By Glenn Walker
Folks who know me know there are a handful of things that I am really passionate about. First and foremost is The Bride (a whole different kind of passion), followed by stuff like film, music, French fries and of course, comics. You could say I'm a geek about any of those, but there's one other thing that I am a supernerd about -- Godzilla.
I love me some Godzilla. Kaiju eiga (Japanese giant monster movies) is absolutely one of my guilty pleasures. And the thing is, other than appearing in its share of comics, the Godzilla mythos itself is rife with the complexities, continuities, personalities, and even the type of alternate realities that make comics so magical for many of us. Sadly, until now with IDW Publishing, rarely has this rich mythology been utilized. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
For those not in the know, Godzilla, or Gojira in Japanese, is a daikaiju, a giant monster or strange beast, famous from film, television, comics, videogames, books and toys. To be more accurate in the Big G's case, he (and sometimes she or it, depending on the movie and the context) is a fifty-meter- (later eighty and one hundred) tall dinosaur resurrected by atomic bomb tests and mutated to breathe radioactive fire. In fact, in most of his movie appearances he is a living metaphor for the atom bomb.
Over his long movie career he has been villain, hero, and force of nature. The Big G is best known for his battles against other daikaiju, most notably Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Anguirus, Gigan, Mechagodzilla and even the American King Kong among a great many others. His usual stomping grounds are the islands of Japan, although he has wandered as far as Hong Kong, New York City, and Planet X. And for the record, he's charcoal grey, not green. Just a pet peeve on my part, as some American comics and cartoons portrayed him as green, but only two films, both in this century have colored my boy green, and I believe that was a mistake.
While Godzilla existed here and there in manga form for years, Godzilla's first foray into American comics came in the late 1970s (after the first movie series, known as showa) published by Marvel Comics. This series lasted for a wonderful twenty-four issues featuring the writing of Doug Moench and some of the best artwork by classic Hulk artist Herb Trimpe, and for a few issues, the late Tom Sutton. Godzilla King of the Monsters was a highlight of my young life when it came to going to the drug store to get my comics back in the dark ages before comics shops.
While the comic lacked the characters and mythology of the Godzilla movies, it still featured the Big G himself, and was centered firmly in the Marvel Universe proper. His chief enemies were "Dum-Dum" Dugan and SHIELD who pursued him throughout the series. Superheroes showed up rather quickly as Godzilla faced the Champions of Los Angeles in the third issue. The comic ended in New York City as he battled the Fantastic Four and the Avengers before stomping off into the sunset.
Between those epic battles and superhero teams, Godzilla faced off against a new rogues gallery of giant-sized opponents, as his usual movie playmates proved too expensive for Marvel to license from Toho, the Big G's parent company. These new foes included Batragon, the Mega-Monsters, Red Ronin, Yetrigar (these last two would make memorable appearances in the Avengers franchise), and even Jack Kirby's Devil Dinosaur. Sadly, the Marvel Godzilla would eventually be mutated and assimilated into the Marvel Universe as a completely new creature - a pawn of grade Z villain Doctor Demonicus in Iron Man.
In the 1990s Dark Horse Comics picked up the Godzilla torch and put out multiple series featuring a monster more traditional to the films. This Godzilla was a product of the second film series (heisei) where the monster was more of a force of nature and stories were told around him rather than about him. There were throwbacks to the brawler Godzilla during this era, however, as the Big G fought adversaries like the G-Force, Hero Zero, and, no joke, in homage to a Nike commercial, Charles Barkley. Hmmm, and folks wonder why Godzilla isn't taken seriously.
Recently IDW Publishing took their shot at the classic monster with Godzilla Kingdom of Monsters, written by Eric Powell (The Goon) and Tracy Marsh with art by Phil Hester (Green Hornet, Wonder Woman). There has been much promotional nonsense afoot with this comic as the first issue offered comics shops the chance with a minimum order to be crushed on the cover, and alternate covers of later issues are to feature a different Toho monster -- collect 'em all. Still, with all of that, this is an amazing comic.
Whereas the first two attempts at doing Godzilla in the comics included only the Big G himself, IDW has brought the entire Toho crew along, so the whole mythology will be available. Before, it was pretty much like doing Batman, only without Robin, Commissioner Gordon, the Joker, Catwoman, the Batmobile, the Batcave, etc. Now, at IDW, Godzilla has his Robin and company. And really, no made-up opponent can truly stand up to Godzilla like the real King Ghidorah or Mechagodzilla.
In only two issues Godzilla Kingdom of Monsters has brought me back to the joy I felt reading comics as a kid -- the wonder, the thrill, the adventure. Yeah, this is one of those comics that makes me remember why I love comics. Powell, Marsh, and Hester have created a Godzilla that is true to the character and the mythology, and with issue two, Rodan and Anguirus have joined him. It's only a matter of time before my faves Mothra and King Ghidorah show up. I am on board with this one. Thank you, IDW!