As hype builds for the forthcoming release of the new big screen blockbuster Godzilla: King of the Monsters (complete with intense scrutiny of every fragment of available information), I will give over a few digital column inches to sharing anew a pile-up of words I previously offered about my favorite incarnation of the character in question. This was originally published at my former online home, as part of the “Flashback Fridays” series.
1977: The first issue of Godzilla from Marvel Comics is released
When I started the recurring series entitled “My Misspent Youth,” the intent was to wax nostalgic about comic books I read as a kid. The word “misspent” also invokes the titles I should have read, the four-color wonders I bypassed for whatever reason. I never read an issue of Godzilla when it was available for ready purchase on spinner racks across America. I was definitely leaning towards more childish fare at the time, but even when I started devoting myself to the superheroic product of the House of Ideas full time, I generally avoided the titles built around licensed products, whether derived from movies, TV shows, or toys. These weren’t canon, you see. They could be ignored so precious silver coins were directed to more critical parts of major Marvel universe storyline.
They were an important part of the major Marvel business plan, however. Marvel aggressively sought licensed properties during this time, and some accounts claim that the Star Wars series they published kept the company afloat all by itself. One month after the first issue of Star Wars hit the stands, Marvel released their version of the adventures of the Toho Company‘s titanic strange beast, Godzilla.
As opposed to many other licensed titles, Godzilla took place within the established Marvel continuity. He arrived on American shores by bursting out of a bay in Alaska, and spent much of the series romping his way across the U.S. always with a battalion of S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives in pursuit. Led by former Howling Commando Dum Dum Dugan, the elite fighting force was continually thwarted by the towering reptile, although, to be fair, their efforts were unfairly complicated by a little kid who kept climbing into a giant robot and inserting himself into the fray. Before the series was up, Godzilla also tangled with the Avengers and, most memorably for me, the Fantastic Four.
This is exactly the sort of wild ride I miss in comics. This was right in the heart of the blissed out era of comics when there were few things hotter than a series starring an ill-tempered, stogie-chomping waterfowl trapped in a world he never made. Every nutty idea was fair game, and it was all presented with a genuine desire to entertain rather than the veneer of irony often slathered on similar material nowadays. Godzilla could crash through Las Vegas, get hurled into space, or get shrunk down so a sewer rat becomes a formidable adversary, and it was all just part of the show. It’s unabashed, grandly giddy fun built on rules-free flights of imagination. In other words, exactly what I want from comics.