There are days where
I really wish I had my scanner hooked up. But it’s downstairs in the garage along with…too many boxes of books and comics and various other sundries that haven’t been unpacked yet. Hey, I can see nearly all the carpet in the new place. That’s a major improvement over the last couple of weeks, lemme tell ya.
The reason why I wish my scanner was here is that then I’d be able to share with you the AWE-INSPIRING WONDER that is ESSENTIAL GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS. It’s the end, the end of the seventies and Godzilla, for some reason, has roosted in the Marvel Universe. And not just the Marvel Universe, but the Marvel Universe of the seventies, where nearly anything was possible and the impossible was mundane.
Issue one? Godzilla wakes up and wipes out the Alaska Pipeline, which if you are old enough to remember, would be roughly equivalent to say, erasing the Internet today. SHIELD is dispatched to the case and doesn’t send out tanks or planes, but a Heli-carrier and a wing of jet-packed and armor-plated agents. See? That’s panache. Yeah, they break out the death-rays, too.
Of course, they get owned by Godzilla. But it’s the effort that counts.
Issue two? Seattle reduced to smoking rubble, SHIELD blowing up the only power plant leading to the city, playing bait-and-switch with the big green guy and finally using ten-ton blocks of concrete shot out of cannons to throw him into the ocean. No wailing about civilian casualties, no heavyhanded rhetoric, nothing getting in the way of utterly improbable action.
And it only gets better.
Issue three has Godzilla setting his eyes on San Francisco where he not only has to contend with SHIELD, but The Champions. Yeah, I know. A total mismatch. But Hercules manages to throw Godzilla off his feet and into most of Pier 39 at the same time (nevermind that it’s on the wrong side of the Golden Gate) in a full splash page of mayhem. But it gets better. SHIELD and The Champions are at odds with one another (of course) with one side representing the well-oiled machine of law enforcement and the others the reckless vigilantes taking matters into their own hands.
Hey, wait a second…
While SHIELD tries to drop electromagnetic nets on Godzilla, Hercules takes a giant chunk of the deck of the Golden Gate and tosses it right towards our favorite lizard.
Who DUCKS it. You heard that.
The missile hits not Godzilla, but the Helicarrier, which goes headfirst right into San Francisco Bay. Two splash pages in a single issue! INSANITY.
Issues 4-5? Dr. Demonicus and the Isle of Lost Monsters. MONSTER ON MONSTER ACTION, finally! Goofy Marvel villains and giant mutated creatures, two great tastes that taste great together! And for a special bonus, Issue #5 is inked by one of the best in the business, who’d go on to a critical run of a seminal superhero book, and would ink one of the most influential books of the 80s (for good or for ill). That’s right. Klaus Janson inked Godzilla, chunky blacks and all. And oh yes, we get the clunky exclamations of “Freeze, Black Man!” not only once, but twice. I guess Dr. Demonicus didn’t see the memo that SHIELD was taking strides in diversifying (as did the cast of the book, which featured ethnic Japanese and Chinese in relatively non-insulting roles – Jimmy Woo of the late AGENTS OF ATLAS included.) But really, the psychotic mix of Marvel superheroics and Toho monstrosity is the star here.
Issue 6-8 feature the debut of Red Ronin, the Shogun Warrior/MAZINGER ripoff piloted by a renegade 12-year old, build by Stark Industries to keep the world safe for Democracy and out of the hands of elemental reptiles. It also features a NEW helicarrier called the Behemoth piloted by none other than… Really, this was unbelievable. I had to put the book down for a moment and absorb the enormity of the genius unfolding before me. Yeah, it was that good.
Howard Hughes circa 1942 piloted the Behemoth. It wasn’t a mistake. Fedora, pipe, loosened tie and all. Just…sublime.
And did I forget to mention that nuclear Armageddon was about to be unleashed from a Godzilla-torn military base in San Diego? Really, I didn’t even know that they had a missile base there. Guess it was hidden from all the NIMBYs or something.
Later on, we get Godzilla in Vegas in a story that could only be told in comics (and even if it’s a little flat, shows more understanding of the medium and what it can do well, than most mainstream comics of the time seemed capable of.) Can’t forget the sight of Godzilla surfing through downtown Vegas on a wave spawned by the collapse of Hoover Dam, either, can we? Then Godzilla versus the Biggest Bigfoot of all—YETRIGAR! And where do they fight? In the Grand Canyon, of course! It becomes the “world’s biggest arena”. Pure awesome. Beta-Beast and the MEGA MONSTERS FROM BEYOND (a story so big it took three issues to tell, and featured perhaps the single most amazing decapitation scene in all of comicdom – has to be seen to be believed.) Godzilla versus cattle rustlers? Yep, got that.
I mean, Godzilla versus cowboys. Who doesn’t love cowboys with a touch of unexplained cattle mutilation thrown in?
Then we get a little Hank Pym love with Godzilla being shrunk down to the size of a cat. Yeah, it doesn’t last forever, but it lasts long enough for Godzilla to get lost in the New York sewers, fight rats, then grow up a little, dress like a hobo (with the help of the 12-year old kid who’d formerly piloted Red Ronin), thwart his own mugging, make paleontologists swoon, fight the Fantastic Four, fight in a tank of sharks (SHARKS!), hurtle through time to fight with and then alongside Devil Dinosaur (aww, tell me you didn’t see that coming – double page splash and all) to end with a titanic confrontation with the FF and the Avengers in downtown New York after returning from his time travel escapade.
Are the comics good? Eh. Who cares about structure and depth of character when you’re reading this stuff. This isn’t meant to be analyzed. It’s just meant to be enjoyed while you fight off the post-moving sniffles and try to put things back in order.
But if it’s imagination that you want, go no further. So give me an AMEN and crank up the Blue Oyster Cult. Godzilla is back, at least for a limited time (don’t bet on this one getting reprinted again.)