Ah, nostalgia! Be it that old cartoon, a favorite toy or a comic book from days gone by, isn’t it great, when out of the blue, the memories come flooding back, and you’ve no choice but to exclaim “Holy Crap! Remember…?”
Of all the giant monsters that have graced the big screen, none have been more popular and prolific as the so-called “King of All Monsters”, Godzilla. The giant radioactive lizard has been a pop culture staple since his debut in the Japanese horror classic Gojira, so it should come as no surprise that he has had a long and storied history of comic book appearances. One of Godzilla’s earliest incarnations on the comic page was in his own ongoing series, published by Marvel from 1977 to 1979. What made this series interesting and distinct from the rest of his comic appearances was that Marvel managed to incorporate the famous beast into the Marvel Universe proper by pitting him against mainstays like the Avengers, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and S.H.I.E.L.D., as well as a number of other giant monsters like fan-favorite Devil Dinosaur. This was one of the first attempts by Marvel to incorporate a licensed character into their overall universe, a practice that would continue into the Eighties.
The first issue of the comic, entitled Godzilla: King of the Monsters, began with the title character breaking free of an iceburg in Alaska and eventually making his way to New York harbor. How the beast actually got trapped in the ice is never fully explained, though fans of the film series have theorized that it may have tied into the ending of the U.S. version of King Kong vs. Godzilla, in which he was defeated by the giant ape. As opposed to the comedic, almost benevolent beast portrayed in the films put out by Toho studios at the time, the Godzilla in this comic was a rampaging beast not unlike the early incarnation of the Hulk, though there were times in the book that he felt compassion for humans. Veteran S.H.I.E.L.D. agent “Dum Dum” Dugan, tasked by his superiors to lead a team to take the monster out, eventually develops an uneasy alliance with Godzilla. His only other human ally is Dr. Robert Takiguchi, the grandson of the scientist from Gojira who was the lone dissenter in Japan’s plan to kill the beast. His appearance in New York quickly gains the attention of many of the cities’ heroes, who make several attempts to drive the monster away from the city.
The full 24-issue run of Marvel’s Godzilla comic was written by veteran scribe Doug Moench and drawn by the legendary Herb Trimpe, who was no stranger to monstrous characters. The series was cancelled after Marvel lost the copyright, but a handful of the characters Moench created for the book, such as the giant robot known as Red Ronin and the evil mad scientist Dr. Demonicus, appeared in several Marvel titles afterwards. Godzilla himself would briefly return to the Marvel Universe during the mid-Eighties in the pages of The Thing. Marvel would continue using licensed characters in their core universe in the years to come in books like Micronauts, Rom: Spaceknight, and early issues of Transformers, which featured a guest appearance from Spider-Man.
Even though Marvel is contractually not allowed to use Godzilla in their comics anymore, they did manage to reprint the entire run of Godzilla: King of the Monsters in a black-and-white Essentials set, and their online database mentions the monster’s appearances as still part of the Marvel canon. The database even mentions that the Marvel “Age of Monsters” that brought about such creatures as Fin Fang Foom began in 1954, which is the year that the original Gojira debuted in theaters. In the years since the book’s cancellation, Godzilla has appeared in comics published by Dark Horse and, most recently, IDW Publishing, but none of them used him in a way that was more daring and fun than the way he was portrayed in Marvel Comics during the late seventies.
Filed Under: Holy Crap! Remember...