This is Tokyo. Once a city of six million people. What has happened here was caused by a force which up until a few days ago was entirely beyond the scope of Man’s imagination. -Steve Martin (Raymond Burr) “Godzilla: King of The Monsters”
It’s an average day in Tokyo. People go about their daily lives. Then the ground moves. They freeze, praying that it’s only an earthquake even as they realize what it is. From TVs and radios the orders are given, “Evacuate immediately!” They flee as a bestial roar fills the air. Their worst fears are confirmed. The nightmarish sound heralds a grotesque reminder of the atomic age, a disaster made flesh filled with rage for the insignificant creatures that inhabit its domain. Godzilla, King of the Monsters, has returned.
With over 60 years in the biz, it’s no surprise that Godzilla* is one of the biggest names in film history. Getting his start at a little company called Toho, Godzilla has starred in over 30 films alongside several of his kaiju** costars. The films have had varying degrees of success. With his newest movie, Godzilla: Resurgence coming out soon, it’s about time we examined the movie monster’s lesser known career in comics.
Godzilla vs the Marvel Universe
“Dum Dum, if that big green, fire-snortin’ lizard is loose again, I quit!” -Nick Fury***
In 1977 Marvel made a deal with Toho to produce a Godzilla comic series. Godzilla journeyed to America and wandered the country, interacting with several heroes along the way. Pursued by S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Dum Dum Dugan (played by Neal Mcdonough in Captain America: The First Avenger) and Gabe Jones (Derek Luke, also from The First Avenger), Godzilla faced off with various opponents from the creations of Doctor Demonicus and the Stark-created Red Ronin to the alien Mega-Monsters and even a posse of cowboys seeking a bounty placed on him****.
Eventually, S.H.I.E.L.D. received some Pym Particles from Ant Man (portrayed by Michael Douglas in Ant-Man) and used them to shrink Godzilla to the size of a rat. Godzilla was brought to New York and was released by a sympathetic Godzilla expert, a child named Rob. Godzilla escaped into the sewers. Rob thought a future full-sized Godzilla running through New York would be dangerous. He tracked down Godzilla who had already grown taller than a human, just in time for Dum Dum and Gabe Jones to find them.
During the battle between S.H.I.E.L.D. and Godzilla, the Fantastic Four intervened and managed to subdue Godzilla before using a time machine to send him into the ancient past. After teaming up with Moon Boy and Devil Dinosaur, Godzilla returned to the present and his full size in the middle of New York City.
The Fantastic Four called in the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. to help them stop Godzilla, but not before Godzilla faced off against his greatest foe, J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle*****. The heroes launched an all-out assault, desperately trying to stop the destruction wrought by Godzilla.
The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly, also from Ant-Man) shrank down and shot Godzilla in the brain, S.H.I.E.L.D. unleashed the full power of its Helecarrier, and Thor wound up playing tug-of-war with Godzilla using the Empire State Building. All of this was for nought as no matter what they did, Godzilla would not fall. Eventually, Rob begged him to leave and stop hurting everyone, and for some asinine reason, he did. I’m guessing the superheroes felt outclassed by the kid.
While Godzilla’s Marvel comic series ended there, he didn’t disappear from the Marvel Universe. He was eventually mutated by Doctor Demonicus and made to look like a generic giant monster who fought Iron Man and The Thing (Michael Chiklis from the ’05 Fantastic Four) before disappearing.
Godzilla would be glimpsed in his original form during Mole Man’s (Jack DeLeon in the 60’s Fantastic Four cartoon) invasion of New York. And while Godzilla himself did not appear in Marvel Mangaverse, The Hulk’s appearance resembles Godzilla and several monsters from Godzilla films appear, although altered just enough that Toho didn’t sue.
Godzilla with Other Publishers
“He’s defeated Mothra. He’s defeated King Kong. He’s defeated Monster Zero and Mechagodzilla. But he’s never faced an adversary like this. Godzilla Vs. Charles Barkley“. -Nike commercial
In 1987, Dark Horse Comics obtained the rights to make a Godzilla comic. Godzilla traveled the world, fighting monsters while being pursued by G-Force, a team of scientists dedicated to figuring out a way to stop Godzilla. The series was strange sometimes, once even featuring giant alien hunters who tried to hunt Godzilla. At the same time, another group of aliens disguised as U.S. soldiers used a super weapon called the All-Terraintula hoping to kill Godzilla, the only threat to their plans for world domination.
Or how about the time a mad scientist sent Godzilla hurtling through time so he could steal riches while Godzilla destroyed the places? The series abruptly ended with the final issue featuring a fight between Godzilla and a random monster that might have been just a dream.
Dark Horse and Toho would eventually be approached by Nike and the NBA to create a commercial promoting Nike sneakers and, for some reason, agreed to do a commercial in which Godzilla played basketball against Charles Barkley. I couldn’t make this $#!* up if I tried. Dark Horse was given the ‘honor’ of creating a comic to explain how all of this happened, and boy howdy, did they deliver.
Get this: Godzilla attacks a city and a boy with a magic coin rushes to give it to Charles Barkley, claiming that he is “Earth’s Greatest Warrior”. Barkley takes the coin and magically grows to giant size, challenging Godzilla to a game of basketball. Godzilla accepts and somehow seems to know both what basketball is and how to play. Barkley wins of course, and presents Godzilla with size 13,000 sneakers before telling him they’ll play again some time. What were they smoking and where can I get some?
In 2010, IDW Publishing bought the rights to make Godzilla comics and were wise enough to also obtain the rights for the actual movie monsters. They have since published multiple Godzilla series, some ongoing series like Kingdom of Monsters and Rulers of Earth, and others miniseries like the excellent Godzilla: Half-Century War and the bizarre Godzilla in Hell.
Didja Get All That?
No matter who’s writing him or what he’s doing Godzilla is still the King.
* Gojira if you’re using his original name.
** Japanese term literally meaning “strange beast”. Often used to describe giant monsters like Godzilla and popularized in the movie “Pacific Rim” although the correct term would be Daikaiju.
*** Fun fact, he said this in an issue of Marvel’s Transformers, the original Transformers comic series. This means that there is an awesome universe where Godzilla, Transformers, and Marvel superheroes all exist.
**** Godzilla had been accused of eating a farm’s cattle, so a bunch of cowboys tried to wrangle him, one even riding him like a mechanical bull. The cowboys eventually learned that cattle rustlers had stolen them and caught them with Godzilla’s help. One of the cowboys even said “the only thing he didn’t do is save the school marm from a fate wors’ than death” while another jokingly asked “Who was that masked lizard?” What? You have any problems with The Lone Kaiju?
***** While screaming for his reporters to get out there and cover the story, Jameson noticed Godzilla at eye level outside the Bugle. Jameson then stuck his head out the window, shook his fist and told Godzilla not to mess with him. Godzilla responded with a breath of hot (but not radioactive) air.
Jared Bounacos has written for Movie Rewind since 2017.