Word is out that the King of the Giant Monsters will not only be appearing on-screen in 2012 in Legendary Pictures’ much anticipated attempt to make a successful US film featuring Japan’s most iconic kaiju, but also has been inveigled into starring in a new graphic novel series — along with some of his mates.
There have been Godzilla comics in the past, of course — though surprisingly few. These include assorted manga versions of the G films available in Japan, such as Mondo Takimura’s Godzilla 2000 Millennium.
In 1988, the US company Dark Horse obtained a license to produce a translated edition of Kazuhisa Iwata’s The Return of Godzilla series (based on the film Gojira 1984, Japan-1984; dir. Kohji Hashimoto, aka Godzilla 1985, US-1985; dir. Kohji Hashimoto and R.J. Kizer), under the title Godzilla. In 1998 Dark Horse re-released the six-part series in colour as Terror of Godzilla.
Terror of Godzilla #1 in its entirety and coloured:
From July 1998, Dark Horse also published an original Godzilla series: Godzilla, King of the Monsters, which ran for 17 issues, with a few “specials” along the way. The cover of issue 1 (below) was painted by multi-Hugo award-winning artist Bob Eggleton, who has a penchant for giant monsters:
This Dark Horse G-series was subsequently published as two TPBs under the titles Godzilla: Past, Present and Future and Godzilla: Age of Monsters.
Dealing with Toho to obtain the rights to Godzilla has always been problematic. Even more remarkable than Dark Horse’s series, then, was Marvel Comics introduction of the Big G into the Marvel universe. This Godzilla, King of the Monsters wasn’t just an isolated side-series either, but saw Godzilla fully integrated into Marvel’s world of superheroes. Tracked by Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., the King of the Monsters found himself up against such foes as Spider Man (well, Spidey’s is more of a cameo appearance as they actually miss each other by a few hundred metres), the Fantastic Four, Hercules and the Champions, Devil Dinosaur and Moonboy, and the Avengers:
Marvel’s Godzilla, King of the Monsters ran for 24 issues, written by Doug Moench and drawn by Herb Trimpe. It has since been published in a black-and-white compendium volume, Essential Godzilla (2006).
There have also been several high-profile unofficial Godzilla comics, which exist solely because they were not-for-profit fan works. The most impressive of these is probably Todd Tennant’s online graphic novel visualisation of the rejected Ted Elliott/Terry Rossio screenplay for Jan de Bont’s “Didn’t Happen” US Godzilla film (1994). With 77 pages to date, it is a mammoth and generous project that all G-fans need to support. Check it out at the American Godzilla ’94 website. Below are some random images from the graphic novel, mostly of G’s rampage. Click on them to enlarge.
Another interesting unofficial (and in this case prospective only) Godzilla project is Brandon Graham and James Stokoe’s (“messing around with an idea for a Godzilla comic”) World War G. In what amounts to a moment of idle speculation, the pair put together a few pages, which you can see on Graham’s blog.
Another great Might-Have-Been!
As I’ve been told, Toho’s licensing restrictions have never been easy to deal with, either logistically or financially. This is one reason why the foes appearing in non-Japanese G comics have never included the Big G’s classic kaiju eiga opponents, such as Mothra, King Ghidorah, Rodan, Hedorah or Megalon. As the copyright owners of all of them, Toho required payment for each — or even, I believe, simply refused to include them in the deal, wanting to keep the full package for their own product. It is intriguing then, how IDW Publishing have managed to broker a deal to not only wrest the US copyright to Godzilla from Dark Horse, but also to obtain the rights to the other monsters as well. Their Godzilla series, which is due to start in 2011, will apparently feature many of Godzilla’s classic monstrous opponents, including Mothra, King Ghidorah and Rodan, in what is being described as “a number of unique storylines from some of the industry’s top creators”.
Said Chris Ryall, Chief Creative Officer and Editor-in Chief for IDW Publishing:
“We wanted Godzilla to return to comics, but this time we wanted him to have some company. I think fans will be pleased with the monster guest appearances, which will really offer something for every fan of these films. There are the classic characters, but there are also a few surprises, too.” (IDW website)