Wednesday, October 14, 2015
GODZILLA - KING OF MONSTERS
Marvel's short-lived license of the Godzilla franchise (from August 1977 through July 1979) is remembered largely as an off-brand blip in the monster's sporadic comic book presence. Unlike their treatment of the Star Wars license, among others - which, ironically, now could mash up the characters of the Galactic Empire with the Merry Marvel Marching Society with the glad tidings of its corporate overlords - Godzilla was set firmly inside the Marvel universe, making it something of a bastardization of both continuities.
Artist Herb Trimpe never quite got a grip on how to portray the famous movie monster, crafting a large-schnozzed variation peculiar to the Marvel universe (luckily, since he was later revived in order to wrap up his storyline, albeit highly mutated). This makes the Godzilla which appeared in Marvel Comics arguably a unique creation, independent of the film origins and native to the ultimately troubled title.
Not that it was wholly agnostic to the creature's silver screen debut - in fact, author Doug Moench managed to keep one foot on either side of the aisle, peppering the book with monsters and supporting characters which wouldn't have seemed out of place in the later Godzilla (or any Japanese movie monster) films. Meanwhile, SHIELD, the Avengers, the Fantastic Four, the Champions and more made their presence known in the pages of Godzilla, despite the book seemingly being an ill-fit; garishly drawn, luridly colored, starring a silent protagonist who would've been knocked clean unconscious within 27 pages of any other superhero book coming out of the House of Ideas, Godzilla - King of Monsters was more like a really enjoyable and unlikely team-up book crafted on the outskirts of the Marvel Bullpen.
To sell you on it, here's five of the best storylines from the series' abbreviated, twenty-four issue run:
He does if I say he does. Marvel somehow invested its energy in a superteam even less organized and reputable than the Defenders when five at-the-time-unaffiliated superheroes - Iceman, Angel, Hercules, Black Widow and Ghost Rider - were jammed together into the same book because "That's who we have." Calling themselves the Champions, they never much expanded their charter - Soviet superheroine Darkstar seemingly joined the team in an unofficial capacity, Black Goliath probably was slated to join prior to cancellation, and the result of Godzilla clashing with The Champions seems to imply that, at the very least, the Champs were on the big lizard's side.
Either it was the rookie team's lack of practice or a secret desire to let the big lizard go free, but the Champs so effectively got in the way of SHIELD's "Green Team" - led by Dum Dum Dugan, whose starring role in this book is another point in its favor - that Godzilla practically had no choice but to escape the conflict unharmed. I assume he would've joined the team around the time the Champs' book hit issue 30, and they would've had to build a very large chair.
Naturally, Godzilla fought thematically appropriate giant monsters, giant robots, and outer space threats which bore a good deal of resemblance to the storylines from the movies - complete with annoying child who can't stop yelling about how Godzilla is out friend. In this exceptional outlier, Godzilla rustles cattle and finds himself in conflict with the cowboys in charge of all that beef-on-the-hoof.
Weirdly, it ends with Godzilla more-or-less befriending the cowboys, killing exactly ONE dude and I think becoming a vegetarian at the end. Godzilla couldn't eat those little cows after seeing their big, dewey eyes, I guess. Facebook videos of cute animal best friends is why I turned vegetarian, myself, so I sympathize.
Doug Moench gets the credit for thinking outside the box long before any other superhero writer thought to explore the real potential of the science of superheroics. Here, employing the Pym Particles used by shrinking superhero Hank Pym, Godzilla is reduced to an assortment of tiny sizes. In turn, he fights a rat, dresses up in an overcoat and scares muggers, and gets into a hand-to-hand fight with Dum Dum Dugan. And in case you don't think that's good enough for your still-only-thirty-five-cents ...
It's the most natural team-up in Marvel Comics, even moreso than that time Conan damn near killed Captain America. The one downside is that it wasn't written and drawn by Kirby himself, although Trimpe breaks out his best Kirby-ish qualities, including the patented double-page spread. Thanks to the Fantastic Four sending Godzilla back through time - temporarily, anyway - the King of Monsters gets to indulge in what, by all rights, should have been an oversized special with top talent on call for art duty. That woulda been worth the ... what did they sell oversized treasury editions for back in those days, eighty cents? A buck thirty? I probably coulda scratched that together for a Godzilla/Devil Dinosaur book. Someone go back in time and make that happen.
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