Bryan Caplan  

Obscure Demand Function Factoid

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Why did so many comic books during the Silver Age features gorillas? (Didn't know that they did? Neither did I!) According to Wikipedia:

There are several rumors surrounding the wide use of gorillas in comic books at the time:
1. Publishers believed that placing a gorilla on a comic book cover, regardless of the context or relevance, would automatically correspond with an increase in sales for that title; Irwin Donenfeld was the first to notice this trend. The claim eventually became self-fulfilling as certain comic book collectors with an eye for "oddball" comics, would single out these issues, and purchase them for their collections.

2. Due to the first rumor, it is also reported that DC Comics was worried about abusing the winning formula, so had an unwritten rule that there could be no more than one gorilla cover per month across all of its titles (except, of course, during the occasional "gorilla month").

Well, if giving away cellphones is a good way to make people borrow your money, I guess it's not so surprising that putting gorillas on covers is a good way to make people buy comic books.


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COMMENTS (5 to date)
Anonymous writes:

So does this mean people are irrational?

K writes:

two words "King Kong"

Today it is hard to imagine the impact the original movie had. At the time the movie was the closest thing to a comic book ever filmed. Strength, adventure, fantasy, bright lights in the big city.

A more mundane observation - animals sell. Tigers and bears and big cats were on many magazines. But Kong had it all.

Bob Knaus writes:

Some Christian business owners put a stylized fish on their advertising and product packaging. I've seen plenty of fish on business cards too. Maybe this stimulates demand just like gorillas do?

It's supposed to be an ancient custom, but I've never seen any old examples of its commercial use. My theory is that the fish thing became popular due to the success of The Robe (book 1942, movie 1953) which Wikipedia compares to The Da Vinci Code in social resonance.

In The Robe, fish are used to secretly let others know your faith. Carved on melon rinds, if I recall. Amazing how things get imbedded in the public consciousness.

Zac writes:

Who doesn't like gorillas? They're hard to resist.

Bob Hawkins writes:

On May 31, 1985, an F5 tornado hit Niles, Ohio. It destroyed a number of businesses. But, as tornados do, it spared Carol's Ceramic Center, while destroying businesses on either side.

As the photo here shows, Carol's Ceramic Center had a large ceramic gorilla out front. If you were to have driven through this area a few years later, you might have noticed that all the rebuilt businesses had a gorilla somewhere -- painted on the side of the building, watching over the parking lot, etc.

Gorillas lend themselves to superstition.

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