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  • ‘Twas the night of winter solstice when Gamera arrived

    In a far-off land where only the strong survived.

    The wind was howling like a mad siren,

    Only to be drowned out by the roar of a Titan.

    From the darkness, a living mountain of flesh emerged;

    Stronger than any force on Earth, its atomic power surged.

    What Gamera saw coming was truly scary,

    He knew of this creature, its battles legendary!

    Not wanting to die without putting up a fight,

    Gamera unleashed a burning blast of light;

    But when the smoke cleared and the flames receded,

    Gamera beheld something he didn’t know he needed.

    In his claws was a gift that contained a surprise,

    A gift Gamera would be playing with ’til the next sunrise;

    Gamera was speechless; he didn’t know what to say;

    It seemed all Godzilla wanted was a friend on this winter solstice day.

    General // December 22, 2018
  • My worst fear is being lost. It’s like having your mind broken down to your most vulnerable, primitive state. As your will to live is stretched to its limits, your hope threatens to become the first casualty. Making matters worse, your paranoia leads a vicious mutiny against reason and logic. The truth is you’re trapped, and you might not know it until it’s too late.

    In nature, moths have a peculiar fondness for bright lights, which usually ends in disaster for the curious insect. ‘Like a moth to a flame,’ is a phrase that poignantly warns one from pursuing a destructive path. It’s a nice saying. Unlike the poor moth that doesn’t know any better, a human being is quite capable of discerning right from wrong and, in doing so, can avert disaster. But what if a person can’t? What if they’re lost and the fire is burning closer? What if, like a moth, we’re the ones instinctively drawn to the fire?

    Unless someone—or something—intervenes.

    Mothra is a character I’ve come to appreciate the more I grow as a person. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the character, because Mothra represents growth. Unlike her more destructive kaiju brethren, Mothra holds a unique place in the kaiju mythos by being a divinely inspired monster. She embodies light, rebirth, wisdom, and forgiveness. What I especially like about Mothra is how she defies conventionalism. She’s a monster that is loved—not feared—by her followers. How can that be? Doesn’t that challenge what a monster is? Yes, and that is what makes Mothra unique.

    Ishiro Honda, who helped pioneer the kaiju genre as we know it, once said, “Monsters are tragic beings. They are born too tall, too strong, too heavy. They are not evil by choice.”

    For decades, we’ve empathized with creatures who have, for better or ill, been demonized for the crime of not being human. This stems from a long-standing belief that humans have are the sole arbiters of morality. Mothra challenges this notion. And in doing so, she becomes a messenger, one that lights a path in the dark.

    I’ve always been a sucker for behind-the-scenes content. So, if you’ve seen my film, Monster Sightings: Mothra Video, and you were wondering how I made it read on. If you have any questions, send me an email or drop me a comment on the video’s YouTube page.

    Making this film was fun and challenging. I wanted to do this legendary character justice, and I hope I didn’t disappoint. As a filmmaker, I have one rule when I begin every new project: do something new. My first Monster Sightings video was one big scene. For this film, I wanted to film multiple scenes in a more natural environment. Since Mothra is a good monster, I thought I’d make Mother Nature the antagonist. With the air unbreathable and a wall of burning death closing in, my protagonist could use all the help he could get. While they don’t exactly make an appearance, the presence of the Shobijin are felt through Akira Ifukube’s classic melody Sacred Springs.

    I filmed everything on my iPhone X, using the ProCam app, which allowed me to record in higher resolutions. This was crucial because not everything was shot as a video. Several key scenes were initially still images. With the higher resolution in play, I could revise the image in post-production to my liking. It’s easier to do visual effects on a still photograph than a moving picture. But what if you don’t want an entire movie full of still shots and images? Not to worry! Just add ‘camera movement’ in post-production. Red Giant has many nifty tools to help you do this.

    Let’s take a look at some before-and-after screen comparisons.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    For the opening scene, I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. I tried striking a colorful balance between something dreadful (e.g., forest fire) and something hopeful (e.g., Mothra’s symbol). Speaking of Mothra’s symbol, during the making of this scene, I joked to my wife, “Think of it as the monster equivalent to Batman’s signal. Only instead of calling Batman for help, you’re calling for a giant moth. I don’t know which is better.”

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    The beautiful flame effects are compliments of ActionVFX. Highly recommended!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video

    Cool fact: Mothra’s cocoon here is a prop. It’s an additional accessory to Revoltech’s Mothra release. All I did was carefully ‘cut’ its edges out in Adobe After Effects and then composited it into my scene. Add in a series of nifty effects to sell it and presto!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Initially, Mothra’s fairy moths had a more extended role. That didn’t turn out so well. Regardless, I liked how this turned out. I love how they served as guides for our protagonist to follow out of harm’s way. For those wondering, yes, this is the Revoltech Mothra.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    During pre-production, this was the first scene I imagined doing. I was excited to do it! This is how I made it work: I flipped up the wing of my S.H. MonsterArts Mothra action figure while recording in front of my green screen studio. Then in post-production, I erased the green screen—using Red Giant’s fantastic software—and, well, see for yourself!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    For this shot, I moved my S.H. MonsterArts Mothra in front of a green screen. I composited it over a still image of the footage and then, when the time was right, switched it to the live-action footage just in time for it to pan over after her.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video

    This was a blink-and-you-will-totally-miss-it moment. So, here you go. And yes, Mothra would make a great firefighter.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Here’s my secret: the second image is a still of Mothra resting in front of my green screen. After removing the green screen, I made three duplicates: 1 of Mothra’s wingless body (I cut those out), 1 of Mothra’s left wing, and 1 of Mothra’s right wing. I combined them together and then added motion to the wings to simulate flight.

    Be on the lookout for the next Monster Sightings video! Who do you want to see next? Help decide by sounding off in the comments section.

    General // August 15, 2018
  • You’re in a city teeming with thousands of strangers. It’s a safe bet you won’t see any of these people again, not that you would remember them even if you did. As the city’s ambiance plays out like a disorganized orchestra and the allure of an Italian restaurant slowly reels you in, you’re suddenly snapped out of your daily routine by a violent force of nature. You don’t know what it is or where it came from. There’s only one thing you do know: the city is no longer safe.

    Behind the fan video:

    My friend and I were coming down from the top of the Space Needle, with a great view of the Puget Sound in our periphery, when I had an idea that I think is typical in this kaiju-loving fandom. It first started with a question: What would happen if a giant monster suddenly attacked? What would I do? Well, I’d film it, of course! I pulled out my phone and recorded the footage that I would use lateras the backdrop for my short film.

    I’ve been wanting to make a short Rodan film for quite some time now. In my initial effort, I tried using my Revoltech Rodan action figure. The idea was to have the audience follow Rodan around as he soared above an unsuspecting city at supersonic speed. I was ultimately unsatisfied with how everything turned out, mostly due to inexperience, so I went back to the drawing board.As much as I liked my Revoltech Rodan, which is based on the superb 1956 design, it wasn’t meeting my expectations. Fortunately, Bandai Tamashii Nations’ SH MonsterArts had a nifty Fire Rodan in its lineup, so I went with that model. It wasn’t easy recasting Rodan. Revoltech Rodan’s attorney means business. There were talks of strikes, lawsuits, and a boycott of my YouTube channel. Serious stuff, I know. But cooler heads prevailed.

    With principle photography shot and my ‘actor’ secured, I constructed my own little green screen studio. And, well, I ran into my next problem. Unlike most of the other SH MonsterArts characters, Fire Rodan proved difficult when it came to doing stop motion. He just wouldn’t cooperate. I was also using a ship model prop that was released with the Bandai Tamashii Nations Gipsy Danger (who I will definitely be using in a future project). It didn’t jive so well with the green screen lighting. No problem! I improvised. I took many pictures of Rodan in different poses before going through the painstaking process of photoshopping each one. It was totally worth it!

    Finally, my creature was ready to be unleashed on Seattle. With excellent stock footage from ActionVFX and Video Copilot at my disposal, I could make Rodan’s attack look more surreal.

    Before and After Shot

    Everything is synchronized. This shot depicts the miracles of movie magic well. Original footage is on the right side…

    Before and After Shot

    …and vice-a-versa, original footage is on the left.

    Make no mistake, there will be more videos in the near future. I really like the idea of everyday people suddenly finding themselves in the presence of these rampaging monsters. And if you pause the video roughly 2 seconds in, you’ll get a small taste of what’s in store for the future of my Monster Sighting series.

    If you want to see what monster is next, be sure to like and subscribe. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please send them my way, I’d love to hear from you. To any filmmakers out there reading this who have similar projects in mind, I encourage you to go for it. Despite messing up several times, I’m convinced that with a little dedication, passion, and perseverance, you, too, can make something that is larger than life.

    Now take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine what would happen to you if your favorite giant monster suddenly attacked. What would you do?

    Before and After Shot

    Fun to look at before and after.

    Before and After Shot

    This shows that I made the frame not only shake but spin wildly out of control (which means the poor sap in the elevator had a very bad landing).

    Be on the lookout for the next Monster Sightings video! Who do you want to see next? Help decide by sounding off in the comments section.

    General // June 6, 2018
  • Emerald City Comic Con granted me my first ever press pass, and it’s all because of the hardworking staff members here at Toho Kingdom. I’d also like to extend my gratitude to all our visitors. Without you, Toho Kingdom wouldn’t be the eminent website it is today.

    I had a wonderful experience at this year’s Emerald City Comic Con. There’s nothing quite like walking down the streets of Seattle on a sunny afternoon only to see Thor and Captain America standing in line at a Starbucks, or a sea of impassioned cosplayers and casual fans alike interacting with each other. I hope this feeling of meeting people of similar interests never gets old, because I still remember a time before the internet when meeting, say, another Godzilla fan was the equivalent of waiting for the next leap year. Of course, now it’s different; now you can find others like you with just the click of a mouse. And while this is an important commodity—I should know, as I’ve befriended many remarkable people online—it shouldn’t deter you, not for a single moment, from meeting a fellow fan face-to-face.

    Unless they disagree with you, of course. Then all hope is lost.

    -DAY 1-

    Emerald City Comic Con 2018I should’ve planned this day better. I anticipated traffic and—get this!—I avoided squashing swarms of pedestrians like a pro. And yet I was mostly stuck in traffic for close to an hour, because all the parking garages and spots on the street were taken. With my patience dwindling, I elected to find parking across town. I took the monorail back from there, which, ironically, took less time than what I had just suffered through. I’m only bringing this up as a warning to any intrepid fans out there who will be embarking on similar pilgrimages in the not-too-distant future. Here’s a brief checklist I’ve found to be handy: Don’t just be an early bird, become one with the early bird; carpool with your best pals because it’s more affordable and there’s safety in numbers; and, arguably the most important piece of advice I can bestow, wear shorts like your life depends on it. Yes, you read that last part right. You’re going to be surrounded by thousands of warm bodies that will quickly make you feel like you’ve become Burning Godzilla. So unless you’re cosplaying, I highly advise you to go in wearing shorts even if it’s in the dead of winter.

    So being the glutton for punishment that I was, I wore pants my first day. Fortunately my regrets were short-lived, because on my first stop I paid a visit to our friends over at Bluefin Distributions. It’s there I purchased Mechagodzilla (1974), hot off the S.H.MonsterArts assembly line. I’ve had my collector’s eye on this one for some time, and I left satisfied.

    Big in Japan

    After exploring the exhibits, spotting all manner of iconic characters hailing from Japan, I rendezvoused with one of my best friends at the Back to the Future panel. It’s there I saw a fully decked, time-traveling DeLorean, with a flux capacitor to boot. Unfortunately they wouldn’t let me take it back in time to stop Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin from making a horrible mistake. Oh well. As our adventures continued, I saw custom-made cosplays that blew me away; I crossed paths with the likes of Korg (Thor: Ragnarok), The Night’s King (Game of Thrones), Doctor Doom (Fantastic Four), Darth Zoidberg (Star Wars/Futurama), and about a million Deadpools. There was apparently a squad of people dressed as Jaegers from Pacific Rim. I wish I was there to see them with my own eyes. Since we’re all still alive and kicking, I think it’s safe to assume they cancelled the apocalypse.

    A little later, I found the Complete Series of Ultraman Nexus and Megas XLR on DVD. I strongly recommend you, my dear reader, to hunt down the former, as it’s easily one of the most imaginative Ultraman shows I’ve ever watched. As for the latter? Well I’ve been hunting down Megas XLR for years. While the entire show may be available somewhere online, I was keen on adding Megas XLR, one of my favorite cartoons of all-time, to my personal collection. If you dig giant robots—and I have a sneaking suspicion that you do—give this phenomenal series a shot. It’s chockfull of homages to the Godzilla franchise and a plethora of other Japanese tropes that will satisfy your nostalgia.

    -DAY 2-

    Emerald City Comic Con 2018Today, I had the distinct pleasure of meeting an extraordinary pair of Godzilla artists.

    The first was Arthur Adams. One of the first comics I read as a kid was Dark Horse’s Godzilla: Color Special, which Arthur co-wrote and illustrated. Its iconic imagery, intriguing human characters, and unique creature designs changed the way I thought about giant monsters. That panel of the islanders huddling in fear with Godzilla shrieking ominously in the background is truly breathtaking; the one of Godzilla rising out of the sea for the first time still gives me goosebumps! And the very last shot that closes the story? Perfection.

    Arthur was kind enough to share some insight in the making of this one-of-a-kind tale. Since Toho didn’t own the character rights to Majin, a vengeful deity that starred in a trilogy of films produced by Daiei Films, Arthur created arguably the most memorable monster from the entire Dark Horse run: Gekido-Jin. A few minutes in, I found out that Arthur once pitched a Godzilla vs. Superman series to Toho back during the ‘90s. I would have loved to have seen that. After having a pleasant chat with Arthur Adams for several minutes, we exchanged our goodbyes. I’m happy to report that he graciously signed my Godzilla: Color Special. Achievement unlocked!

    Emerald City Comic Con 2018A few hours later, my friend and I were wandering aimlessly down Artist Alley. We had just finished talking with Matthew Willson (Color Artist, The Mighty Thor), when I saw the Godzilla In Hell graphic novel standing proudly on a table. Like Magneto, it pulled me in with its magnetism. I gaped at what had become one of my favorite Godzilla stories in recent years. As I flipped through the pages, exclaiming all manner of hype to my uninterested friend, I soon found myself conversing directly with Buster Moody. Buster was the artist responsible for bringing Godzilla In Hell #3 to life. This was the issue which saw the King of the Monsters face off with SpaceGodzilla, with Godzilla appearing to pass on during their conflict… only to meet his celestial opponent in hell.

    In a series packed with terrific artwork done by the likes of Bob Eggleton, James Stokoe, Ibrahim Moustafa, and Dave Wachter, Buster Moody’s work holds its own. As I asked him questions about the underlying nature of the story, it became apparent that Buster knew his stuff. Buster may not have been the writer of Godzilla In Hell #3, but he was undoubtedly an expert on its story and structure. He shared some interesting tidbits about its characters that made me shriek in excitement. Before parting ways, Buster Moody autographed my Godzilla In Hell paperback copy. I’ll never forget our pleasant chat.

    -CLOSING THOUGHTS-

    It’s important to remember that behind every great story is a person worthy of your time. There are many people at these events worth your time, as you are worth theirs. It’s not just about interacting with artists and creators, which is something to appreciate; no, it’s mainly about celebrating what you like in the company of others and having a good time. I know I did. I’m greatly looking forward to attending next year’s Emerald City Comic Con. With Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) coming out in theaters right around that time, maybe we’ll be the first in line to meet some of the cast and crew?

    Stay tuned.

    General // March 23, 2018
  • I’ve been writing stories for decades.

    “Wait a minute,” some of you must be thinking. “Tom, aren’t you 24-years-old?”

    As a matter of fact, yes. Yes I am.

    “So you’ve been writing since you were, like, four?”

    Hey, it’s not like I’ve been writing good stories for decades! Since my childhood, I’ve made some minor improvements in my spelling, grammar, and creativity. So I’m a little better than that one Godzilla comic I made back in pre-school. Even though I’ve gotten older, one thing remains the same, and that’s my undying love for kaiju eiga!

    As fans, we love our monsters. We especially love our giant monsters. And we especially love it when our giant monsters fight it out inside a miniaturized city. It’s one of the biggest reasons why we watch these movies. Oh sure, we’re also fans of the plot, the characters, the symbolism, and all that other fancy stuff that makes us sound like credible moviegoers. But let’s not kid ourselves. Monster action is what keeps us coming back for more!

    But not even the films can captivate us forever! We want more! We’re tired of seeing Godzilla defending Tokyo from King Ghidorah for hundredth time. Y’know what we’d really like to see? Godzilla versus Gamera! Rodan versus King Kong! I’d pay to see those fights on the big screen. Odds are we never will though. Bummer! Don’t worry! We have alternatives. You can always make a cool animated short. You could always to write a screenplay, maybe even pitch it to Toho if you have the right contacts. Hey, why not ask some artist to whip up a drawing? Matt Frank would be the right guy to ask. If you’re really desperate, why not start a discussion with other fans, and argue over what would really happen if these monsters fought each other to the death? All great ideas. Really, they’re all fun, innovative, and memorable.

    Oh, right! There is another alternative.

    Many years ago I founded the M.W.F. (Monster Wrestling Federation). It was a very popular attraction to my now extinct website. But like all great things, it had to end. But it’s legacy lived on when I started working for Toho Kingdom. I was tasked with breathing new life into what was formerly known as the T.M.W.F. (Toho Monster Wrestling Federation). But when I officially joined up, it had a different name…

    It’s called the K.W.C. (Kaiju War Chronicles). It’s part of this really cool, popular little website called Toho Kingdom. It’s about monsters expressing themselves in the best way they know how: fighting. They do this in stories written by the fans for the fans. We’ve been writing these stories for several years now.

    So imagine my surprise when Anthony Romero, the owner and founder of Toho Kingdom himself, offered me money for all of my hard work and dedication. Wait, what? That’s not what this is about? Then why the hell am I writing this?! Oh. Oh… OH! Oh come on! That’s what this is about?!

    Well, apparently I’m supposed to provide some backstory behind Toho Kingdom’s 2011 April Fools Event. Sorry about all that buildup. I’m sure you were expecting something epic. Blame the purple snake running this operation for ruining the moment. Anyway, I better get back to doing my job, the one I don’t get paid for…

    Every year we do something different for April Fools. There’s always a different theme. This year Anthony asked if I’d be interested in doing a KWC inspired prank. Now I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a parody story for years. But I lacked the motivation and inspiration to pull it off. Until now — err, more like two weeks before April Fools. That’s around the time Anthony asked if I’d be interested in doing this.

    Read the original April Fools Match:
    Match 200: Hostile Takeover

    That’s when it all fell into place.

    After exchanging ideas, I went to work. I had only a few rules to follow.

    Rule #1: Do NOT stop writing until the story is complete.

    Rule #2: Do NOT stop to fix spelling or grammar errors.

    Rule #3: Do NOT plan much. This must be as spontaneous as humanly possible.

    Rule #4: Bend SOME of these rules.

    I had a blast writing this. I really really did. My friends would tell you I’m a jokester at heart. I love making people laugh. One of my favorite ways to make people laugh is by poking fun at myself. Because I can totally take it. So I wanted to parody the very things I love most about this fandom.

    I love talking about kaiju. They’re fantastic characters. They are to humans what humans are to everything else. Tragic, terrifying, powerful, and larger than life. Yes, they usually star in campy films, and look fake as hell (there are a few exceptions). Whatever. I love these characters. Whether I’m discussing who’d win between Destoroyah and SpaceGodzilla or brainstorming why Godzilla is one of my favorite characters, I’m passionate through and through!

    Some would call my passion an obsession. They’re probably right. So instead of having a nervous breakdown while watching every Godzilla movie ever made — did I mention I’d be in my custom-made Jet Jaguar costume during this time? — and hack into Toho Kingdom out of grief, I poke fun at myself (and a great deal of others) to relax.

    Before writing for the K.W.C., I asked Anthony if I could use non-Toho beasties. He broke my heart by saying no. Oh well. Not a big deal! All was not lost! I’ll just include some cool cartoon kaiju… Oh, right. They weren’t allowed either. So I had to rely on sneaking them into our stories in the most subtlest ways. (Quickly, go read past matches in the vain hope of finding these fake easter eggs! I’ll wait.) So that’s one reason behind the inclusions of Evangelion, Cthulhu, Big O, and the Cloverfield Monster (just to name a few) in this year’s April Fools event. I also wanted to use ’em because I’m a fan of all those characters and thought they’d be perfect for the crazy storyline. I also wanted to shine the spotlight more on the ‘underdogs’ of the kaiju world: Gabara, Zilla, and Jet Jaguar. That didn’t happen quite the way I wanted. But it was fun making them super-powerful, regardless.

    I cannot forget another K.W.C. tradition. It’s one we’ve all become accustomed to. Need a hint? It’s the banners! My longtime friend and collaborator, Christian Salabert, started making the K.W.C. banners years ago. Since then we’ve recruited other photoshop artists: Goji girl and Varan58. They’ve proven how irreplaceable they are to the site time and time again. One in particular helped me make the April Fools banner (it IS tradition). While Goji girl will help shed more light on her involvement, I will say this: I asked her to make a really bad banner. Instead we got a hilariously awesome banner. That’s just a testament of her incredible skills.

    Before letting you go (because you can’t leave without me giving you permission), I’ll clue you in on the interesting format and writing style I implemented in the April Fools Match. Anyone familiar with screenwriting would recognize it. I’m a screenwriter myself. Several years ago, I wrote a very short Godzilla screenplay. It was so bad, it was really bad. By really bad, I mean worse than the K.W.C. matches Anthony wrote. So ever since then I’ve been very wary of doing a screenplay on kaiju. Because the failures of my past continue to haunt me even to this present day (I’m totally using this in a future story since it sounded gothic, ominous, and tragic). Almost every Godzilla fan has at one moment in time thought about writing and/or directing a feature length Godzilla film. We all secretly want to become Ascended Fanboys. So why not write like one? That’s really the gist of the plot: a Godzilla fan is writing a parody screenplay about a Godzilla fan writing a screenplay with him as the main character in the hopes of becoming famous.

    Thanks for reading and enjoy the show! It’s so totally becoming a film someday.

    [shameless advertising]

    On the Toho Kingdom forums, you’ve might’ve noticed how the KW.C. has its own subforum. It allows its readers to give us feedback, ideas, and fights they’d like to see (avoid telling us who should win though). We’ve had many memorable discussions. So you’re welcome to join us there. Maybe you’d be interested in writing for the KW.C. yourself? If so, go there now, and find out more information!

    [/shameless advertising]

    Goji Girl’s editorial commentary:

    “When I got the request to do this banner, I had to pick up my hanging jaw up off the keyboard. Who knew these guys could come up with something so preposterous, so silly, so unfathomable… I just HAD to take this up. This isn’t a request you get everyday. It also hit me, I could do whatever the hell I wanted. So I did: I started off with getting a work-of-art of a background (A blocky city – drawn by a child, no less). Then came the images, and they had to be state of the art! So I got all that together (If you look at it, you’ll notice that their all mostly crummy toys, incomplete images, and video game models. Hell, there’s one that I didn’t even bother clearing the background to), and I slapped ’em on in the most bizarre and random of positions my feeble little mind could muster. Then came the title, something I didn’t necessarily come up with it, but I got to pick that cheesy “Oreos” font (Betcha didn’t realize that!). And, huzzah! Twas done, and I sat in awe at the comical thing. It made no sense in the least – and I loved every second of it.”

    General // May 29, 2011