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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Godzilla, The Marvel Years

Okay, so I admit to being a Godzilla fan.

I am also a comic book fan. I assume I am, because I have over 35,000 of the fuggers. While I purchased for the joy of reading, I have also purchased for the joy of owning, which is actually different from 'collecting'. I suppose I have a problem, but at least it's a somewhat valuable problem.

With so many comic books, one might think that I simply have purchased one of every comic book ever published. I probably came close to doing that in the 1980s, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Oh… despite my headline, I do think there are some other really fine comic book monsters out there, such as Fin-Fan Foom and Devil Dinosaur, but none come close to longevity and bad-assness as Godzilla.

Anyhow, back in the 1970s, I did purchase the Marvel Comics' comic book entitled Godzilla, King of the Monsters. The series ran from August 1977 to July 1979 in a 24 issue span, and I loved the heck out of it. Of course, I was still early in my pubescence... That's my collection in the photo above... I had to go through 16 boxes (moving the others out of the way) before I could reach this part of the "G" spot. But I found it.

Using the writing talents of Doug Moench, and to me the so-so artistic flair of Herb Trimpe (there's no accounting for taste), Godzilla was plopped down into the Marvel Universe.

Godzilla came across Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Fantastic Four, the Avengers and if you watch the animated cartoon Hulk: Agents of Smash, you'll know about Devil Dinosaur. (In this paragraph we have a live action television show, a crappy pair of movies, an awesome movie and an awesome animated television show.)
Here in Godzilla #19, a just-starting-to-grow huge again Godzilla is being gang tackled by SHIELD. The Black dude, that's Gabe from Sgt. Nick Fury's Howling Commandos back when Nick Fury hadn't got the Shaft and was still White. Gabe is the grandfather of Trip on the 2014 Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show.    
Godzilla battled these good guys and some baddies, too, such as Batragon and Yetrigar and even stopped the alien invaders known as the Megans from taking over the Earth.

The Megans? What's next, Marvel? The Carolines? The Ashleys?

Anyhow… eventually Henry Pym (Giant Man/Ant Man/YellowJacket/wife abuser) of The Avengers created a gas to shrink Godzilla, while a time machine belonging to Dr. Doom (Dr. Who?) (Oh Dr. Doom... the man in the iron mask?) was used to send Godzilla back to the Cretaceous Era, which was where he battled Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy - Whaaaaa—? Cave men and dinosaurs co-existed? No.)

Whatever is was about Godzilla that made him Godzilla made the effects of the shrinking gas and the time machine not work, and presto! he was called back to the modern day Marvel universe.
Here in Godzilla #18, Godzilla has been shrunk and is seen here battling with a New York City sewer rat, which is still pretty effing huge and nasty.
While Godzilla went mano y monster with S.H.I.E.L.D., the S.H.I.E.L.D. Godzilla Squad (the what now?), the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, it was a small Japanese-American or American-Japanese kid named Rob Takaguchi who begged Godzilla to stop wrecking New York. Takaguchi was supposed to be 12-years-old, but artist Herb Trimpe made him look anywhere between 20 and 30. Yeesh.
Why the fug is Godzilla listening to this kid? Why does he understand English? And why are the Marvel super-heroes acting like dicks?
Godzilla listened and off Godzilla waddled, wading out into the Atlantic Ocean.
I nearly stopped collecting comic books after reading Godzilla #24, but I have a problem, so I continued anyway. Still, this was why DC was better than Marvel in the 1970s. Seriously... how does Godzilla, King of the Monsters gently pick up a 12 (30)-year-old kid without crushing him into miso paste? The Marvel Age, my ass. Miso confused.
Really Marvel? Why did I think Doug was a great writer? Do you know what I would have done to end the series? Anything other than make Godzilla look like a pu$$y.

Now that I recall it, I was reading that crap ending and thinking I would stop reading the series… and then… Marvel saved me the trouble.

And the series started with such promise. Just look at the cover of #1... seen in the top-most image at the very bottom. Godzilla has a plane in his claws, is burning buildings and is about to step on and crush horrified people. THAT is Godzilla, baby. 

Anyhow… while I am unsure if this comic book was a making money for Marvel, the reason the book was cancelled at an even 24 issues is that Marvel's licensing agreement with Toho Studios expired. Toho was the movie company that first brought Godzilla into 'this world he did not make' back in 1954. (That, last sentence, by the way, is me paraphrasing a line from Howard the Duck - cool comic book, crappy movie despite the awesomeness of Lea Thompson - woof!)

But… whether this is a copyright infringement or not, Marvel did continue to use Godzilla in its comic books!

Yup. In Iron Man #193, Godzilla is captured and mutated by a mad scientist named Doctor Demonicus (I blame his parents for giving him the evil surname). The mutation causes Godzilla to change appearance so that he no longer looks like the original Toho Godzilla.

So… perhaps Toho allowed Marvel the opportunity to use Godzilla one more time, and in doing do Marvel could still use a kaiju without it affecting the copyright.

The mutated Godzilla appeared in Iron Man #194 and #196 and The Thing #31 (the Thing is from The Fantastic Four). In The Thing #31, the mutated former Godzilla is actually referred to as 'Godzilla', which while being correct, would probably be a copyright infringement…

All I can say is that if was my age back in the 1970s I'd probably be dead now, but back then I would have been one of the best damn comic book writers on the planet. I still think I'm good enough to do it full time, but alas, circumstances seem to be conspiring against me, as a pair of 10-page stories I had written for a Gumby Free Comic Book Day comic fell through when creator Art Clokey died and copyrights to produce the book went the way of the dinosaur. 

Still... maybe a three-pager in a British/American comic with a Black Lagoon-like creature might still get me there one day.

Yeah... I can write comedy, monster, kiddie, scary stuff. i still want to do a Murder Ink book featuring serial killers - real ones. I have a full biography on Albert Fish done but without an artist or a publisher as my own Strange Fun Comics is no more. I even killed the website on it. Too bad... we had some great stuff... comics like; Strange Fun Comics (various types of tales), Legends of Tarot (I tell a story about Tarot card), Cali Ente (Latina good/bad girl comedy), Strange Fun Comics Presents (twisted tales of sci-fi, comedy, kiddie and drama), and my personal favorite Evil Scientist Quarterly (GQ/Playboy  - comedy for the Evil Scientist on the prowl).     

Anyhow… there are other interesting comic tales of Godzilla, involving other comic book companies… and I'll take a look at those sometime later.

Andrew Joseph
PS: The first Godzilla comic book published in the U.S. was actually a small promotional comic that appeared in 1976 as part of the publicity promoting the upcoming U.S. release of the film Godzilla vs. Megalon. The comic was a coverless four-page adaption of the film, that was published by Cinema Shares International Distribution Corp. and given away for free at movie theaters. The comic featured no writer or art credit, was magazine-sized and published on cheap newsprint. Apparently, this comic is 'infamous' for getting names of some of the major characters wrong as Jet Jaguar is referred to as "Robotman," and Gigan is referred to as "Borodan".
Jet Jaguar was created by a Japanese kid (unknown) as a part of a contest Toho Studios held to create a new robot-man superhero. Originally called Red Alone (レッド·アローン, Reddo Arōn) Toho decided to call it Jet Jaguar.
A movie was planned to introduce the character: Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon - uh-huh... but eventually Toho came to their senses after awakening naked in a Thai hermaphrodite brothel, wallet and ID stolen and missing a kidney, and decided that no... Jet Jaguar will not make them enough money to quench their enormous appetite for Thai prostitutes, either via movie sales or merchandising. So, instead of doing blow off the asscrack of various so-called "women", Toho in a moment of clarity had the story rewritten, having Jet Jaguar appear in the movie in a small role to gauge fan reaction (meh), and used a known kaiju entity to star in the movie now called: Godzilla vs. Megalon.
Needless to say, Jet Jaguar made his only movie appearance in this film.
I'm also betting, that with all the re-writes, someone did not get the final draft or footnotes to the creators of the promotional US comic book in time.

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