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Spacer Compendium

spacer Space Monkey Odyssey: History

by Mr. Stinkhead

This article is divided into two sections. First is the History of Space Monkeys, and then Space Monkey Toys. This is the history page, click here for the toy page.

Space Monkeys are a popular if not slightly terrifying icon in our collective unconscious. Personally, I am intrigued by the image of a monkey wearing a space suit. Not only is it comical, but knowing that NASA sent real monkeys in real space suits into outer space, is borderline unnerving. Why are space monkeys so freakin' cool? What space monkey stuff can I get my grubby mitts on? Are space monkeys coming to get me? These are the questions I will attempt to answer.

Robot Monster (1953)
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The first time the public became aware of the space monkey simulacrum, was Phil Tucker's 1953 classic Robot Monster. This is the early sci-fi gem featuring Ro-Man, a gorilla suit wearing a diving helmet. Laugh now, but your last night of peaceful, monkeyless sleep was last night. Shot for $16,000, Robot Monster ended up earning $1 million. It was so critically panned (The Fifty Worst Films of All Time, by Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss, 1978), that Tucker attempted suicide shortly after realizing he would never work in the biz again. He shot himself, missed, and then died decades later on the 30th of November 1985.


spacerA curious little monkEY!H.A. Rey's Curios George
It's true, the very next space monkey to enter public consciousness was Curious George in the original Margaret & H.A. Rey book Curious George Gets a Medal published in 1957... four years after Tucker's opus. He doesn't have an action figure currently, but I have seen his snow globe floating around, as well as his space monkey goodness on t-shirts and stickers.

NASA's Able
Click to see circa 2002 NASA truly did outfit monkeys in little astronaut suits to launch into space before attempting to put a man in orbit. On May 28th, 1959, two monkeys, Baker and Able were launched into space in the nose cone of the Jupiter Missile AM-18. They were retrieved alive and helped pave the way for manned space craft. Able died in 1959 due to an operation, and is preserved and currently on display at the Smithsonian's Air & Space Museum. That's right, go to DC, see the space ships, and on the second floor is a preserved monkey in his space harness, freaking you out to your living core. Here is a picture.

Space Monkey

Escape from this stinkin franchiseNow, that brings us up to the Planet of the Apes franchise of the 1970s. The first film, starring Charlton Heston, and Roddy McDowall came out in 1968. It was a humongous success, so the powers that be produced Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Thinking that this film would put the franchise to sleep, the film ends with the complete annihilation of earth. Silly fools, the third installment Escape from the Planet of the Apes is made possible with Cornelius, Zira, and Milo safely escaping earth in the space shuttle and then being whiplashed back in time to modern-day (1970s) America. I will save you the brain cells and neglect to even link to Conquest of the Planet of the Apes and Battle for the Planet of the Apes... whoops. Sorry.

Anyway, Zira, Cornelius, and the expendable Milo arrive in 70's America wearing astronaut outfits... hoo-ray! This has produced some of my favorite space monkey toys ever. Speaking of which, your history lessons ends here.

Now on to Space Monkey Toys

All images are copyrighted their respective owners. Article is copyright 2003

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