Saturday, October 3, 2015

Godzilla - Coming To America!


It's startling to think that when Marvel finally unleashed its Godzilla comic book in 1977 that no other American comic to that time had done so. The remarkable success of the film series was at something of a nadir with the films having changed in tone many times over the decades and after 1975's lackluster release of Terror of Mechagodilla was on something of a hiatus (this movie was released in the U.S. in 1978). So it's curious just how serious certain aspects of this series were considering how wacky some of the movies could be. No hint here of the gleeful Godzilla, no glimmer of the comedic shenanigans which sometimes leavened the big screen battles. In some ways this series pointed to the much later 1984 reboot of the movie franchise which sought to revitalize the monster by making him more of a powerhouse and much less of a playmate.


At about this same time Godzilla would be licensed for an above average cartoon 1978 show, though even there under the rigorous scrutiny of Doug Wildey, the humor emerged, especially in the woeful form of the mascot like "Godzooky".


The Godzilla imagined by writer Doug Moench and artist Herb Trimpe in 1977 is utterly inscrutable and his eyes are rendered as those of an animal not a sentient being. There is a ferociousness to this Godzilla which hearkens back to the heyday of the great monster. That doesn't mean there wasn't wonkiness in the stories as we'll see as we rampage alongside the great beast as he takes his brazen tour of the American continent.


The story begins in Alaska as the monster eventually identified as Godzilla arrives in all his green destructive glory. He tears into the then infamous Alaskan pipeline, snapping it like a whip. The people of Alaska don't seem to aware of Godzilla when he first appears, only that a mighty monster has arrived among them. What, if anything he did in Japan before coming to America, is unspoken and seemingly unknown by most.


Relatively quickly Godzilla heads to the lower forty-eight and arrives in Seattle. The second issue features a classic cover with the "King of Monsters" dramatically framed in the spotlights below him as he chews up the Space Needle.


Heading down the coast Godzilla is confronted by the Champions, the short-lived superteam who set up shop briefly in Los Angeles, but head to San Francisco to take on the menace of the King of Monsters. Their impact on Godzilla is minimal to be honest, even given the enormous strength of the Olympian Hercules.


Godzilla then battles monsters of his own kind, created by Doctor Demonicus thanks to the radiation of a meteor dubbed the "Lifestone" which lies buried in a volcano. Herb Trimpe steps away from the series for two issues while Tom Sutton steps in and does a great job imagining such monstrous types as Batragon, Centripoor, and Ghilaron.


Demonicus plan is to create his own monsters and he unleash them on the world in an effort to control it. Godzilla unknowingly becomes the target of these beasts, but is able to repel them with his ferocious might.


Following these tremendous bouts, Godzilla finally is brought to heel by SHIELD agent Dum Dum Dugan who has been chasing the monster relentlessly since he first landed. Along with others he is able to capture Godzilla at long last and bring him aboard a specially designed heli-carrier dubbed "The Behemoth".


A number of times reading these stories I was put in mind of the recent Godzilla movie which showcased the King of Monsters coming to the American west coast. But that's hardly the end of the "King of Monsters" and his tour of America.


More to come next week.

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