Anthony Browne's King Kong

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Anthony Browne's King Kong
UK hardcover first edition
Author(s) Anthony Browne
Illustrated by Anthony Browne
Publisher Julia MacRae Books
Publish date September 30, 1994
Genre Children's picture book
ISBN ISBN-10: 0152049495
ISBN-13: 978-0152049492

Anthony Browne's King Kong is a picture book retelling of the story of King Kong as conceived by Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper, written and illustrated by Anthony Browne, that was created and published with approval and permission from the Cooper estate in 1994. While the copyright text clearly states that the book is adapted from the film's novelization, which had lapsed into the public domain, it also depicts and references scenes and concepts from the 1933 film. For these reasons, RKO Pictures is credited in the copyright information, making this book a rare collaboration between rightsholders to the Kong character and story.


This spectacular retelling of King Kong is a first in every sense: the first time this classic black-and-white film has ever appeared in illustrated book form; the first time this dark and mysterious story has been conceived in full color - and its first time in the fresh, new, format of a graphic novel. Anthony Browne, one of Enhland's most celebrated illustrators, admits that King Kong, the greatest of all gorilla stories and the most potent influence on all his work, was surely the book above all that he was destined to do.

King Kong, as everyone knows, is a huge and terrifying survivor from another age, trapped with other "extinct" creatures on a remote island in some kind of time warp. But this awesome beast, worshiped by the island's natives and the equal of its prehistoric dinosaurs, is no match for the cunning of an ambitious urban showman, who sees the magnificent animal as a megastar attraction and sets put to capture him - even at the sacrifice of a beautiful, blonde actress. The pursuit and entrapment provide endless thrills, but when King Kong is ultimately put put on public show in New York, heartbreaking scenes that the lead to, perhaps the most famous of all movie climaxes: the great ape defying the civilized world from atop the Empire State Building - a majestic but truly tragic victim of mankind's greed.


— The text describing the book from its jacket flap.


On a winter night in New York City, Carl Denham, the "craziest man in Hollywood," is searching fruitlessly for the star of his next film, which he has to find before 6AM the next morning, when his ship must sail to the location to avoid a search by police in response to the stores of weapons and gas bombs aboard. Carl spends all night unsuccessfully searching faces of women all around the city. Just past 5:30, Carl spots a woman in the hairy grasp of a fruit vendor. Because she had not taken an apple, or even touched them, Carl is able to pay the vendor off with a dollar, and look into the face of the woman. She is the perfect actress for his movie. He takes her to dinner and learns her name is Ann Darrow, and that this is the first proper meal she has had in weeks. Denham learns that she had some experience onscreen as an extra, and declares that she is to star in his new film before taking her to get her hair done and buying her new clothes.

The next morning Ann awakes aboard the Wanderer in disbelief at her good fortune, but wary of Denham's promises. She leaves her cabin to explore the ship and is accidentally struck by the gesticulating first mate Jack Driscoll, who apologizes. The two become close during the voyage, and Jack's fear for Ann's fate at their undisclosed destination gets the better of him. He confronts Denham about his secret filming location, wary of the man's usual tricks. Denham jests that Jack is a "Beast," who on seeing the face of "Beauty," has gone soft, but agrees to speak to Captain Engelhorn about their destination. Denham reveals to them that they are headed to the uncharted Skull Island, where he expects to find the beast god of Malay legend: Kong. Denham intends to find the mythical creature and film it for his movie. Putting this together with Denham's earlier "Beauty and the Beast" comment, makes Jack fear for Ann's life. In time, the ship comes through a thick fog and finds itself shallowing as it approaches the shore of Skull Island. Within the hour they disembark on its beach. They walk toward the sound of drums and chanting and spy a young woman being offered to Kong by other dancing natives. The chief orders the interlopers to leave, but on seeing Ann offers six of their women in exchange. Denham has Engelhorn politely refuse, and they retreat to the Wanderer. There, Jack and Ann express their feelings for one another just before she is kidnapped by natives, who had paddled out to the ship. They take her to the gates of their great wall, and she sees the girl from earlier in the crowd, recognizing that she is now to be the bride of Kong.

Back aboard the ship, a sailor named Lumpy discovers a native bracelet, confirming that they had been aboard. Further search reveals that Ann is also missing. Denham then mobilizes the crew to mount a rescue. The natives carry Ann through the gates and tie her to an altar before striking a great gong. The villagers continue their chanting to summon their god. A great roar comes from the jungle, and Kong appears before the altar, and roars in defiance to the villagers, but stops when he sees Ann. He gently takes her into his hand and does not notice a bullet go past him, or the men crossing the border into his domain. Driscoll, who had fired the gun, assumes leadership of the party, and takes Denham and ten other men into the jungle with him. Following Kong's footprints, they trek through the jungle until sunrise, when a giant Triceratops comes out of the brush. Jack hurls a gas bomb at it, which quickly fells the creature. Examining the unconscious beast, Jack and Denham wonder what more monsters await them. They follow Kong's trail to a small lake, and realize that Kong has swum across. They construct a raft, and begin making a cautious journey across, but are capsized by a giant aquatic dinosaur. The men scramble to shore and run through the jungle with the Brontosaurus hot on their tail. One of the sailors falls behind, and the rest hear him scream and keep running. They arrive to the edge of a great chasm bridged by a log, and Jack makes it across first before others follow. Jack grabs a vine and hides in a cave in the cliff face, and Denham, who is at the back of the party, runs to hide in a bush as Kong arrives. Kong grabs the log and shakes it until all of the sailors have fallen to their death. Kong gropes at the cliff face looking for Jack, who stabs at his fingers with his knife, but Kong's attention is drawn away by Ann's cries for help. Kong sees an Allosaurus running toward her, and rushes to attack. Kong uses his cunning to land many blows before tearing apart its jaws. He then picks up Ann and retreats to his lair.

Now on opposite sides of the chasm, Driscoll and Denham make plans to reconvene when he finds Ann, and part ways. Driscoll follows Kong up Skull Mountain and into Kong's home. There he spies Ann being menaced by a giant, vicious snake. Kong rushes to protect her, and is nearly strangled to death by the beast before breaking its neck against the rocky walls. He then takes Ann to a ledge overlooking the island and roars for a moment. Jack then distracts him by moving a bolder, but he is saved from discovery by a gigantic flying reptile swooping in to take Ann away. Kong nabs the beast and they begin to fight. With Kong distracted, Jack and Ann try to make their escape down the cliff face on a vine, but Kong soon spies them and begins trying to reel them back up. When Ann is no longer able to hold on, she drops into the water below, followed shortly by Jack, and they take the river back to the wall. There they are seen by a lookout, and let through the gate. As the party prepares to leave, Denham reveals his new plan to capture Kong alive and display him in New York. Jack does not like the idea of using Ann as bait to lure Kong off his mountain, but the ape comes to them before he can protest. The men bolt the gate, but Kong bursts through, snapping the massive piece of wood in two. Natives try to help the sailors keep the door shut, but to no avail. He tramples the village, and kills many of the people underfoot before reaching the shore, where Denham brings him down with a gas bomb. Determined to teach Kong the meaning of fear to keep him in line, Denham declares them all millionaires as they prepare to build a raft to bring him back to the United States.

Kong is put in chains and shackled to steel framework wearing a crown, and is presented as a novelty to a packed theater. Denham invites photographers up to take pictures, but despite his claims that they had "knocked some of the fight out of him," Kong soon breaks free. Jack and Ann run for his hotel room across the street as Kong bursts through the theater wall. Jack tries to comfort Ann, and assures her that Kong will be dealt with, and he will stay with her until they do, not realizing that Kong is looking in on them. He smashes his mighty hand through the window, knocking Jack aside, and grabs Ann off the bed, taking her away into the night. Jack runs to get help and meets Denham. They soon realize that he is headed for the Empire State Building, and run to the police commissioner to formulate a plan. Jack suggests using aeroplanes, and soon four Navy pursuit craft are sent to deal with Kong. Just as Kong reaches the top, the four creatures he believes to be strange birds arrive. He gently sets Ann down, and begins roaring and swatting at the planes. He is able to throw one out of the sky when it draws too close, but despite his efforts, the powerful machine guns begin to take their toll. Aware of his fate, he abandons the fight, and picks Ann up one final time, and strokes her gently before laying her back down. The planes return with another volley that hits him in the throat: a killing blow. Kong lets out his last roar before falling backwards from his perch.

Jack finds Ann at the top of the tower and rejoices that it is all over. Down on the street, onlookers gawk at Kong's bullet-laden corpse. In response to someone in the crowd admiring the plane's handiwork, Denham laments that "It was Beauty that killed the Beast."




Weapons, vehicles, and races




  • In this book, Ann Darrow is shown to dye her naturally-brown hair blonde for her role in the movie. This may be a reference to actress Fay Wray's doing the same for King Kong.
  • The likeness of Darrow's original actress, Fay Wray, appears as one of the girls Denham considers before finding Ann.
  • While Kong's debut in the theater takes clear inspiration from the 1933 film, he is seen wearing a crown, which was a notable addition to the scene in the 1976 remake.
  • This is one of the few Kong adaptations to spell Captain Englehorn's name as "Engelhorn."
  • There are many ape faces hidden in Browne's illustrations.
  • The front flap erroneously claims this novel to be the first illustrated adaptation of King Kong despite that title going to the 1976 Illustrated King Kong, a reprinting of the 1932 novelization with illustrations by Richard Powers.
    • Furthermore, the flap refers to the book as a "graphic novel," which is typically understood as referring to a volume of traditional comics, and not the illustrated book format which it takes.


This is a list of references for Anthony Browne's King Kong. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]


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