We get to interview Bobby Curnow, editor at IDW Publishing, a second time as we are reflecting on the recently released Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters #1. We are avoiding spoilers, though, so this interview will mostly be about what led to a new Godzilla comic series and a bit about what to expect in the future. Also I would like to thank Bobby for taking the time out of his schedule to do this interview for us.
Chris Mirjahangir: How did the idea to bring Godzilla back to comics come about?
Bobby Curnow: Chris Mowry, who is a huge, HUGE Godzilla fan and works in our production department had been lobbying for several years for us to make Godzilla comics. That eventually lead to IDW reaching out to Toho.
Mirjahangir: How long had IDW been working to get this comic series started and when was Toho approached with the idea? Did recent events, such as Legendary Pictures’ upcoming Godzilla film, play any part in the timing?
Curnow: It took a while to get the deal signed, well over a year. Negotiations started in mid 2009 I think. As far as I know, the upcoming Godzilla film did not play a large part in those discussions.
Mirjahangir: Both Marvel Comics and Dark Horse had runs with the character which featured Godzilla and no other licensed Toho monsters. What made IDW decide to include other monsters from the franchise?
Curnow: As Godzilla fans, it just seemed to us like that was what was really missing in Godzilla comics. The supporting monsters are such an important part of what makes the Godzilla films great- seeing these crazy, gigantic beasts clobber each other while mortal men flee in terror. There’s just too much potential in those other monsters to ignore!
Mirjahangir: Crossovers in Godzilla comics have had a history, with Marvel Comics pitting the monster again the Avengers and the Fantastic Four while Dark Horse infamously had him face Charles Barkley and Hero Zero in their runs. What is the possibility of Godzilla running into another licensed property, such as G.I. Joe or Transformers, in an upcoming comic from IDW?
Curnow: I’d say minimal to zero. Those types of crossovers between licenses are always very hard to pull off logistically. More importantly, it seems counter to what we’re trying to do with Godzilla. There will be some humor in the Godzilla comics, but they won’t be silly. A crossover with another license seems a little silly at this time. We want to establish Godzilla as a powerful, real threat to the world. So I won’t say there’s NO chance of a crossover, but there’s certainly no plans for it in the foreseeable future.
Mirjahangir: What about outside current IDW licenses? Would the company, for example, be open to crossovers with King Kong, Gamera or other well known monsters?
Curnow: This makes more sense from a storytelling perspective, but we have so many great supporting monsters already that we’ll be busy for a while.
Mirjahangir: Who are the main and key writers of the series?
Curnow: Eric Powell (The Goon) and Tracy Marsh will be writing the ongoing. John Layman (Chew) will be writing our first mini-series, which takes place in a different continuity.
Mirjahangir: Who are the key artists on the series?
BC: Phil Hester (Green Arrow) is penciling the ongoing (with Bruce McCorkindale doing inks and Ronda Pattison on color) and Alberto Ponticelli (Unknown Soldier) is doing art on the mini-series (with Jay Fotos doing color)
Mirjahangir: Alex Ross is one of the more head turning artists out there working in comics today, with a style that is well known and recognized. How did he end up doing one of the covers for the first issue of the Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters series?
Curnow: Like most everyone, we’re big fans of Alex- we asked if he liked Godzilla and it turns out he did! (Who doesn’t?) Not much more to it than that!
Mirjahangir: Matt Frank is a well respected artist in the fan community, having contributed artwork to Toho Kingdom and other venues in the past. What prompted the decision to bring him on board the project for art duties such as creating variant covers?
Curnow: If you’re paying attention to Godzilla art, it’s hard to miss Matt’s immense talent and enthusiasm for all things Toho. We wanted to make him involved in a real way, so the variant covers and the retail exclusive covers seemed like a good place to start. Some people seize an opportunity… and then other people tackle it to the ground, beat it into submission and hang as a trophy on their wall! Suffice to say, Matt knocked everything thrown at him out of the park.
Mirjahangir: Given his reputation within the fandom, what’s the possibility Matt will become more involved with the character down the line at IDW, beyond doing variant covers?
Curnow: That’s being worked out currently actually, so I can’t get into details. But we’re all for giving Matt a chance to stretch his wings beyond the variant covers.
Mirjahangir: A list of licensed Toho monsters was posted online that IDW got usage rights to. The list included some well known monsters, such as Rodan and King Ghidorah, along with some head turners, such as Battra and Titanosaurus. Will this “roster” of licensed characters be expanded in the future to include more Toho monsters?
Curnow: That’s a very real possibility that we’ll be exploring in the future. We’ve still got our hands full with the great batch of monsters currently at our disposal… they’ll tide us over for a bit!
Mirjahangir: Toho is known to be very protective as far as approving designs for their characters. Which character was Toho the most protective of? Least?
Curnow: All these characters are Toho’s children, so they all get equal love. Obviously Godzilla is the biggest star with the most ‘screen’ time, but Toho makes sure we’re getting every monster right. There was a learning curve at the start of our submission process as we figured out what works and what doesn’t, but they’ve been incredibly supportive. Plus we’ve received a ton of great behind-the-scene reference from them!
Mirjahangir: Take us through the process from writing the script to the finished book each month. What are the steps involved?
Curnow: First we approach creators who we think would have a good take on the characters. We pretty quickly determine who knows their stuff and is a real fan of the movies and who isn’t. Same goes for artists- we collect samples from good candidates and go with what works best. It’s usually the people with the most enthusiasm and love of Godzilla. As we receive materials from creators, everything goes through Toho… proposals, full scripts, sample art, pencils, inks, colors… That’s our main job as editors, juggling all that new material and making sure we get approvals on it all, or make the appropriate tweak if needed.
Mirjahangir: 80+ comic stores qualified for custom artwork featuring their store being crushed by Godzilla by ordering 500 copies of the first issue which is unheard of for comic books. Were you suprised by the reaction to the promotion?
Curnow: Oh yeah! We thought it was going to be around 20-30 stores… and that would have been great! When you combine the first print and the second print, it ended up being a total of 94 stores (that includes 3 stores from the first printing that did new variants for the 2nd printing). Add the Dynamic Forces cover, our Wonder Con exclusive cover, and the four covers we did showing all of the IDW staff fleeing from our building and you get a tidy 100 individual variant covers! The entire idea for this retail exclusive came from our resident super fan Chris Mowry, and he really hit on a great, special idea that anyone; retailers, customers, casual fans can get their heads around and appreciate. There will be a lot of imitators of this promotion, but I don’t think anything will quite capture the magic of this one… I mean, who doesn’t want their house or store crushed by Godzilla?
Mirjahangir: Of all those involved in the series, who is the biggest fan and why?
Curnow: Some of the creators involved with the books might be able to give him a run for his money, but I think the answer definitely has to be Chris Mowry, at least as far as people I know. He’s my ‘go to’ guy when I have a question. He’s seen all the movies countless times, has tons of awesome toys and hard-to-find collectibles, and even lived in Japan for a while. His enthusiasm is palpable, and he keeps us in editorial on point. (That being said, the editorial team of Chris Ryall, Carlos Guzman, and myself are all big fans. We’ve had several drunken Godzilla movie nights.)
Mirjahangir: The Toho monster Bagan is famous for ALMOST making it into a few films in the 1980’s and 1990’s before being dropped at the last minute. His only official appearance was in the Super Nintendo game “Super Godzilla”, which was released by Toho. Any possibility of seeing him in the comic at some point?
Curnow: Not at the start, but nothing is impossible down the line!
Mirjahangir: In the videogame Godzilla: Unleashed, developers Atari and Pipeworks were allowed to create their own monsters for inclusion in the game called Krystalak and Obsidius. Since they have become official, licensed Toho monsters, would there be any chance they might make an appearance?
Curnow: Not at this time, no… interesting idea though!
Mirjahangir: Will only monsters from the Godzilla universe be included in the series?
Curnow: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, yes, we’ll just being seeing monsters from our current approved monsters list. It’s such a great list though, and we really want to give these guys the chance to shine that they deserve. It’s a big enough list that we’ll have great stories to tell for quite a while. That being said, there’s no doubt we’re missing a some people’s personal favorites. There’s definitely some great names missing from our list. We’ll be looking into seeing if we can do something with those other characters in the future.
Mirjahangir: How many mini series books are planned currently?
Curnow: After the Layman/Ponticelli arc, we’ll be doing some one-shots by different creators that spotlight different monsters and aspects of the Godzilla universe that we haven’t seen much of yet. After that we’ve got some really exciting ideas lined up and in development.