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On September 6th, 2017 I was lucky enough to be invited onto the set of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in Atlanta, Georgia. (See right – Photo taken on the set of the Monarch Arctic Base.) Unlike the set visit for Kong: Skull Island, this was a solo trip. Included in this piece are audio interviews with O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays Chief Warrant Officer Barnes, along with Producer Alex Garcia and Executive Producer/co-writer Zach Shields.
I do want to stress that there ARE plot points and spoilers in this piece and I would suggest that if you are wanting to go into the movie with the freshest mind possible, turn back now. Wait until the movie comes out on the 31st of May and then come back and check out this piece.
**Both audio interviews have edits (some obvious and some not) for the sake of flow.**
The set visit began with watching O’Shea Jackson Jr. and the rest of G-Team aboard the mock Osprey aircraft. Giant screens on either side had a cloud effect on both sides as hydraulics moved the Osprey (really just a tube set with windows meant to look like the Osprey). If you’ve seen that shot online from Mike Dougherty’s Twitter account (see below), that is the Osprey from the set. Below are my notes from watching filming.
Shake test wth O’shea jr. Big blue screen. Orange x’s. Set on hydraulics. Part of airplane. Looks like set from Rodan scene in Mexico. Soldiers flying away in storm caused by Rodan bursting out of volcano. Large led screens have cloud effect on them on loop. They are mounted high up and surround the set.
Osprey crashes into water. Prior to this, Oshea radios for mid air evac. Flying away from Isla de Mona.
INTERVIEW: O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Chief Warrant Officer Barnes)
This interview took place between setups during filming on the Osprey. Topics covered are his character, getting the part, his history of being a Godzilla fan, and his influences.
*correction: I state in the interview that Zone Fighter is considered to be canon. This is more of a grey area because Zone Fighter’s canonicity is still up in the air, though Japanese publications still like to include the show when mentioning the later Showa era movies and monsters.*
Click the image below to download the audio file.
Total Runtime 21:04
I’m going to preface this section by saying that right now, these notes will make NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. They’re recorded as I saw them and I was trying to get as much information as I could without being able to take photos. These are aimed squarely at those who are fans of set design and/or curious about every single possible detail in the film. Until you have seen the movie, ignore these and come back to them later if you so desire.
Click the images to download the audio files.
Total Runtime: 16:35
INTERVIEW: Producer Alex Garcia and co-writer and Executive Producer Zach Shields
In the last interview of the day, I was driven by van into an offsite “art room”-for lack of a better term-with Alex and Zach. It was a big room with concept art hung around the room-a lot of it really awesome looking! A couple of maquettes were in the room as well. A sort of Smaug-styled early King Ghidorah and on the other side of the room, a sort of feathered, eagle-faced version of Rodan. Topics include a quick rundown of the film, changes in the design and the Monsterverse after Godzilla vs. Kong.
*correction: When discussing the Godzilla Marvel comic series, I mistakenly state that Godzilla battled the Helicarrier when I meant the Behemoth airship.*
Click the image below to download the audio file.
INTERVIEW: Mike Dougherty
This interview took place in Mike’s trailer during a quick break from filming. Due to audio issues, it had to be transcribed. Topics covered are how he got the job, Easter eggs, and his love for the franchise.
Interview transcribed by Jeremy Williams with editing by Chris Mirjahangir.
Chris Mirjahangir: Alright, so first question is, how did you get the call? Because you were doing writing first, but how did you get the call to even be a writer?
Mike Dougherty: No, they asked me to direct it first.
Mirjahangir: Oh ok, that was announced later then.
Dougherty: Yeah, it was just announced later.
Dougherty: Yeah I had finished Krampus, it was I think March 2016, somewhere in there, Spring. Gareth had just departed the project and Legendary had asked if I would be interested in taking over, and I very quickly said yes.
Mirjahangir: So, you’re a fan straight from the get-go.
Dougherty: From the beginning, I mean I have been watching Godzilla since I was born, that was mid 70’s, and so he was really just coming into his own in America, so I grew up on a very steady diet of the original movies coupled with the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. So every Saturday morning I started with the Godzilla cartoon. And then my local station piggybacked the old movies after the cartoon. And then that was followed by old black and white monster movies, followed by kung fu movies. So Saturday was a very potent education as far as Godzilla goes.
Mirjahangir: So basically the whole Showa era.
Dougherty: Yeah completely, and then I just grew up with him from there, and continued watching them into the Millennium (Series), you know.
Mirjahangir: Was it one of those things like you’re a fan of and then your friends are like what the hell are you watching that for?
Dougherty: No, my friends, I mean I would get my friends into it. I mean the entertainment options were way more limited back then than they are now. So watching Godzilla movies on a Saturday afternoon was a great way to spend the day and so I just sort of preached the gospel of Godzilla and brought my friends into it. And I also I grew up with one of my first toys was the old Shogun Warriors Godzilla.
Mirjahangir: I have one of those.
Dougherty: Which is why I have the Rodan behind you.
(Mike points to the Shogun Warriors Rodan toy on his desk)
But, so he was just everything.
Mirjahangir: Yeah I remember the Shogun (Godzilla) one and how the fist would fly off.
Mirjahangir: While you’re playing with it and it would punch you in the face.
Dougherty: Yeah exactly, yeah it was one of my favorites.
Mirjahangir: Were there other Toho monsters that you wanted to bring in, or was it always these Godzilla, then Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah?
Dougherty: Well, they’re the kind of the crown jewels.
Mirjahangir: Yeah the big five (MechaGodzilla included but not in the film).
Dougherty: Yeah, you know it’s like, it’s the Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman of the Godzilla universe. And I have a love for many of the other creatures too. I love Mechagodzilla, for example. But these are the ones that just make sense; these are the ones that everybody wants to see on the big screen. They’re the icons of that universe.
Mirjahangir: Were there other ones that you were kind of trying to eek in a little bit?
Dougherty: I wanted to sneak in some Easter egg references to others, but even that is a complicated rights issue.
Mirjahangir: Yeah Toho can kind of be very…
Dougherty: They’re just, just very… they’re rightfully very protective of their characters.
Mirjahangir: So for this film, are you going to include any of the cues? Not like a full suite.
Dougherty: I would like to, that’s also under discussion and consideration. I would love to, I think the music and the character go hand in hand. It’s like, you don’t make a Jaws movie without the Jaws theme, you don’t make a Star Wars or Bond film without those themes. So fingers crossed we can at the very least have a tip of the hat.
Mirjahangir: Do you own the soundtracks?
Dougherty: No, well I own some of them, but yeah it’s still always going to be a complicated rights issue.
Mirjahangir: Yeah, but it’s one that when it comes in at the right time, that’s where you have the audience.
Mirjahangir: That’s fanboy tears, that’s everything.
Dougherty: Yeah, there will be plenty of fanboy tears, I promise you.
Mirjahangir: When you were picking them (the monsters to be in the film), you have Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah. Were you deciding like this one is gonna be an ally with Godzilla, or are they all gonna be enemies?
Dougherty: I mean, I think the lines are all pretty clearly drawn, the only rogue… the wildcard is Rodan. He’s the one that I think his loyalties can sometimes falter. Um, but I think we even acknowledge that fact. You know Mothra for the most part is an ally, King Ghidorah for the most part is always the antagonist. So we pretty much stick to what I think is expected of them.
Mirjahangir: So you did tweet out a picture of the Oxygen Destroyer.
Mirjahangir: Does that come to play in the film, or is that just like…
Mirjahangir: Alright I was like alright, cuz I thought you were just like paying homage to it or something.
Dougherty: It, it plays a role.
Mirjahangir: Ok, yeah.
Dougherty: Definitively… yes.
Mirjahangir: So now practical effects.
Mirjahangir: I saw you had Tom Woodruff, who I’ve seen around Monsterpalooza and everything. He’s part of it. Did you reach out to other people at Toho like Shinichi Wakasa to bring in?
Dougherty: It was, it’s not just Tom, it was a team effort. We had Tom Woodruff, we also had his former colleagues at Legacy Effects. Which was previously Stan Winston’s company. We also had two of my creature designers from Krampus onboard, Miguel Ortega and Tran Ma. It was, I pretty much grabbed the most talented creature designers I knew and sort of assembled a new team and everyone sort of had a crack at a different creature. So Tom and A.D.I., they cracked Rodan… for the most part. Legacy took on Ghidorah and Mothra.
Mirjahangir: What guidelines did you give them?
Dougherty: To look at the original creatures and distill those silhouettes and those key traits into something more modern, but while still also turning to… The two biggest influences were the original designs and nature. So if you’re taking a crack at Rodan, you don’t want to just look at dinosaurs and Pteradons, you want to look at vultures and eagles and the hawks and other birds of prey. Because what we know about flying dinosaurs now is different than we knew back in the 60’s. We now know that dinosaurs and birds are very closely related. So it only makes sense that Rodan might have certain bird-like traits, or body language, for example. Ghidorah, you know we want to create an iconic Asian style dragon, but the scales of that creature can’t look like Godzilla’s; they can’t just be the scales from the old movies. So I had them look at scales from every different kind of reptile imaginable. You know, alligators and cobras and monitor lizards, Komodo dragons, so it was really fun. That was like one of my favorite parts of the process, trying to distill the look of these iconic creatures that we know and love into something that we would believe now. Mothra being the biggest challenge, because you can’t just take a moth and blow it up and call it Mothra. It’s like there are distinct traits that she has, but there are also so many different varieties of moths out there. It was a matter of looking at all of them across the board and trying to figure out, ok, what bits and pieces can we take from all these different kinds of moths to create something that is beautiful and elegant and feminine, but also intimidating and powerful.
Mirjahangir: Did you keep their sounds and roars?
Mirjahangir: Did you bring Eric Aadahl back from the first one?
Dougherty: Yeah, but Eric and his partner Ethan actually. E squared is their company.
Dougherty: So they worked on the first film and same rules applied, I sent them every variation of King Ghidorah’s roar, every variation of Rodan.
Dougherty: Same thing with Mothra and said, ok this is where you start, so then I want the same musicality, the same melody, and essence of these roars translated and updated to something more contemporary. There are so many variations.
Dougherty: And emotional states, so yeah it will be an ongoing process. But I had them even for our previz animation, they layered in certain sounds, and then on set at the soundboard where I was playing different roars depending on the creature that was.
Mirjahangir: So you have Godzilla fighting Kong in the next one.
Dougherty: I don’t. *laughs*
Mirjahangir: No well I’m just saying in the Monsterverse you know, generally.
Mirjahangir: Is it fair to say that one of the enemies or at least a few of them may perish in this film?
Dougherty: Maybe. *laughs*
Mirjahangir: Good enough, that’s fine.
Dougherty: No spoilers. *laughing*
Mirjahangir: Yeah alright, so with Thomas Tull being a massive Godzilla fan… how active was he with helping shape the story and picking the monsters and everything?
Dougherty: I’ve known Thomas for a very long time now, we’ve done three movies going on four movies together now. So he’s a very close collaborator and every chance we had, we would get together and pow wow and kick ideas around. But he was also really respectful in letting me go off and have my time to shape the story and the characters. And then do a proper presentation, a pitch presentation with the artwork and everything else. But yeah, I mean we still text back and forth.
Mirjahangir: Does he um… I mean how big of a fan would you say he is, does he have a big collection?
Dougherty: Yeah, he’s a very big fan, I mean he dreamt of doing a Godzilla film and a Kong film probably as long as I have.
Dougherty: And so fate happened to bring us together, and here we are.
Mirjahangir: So you have Haruo Nakajima and Yoshimitsu Banno who passed away this year.
Mirjahangir: Will you have any sort of homages or anything in like the end credits or…
Dougherty: We’ll see. I’d like to. I think it’s appropriate.
Mirjahangir: How long did it take you to kind of compose the story, crack the story, whatever it is?
Dougherty: It was a process. I mean, I started with like a one-two page treatment. It was very rough, just the basic beats and a very rough sketch of the characters. And then from there we did a writer’s room. My writing partner Zack Shields and I ran a writer’s room. We brought in a group of other writers and then continued to build on that treatment. And then it took about a full year to really to get the script in place and into a proper shape. And then um, you know it’s an ongoing process, we’re still, we’re everyday adding lines. Even in the scene we’re shooting today. Always looking for any opportunity to just make it a little bit better if possible. So the writing process never ends, it’s, you know, you write it once on the page, you write it again when you shoot it, and the again in post. So it’s an ongoing process. But it took about a year to get just the script together.
Mirjahangir: And then you had Max Borenstein working on it for a little bit, is he still active?
Dougherty: He was working on an old draft of the script. And then we pretty much started over from scratch.
Mirjahangir: So what year did you begin everything? You said 2015?
Dougherty: Spring 2016.
Mirjahangir: So the monsters, you know, Rodan, Mothra, they all kind of had their own sort of personalities.
Mirjahangir: You know Rodan, if you look at Ghidorah (1964 film) he’s kind of a prankster and stuff. Will those kind of continue on? Not from those original personalities, but they’ll be individual, they’re not just monsters smashing stuff?
Dougherty: Yeah, no it’s very important to me. I always refer to them as characters, you know. So whether it’s the previz animators or even how the actors think of them. They are characters, that is why they’re on the call sheet. You know, so they have to have distinct personalities and traits and quirks. You know, I think Ghidorah is gonna have a very cruel personality, but there is a sense of humor and mischief. It’s not a comedy by any means, but there’s a certain sense of curiosity. Because in my mind he’s like Rip van Winkle. You know, he wakes up and he doesn’t recognize any of this world. You know, so he’s never seen a jet before, he’s never seen a tank, a ship, human beings with guns. And so there is a certain part of our world that he is curious about and puzzled by. You know, so that has to come across. You know, it’s like Rodan is a very protective, almost divine presence, you know. So it’s important to me that they’re not just treated as monsters. They are just very large animals with a distinct thought process.
Mirjahangir: So no Mothra twins or anything, kind of got rid of that?
Dougherty: There might.
Mirjahangir: Ok, I saw two identical twins kids there, two boys and I’m like hmm.
Mirjahangir: On the set, but I guess one of them is the stunt kid.
Dougherty: Oh, one’s the stunt kid, yeah, yeah.
Mirjahangir: I saw them sitting together and was like, wait a minute.
Dougherty: I’m not gonna turn the Mothra twins to boys, yeah, I would never do that.
Mirjahangir: Ok, so do you see really far ahead down the line, like thinking, ok this probably won’t make it. But this would be really good for an extended cut?
Dougherty: No, not yet, I mean that all depends on where the dust settles with the cut. You just never know, like something that you think could be in the movie ends up on the cutting room floor and vice versa.
Mirjahangir: Yeah, but then it would be just like if I could have a request? Just pile on the deleted scenes. Kong got like four minutes.
Dougherty: Well you know fingers crossed that we don’t really have many.
Mirjahangir: In updating them (the monsters), assuming you went everything Showa and just kind of ignored the 90’s for design or whatever you wanted to.
Dougherty: No, we looked at everything.
Dougherty: Looked at everything across the board. I mean there’s good and bad things about every era.
Mirjahangir: What would you say is the bad thing about say the 90’s versions?
Dougherty: I’m not gonna say anything bad. There are positive aspects of every era. There are bits and pieces of influences that we looked at and carefully thought about including. And what you’ll see is hopefully something that you’ll enjoy and pays proper tribute to the character.Interviews // March 21, 2019
A followup to the interview with Steven DeKnight (Pacific Rim Uprising, Daredevil, Spartacus) from March 2018, this interview covers not only Steven’s earliest Godzilla memories but he also gives a real in-depth look at creating Pacific Rim Uprising and big budget Hollywood films in general. This interview is a real must listen for aspiring film makers and those curious about the film making process.
The file is about 35MB with a length of 38 minutes.
Interview conducted November 14th, 2018 at Steven DeKnight’s office in Hollywood, California.
Special thanks to Brook Worley for securing the interview!
Original article image from Collider.Interviews // December 23, 2018
Today, we are interviewing Peter H. Brothers, author whose work includes Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Cinema of Ishiro Honda and the recent The Sons of Godzilla.
ND: First of all, I just wanted to thank you for agreeing to the interview. Even though I criticized your first book, I also found a lot of good in it, and I really would love to hear more about your books in general and offer up some encouragement because I think writers need it! I know I do. First, I like to ask a few fan-related questions. First Godzilla movie you saw? Favorite Godzilla movie? Favorite Godzilla suit? Favorite monster outside of Godzilla? Favorite Gamera movie? Any recommendations of obscure or overlooked monster films? And to be a little more controversial: Least favorite Godzilla movie?
PB: Well the first Godzilla film I saw was the first Godzilla movie: Godzilla, King of the Monsters! when I was about seven years old; I was stunned. Even though I had a fairly good idea of what a movie was at my young age, I thought I was watching a real-time documentary. I was hooked, and have been hooked ever since! I have seen both the U.S. and Japanese versions hundreds of times, and the original Japanese version remains my favorite all-time movie. The original “suit” – which I insist on calling a “costume” – is also my favorite of the various designs. Outside of Godzilla, I am very fond of the original King Kong, Gorgo, the Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Varan (1958) and the first Rodan (1956). I don’t really have a favorite Gamera movie, not too much into him, although I do plan on catching-up to the 90s films soon. As far as recommendations go, the 1981 Dragonslayer is somewhat overlooked. My least favorite Godzilla movie? At this stage I would have to say Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994), it’s really a chore for me getting through that one…
ND: How did you get into monster movies?
PB: Watching Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. It started my interest in so many things: dinosaurs, dragons, movies, soundtracks, special effects, and the films of Ishiro Honda. I was also very fortunate to grow-up during the Golden Age of monster movies, fantasy and science-fiction films in the late 50s to early 60s, so many marvelous movies! I saw five of Ishiro Honda‘s films in theatres during their initial U.S. releases: Battle in Outer Space (1959), Atragon (1963), King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964), and Mothra (1961), which I saw in a drive-in on a double-bill with Dr. No. I also saw many George Pal and Ray Harryhausen films and many other wonderful ones as well. I was also very lucky to purchase advertising art from G,KotM! such as posters, lobby cards and stills, and own several kits of the 1954 Godzilla.
ND: I know you’ve written quite a few articles about Toho films and fantasy cinema, especially for G-Fan magazine, including an article on Half Human (1955) that received a Rondo nomination! Could you tell us about how you got into writing articles on movies? How many articles do you think you have written?
PB: Yes, I remember that article: Tom Weaver beat me out on that one; he interviewed Donnie Dunagan who played Peter (“Well, helloooooo!”) in Son of Frankenstein. I started writing articles for fanzines such as Japanese Giants in the mid-Seventies, and J.D. Lees was kind enough to accept my articles in G-Fan; in fact it was due to the publishing of those articles and the feedback I received on them, that motivated me to write a book on the subject. I think I’ve written about a dozen articles for G-Fan (for the record, my treatise on The Mysterians was also nominated for a Rondo).
ND: Some of those articles eventually became the starting point of your first book on Ishiro Honda, Mushroom Clouds and Mushroom Men: The Fantastic Films of Ishiro Honda, right? How many of your articles were later re-edited as chapters in your books?
PB: I would say about a dozen; it’s funny, some people have criticized me for reprinting them in book form, but I can’t assume everyone reading the book read all the articles. For the Second Edition of my Mushroom book I was able to include additional detail on some of those films.
ND: I remember reading in the introduction to your first book (I think) that you had several of the Japanese books on Honda and on Godzilla translated into English. Could you give a little more information on that? I think probably there are many fans that would be curious about how to get English versions of the Japanese books, and how much it might cost to get them translated!
PB: Since I do not have a Japanese friend or relative to translate material for me, I have to pay either transfer students or others to do it for me; I wish there were English versions of those books! I currently have a friend in England named Kate who has done the majority of the translations of Japanese texts as well as other publications for my more-recent books, and it isn’t cheap: I pay $25 for each single page of text; the material I had translated for The Mysterians alone cost me $180, and I paid nearly $300 for the Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) information on my current book. I figure I may have just made the money back on the Mushroom book by this time (I’ve sold about 900 copies) and maybe – just maybe – on the Godzilla book. Why do I do it? Well, for the love of the genre, and besides, if I spend my money on something, it may as well be on information kaiju eiga fans might be interested in.
ND: What were some of the big changes to the second edition of Mushroom Clouds?
PB: More expanded information on certain films as well as photographs and additional information on Mr. Honda’s life, non-monster movies, and his combat career; I’m glad to have had the opportunity to do that, as I was very unhappy with how the First Edition came out.
ND: How did your book, Atomic Dreams and the Nuclear Nightmare: The Making of Godzilla (1954) come about? Was the second book easier after writing the first?
PB: Basically, I waited 30 years to write a book on Mr. Honda, and when no one else did, I decided to give it a try, and it was the same with the Godzilla book; I just couldn’t believe no one in America had ever written a book about that incredible film. Was it easier the second time around? To a certain degree, since I was a bit more-familiar with the process (for example, I will never do a two-column format again), but writing does not come easy for me; frankly it’s a bit of a struggle, and my self-proofing leaves much to be desired. However, being self-published gives one a certain amount of creative freedom, as well as pride of ownership, since it’s my book and my responsibility.
ND: What were some of the highlights you discovered in making Atomic Dreams?
PB: Just finding out whatever new information I could, such as contemporary reviews of the film which were very interesting. I’m unashamedly obsessed with that film, so it was interesting to evaluate it, but my biggest concern was: okay, after dissecting it, will I still be able to enjoy it as an audience member or not find it as involving, since I know so many of the details (“here’s a tracking shot, here comes a close-up, etc.”), and I’m happy to say that when I recently viewed it (on November 3rd, naturally), I still found it as compelling and awesome as ever. I never get tired of watching it; it really is an incredible film – very moving – and it astounds me how so many people don’t care for it; in many ways it’s still so very underrated.
ND: You recently released a third book on Godzilla films, The Sons of Godzilla: From Destroyer to Defender-from Ridicule to Respect (1955-1995). What was the genesis of this book, and how do you think it differentiates itself from the pack, so to speak?
PB: I’m a big fan of trilogies and thought it might be fun. I’ve always wanted to evaluate films like Son of Godzilla (1967) and Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), but in doing my research, I found that many people are big fans of the 1970s films, so I had to respect that. In many ways it was a frustrating book to write, since so many of those films are frustrating to watch. I guess I’m a purist and still have a 1950s mentality about the series; it’s probably a generational thing. Some people are fans of all of the Godzilla films but I’m not one of them, so I can confidently predict this will be a very controversial book!
ND: Why didn’t you cover the Millennium Godzilla films as well? Are you planning to write another book about them, as well as the latest films such as Godzilla Resurgence and the anime trilogy?
PB: That’s a good question and there are a couple of reasons: one, I would have to purchase more texts and have them translated, and that requires more funds. I suppose I could do a “Go Fund Me” page but feel awkward asking strangers for money. But the main reason is that I have never been able to find an emotional connection with the films after the Heisei Series. Maybe it’s due to the different designs of Godzilla, but those films just don’t reach me as do the earlier ones; basically I got off the bus after 1995. Some of the Millennium Films are interesting and the latter ones are as well, so I guess if Sons of Godzilla is a “best-seller,” I might consider it.
ND: Could you give us a few highlights of some of the things you learned as you put together this latest book, to sort of whet the appetite of possible readers?
PB: Some of the comments from the filmmakers and the challenges and difficulties they faced while making these films, from the low-budgets of Jun Fukuda and Teruyoshi Nakano to the elaborateness of the Kazuki Omori and Koichi Kawakita films. It really was an amazing period for Godzilla, going from being a villain to a hero, a dad, and even becoming friends with monsters it used to fight to the death! The different approaches the filmmakers took in making them, the special effects, the music, and the various changes in the monster itself. The series was really all over the map, as unpredictable as it was entertaining.
ND: Moving on, in an interview with Armand Vaquer, you made some pretty provocative statements about the genesis of the recently-published Ishiro Honda: A Life in Film, from Godzilla to Kurosawa, intimating that Ryfle stole the idea from you. In the comment section of that interview, film scholar Stuart Galbraith IV called you out on those statements. Do you want to respond to them? Have you read Ryfle and Godziszewski’s Ishiro Honda, and if so, what did you think?
PB: It’s a long story, but what happened was: in 2003, during lunch at the Pig ‘N Whistle restaurant in Hollywood with Brett Homenick and Brant Elliott, they encouraged me to forge ahead with it, and shortly thereafter, I was speaking with Armand on the phone who then got me in touch with Steve, and as soon as I told him I was writing a book on Mr. Honda, his first words to me were: “Well, I hope you don’t think you’re going to make a lot of money on it,” which he followed-up with, “And remember, fans are only interested in new information.” To a certain extent I agree with his “new information” comment, but the fact is that if I know something you don’t, when you learn about it, even if the information is decades old, it is new information to you, and anyway I would rather repeat certain “known” facts to avoid leaving them out. Not everybody knows everything.
But my biggest issue was his comment about “not making a lot of money” as if he suspected this was the only reason I was writing a book on Mr. Honda, as if he thought he knew all about me. First of all (and this is to all those aspiring authors out there) if you want to make a lot of money, don’t be a writer, although some have done quite well with it. Second, why was he being so discouraging? Then I found out some years later that he and Ed were writing a book on Mr. Honda with the “permission” of the family, and that’s when it occurred to me that he was most-likely trying to talk me out of writing a book on Mr. Honda so he could have the field all to himself; what other explanation is there? One should always encourage people, not try to talk them out of doing what they want to do, and although he might say he was only trying to be realistic, I see it differently.
As far as the new book on Mr. Honda is concerned, I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but look forward to it, as I’m sure Mr. Honda would be delighted to know that two books have been written about him and his films (incidentally, neither myself or my book are mentioned in the Index as if they wished it had never been written or not important enough to cite; but this sort of thing happens to me all the time. For example, although I haven’t checked in awhile, on the “official” Honda website, my book – which was the first in English on the subject – has never been mentioned. Keith Aiken of Sci-Fi Japan requested a free copy of the First Edition of my Mushroom book – presumably to review it on his site – but never did, and I once lost a key collaborator named Oki Miyano because he believed lies being told about me instead of getting the story from me firsthand; but that, as they say, is another story).
I’m also sorry to hear Mr. Galbraith has “called me out” as the least he could do is check with me and get the details from me personally – after all I was there and he wasn’t – before going public about his dissatisfaction with me.
[Addendum question] ND: It appears from your review on Amazon that you did in fact read Ryfle and Godziszewski’s book. Why did you say you hadn’t read it?
Also, it seems like there are many reasons why Ryfle may have told you that you probably wouldn’t make money from your book. It seems true, for one thing, based on what you said in this interview. He probably has had many people ask him about publishing Kaiju books, and some of them may have some idea that they will make some cash. His own book is also very different from yours and came out many years later. it doesn’t seem he was trying to undermine the sales of your book, and if, as you say, you aren’t interested in money, shouldn’t you be excited that others are writing about one of your favorite directors in a serious fashion?
PB: I appreciate you contacting me about the discrepancies about whether or not I have read Ryfle’s book. I have in fact not read it, and posted my Amazon review out of spite I suppose. It was wrong, and I have now removed the review. You brought up some good points, however I stand by my statements regarding Mr. Ryfle and his motives. I did want to thank you however for giving me the opportunity to clear the air about certain issues, and am sorry it has cause so much confusion and discomfort. We all make mistakes, and this was one of mine.
ND: I understand you have also written some fiction and poetry. Could you tell us a little about those projects?
PB: I have written two horror novels, Devil Bat Diary and Terror in Tinseltown which are both loosely based on the Bela Lugosi film The Devil Bat (Mr. Honda is my hero, but Mr. Lugosi is my idol; I visit his grave every year on his birthday and always leave him a fresh cigar!). Neither of the two novels have done particularly well; in fact the response to Tinseltown has been downright hostile due to its touchy subject matter – some people are soooo sensitive – and I used to write verse many years ago and thought it would be nice to put them all in a book. My next book will be an anthology of three plays I wrote years ago, so I might as well put them in print, you never know!
ND: What further projects do you have in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
PB: Along with the the plays, I am considering doing a book on the films of Mr. Lugosi.
ND: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!
PB: It is I who thanks you for your kind attention!Interviews // December 11, 2018
Mike Bogue is a frequent author of monster movie reviews and articles, and has contributed to many magazines such as Wonder, Scary Monsters, and G-Fan. He has also written a commendable and thoroughly readable book on movies related to the nuclear fears so prominent in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly focusing on the USA and Japan–including many radioactive-flavored monster films! Bogue has also written fiction, including a collection of short stories, and much of his work can be found on the American Kaiju website. Recently I asked him to do an interview for Toho Kingdom, and he graciously agreed!
ND: Thanks a lot for agreeing to the interview, Mr. Bogue! I would like to start off with some of the standard fan questions if that’s all right! Favorite monster? Favorite Godzilla movie? First Godzilla movie? Favorite Gamera movie? Favorite Godzilla costume?
MB: My favorite monster is Bob Newhart. Seriously, my favorite monster is – who else? – Godzilla. My favorite Big G movie is a hard one, but if I could only choose one Godzilla movie to take with me to a desert island, it would be a subtitled edition of the original 1954 Gojira.
My first Godzilla movie was 1964’s Godzilla vs. The Thing (aka Mothra vs. Godzilla), which I saw at an indoor movie theater when I was nine years old.
Favorite Gamera movie would be Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996), with the Americanized Gammera the Invincible (I have a strong sentimental attachment to this one) a close second.
My favorite Godzilla costume? That’s a toughie. But I’d have to choose the Mosu-Goji from Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964).
ND: How did you first become a fan of giant monster movies, and especially the Toho films?
MB: I must have a kaiju gene, because from a very young age, I loved giant monsters. For example, the first giant monster film I remember seeing is Rodan, which I saw on local TV on a Friday night before I even started grade school. I was enthralled, to say the least, and to my delight, the channel played the movie several more times over the next few weeks. Also, I remember seeing photos of Varan in the first Castle of Frankenstein.
The next two giant monster films I saw (both on TV) were The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and The Giant Behemoth. And the 1963 newspaper movie ad for King Kong vs. Godzilla made me a giant monster fan for life, particularly of the Toho titans, and extra-particularly of Godzilla.
ND: You’ve written quite a few articles and reviews about giant monster films which were originally published in notable magazines and fan magazines such as Scary Monsters, G-Fan, and Castle of Frankenstein. Many of your articles are available on Todd Tennant’s website American Kaiju. How did you get into writing about monsters?
MB: I’d always written reviews of Japanese monster movies, but had never tried to get them published anywhere. However, WONDER magazine, which briefly flourished in the mid 1990’s, accepted my pitch to do a “Confessions of a Japanese Monster Fanatic” article in 1995, and that was my first monster article to see print. After that, I started writing for Scary Monster Magazine, and the next logical step was to become one of G-FAN’s regular scribes.
ND: Are there any articles or reviews you are especially proud of that you can recommend?
MB: Probably my retrospective of Toho’s 1961 The Last War that appeared in G-FAN #56, 2002 issue.
ND: Recently you had a book about monsters and nuclear cinema published—Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967. How did this book come about?
MB: Film-wise, I have always been interested in three genres – atomic holocaust movies; giant monster movies; and 1950’s science fiction movies. I was familiar with many of the books in these categories, particularly the late Bill Warren’s wonderful Keep Watching the Skies! But I realized no one had written a book that telescoped in on only those American and Japanese imagi-movies that dealt solely with the nuclear threat.
To make a long story short, I pitched this idea to McFarland Publishing via a query letter and sample chapters, and they offered me a book contract, which I accepted. This was a thrilling moment, as I’d always loved McFarland books, but had never dreamed I would one day be writing one.
ND: Why 1951-1967 specifically?
MB: Because it is during those years that Cold War anxiety was at its height, and hence atomic cinema flourished, not just in American, but also Japan. The cinematic specter of the nuclear threat started with America’s 1951 Five, and lasted in Japanese films through 1967’s Son of Godzilla. After that, until the 1980s, few American or Japanese films dealt with the nuclear threat.
ND: What were some of the most interesting things you learned or found out about while you were working on this book?
MB: I was fascinated to find out that in the fifties, nuclear hysteria was far more pronounced in America than even I had thought (I was born in 1955, and hence don’t remember much about the fifties, though I remember well the Cold War jitters of the sixties).
In the fifties, the basic attitude was not if there would be a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, but when. I was also surprised to find evidence that some in the American military, such as SAC Commander Curtis LeMay, wanted to goad the Soviets into a nuclear showdown.
Then, of course, there was the reality of above-ground nuclear testing in the U.S., and the scores of American troops ordered to march over areas that had just been nuked. Also, it was interesting to discover the level of Japanese anti-nuke sentiment in the fifties, and the country’s sense of helplessness being caught between the atomic superpowers, an angst well-depicted in Toho’s 1961 production The Last War.
ND: One of the observations in your book (as I recall) was that American monster movies often have more positive depictions of nuclear energy and a more optimistic appraisal of humankind’s abilities and powers as opposed to Japan’s often more cynical or pessimistic outlook. Do you think those general perspectives have persisted in both nations and their cinema past the 60’s and through the years until now?
MB: Fascinating question. Actually, I think in America, the positive attitude suggested in 1950’s atomic monster movies had pretty much dissipated by the mid-sixties, as demonstrated in films such as Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove. Indeed, these films depict almost the same level of pessimism expressed in the Japanese films The Final War (1960) and The Last War (1961).
Speaking of Final War, though it wasn’t legally available when I wrote Apocalypse Then, it is available now on the Internet via a Toei Archive. The film displays a dark, cynical take on nuclear war and human nature. I think the Japanese continue to take a dim view of the nuclear threat, which to some extent can be seen in 2016’s Shin Godzilla (aka Godzilla Resurgence).
By the 1980’s, atomic cinema in America saw a renaissance, but these films were dark and plausible. No more big bugs or revived prehistoric monsters. Instead, Americans got a dose of reality in movies like 1983’s The Day After and Testament. U.S. citizens in the 1980s were not as naively trusting of their government as in the 1950s, and many feared then President Reagan was going to get us into a nuclear war. Indeed, in 1982, an estimated one million anti-nuke protesters gathered in New York City.
ND: One of the things I really enjoyed about your book was that it covered so many movies that I rarely see discussed in fan circles. Do you have any recommendations for monster films or even other related films (like the nuclear-holocaust films you covered) that are often kind of overlooked?
MB: One nuke-related film that immediately comes to mind is 1958’s The Lost Missile. I almost included the movie in my book, and now I wish I had. The film concerns a strange extraterrestrial missile that is orbiting five miles over the earth at a temperature of one million degrees, leaving a swath of destruction as it passes overhead. Though low-budget and rife with stock footage, the movie is worth seeing, and features an unexpectedly grim finale. It is available on DVD from Amazon.
A second nuke-related film worth seeing is 1963’s Ladybug, Ladybug, another movie I almost included in Apocalypse Then. This one concerns a possible nuclear alert in a rural Florida area that causes a school principal to send the children home. As it turns out, the alert was a false alarm (the reason I didn’t include the movie in my book). But the film features fascinating moments, and a horrible albeit non-graphic fate for one of the schoolchildren. It can be seen in its entirety on youtube.
ND: I understand you have also written some fiction. I also love writing short stories and novels. Could you tell us about your fiction writing? Anything that might appeal to the audience of Toho Kingdom?
MB: I had a short story called “Going Back” that appeared in G-FAN #58, a coming-of-age tale concerning two Godzilla fans, that might interest Toho Kingdom’s audience.
Also, the American Kaiju website features two of my kaiju tales of fiction – “Getting Your Wish” and the five-part novella “The G People.”
Finally, there is Atomic Drive-In, a 2013 book self-published through CreateSpace, which features the title novella, as well as five short stories. One of them, “A Calculated Sacrifice,” features a kaiju that rules over a small Japanese community, and another, “Sleeping Dragons,” employs a kaiju-related theme featuring nanotechnology.
ND: Any other projects you are working on now that we can look forward to?
MB: I have considered writing a sequel to Apocalypse Then that would look at the nuclear threat films from 1968 through 2018, though I would broaden the umbrella from America and Japan to Britain and Europe. This would allow me to include 1984’s acclaimed British-made Threads, perhaps the last word in realistic atomic war cinema.
My tentative title for this project is The Days After: Fifty Years of Atomic Cinema, 1968-2018. Of course, this project would also cover the Heisei Godzilla film series, given Godzilla’s renewed atomic significance in them.
Fiction-wise, I am writing a novel called Be Ye Perfect. It blends science fiction, horror, and religion, and features a sort of reverse Invasion of the Body Snatchers theme. I hope to have it finished by next spring.
ND: Thank you so much for your time, Mr. Bogue!
MB: Thank you for your questions and for your interest. Take care, and all the best to Toho Kingdom readers!Interviews // November 29, 2018
Todd Tennant is a long-time kaiju artist who has contributed art to G-Fan magazine as well as worked closely together with monster-author Mike Bogue (author of Apocalypse Then: American and Japanese Atomic Cinema, 1951-1967), who wrote the script for Tennant’s unfinished King Kong vs. Godzilla graphic novel, and dinosaur expert Allen Debus, for whom Tennant created book cover artwork, specifically for Dinosaur Memories II: Pop-Cultural Reflections on Dino-Daikaiju & Paleoimagery. Tennant has created a number of his own kaiju creations, perhaps most notably King Komodo, but Godzilla fans might know him as the man behind the graphic novelization of the 1994 unmade Godzilla film. Tennant recently agreed to an interview about the project and its release.
ND: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview, Mr. Tennant! First I want to get a few standard fan questions out of the way. What are your favorite movie monsters?
TT: You’re very welcome and Godzilla, (of course), King Kong ’33, the Beast from 20,000 fathoms, the Giant Behemoth and Gorgo.
ND: What was your first Godzilla movie?
TT: I saw Godzilla (1954) for the first time on TV one Saturday afternoon in the early sixties.
ND: Favorite Godzilla movie? Favorite Gamera movie?
TT: Shusuke Kaneko’s Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) and Kaneko’s Gamera 2: Advent of Legion (1996), though his Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995) and Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris (1999) are also favorites.
ND: Favorite Godzilla suit?
TT: GODZILLA 2000.
ND: Who would win, Jet Jaguar or Red Ronin (the robot from the Marvel Godzilla comics)?
TT: I’m not familiar enough with them to make a fair assessment on that question for either character.
ND: How did you get into doing kaiju comics?
TT: I’ve been making my own monster comics since the early 60’s. My biggest influence and inspiration for those are from the 1960’s (pre-super-hero) giant monster comics of Jack the King Kirby.
ND: Can you give us a little history of your Godzilla comics?
TT: When the TriStar GODZILLA film was released in 1998, my kids developed an interest in the Toho GODZILLA series, and my childhood love of the 60’s GODZILLA films was rekindled. My first Kaiju-art piece was my version of KING KONG vs. GODZILLA, which went on to be the cover-art for G-FAN #64. I also did artwork for SCARY MONSTERS magazine, where I met writer Mike Bogue. We began a King Kong vs. Godzilla comics series for G-FAN (#58), which lasted for that one and only issue before Toho contacted J.D. Lees & asked him to “cease and desist”.
In 2006, I began the very difficult-but-enjoyable task of illustrating the first 1994 screenplay for what should have been SONY/Tri-Star’s GODZILLA movie, written by Terry Rossio and Ted Elliott.
ND: So your Godzilla 94 comic is being revamped and will be published on Thanksgiving Day!
TT: Actually, the GODZILLA ’94 graphic novel was fully-completed a few years ago, with the help of fellow Kaiju-artist Elden Ardiente. Yes, the first 10 pages will be released at Kaijuphile.com on November, 22, Thanksgiving Day.
ND: How did you get the official go ahead from the screenwriters for your comic version of their work?
TT: Well, as said, I started out totally on my own. I sent the pages to Kaijuphile webmaster Brandon Waggle, who put the first 78 graphic novel pages up on my American Kaiju website there.
Later on, Terry Rossio contacted me via an email. He asked and commissioned me to finish the GODZILLA ’94 graphic novel.
ND: I understand you have made some changes to the script, right? Can you give us some insight behind that?
TT: From the time I began illustrating the ’94 GODZILLA screenplay onward, I got multiple emails from G-fans, asking if I was aware of the complete destruction of one of the World Trade Center towers, and the half destruction of the second WTC tower that occurs during the NYC battle between Godzilla and his nemesis the Gryphon. They then asked, “how are you going to handle that?”. Because of 9-11, I asked Terry if I could alter this part of the story, feeling that if we destroyed the WTC towers, we would end up “dead in the water” as far as any favorable public sentiments for the G’94 graphic novel. Terry agreed, and I made changes to that part of the story. I won’t go into details, but suffice it to say, the Twin Towers are damaged, but both stay standing.
ND: Any chance that the King Kong vs. Godzilla comic will get finished?
TT: I think about that from time to time. If Mike Bogue is still interested in that comic story, maybe someday.
ND: Could you tell us about your original kaiju creations, King Komodo and Gigante? Also, any plans to do more with them?
TT: KING KOMODO & GIGANTE are Dai-Kaiju characters I created/designed in the early 2000’s.
Mike Bogue wrote several KK stories back then. We tried but failed to find a publisher for KK. If you go to americankaiju.kaijuphile.com/main.shtml, you can see art for both KK & GIGANTE.
I’m also currently working on an AMERICAN KAIJU graphic novel that includes KING KOMODO, GIGANTE, and much more.
ND: How do you pronounce “Gigante”?
ND: What future projects do we have to look forward to from you?
TT: I’m sticking with the AMERICAN KAIJU graphic novel for now.
ND: Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview!
TT: Thank you for asking me. It was my pleasure:).Interviews // November 19, 2018
Kevin Derendorf is a huge name in tokusatsu fandom and has been for some time now, with his fantastic blog news site Maser Patrol and deep knowledge of a vast array of kaiju productions including (but certainly not limited to) Godzilla and Toho, which he has also shared in podcasts and in convention talks and, most recently, in a new book, Kaiju for Hipsters, in addition to the aforementioned blog site. I was lucky enough that he agreed to an interview about his activities, which you can read below!
ND: Hi Kevin, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
KD: Thanks for having me! I gotta say, it’s a little intimidating to be the next interview following someone like Daiji Kazumine, so hopefully I’ll be interesting.
ND: First of all, some standard fan-related questions that obviously just need to be asked: First Godzilla movie? Favorite Godzilla movie? Favorite Godzilla suit? Favorite monster outside of Godzilla?
KD: Oh boy, that probably won’t help on the whole “being interesting” front, since all of those are pretty standard answers. I first discovered Godzilla as a wee third-grader, on, as I’ve since deduced through the magic of investigating old TV schedules, February 21, 1994, when TNT did one of their Godzilla-rama events…but the only movie on the roster I actually caught that day was Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975). There’s something magical about that picture, so I often call it my favorite, though, depending on capricious whimsy, I could also call my favorite Godzilla flick Son of Godzilla (1967), Destroy All Monsters (1968), Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971), Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) or Godzilla: Final Wars (I know, fight me). Oh, and if we’re allowed to count imaginary movies, I’d probably also say A Space Godzilla.
For favorite suit, I’m going to be super boring and say the BioGodzi version. It’s a common answer, but as they say, it’s “handsome.” The DesGodzi and ShoshingekiGodzisuits are up there too, though.
Would it likewise be pedestrian to say that King Ghidorah is my favorite monster? I mean, he is, but my number two is probably Rhiahn from the Marvel Godzilla series. Maybe I just have a thing for weird-looking yellow alien kaiju.
ND: How and why did you start Maser Patrol, and what did you hope to accomplish with the website?
KD: It was sort of a weird evolution. See, back in the ancient days of ten years ago, Facebook wasn’t really all that it is now, so I was part of a Google group to keep in touch with my high school and undergrad buddies. We’d shoot the breeze about a lot of stuff, but traded a ton of movie recommendations, which I started putting on a public blog (called “Per Diem Cinema”) as they became more and more elaborate. Fast-forward to my last year in grad school, and I’m again separated from my nerdy social group by a long stay at a remote laboratory. The work I was doing required long stretches of down time (if you think waiting for water to boil is tedious, try waiting for melting zirconium), so I sort of reconceived the blogging thing as a news/reviews aggregate that could be a one-stop site for Japanese genre fiction, mostly to pass the idle periods.
Back in those days, western fandoms for Japanese properties were even more siloed than they are now. Anime fans would play video games and read manga, but they wouldn’t watch tokusatsu. Kaiju fans wouldn’t watch henshin heroes and vice versa, and horror movie junkies seemed to also be out there doing their own unrelated thing. Nobody was reading light novels. These media are all interrelated, and I like them all, so I thought I’d like to expose the fandoms to each other a little through putting them together into a single place, and hopefully people can discover neat new properties through recommendations on the blog. I always find it fascinating to do a deep dive into some cultural cornerstone and see how it influences another one, but the scope of Maser Patrol resides in Japanese (and Japanese-inspired) science fiction/fantasy/horror territory, so we pretty much only venture out into stuff like chanbara, idol culture, or pro wrestling when it intersects with that core.
So, long story short, the reason for the blog is that hopefully some Guyver and Fist of the North Star fan will come to the blog and discover Guyferd. And then, maybe if that happens enough, one day we can even get Guyferd released over here…
ND: How did you start your kaiju-related podcasts? How long does it usually take to put those together, and what is the process like?
KD: Remember how I worked long hours in a laboratory? I listen to a lot of podcasts. The thing is, often times, listening like that, you want to interject your own thoughts, so the natural progression is to do one yourself. The podcast format also gives a very different feel from a blog post, with repartee between multiple parties; whereas the articles on the site are a lecture, a podcast can be a discussion. I was blessed with a number of great friends from my college anime club who are passionate and knowledgeable about this stuff, and contribute to Maser Patrol behind the scenes at times, so this gives them a voice as well. There have been a rotating cycle of hosts, depending on the topic, but mostly my pals Josh and Andy, who have a real knack for this sort of thing (Josh was a radio DJ for a while).
While kaiju are a home base for Maser Patrol, the podcasts, as you put it, are “kaiju-related” and not always “kaiju-centric”. For example, we’ve done episodes spotlighting the whole careers of the likes of Hideaki Anno, Gen Urobuchi, Rumiko Takahashi, Keita Amemiya, Mamoru Hosoda, and Nobuhiko Obayashi, and talked at length about Slayers, Garo, and more. But, there’s almost always some thread to tie it into kaiju, however tangential.
The production process can be a bit on the rough side, since we usually pick a topic and talk about it to the point of exhaustion, so the first step is identifying a subject that we’re excited to talk about, and, usually, reviewing a bit about it. Then, for the recording itself, we’ve found that it works best if each person records their own audio and I’ll mix them together at the end, ensuring reasonable volume and the ability to remove some of the background noise, but that can also be pretty tedious. The longest episode was the one where Justin Mullis and I talked about HP Lovecraft in Japan for eight straight hours, and it probably spent twice that in editing. Audacity’s performance drops off a lot with more audio streams, so when five people are recording, it can get dicey to edit. For that reason, it’s a particular joy when Matt and Byrd let me drop by Kaiju Transmissions, since I don’t have to do anything but show up.
ND: How did you come about hosting several panels at G-Fest, and what was the experience like? Any favorite moments?
KD: The first convention panel I ever wound up hosting was a total accident. I was at an anime con and my friend was presenting, but he got a phone call partway through, handed me the mic, and said “be back in a few; tell them about Kimba the White Lion.” But, it was fun. I’ve seen plenty of subpar panels in my day that have me squirming in my seat (I recall one at an anime convention where the presenter proclaimed that that the original Godzilla has “at least two sequels”), and as they say: if you want something done right, you do it yourself. So, I started doing anime cons around St. Louis and Chicago, and even did a couple of university lectures.
G-Fest is something of a whole other level, though. I’ve been attending that convention for two decades now, so it’s got a special place in my heart, and I’ve seen some amazing panels there over the years, panels that inspire one to be a higher caliber of fan. But, from running the blog for a few years and getting a lot of encouragement from my amazing girlfriend Amanda, eventually I decided that I might know enough about certain subjects that I could contribute to the public discourse in that venue. I pitched an idea to Martin Arlt, who gave me an early Friday slot the Kennedy Room, a tradition which has continued for three whole conventions now.I must have done something right, since in subsequent years I’ve gotten Sunday and Saturday slots as well.
It’s a total rush talking to a room of Godzilla fans, and I’m always surprised by how many people actually show up to one of my talks. G-Fest is a place where there are always at least four concurrent interesting things to check out, and I certainly know there have been times when I know I would want to see someone else who’s presenting during my time slot. So, it really means a lot to hear back from folks after the panel, or even (in some cases) during it.
To anyone reading this who thinks they have a great idea for a panel that they’d be good to talk to, I’d recommend giving it a shot. Just remember to run through your presentation beforehand to make sure you’ll be okay for time, have a backup of your slides (because spontaneous updates *will* try to ruin your computer), and keep in mind the audience. G-Fest in particular can have some very little kids in attendance, so sometimes you should choose your wording carefully.
ND: You recently published your first book. Would you like to tell us what it is and what makes your book unique and awesome?
KD: Ah, yes. You must be referring to Kaiju for Hipsters: 101 “Alternative” Giant Monster Movies, available now in print and Kindle editions from Amazon.com! (The ebook is free if you buy it in print, btw.) The book is a compilation of reviews of kaiju movies, much like many others on the market. However, what makes it unique, and perhaps wholly inappropriate for discussion at Toho Kingdom, is that it omits the Godzilla series and extended Toho science fiction universe. It assumes that the reader is already sort of familiar with those, and is looking for some more off-the-beaten-path entries in the genre, hence the somewhat facetious title. I really did embrace the “hipster” aspect of the book, deliberately including some relatively obscure and obtuse titles with VHS-only releases and no subtitles available, and include two ratings for every film: a regular movie rating, and a “hipster cred” score, based more or less on the film being in some fashion difficult, artsy, hard-to-find, etc. So, I’m confident that this book covers some movies that you won’t find discussed in print elsewhere, but for the movies that have been discussed I try to elaborate on lesser-known aspects of them. For example, any kaiju fan worth their salt has seen Cloverfield, so I don’t talk about the plot of that movie as much as its twisted franchise development, marketing, and manga tie-in. I figure that way the book can work on a couple of levels, helping to deepen understanding of the movies people are already familiar with while simultaneously encouraging them to track down under-appreciated gems like War God (1976) or Star Virgin (1988).
Also, I got to draw cartoon hipster monsters for the cover, which was a hoot.
ND: How long did it take you to put together your book, and what was the process like?
KD: Almost exactly one year. A number of folks (okay, maybe three) suggested that I write a book at G-Fest 2017, so the goal was to have something ready for the fest in 2018. It was quite fast, especially considering that I had to move across the country during the middle of the year. I’ve made a few minor updates since that initial release (more typographical than content edits), but by and large it was completed in about 11 months.
As for the process, I started with the title idea, deciding on the target number of 101 because it sounded catchy. Next was making a list of movies, which evolved a lot as I was writing. Several films wound up getting lumped into the chapters for other related pictures, getting unnumbered “bonus talk” reviews, or show up in an appendix at the back. My criteria for film qualification are likely controversial:
- A kaiju is, for our purposes, a giant creature of Japanese origins or with an aesthetic demonstrably invoking that of Eiji Tsuburaya.
- A movie is a motion picture or serialized collection of motion pictures longer than 20 minutes (because I wanted to include Geharha: The Dark and Long Hair Monster) but watchable in a single sitting (the longest entry in the book is a TV miniseries totaling just over four hours).
- A “kaiju movie” is a movie in which the monster is a key selling point. It doesn’t need to be in the movie for a significant amount of time or even crucial to the plot (see: Gorath or Atragon), but if it’s prominently featured on a poster, a trailer, or other publicity materials, then we count it.
So, once the list was in place, I started watching the films, writing the chapters, and often tracking down rare entertainment that had up until then evaded even my sizable collection. Some of the movies had previously been written up on the blog, and if my opinions hadn’t changed much, that made them easy to transition to print. Since this is a print project, though, I did try to up the game research-wise, and looked up as much about each movie as I could find, about the filmmakers who produced them, and about the cultural landscape that they’re tied into. It can take one down some interesting rabbit holes at times.
ND: What are some of the most interesting facts you dug up while putting together your book?
KD: Well, for example, on the cultural context Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds got me interested in the Japanese cryptozoological scene in the 1970s, and it turns out there was a whole phenomenon of various lake and sea monster sightings at the time. You can see this idea of undiscovered modern dinosaurs reflected in cinema, from Born Free to The Last Dinosaur (1977) to Toho’s unmade Nessie movie, and suddenly Terror of Mechagodzilla makes a lot more sense because of it. As another example, a deep dive into the history of the petroleum company Idemitsuelucidates just how pervasive the product placement is in Ultraman Zearth; I find the little corporate Easter eggs sprinkled throughout those movies just makes them more amazing. A few of the filmmakers, such as Minoru Kawasaki and Hyung-rae Shim, also wound up having really interesting careers.
But most of the neat factoids were linking entertainment together that one would not have necessarily expected, like how much the Taiwanese fantasy films were influenced by Japanese ninja cinema, or how huge the overlap was between the Daimajin and Zatoichi franchises. And don’t worry, G-fans: while the book is pointedly not about Godzilla, he just keeps popping up in the conversation. The aborted Japanese production of Gorgo raises questions about the manga The Last Godzilla. The dinosaurs in Kenya Boy naturally lead to mention of the theory that Wasuke Abe’s original Godzilla design was inspired by that movie’s source material. And of course, no discussion of Daigoro vs. Goliath (1972) is complete without a Godzilla vs. Redmoon breakdown. The list goes on…
ND: What obscure kaiju films are your top recommendations?
KD: As a top five sort of thing? Okay, here goes.
- The Magic Serpent – for insane ninja action
- Love & Peace – it’s charming, cute, and really funny
- Tekkouki Mikazuki: the Prologue Night – this is a feature-length TV pilot, but it’s awesome, and has the scariest watermelon you can imagine
- Luna Varga– a sword-&-sorcery anime with copious kaiju action and amusingly zany characters
- Jellyfish Eyes –a kids’ movie mashup of Japanese popular culture that touches on legitimate social issues
I go into a lot more details about each of these in their respective chapters, obviously.
ND: What future projects do we have to look forward to from you?
KD: For the time being, I’ll just get back into the regular blogging routine, hoping to get out some regular-sized articles and maybe even a podcast episode or two from Maser Patrol, rather than just guest hosting on other folks’ shows. But, having said that, there are a couple of other book ideas rattling around in my brain, so who knows what the future may bring?
ND: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview!
Thanks for having me! As you may have surmised, I’m always happy to talk about this stuff.Interviews // October 17, 2018
On June 24, 2018, I went to have a chat with Daiji Kazumine (real name: Kuniharu Terada), a manga artist who has been criminally overlooked by the kaiju fandom of the west. Who is Daiji Kazumine, you ask?
What if I told you that Kazumine is one of the most prolific manga artists who have adapted tokusatsu programs into manga form? That indeed he was one of the original manga artists to adapt the first Ultraman television program into a manga, creating original stories with existing UltraKaiju and also original monsters. The original monsters he created include Yamaton (a battleship monster), Cyborg Dinosaur (the name says it all), Gorudaa (a winged monster worshipped as a god), Uetton (a sort of cross between a balloon, a dinosaur, and an octopus), and Shinkaijin, or “deep-sea-man”—and many of these UltraKaiju were popular enough that later were made into action figures! Furthermore, Kazumine-sensei did manga adaptations of Ultra Seven and Ultraman Leo and Spectreman, as well as Super Giant (AKA Starman in the States), Mirrorman, Fireman, National Kid, Rainbow Mask, Golden Bat, Denjin Zaborger, Kaiketsu Raionmaru, and more. I even did a review of one of Kazumine-sensei’s manga a while back—the manga adaptation of Godzilla vs. Hedorah! And if your interest still hasn’t been piqued, Kazumine-sensei didn’t only adapt Godzilla and Ultraman—he also did manga adaptations of the old King Kong cartoon (which unfortunately have not been officially collected into tankoban form), and a second Godzilla manga (this time a story from his own imagination) in The Godzilla Comic collection from the early 1990s. That isn’t even counting his own original manga characters and creations, which run the gamut from more heroes such as the flying-motorcycle-riding Denjin Arrow (which had an anime pilot produced way back in the 60s) and Senkou Mack to baseball manga, samurai parodies, and insane pro wrestling stories (which were his personal favorite). This man is a massive legend in the world of tokusatsu manga and manga more broadly, and I was extremely honored to meet and talk with him on that quiet afternoon in June.
Daiji Kazumine with original art of Godzilla, Ultraman, and Spectreman.
After some confusion trying to find Kazumine’s assistant at the train station (I had to run around quite a bit to find him—his name is Mr. Atsushi), we went to Kazumine’s actual house! As we were approaching, I told Mr. Sasaki I had been anxious about what to wear to the interview (since I had never interviewed a Japanese person in Japanese like this with no translator). Mr. Atsushi laughed, and then we were inside the house, being ushered to Kazumine’s work room, with Kazumine’s actual art table and bookshelves full of his manga. Mrs. Kazumine served us drinks, and Kazumine came in to talk with us shortly after.
One of the first things he said when he came in the room was that he was going to wear a kimono for the interview, but that he had some trouble with the belt, and just decided to wear something else. So I guess I wasn’t the only one uncertain about what to wear that day!
And really, once Kazumine came in with his massive smile, a lot of my nervousness was washed away. Mr. Atsushi had warned me that manga artists usually treat Kazumine with respect and use polite language, and since my “keigo” (or honorific Japanese) is not so great, I was concerned. However, Kazumine’s friendliness and candor really put me at ease, and we proceeded to have a long, fascinating conversation for the next several hours.
Daiji Kazumine and I, talking at length about his lengthy manga career!
We started by talking about why Kazumine became a manga artist. Kazumine said that he had enjoyed manga as a child and started drawing manga on the sidewalk, his own original stories. Then one day when he was looking out of his window from the second floor he saw that some people had ridden their bikes over the drawings which he had worked so hard on, and the tracks of the wet tires had made a big “X” across his art! Kazumine thought, seeing this sign, that “Ah, maybe I really can’t make manga…”
However, he ultimately ignored the apparent omen and continued drawing manga and art. For example, in elementary school he drew flip art in the margins of his textbooks because he didn’t have much paper. At the age of 18, when he told his father he wanted to become a manga artist, his father threatened to disown him. Kazumine’s siblings helped him out in significant ways after things went sour with his father, and he continued drawing manga. His older brother gave him food, his second oldest brother lent him a room, and his older sister gave him paper from her business of making fake paper flowers for shop fronts. Paper was expensive, so these donations were a huge help for the young Kazumine. His eventual master, the manga artist that he worked under, was a man named Tokihiko Oka, introduced to Kazumine through a customer of his sister’s.
Here is the master of tokusatsu manga himself, Daiji Kazumine, mid-interview.
I was not familiar with Tokihiko Oka, and I was shown some of Oka’s old works, which looked (in my eyes anyway) really cool, with densely detailed drawings and a definite adventure/sci-fi/fantasy vibe. It was through Mr. Oka’s good graces that Mr. Kazumine would land his first big manga job, penning Nazo no Karakuri Yashiki, a sort of fantasy/samurai story the name of which roughly translates as “Mansion of Mysterious Devices.” The manga was first published in July 1956 in a special summer book from Shonen magazine.
For Karakuri Yashiki, Kazumine said he had to fix his manga over and over again over a course of several months. It took over half a year from the point at which he had submitted the manga, with numerous revisions, before the publisher gave him the final okay. At that time he drew by himself, and he had trouble keeping up with deadlines at first because the drawings were so time-consuming! (Mansion of Mysterious Devices was republished recently with the Kazumine’s serial manga Tenryuu Nijitarou, another fantasy-style samurai manga wherein the protagonist lives in a hollowed out tree! Mr. Kazumine has also done several other samurai manga, including the humorous Kazumine original Dongara Ganbou, and Hakuba Douji, based on the television series of the same name.)
It was also through Mr. Oka that Kazumine would meet perhaps his most famous assistant, Jirou Kuwata, the co-creator of 8-Man. Kuwata was famous for doing the Japanese Batman manga, and he drew some of the Ultra Seven manga series. When asked about Kuwata, Kazumine called him his “ani-deshi,” which means something like “older brother assistant” because Kuwata was actually older and more experienced in the manga field when he worked as Kazumine’s assistant. What’s more, Kazumine quickly said that Kuwata’s art was really excellent and superior to Kazumine’s own!
Kazumine is perhaps most famous for his work on the original Ultraman series’ manga adaptation, and so of course I asked him some questions about that. First, I was curious about how he adapted manga from tokusatsu programs and films. Did he read the scripts and develop from there, or actually watch the shows first, or something else? He said that usually he read the scripts first and then did the manga based on the text of the scripts. But in the case of Ultraman, the show was broadcast first, so many of the readers would know the stories already when they picked up the manga volumes. Kazumine didn’t like that, so he made new stories. (Atsushi said that for kids like him, it was great because they were always wondering what was going to happen in the new stories.)
Daiji Kazumine at his art desk, drawing the hero of Dongara Ganbou for me!
I asked Kazumine if Tsuburaya Productions gave him any rules for the original manga that he made, and Kazumine said that they gave him two rules: One, don’t change the depiction of Ultraman, and two, don’t change the depiction of the monsters. However, according to Kazumine, he did not follow these rules!
For example, Kazumine said that he changed Ultraman in some fairly big ways. The original Ultraman design gave Ultraman longer “pants,” but Kazumine’s Ultraman had shorter “pants”. Kazumine said he wanted Ultraman’s legs to look long, like a foreigner’s legs. “Foreigner’s legs are long,” he said. “Foreigners are tall, and many Japanese look up to them—for real!” And so in order to show off Ultraman’s long legs, Kazumine made the pants shorter.
Kazumine was also worried about the fact that Ultraman “had no face”—no facial expressions. “Ultraman couldn’t cry or yell or get happy,” Kazumine said. “He just had those yellow eyes.” So Kazumine gave Ultraman a mouth that moved so he could express emotion, and he also made Ultraman bleed! He said he was very thankful that Mr. Tsuburaya forgave him these transgressions, because it was a big help to him.
I asked Kazumine if he preferred making stories based off of other writers’ stories, or his own. Kazumine replied that “It’s more fun to make my own stories and think about them. I can think about them freely, you know? Thinking about it now, that Gorudaa guy, the flapping guy, he was a monster that wasn’t made by Tsuburaya Pro, but I made him. He has wings, right, and he could flap his wings and create a big wind. It was a wind made by a kaiju so it was a strong wind. The wind was strong enough to make his opponent lose his balance.”
It seemed like Kazumine really loved dreaming up original ideas for monsters and story concepts. He also told me about the creation of Yamaton, the battleship monster. With Yamaton, the design was fairly complicated, since the beast was both monster and ship, and the battleship was covered with many cannons and details which made the monster time-consuming to draw. When Kazumine’s assistants complained at the time, Kazumine simplified the design to make it easier to draw.
Daiji Kazumine with original King Kong art.
Moving on to the manga adaptation of Godzilla vs. Hedorah, one of the things I was most interested in was about the changes to the story. The manga version includes many deviations from the movie version, and I was curious as to whether these deviations were included in the original script, or if they were “Kazumine originals.” When I asked Kazumine about the scene at the beginning with the melting man being escorted by a policeman, as well as the sequence in which the flesh of Godzilla’s hands are burned away by Hedorah’s sludge, Kazumine said with some excitement that he thought he had made those changes—he said he likes scenes where people melt and break apart, and said he especially appreciated scenes like that in the Terminator franchise.
When it came to the scene in which the flesh is melted from Godzilla’s hands, Mr. Kazumine said that he thought that the acid-like aspect in Hedorah’s body melts flesh and so he included that scene, even though it was creepy. (At this point Mr. Sasaki chimed in to say that the manga seemed more real for having those scenes and was also more interesting than the movies, and I had to agree at least in the case of Hedorah. Kazumine said that it’s because it’s easier to achieve scenes like the ghastly ones we had been discussing when drawing pictures as opposed to making movies.
When I asked him about the more overt ESP abilities of Ken featured in the manga version of Hedorah, Kazumine couldn’t remember clearly whether he had come up with those ideas or not.
I was also curious as to how Kazumine went about creating the shortened version of Godzilla vs. Hedorah given that the manga version was far shorter than the original story. Kazumine gave the following answer:
“The page count is decided, and you go through and you cut out everything except the interesting parts. You use that way when creating the manga. I look at the story, choose the parts that are most interesting or which I can imagine and which scenes I want to use, and that’s how we do it.”
The other Godzilla manga that Kazumine created was an original story loosely translated “Godzilla again Battles to Defend the Earth” by “that Daiji Kazumine of Ultraman and space monkeyman Gori”. In this story, Godzilla fights against King Ghidorah and Gigan in the Antarctic. The 32-page comic, featured in the infamous compilation The Godzilla Comic originally published in 1990, was printed towards the back of the book. And apparently Kazumine started to work on a manga project alone, and other manga artists asked to join in.
“Other manga artists asked to draw. Other manga artists wanted to draw, they were gathered together, then they were assigned their parts.”
From left to right: Mitsuru Miura (Kabocha Wine mangaka), Daiji Kazumine, the author, and Sasaki Atsushi (Kazumine’s assistant).
The job of putting together The Godzilla Comic was apparently very difficult. It was difficult, according to Kazumine, because some stories didn’t have enough pages, while others did. Also, “it was kind of like the manga artists had a Godzilla competition to see who could make the most interesting Godzilla manga.” The results speak for themselves, as The Godzilla Comic and its sequel are some of the most gonzo Godzilla manga in existence!
Turning back to the original Godzilla manga that Kazumine created specifically, I asked Kazumine why he chose King Ghidorah and Gigan. He responded by saying that he “liked the shape of King Ghidorah” and that “this monster was the coolest monster made by Tsuburaya Productions.”
As to why Kazumine chose Antarctica as the setting, he said that “the mysteriousness of Antarctica feels similar to the mysterious worlds I made in my head, so I often use it as a setting in my manga.”
Interestingly, in the course of our discussions, I also found out that Kazumine met Stan Lee back when they were both popular comic creators in the 1960s in in Beijing, China. When they met each other, Kazumine had been drawing nothing but Ultraman manga for some time, and so he was wearing an Ultraman necktie. If I understood Kazumine correctly, Stan Lee was wearing a Spider-Man tie! So the two of them took a picture together on the spot, and while they could not understand each other and they did not have a lot of time together, they both smiled really big.
Perhaps most exciting of all for me was that Kazumine offered to sign one of the reprint volumes I had of his old manga. I chose Dongara Ganbou, a samurai humor comic with a silly but powerful hero and (of all things) a stretching horse. Instead of just writing his name, Kazumine drew a picture of the main character inside the front cover! I was very moved and recorded some of his work at the drawing board putting together the image and even adding color!
Kazumine had a very long career making manga, so I asked him how the manga industry has changed. He said that when he was a kid, most manga was meant for elementary school kids. But as he got older, “gekiga” and manga for older audiences began to become popular, such as Golgo 13. Because Kazumine strictly made comics only for kids, his job prospects started to dry up and he didn’t have much work to do anymore after the age of 40. He said that he makes comics similar to Superman, and wouldn’t have been able to do the more “mature” and complicated lots starting to come out.
Nevertheless, one of the most impressive stories Kazumine told me was about how he was continuing his work doing manga even at the age of 82. At his birthday party last year (2017), his assistants put together a surprise party. At the surprise party, several of his assistants and friends were telling him, “Do your best! Do your best!” And he wondered what he should be doing his best at. He decided that his friends meant for him to do his best drawing comic books, and so he decided to do a continuation of his original manga, Denjin Arrow. The previous run of the comic left on a kind of cliffhanger, and so Kazumine decided to continue the story over fifty real years later! (Luckily the Kazumines were kind enough to give me a copy of the new manga.)
For me personally, meeting Daiji Kazumine was a great job and honor and I am so glad he took time out of his busy schedule to meet and chat about his comics career. We talked about many other topics, too, such as some of his original creations and where he got some of his ideas, but I wanted to mostly focus this article on the topics most pertinent to Toho Kingdom’s audience. Hopefully if I get a chance I can more properly have the interview transcribed in full at a later date. Thank you so much for reading!
Special thanks to Mr. Atsushi and Chris Mirjahangir for helping put this interview together, and for my Japanese tutor Ayako for helping with the translation. All mistakes in the translation and otherwise are of course my responsibility.Interviews // September 30, 2018