This past May saw the release of the comic book Godzilla: Aftershock by Legendary comics. This publication is a prequel of Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019), picking the story up shortly after the events of Godzilla (2014). Below is a short exclusive interview with the comic’s artist, Drew Johnson, on his work. He has also provided exclusive sketches as well.
Chris Mirjahangir: How long have you been a Godzilla fan?
Drew Johnson: Almost as long as I can remember. My gateway to Godzilla was seeing ULTRAMAN when I was about 5. They used to have it on TV at my daycare in the afternoons. I was crazy about the giant superhero fighting giant monsters, and it was one of the first things that started me drawing as a kid. I wore out my silver crayons constantly drawing Ultraman fighting monsters. After ULTRAMAN came GODZILLA movies that ran on channel 5 on the weekends here in LA. I was hooked immediately and was intrigued that instead of a superhero fighting monsters, here was a monster fighting monsters! Not just any monster, but the King of The Monsters, facing all challengers! I lost many a Saturday afternoon to Godzilla movies in my formative years.
How did you come aboard the project and when did work begin?
I was lucky enough to run into Robert Napton at the comic shop one day. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and while we were catching up, Robert mentioned he had a project he’d been thinking of me for. We got together for coffee a couple of days later and he offered me the opportunity to work on AFTERSHOCK. It was a prospect too exciting to pass up, so I jumped in with both feet. I had worked with Robert and Legendary Comics previously and was thrilled to come back to work with them. Work started on the project a few months later after the script was ready, and we had done some design work on Ginshin-Mushi, the Great MUTO Prime.
What was it like collaborating with Toho and/or Legendary? And what sort of guidelines did you have to follow, if any?
The folks at Legendary are wonderful to work with. They care so much about delivering a story/experience that will delight and excite Godzilla fans, and that passion was contagious. They made it easy to get my head back into that space of watching Godzilla as a kid. At the end of the day, GODZILLA is a licensed property, so I expected oversight on the part of TOHO, having worked on licensed properties previously. That said, TOHO’s notes were quite constructive, and easy to take care of. I learned a lot about the aesthetic of drawing Kaiju on this project—which was fascinating. The over-riding feeling that I kept getting from both Legendary and TOHO was a huge love for The King of The Monsters, and a desire to give his fans the coolest product they/we could make. I admire that passion a lot, and it inspired me throughout my work on AFTERSHOCK.
Were there any specific inspirations that came to mind when designing MUTO Prime, or was it a series of notes from Legendary?
Legendary had a specific direction in mind for Ginshin-Mushi, but they let me kick initial designs around, then guided me to look back toward classic Kaiju designs, as well as designs for the MUTOs from GODZILLA 2014. They had called Ginshin-Mushi “The Great Dragon Beetle”, and my first attempts were pretty literal.
How many stages of concept art did MUTO Prime go through before reaching the design seen in the book, if any? Do you have any work-in-progress designs to show?
Robert had me consider that classic Kaiju were practically designed suits worn by the actors that played them for the most part, which influenced the structure of many of those classic monsters. That really helped me to understand the aesthetic of what I was trying to design, and it quickly got me on the right track. I’ll attach some of my design sketches so you can see some of the evolution of my thinking about Ginshin Mushi.
Would you be willing to tackle another Monsterverse comic if given the chance?
Absolutely. When The King of The Monsters calls, you answer.