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Title
 Godzilla vs. Barkley
Author(s)
 Mike Baron, Alan Smithee
Pencils: Jeff Butler Inks: Keith Aiken
Language: English Release: 1993
Publisher: Dark Horse Pages: 24
Colors: James Sinclair Cover: Dave Dorman
 
Monster Appearances: Aliens, SDF, & Misc Appearances:
Godzilla -
Comments
Nicholas Driscoll
Quite 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 front cover.

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?

Memorable dialogue:

Pg. 1

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!"

Pg. 8

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!"

Pg. 10

Matthew: "You gotta stop Godzilla! Take this dollar."

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 there."

Pg. 14

(As Godzilla smashes through the city, flipping cars out of his way)

News chopper: "So far, there's been no loss of life…"

Pg. 15

Charles: "Hey! Hey you sorry suitcase-lookin' sucker! I'm talkin' to you!"

Pg. 16

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!"

Pg. 22

Charles: "You got some moves… Little work, you could maybe get a try-out with the Bulls, one of those second-rate teams."