Forty Years of the Other King of the Monsters

Following up on yesterday’s Kong post –
I did this illustration for the 1994 San Diego Comic Convention program book. The original Godzilla movie was released in Japan in 1954 so this piece was to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Godzilla was my favorite monster as a kid. The first Godzilla movie I saw was Monster Zero. I’m not sure how old I was. Maybe 10 or 11. That set up my expectations for what I thought a giant monster movie should be – a story of good monsters fighting bad ones while stomping a city or two. I probably didn’t see the “original” (ie the Raymond Burr Americanized Godzilla, King of the Monsters) until after I’d seen 2 or 3 other Godzilla movies. I no longer remember which movies those were (maybe vs. King Kong, vs. the Thing and vs. the Sea Monster) but they all featured Godzilla fighting another monster. He wasn’t always the good guy but, to my young self, he wasn’t really the bad guy either. Stomping on human cities was just his job.

The original Godzilla is a grim movie. It’s a little hard to imagine now but it was as much of game changer for big monsters as Night of the Living Dead would be for zombies. Godzilla isn’t just a big monster. He isn’t just a giant monster. He’s thirty stories tall and has radioactive rays for breath. He doesn’t just step on a couple of cars and squish a few people, he utterly destroys Tokyo and leaves thousands dead, dying and maimed. When King Kong died at the end of his movie I felt bad for the poor guy. He only killed a dozen people and mostly those were guys who trespassed on his island. When Godzilla died I figured it was a good thing. He was a walking atomic holocaust.

That was probably the biggest disappointment about the 1998 American Godzilla movie. That Godzilla was a big lizard that ran from human weapons. The big threat he posed was that he’d overbreed and overfeed. That’s not scary, that’s annoying. That’s Godzilla as giant reptilian rat not Godzilla the Atomic Revenge.

Godzilla is no longer my favorite monster. I don’t really have favorites any more. He’s an old friend whose company I still appreciate on the rare times we hang out but that doesn’t happen much anymore.

5 thoughts on “Forty Years of the Other King of the Monsters

  1. Monster Zero was our first Godzilla movie? I don’t have a clear memory about the order in which we saw Godzilla movies. But I’m pretty sure Monster Zero was the one we saw most frequently – at least 3 times, although in my (probably exaggerated) memory I find myself sick of it by the 5th viewing.

  2. We definitely saw Monster Zero more times than other movies. And I’m sure it was the first because it has all the flavors in it (alien invaders! monsters fighting! tokyo being invaded! last minute scientific invention!) that say Godzilla movie when I think Godzilla movie. It also had enough of a mix of serious stuff and goofy stuff (G’s victory dance!) that it just seemed natural, rather than annoying, when goofy stuff showed up in later movies.

    I don’t really remember what order we saw most of the other movies in. I remember watching Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster in a hotel in San Francisco. I can’t remember why we were at the hotel but Mom let us stay up late so we could catch it on Creature Features. I thought Godzilla flying after Hedorah was pretty damned cool.

    I still haven’t seen Godzilla vs. Gigan. Or the last three movies before Final Wars. But I have seen Godzilla vs. the Netherlands and so can you.

  3. I really enjoyed Monster Zero; my first exposure was Godzilla 1985, and my latest exposure was Final Wars, which, while fun, just didn’t capture what I remember as a kid from scouring the video store (our local one didn’t have the videos arranged by any sort of genre or alphabetical order) for ones I hadn’t seen and trying to secret them away or get them together so that I might find them easier next time.

    To this day I’ve never seen Destroy All Monsters.

  4. Destroy All Monsters is pretty fun. Monster Zero is probably a better movie but having the whole gang of monsters rampaging in D.A.M. made my evil little child’s heart very happy.

    My holy grail for years was Gigantis, the Fire Monster – the first Godzilla sequel. It’s pretty darned terrible. It does introduce Anguilas and the end of it does explain why Godzilla is in that iceberg at the beginning of King Kong vs. Godzilla but otherwise it’s probably the worst of the series.

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