November 29 marked the 5th anniversary that Godzilla, the walking warning from nature about the harm of nuclear weapons, got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was given to the Japanese kaiju eiji as part of his 50th anniversary and the release of his 28th and final movie in the US, Godzilla: Final Wars.
But Godzilla hasn’t just terrorized our movie and TV screens. Godzilla has had his day in print as well. He first appeared in the US in 1977 in the Marvel comic series, Godzilla, King of Monsters. It went for 24 issues, and had Godzilla stomping across the US and all over the Marvel Universe. He went up against Marvel superheroes such as the Fantastic Four, The Avengers, and even got a cameo from Spiderman in the last issue. He also fought the obligatory giant monsters, all original for the series. There are a few differences between the Godzilla in this series and what was seen in the movies of the time. Godzilla didn’t have his signature atomic breath. He just had a regular fire breath attack. And this Godzilla didn’t exhibit the intelligence that the movie Godzilla of the late seventies did. He is depicted as being more animalistic, and is similar to what we see in the reboot of the series in the 1984 Heisei era movies. You can get the whole run of the Marvel Godzilla series in one book in Marvel’s Essential Godzilla.
Marvel soon lost the license to Godzilla, and in the 1980′s Dark Horse picked it up. They printed a few comics before licensing and translating the manga for the movie reboot of the series, The Return of Godzilla. It was originally published as the Terror of Godzilla, and reprinted as the trade Godzilla. It’s flipped, as was the practice back then and follows the original movie and not the US version, Godzilla 1985. In the 1990′s, he received his own series called Godzilla: King of Monsters, which lasted 17 issues and several specials. This series again featured new monsters for Godzilla to fight, and a time traveling arc that took him to the 1908 San Francisco Earthquake, the sinking of the Titanic, and even facing the Spanish Armada. Towards the end, the series started to get a little ridiculous, as one of the specials featured Godzilla fighting a giant Charles Barkley, the basketball player. These have been collected as well, into two trades; Godzilla: Past, Present, Future and Godzilla: Age of Monsters. You need to get both to read the whole 17 issue series.
Godzilla is an icon in both the US and Japan, and has a legacy that has stretched through 2 generations. While the series gone off course a few times into the sublime in that 50 years, it still produced some great movies and moments that will never be forgotten. These comics are just an extension of that.