49 years ago - William Glenmorgan is born.
31 years ago - 18-year-old William goes on his first African safari, begins working as a guide & activist.
21 years ago - 28-year-old William becomes a game master of a large game preserve.
13 years ago - 36-year-old William is trapped in a cave in. He uses the Simeon Talisman, given to him by a Chief Kawolo, to switch his mind with the legendary Golden Gorilla, becoming Congorilla. He is captured by Gorilla Grodd to learn about the outside world.
10 years ago - 39-year-old William's human body dies, leaving him in his gorilla body.
2 years ago - 47-year-old William goes on the hunt for Prometheus, B'wana Beast's killer. Together with the Doom Patrol, he finds and brings him in. Soon he is recruited into the Justice League.
1 year ago - 48-year-old William is recruited by John Henry Irons to become the Ambassador to Gorilla City.
I have no explanation whatsoever for why DC loves gorillas so much. This fictional universe has existed for a long time, and there have certainly been fads that have resulted in certain types of characters being popular in ways that look funny in retrospect... but DC has at least five different gorilla-themed characters that I can think of off the top of my head without trying. There's a whole city of intelligent gorillas out there. This happened. I have no idea why. If DC is going to be a place where Gorillas are a regular thing... then it stands to reason that there has to be at least one Gorilla superhero. Enter Congorilla.
Congorilla's Comic History
Congorilla was originally Congo Bill; an adventurer archetype in the vein of Alan Quartermaine that was introduced in Action Comics back in 1940, which makes him as old as Batman. He continued to run as a backup in Action Comics until 1959, actually getting his own series that ran for half-a-dozen issues. At some point he encountered the legendary Golden Ape, and eventually used his enchanted talisman to exchange bodies with the Ape, leading the character to be rebranded as Congorilla. As the decades passed he would basically be an occasional guest star, as you'd imagine a character like this might be. He even got his own limited series in the late 90's in the Vertigo imprint, which is where Bill actually DIED, leaving him permanently in the body of a gorilla with enhanced strength and healing and the ability to grow in size. You literally can't make this stuff up.
Our Congorilla Story
For some reason when James Robinson created his own spin-off Justice League team in his (admittedly not very good) series Cry for Justice, he included Congorilla. While that series is best left forgotten, it lead to an absolutely stellar run on the Justice League itself. It's a great read, but even having read it I can't tell you why Congorilla works so well in it. He had a interesting partnership with League newcomer Starman, and it just felt like the sort of story comics are best at telling.
We gave Congorilla a brief stint in the Justice League simply because the stories that include him are so much fun, but we quickly move him along, making him the new ambassador to Gorilla City. In fact, we use him quite a bit as a way to make Gorilla City make more sense; suggesting that it's actually the latent alien technology that created the city that's responsible for both the Golden Ape's powers and the talisman that's allowing Bill to switch minds with it. Maybe trying to make sense of this character is a fool's errand, but ultimately having a Gorilla Superhero just works in this universe. We might as well steer into it.
Allies & Teams
I totally agree... although he had to GET there when a writer dug into the backlog of weird classic characters and brought him forward, wrote him well, and gave him a place in the world. It just goes to show that ANY character can have their moment in the sun.
As of right now, no, there's no Detective Chimp. His role in the Shadowpact never quite felt functional to me. There's also no Angel & Ape, depsite my deep love of those characters. Sometimes you just have to kill your darlings.