Here are two fun facts about evolution! Fact the first: Charles Darwin was not the first person to come up the idea. The concept of species evolving from other species can be traced back to medieval Islamic and even ancient Greek scholars. Fact the second: it is totally possible to invent a device that causes people to devolve into apes!
Okay, maybe that second fact is only truly if you are a superhero. Surprisingly, in many cases, the people who build these devices do not have bad intentions. But their inventions always seem to end up malfunctioning or falling into evil hands, causing our heroes to…
Gain a New Enemy
All the way back in Wonder Woman #9, a certain Professor Zool invents an “electronic evolutionizer,” which can cause any being to evolve or devolve instantly. The machine’s first subject is a gorilla from the local zoo. The gorilla is NOT happy about this and does everything possible to destroy the weird humans experimenting on her. Who can blame her, really?
After a long series of scientifically, historically, racially, and morally dubious adventures in the distant past, Wonder Woman gets everyone home and back to normal — all except the artificially evolved ape, whose name is Giganta and who will go on to become one of Wonder Woman’s recurring villains.
Send a Whole Country Packing
The High Evolutionary, who debuted in Thor #134-135, is a scientist who escaped to Europe, stumbled into a fortune, and used his newfound wealth to create the land of Wundagore. There, he could conduct his unsanctioned genetic experiments away from his snooty peers.
Wundagore is now home to both the scientist and his super-intelligent animal creations. When Thor shows up, he inadvertently mucks up the High Evolutionary’s latest experiment. This results in the creation of the malicious Man-Beast, who just wants to murder everyone. Though Man-Beast is defeated, the High Evolutionary decides it will be safer for the world if he relocates Wundagore to another planet. Because apparently this geneticist was able to build a giant rocket, too.
(Fun fact: Wundagore is the birthplace of the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. I don’t know if they mentioned that in WandaVision, but they should have.)
Go on a Rampage
In Batman #162, our fearless Caped Crusader becomes the victim of a devolution machine built by an unscrupulous scientist. Batman transforms into an unintelligent, ape-like thing and goes tearing through the city he’s supposed to be protecting.
It takes the combined efforts of almost the entire Bat-clan to subdue “the Batman Creature” long enough to turn him back to normal. Somehow, my main problem with all of this is the name “Batman Creature.” I would have gone with “Bat-Ape,” probably, but then again, that character already existed.
Use Evolution as a Calendar, Somehow
Marville tells the story of Kal-AOL, future son of Ted Turner and Jane Fonda, who uses a time machine to travel back to the early 21st century and have adventures with random people he encounters, including a naked man who may or may not be God. I apologize for making you read that sentence.
In Issue 4, Kal and friends grab an otter from the ancient past and put it in the time machine with them. This way, they can watch the otter evolve as they move forward in time and use it to gauge how many millions of years they have traveled. None of these comics are good examples of how evolution works, but this is really not how evolution works. Also, the otter evolves into Wolverine.
Save the World
Grodd has had several evolution-based schemes over the years. (If you’re a super-intelligent gorilla, I guess it makes sense that you’d show an interest in evolution.) The “JLApe” storyline is perhaps the farthest-reaching such scheme, affecting the entire Justice League.
In a creative attempt at world domination, Grodd and his extremist allies unleashed “gorilla gas” on the United Nations, turning them all into gorillas. The League changed them back in short order but could do nothing about their own transformations — at least, not yet. Still, not even “devolution” could stop them from doing what they’ve always done best: saving the world.