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Philly artist brings peace in ‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’

‘Black Hole,’ the Philadelphia-based illustrator’s gorgeously creepy graphic novel, is prominently featured in the new 20th Century Fox simian sci-fi sequel.

Things aren't going well between humans and the primates in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the new sequel to the 2011 reboot of the classic late-'60s/'70s Planet of the Apes sci-fi franchise. Mistrust, wariness, bloodshed abounds. But Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays Alexander, the teenage son of  good guy Jason Clarke, has found a way to bond with the simians – notably the sage old orangutan Maurice (a motion-captured Karin Konoval) . Alexander has been reading a book called Black Hole in his pup tent, and when Maurice drops by, the kid shows the furry orange ape a few panels, even reading dialogue aloud from the gorgeously creepy graphic novel about a strange plague that befalls a band of suburban teenagers in 1970s Pacific Northwest.

Black Hole is the work of Philadelphia artist, illustrator and writer  Charles Burns, who had "signed off" on letting the 20th Century Fox film production use his book -- so long ago that he completely forgot about it.

"It was one of those things that I agreed to, and I just spaced it out," says Burns, who has not seen Dawn of the Planet of the Apes yet-- it opens Friday – but thought the original 1968 Planet of the Apes, with Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall and Kim Hunter, pretty cool.

"Occasionally, I'll get a request from a film to use a book as a prop, sitting  in a room, on a table, or something,"  says Burns, who didn't realize what a significant role his 2005 tome would play in the latest man vs. ape adventure.

Burns -- who has Sugar Skull, the third book in his set of stories that began with X'ed Out and continued with The Hive, coming in September -- balks at the suggestion he take a stack of Black Holes to the local movieplex and offer to sign copies to folks exiting from Dawn of the Apes.

"That would be a good move," he says, drily.

Watch the pivotal peacemaking Black Hole scene right here: