The Domestication of Gorgo

It happens to all the Big Ones. They start out fierce and dangerous, and end up getting domesticated. Once some sort of franchise kicks in, they’re doomed; the monsters gradually go from being an outright menace, to being a familiar, even sympathetic nuisance, to finally morphing into an heroic defender. It happened to Godzilla (though in the more recent G films he reverted somewhat and has maintained a sort of ambiguous defender-by-default status), so why wouldn’t it happen to Gorgo?

Gorgo (UK-1961; dir. Eugène Lourié) was Britain ‘s answer to Godzilla, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other giant-monster national icons. The film is certainly a worthy addition to the giant monster canon and did good box-office in both the US and Europe back in its day. Gorgo may not have retained as iconic a position as Godzilla over the years, but those who know it generally hold it in high esteem. The suitmation and miniature sets were excellent and the script rather more literate than audiences are currently used to from SyFy Channel monster movies, with a good director in Eugène Lourié (whose films include the classic and influential 1953 giant monster film The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and the lesser but effective 1959 Behemoth the Sea Monster) and an ending that may have been suggested to Lourié by his daughter’s tears when she watched the title monster of Behemoth die, but nevertheless seems so right that it’s a surprise that no-one had done it before. There is considerable sympathy afforded to the monsters — both Gorgo and his rather bigger mum once she turns up to rescue her baby from the nasty humans. The pair may be destructive, but it’s all in the name of motherhood and good parenting, so that’s okay.

Gorgo franchising started with its first release — or even earlier. A novelisation written by Carson Bingham — blurbed on its cover as  “the classic thriller” upon which the film was based, thus suggesting an existence that predates the film (though this is barely the case) — was released in 1960 by Monarch Books.

Gorgo was popular and a successful film, but it never spawned a sequel (unless you count the Gorgo-less Waiting for Gorgo, a short film from 2009 by Benjamin Craig and M.J. Simpson). Almost simultaneously with Gorgo‘s release, however, Charlton Comics began a series of comic books based on the film.

There were 23 issues of Gorgo between 1960 and 1965, with a 24th in a 1966 anthology special called Fantastic Giants, which also featured a Konga story and two others. Original Spiderman artist Steve Ditko was the main artist on these Gorgo comics.

Gorgo’s Revenge — a Special Edition “based on the King Brothers film” — was also released by MGM in 1962 through Charlton Comics:

And two issues — numbered #2 and #3 — of The Return of Gorgo appeared in 1963 and 1964. [Note: The numbering has been said to continue from Gorgo’s Revenge; but “more likely this title is continued from Reptisaurus Special Edition #1. Indicia reads The Return of Gorgo, Special Edition No. 2, Summer, 1963″. (Source)]

I haven’t read the Gorgo series of comics — though if someone decided to reprint it in a trade format, they’d have at least one definite sale — but the “domestication” of Gorgo seems  clear enough from the covers.

Gorgo begins as a terrible threat (#2):

Very quickly takes on aspects of victimisation, as a mad scientist seeks to gain control of the monster for his own nefarious purposes (#3):

Faces up against alien invaders (#4):

Takes on a series of less loveable, though delightfully weird giant monsters (#5, #6 and #10):

Becomes a Hollywood star (#11):

Gains reader sympathy by being captured (#13):

Becomes mankind’s only hope of survival (#14):

Saves the damsel in distress (#15):

Fights an assortment of apocalyptic menaces (#19 — just one of several):

And finally becomes the Champion of Democracy against the Communist menace (#22):

These days he’s no doubt living in homely retirement somewhere in the suburbs.

Check out the complete run of covers in the Gallery below.

Source: CGD Grand Comics Database. Written by Robert Hood.

Gallery:

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3 Responses to The Domestication of Gorgo

  1. Muscle Wolf says:

    Gorgo was a welcomed interlude between Godzilla movies. I well recall the Gorgo comics as a kid and snapped up issues as I could find them. Unfortunately, they did not survive a basement flooding years later. And yes, I would love to see an anthology of the series.

  2. Mike Bogue says:

    Rob, I loved this compilation of GORGO from movie through Charlton’s comic book series. As a kid during the 1960’s, I often bought the comic — my favorite was #10, in which Gorgo battles nasty invaders from Venus; of course, his battleship-sized Mom shows up to give the aliens what-for. (Or at least, that’s the way I remember it!)

    Steve Ditko’s art was great, and some of the covers nothing less than wonderful, such as #2 with Mama Gorgo smashing the UN building as military jets attack her, a huge fire raging in the background.

  3. Robert Hood says:

    Thanks, Mike. They are terrific, aren’t they! I never saw the comics as a kid (perhaps they had limited distribution here in Australia), but since writing this article I acquired them electronically and read them on my iPad. Very cool!

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