possibly the oddest Godzilla comic ever published
in America, Godzilla vs. Barkley is the infamous
radioactive-tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the equally
infamous Nike television commercial from the early
nineties—and Nike is never mentioned once throughout
the story! Released in 1993 while the commercial was
still fresh in the minds of those who cared (if anybody
actually did), the comic tries to flesh out the events
leading up to the colossal sports confrontation that
took place in the commercial itself, all while amping
up the camp and the cheese.
The story follows one of Barkley's fans, young, energetic Matthew, who wants
nothing more in the world than to meet his biggest
sports idol in the world—who soon will become
the biggest sports idol in the world, period! When
Godzilla shows up on the shores of California, Matthew
desperately skateboards to Barkley and gives him
a magic silver dollar that causes the basketball
legend to grow Godzilla-sized, thus leading to the
greatest game of hoops in all of history, right
in the center of the city, with the fate of thousands—or
at least Barkley's basketball chops—at stake.
The plot, scripted by acclaimed writer of the Nexus
comic series Mike Baron, is told completely for
laughs. Even in the credits for the book the dopey
humor continues, with the plot's scenario being
credited to "Alan Smithee," the classic
pseudonym for directors who disown their movies—the
name can be found on dozens of typically awful films,
such as Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh and
even the U.S. version of Gunhed. Not all of the
humor in the book hits home; a lot of the amusement
comes from watching the protagonists acting completely
unrealistically in the face of unbelievable circumstances,
and the humor of the dialogue is not from sharp
writing, but again mostly arises from the surreality
of the events. Ultimately, the story comes off as
a sort of low-key, disjointed parody apt to be found
in a particularly mild version of Mad Magazine…
…Which is also a good way to characterize
the artwork itself. Penciled by Jeff Butler, the
art is highly detailed and captures celebrities
likenesses very well (along with Barkley, Jack Nicholson,
Bill Cosby, Oprah Winfrey, Rush Limbaugh, Woody
Allen (?), and several other celebs make guest appearances),
but also tends to look a little sketchy and dirty,
again harkening to humor mags like Mad and Cracked.
The fact that several scantily clad females have
their nipples penciled in beneath their clothing—something
even the eternally sexist character designs of the
female superheroes from Marvel and DC rarely have—only
underscores the seediness of the design.
On the other hand, Godzilla himself is rendered
pretty nicely, albeit unevenly. The design utilized
for this issue is obviously based off of the Heisei
feline-feral suit instead of the monster from the
commercial; the Big G never even wears the stylish
athletic eyewear so recognizable from ILM's Godzilla
design. Still, Butler's Godzilla often looks really
good, frequently utilizing low angles to heighten
the sense of the monster's size. Just as often,
however, our favorite maple-leaf spiked reptile
looks fairly bad, appearing downright muddy on page
19. Someone was a big Godzilla fan, though; on the
very first page, a number of Godzilla monster names,
such as "Mosura," "Radon," and
"Baran," are rendered in red katakana
on the monitor screens in the background.
While the Godzilla on the inside of the book is
usually competently rendered, such cannot be said
of the Big G's likeness as pictured on the cover.
Eisner-award winning artist Dave Dorman, who has
done fantastic art of Star Wars, Indiana Jones,
Aliens, and more, unfortunately biffs on the Japanese
giant, rendering him sloppily with tiny teeth and
infinitesimal eyes in a mildly malformed head. Worse
is Godzilla's atomic breath; here it looks as if
Godzilla is vomiting a gooey spray of web fluid
all over Barkley's basketball. On the other hand,
Charles Barkley looks quite good, and the background
of burning buildings and destruction looks nice.
To be fair, though, Dorman provides a nice sketch
of a Godzilla more true to the commercial, along
with Barkley, in a fine little doodle inside the
The appeal of something like Godzilla vs. Barkley
lies mostly in its offbeat character. Much like
Godzilla Discovers America, Godzilla vs.
Barkley is a strange iteration in the Godzilla
legend, with hit-or-miss humor and a central story
that is notable only for its inanity. Nevertheless,
because Godzilla vs. Barkley is so much different
than just about anything else in official Godzilla
merch, the book is worth picking up on curiosity
alone. One thing I want to know, though, is: Just
when is Godzilla going to take up baseball and get
his revenge on Hideki Matsui for stealing his name?
Sailor: "Captain—When my father was a
young man in Osaka he saw Godzilla…"
Captain: "Silence! It's bad luck to even mention
his name! We're modern men! We do not believe in
the old legends!"
Matthew: "But gramps… The magic silver
dollar… I can use it to stop Godzilla!"
Matthew: "Charles Barkley is Earth's greatest
warrior! Only he can stop Godzilla!"
Matthew: "You gotta stop Godzilla! Take this
Charles: "I don't have to stop that ugly monster
and I don't want your dollar. You want to give me
a dollar, buy a ticket to the game."
Matthew: "But Charles, only you can stop Godzilla…
Because you're Earth's greatest warrior!"
Charles: "Hmm… You may have a point
(As Godzilla smashes through the city, flipping
cars out of his way)
News chopper: "So far, there's been no loss
Charles: "Hey! Hey you sorry suitcase-lookin'
sucker! I'm talkin' to you!"
Charles: "I'm gonna challenge him to some
one-on-one. It's a little known fact that Godzilla
is a sucker for b-ball!"
Charles: "You got some moves… Little
work, you could maybe get a try-out with the Bulls,
one of those second-rate teams."