can fire weapons from all four limbs simultaneously. Both Atlas and S.H.I.E.L.D. have given him access to various state-of-the-art weapons during his stints with them.
Family Ties and Agent Allies
After Ken became Gorilla-Man, his wife Lily tracks him down after several months but reacts in horror when she sees him, her repulsion only deepening Hale’s despondency at his new life. Unable to see the point in being part of the world, he withdraws deeper into the jungle, abandoning human society to live amongst the animals.
Though Woo recruits him to join his G-Men alongside M-11, AKA Human Robot, Venus (a naiad then believed to be the goddess Aphrodite) and Bob Grayson, AKA Marvel Boy, and he joins them. After their group disbands following a successful rescue of President Eisenhower, they reform in the Modern era as the Agents of Atlas with Aquaria Neptunia, AKA Namora, and Derek Khanata, and Delroy Garrett, AKA the 3-D Man, joining them.
Alongside the Agents of Atlas, Ken often fights Plan Chu, AKA Yellow Claw, and his minions, up until he revealed the true nature of the attacks, which was grooming Woo to take over the Atlas Foundation. He battles Nazi war criminals and the Skrulls, helps undermine Norman Osborn, AKA Green Goblin’s weapons program, and joins the Howling Commando’s to infiltrate the doomsday cult, the Lords of the Living Lightning.
An Agent’s Account
Meanwhile, in America, Jimmy Woo had become an FBI agent, unaware of his true heritage or the Atlas Foundation’s plans for him. Intending to raise Woo’s profile so that he could rise within the American administration, the Atlas Foundation’s current Khan, Plan Chu, adopted the mantle of the Golden, or Yellow Claw, creating a larger than life foil to menace the USA, one that only Woo proved capable of thwarting. In 1958, the Yellow Claw kidnapped President Eisenhower; tasked with rescuing him, Woo hastily assembled a special rescue team using his files on active super-beings. Aware of the Gorilla-Man (possibly from Lily Hale’s account), Woo enlisted the Congo-based American adventuress Jane Hastings, AKA Jann of the Jungle, who swiftly tracked Ken down. Feeling he might have a purpose again, Hale joined Woo’s G-Men alongside Human Robot, Venus, Marvel Boy; less than 24 hours later they stormed the Claw’s Outer Mongolian fortress, freeing the president and capturing the Claw’s ally, Nazi war criminal Fritz von Voltzmann.
The G-Men spent the next six months clashing with the Atlas Foundation (though they remained unaware of its actual name or true purpose), battling walking skeletons with Magar the Mystic’s aid, the mutated canine cosmonaut Laika, and other bizarre threats. When people enquired of Hale’s origins, he would usually lie, claiming to be the victim of a mad scientist or that he was a regular gorilla that had drunk from a pool permeated by energies from a fallen meteorite. Eventually deciding the world was not ready for such an unusual team, United States authorities disbanded the G-Men, classifying records of their missions so highly secret that decades later even the world’s premier intelligence agency, S.H.I.E.L.D., was unaware of the G-Men. The government issued an Eagle directive, forbidding Woo from ever working with his old colleagues again in any sort of official capacity.
Details of Hale’s activities over subsequent decades remain sketchy. In the 1980s, he returned to the Gorilla-Man valley, hoping to find a way to remove the curse, but discovered internecine tribal conflict tearing the region apart. Deciding it was unsafe to remain, Hale relocated westward, encountering his old ally Venus soon after and warning her of the nearby war zone; ironically, Venus, lacking purpose like Hale, used her powers to end the strife only a short while after Hale had abandoned the region.
Hale constructed a treehouse dwelling in the Congo, near the so-called “valley of demons.” Hale watched over the years as numerous explorers were drawn into the valley seeking a variety of treasures, none ever emerging again. After his own experience with African magic, Hale never investigated this mystery, preferring to live in isolation, largely unbothered by the rest of humanity save for a few explorers and native friends.
When X-Men mentor Charles Xavier, AKA Professor X, fell victim to the valley, vanishing after sending out a telepathic distress call, wildlife photographer Miriam Christiansen suggested her friend Hale as a local guide to her nephew, Xavier’s student Warren Worthington III (secretly the Angel, of Xavier’s X-Men group). Though initially shocked to discover their guide was a gorilla, the X-Men convinced the reluctant Hale to assist them, and he gradually warmed to the teens and their casual acceptance of his condition, their attitude and camaraderie reminding him of his old team. They located Xavier within a cave with an entrance carved to resemble a face, but the cave’s mouth closed when they entered, trapping them; the X-Men were rapidly overwhelmed by feelings of despondency, but the unaffected Hale realized the cave’s enchantment was a trap, luring travelers in, then rendering them too despairing to even attempt escape. Forcing the X-Man Scott Summers, AKA Cyclops, to breach the cave roof with his optic blasts, Hale engineered their escape and the cave’s collapse. Hale declined an invitation to return to the U.S. with the X-Men, still feeling he would not be accepted there, but expressed the hope that their example might one day change that.
When S.H.I.E.L.D. formed an “irregular ops” assault force, the Howling Commandos, it was composed of various supernatural and paranormal entities, to employ shock and awe tactics against their enemies. Jimmy Woo, by now a senior S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, recommended Hale’s recruitment, though the Eagle Directive prevented Woo from telling Hale this or informing S.H.I.E.L.D. of their prior service together. Unlike many of the Commandos, Hale needed no coercion to join, feeling useful once more, and the unit’s bizarre composition reminded him somewhat of the G-Men. Hale joined a raid on the Afghanistan headquarters of terrorist weapons suppliers, the Lords of the Living Lightning, alongside Nina Price, AKA Vampire by Night, the N’Kantu, AKA Living Mummy, the John Doe, AKA Zombie, and the Clone of Frankenstein; worked alongside fellow agents including Walter Langkowski, AKA Sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman, and Vic Marcus, AKA Warwolf, to capture monsters such as the extraterrestrial Groot, whom Hale then convinced to sign up; and helped recapture one-time conqueror Goom as he tried to escape the facility. When a Merlin incarnation’s faerie troops invaded Area 13, Hale was at the forefront of the defenders, soon leading a stampede of monstrous freed prisoners through a portal to attack Merlin’s United Kingdom base. While other Commandos kept Merlin’s forces occupied, Hale and Warwolf personally confronted Merlin; having divined he would eventually lose if he continued his assault, Merlin retreated, vowing to return.
After Woo was critically injured during an unauthorized investigation of Atlas, Plan Chu secretly convinced the Human Robot to contact Hale and Marvel Boy and enlist them in breaking Woo out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. facility where he was being treated; aware his old friend was not expected to live, and that Woo would be court-martialed and spend the rest of his life in a military prison if he did recover, Hale readily agreed. Grayson healed Woo using Uranian technology, de-aging him, and they reunited with the other G-Men to hunt the Yellow Claw, unaware that this was what Lao and Plan Chu wanted. They took down several Atlas fronts before finally finding their target in San Francisco, where they learned of Plan and Lao’s manipulations, and their involvement in Hale’s being cursed and M-11’s construction. Plan ceded his crown and control of Atlas to Woo; realizing that the Foundation’s resources could be used for good, and that reforming Atlas could best be managed from within, the former G-Men became Agents of Atlas, faking their deaths with ally Derek Khanata’s help so that S.H.I.E.L.D. would not try to find them. They shut down many of Atlas’ operations, while reforming others.
In New York, aided by Peter Parker, AKA Spider-Man, they defeated an occult Atlas branch that viewed them as usurpers and had been gathering a totemic automaton army empowered by stolen human life forces to oppose them. To maintain their anonymity, Marvel Boy afterwards blocked Spider-Man’s memories of their identities, so that he recalled them as the Agents of Butterfly, and Hale as an ape called Oregon. During the Skrull invasion, the Agents battled the aliens in Portland.
Following the defeat of the Skrulls, Ken joined his fellow Agents of Atlas in destabilizing Norman Osborn’s weapons program by using Plan Chu’s reputation. When 3-D Man approached the Agents for help investigating his history and powers, the team helped him out. With the team and 3-D Man, Ken battled the undead, subterranean creatures, a body-snatching collective, and Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America. 3-D Man joined the team but their heroics came to an end when J. Edgar Hoover disbanded them.
When Woo becomes head of the nefarious Atlas Foundation, he still employs the Agents of Atlas, including Ken, in secret to shut down major criminal operations still going on. Woo offered Ken a pick of top priority targets and he picked the latest owner of the Serpent Staff in Africa and smuggler, Mustafa Kazun, AKA Bastoc. On his way, Marvel Boy, now called Uranian, gave him a holographic piece of technology that disguised him as human. In going back to Africa, Gorilla-Man faced his past, had help from a local, Ji Banda, and defeated Bastoc and his personal army.
Later, Ken worked alongside James Howlett/Logan, AKA Wolverine, against Jade Claw and her Dragons. Fat Cobra offered an assist when Ken and Wolverine get captured, and then planned to infiltrate Claw’s headquarters. They engaged in a battle with and defeat Claw and her minions.
In a world without S.H.I.E.L.D., Ken joined T’Challa, AKA Black Panther’s Agents of Wakanda alongside the leader of the Dora Milaje, Okoye, Broo, a mutant of the Brood race, John Jameson, AKA Man-Wolf, and Janet Van Dyne, AKA the Wasp, and other superhuman agents and stealth operatives battling unimaginable threats. While repairing a Wakandan satellite, Ken and Broo found strange anomalies around Earth’s lunar orbit, inviting the Agents of Wakanda to investigate, only to be incapacitated and found by the agents later.