We talk with the creative team behind Godzilla: Dominion, the tie in comic for Godzilla vs. Kong (2021). For this session we are interviewing Greg Keyes, writer whose past work includes the Godzilla: King of the Monsters – The Official Movie Novelization and The Age of Unreason series. It’s also with artist Drew Edward Johnson, who worked on Godzilla: Aftershock and has previously contributed to comic series such as Wonder Woman, Supergirl and Star Wars X-Wing: Rogue Squadron.
Writer Greg Keyes Interview
Toho Kingdom (Chris Mirjahangir and Noah Percival): How long did it take to crack the story? Did Legendary give any guidelines? Was there a series bible?
Greg Keyes: The basic idea for the story came from Legendary. When I was working on the novelization of Godzilla: King of the Monsters, I had a conversation with Michael Dougherty and Zach Shields. They wrote the screenplay, and Michael directed the movie. Also present was George Tew, who was the Mythology Manager for Legendary at the time. We were brainstorming about what sorts of things I could write into the book that weren’t in the movie. Michael and Zach said I should go crazy and see what stuck, including writing a scene from Godzilla’s point of view. This seemed daunting to me, but I gave it a try, and the scene ended up opening the book. Months later, I was asked if I would be interested in expanding on that idea and writing an entire graphic novel from Godzilla’s point of view. Sort of a like a nature documentary. There were plenty of guidelines; I had to be incredibly careful in my depiction of Godzilla.
I’m not aware of a series bible but Legendary has a Mythology Manager and Toho has a Chief Godzilla Officer, and in my experience, this is where the “bible” sorts of questions are settled.
Toho Kingdom: The Godzilla and Kong stories are each vastly different with Godzilla’s story being a more personal experience and Kong’s more of an action film focusing on a fighter pilot. How was Godzilla’s narrative chosen?
Keyes: That’s answered above, really. We thought it would be cool to follow Godzilla around and watch him “be king”. So how he handled his “subjects” and how he perceives the world and his role in it.
Toho Kingdom: How many versions of Godzilla’s story was created before a final was decided upon?
Keyes: The basic idea never changed, but the outline and later the script went through many drafts, and the editors and authorities at Legendary and Toho went over them and weighed in.
Toho Kingdom: How are the backgrounds for each of the Legendary Titans created?
Keyes: That mostly happens without me, as everything in the MonsterVerse has to fit together. As the author of a few books in the franchise, I don’t have the whole vision available to me; I’m told what I need to know for any particular project. What I do know about the process, I’m not really at liberty to discuss. There were a couple of Titans in the graphic novel I had some influence on.
Toho Kingdom: What story elements didn’t make it into each comic and what were they?
Keyes: We swapped out one of the Titans I was originally going to use for another, and I originally had Godzilla escort Scylla all the way to her frozen pond. Other elements that changed were more nuanced.
Toho Kingdom: How did you approach writing Godzilla? Did you think of him as a monster or as a character?
Keyes: My background is in anthropology, and specifically the anthropology of religion and belief, so I approached him from that direction. As I said earlier, Dominion is something like a nature documentary, but not of a normal sort of animal. Godzilla is a mythic force. He is so large in every way, so fundamental, it’s hard to compare him to anything else, except another Titan. That said, I thought of him as a character, but in the same sense that the Earth itself is a character in this book.
Toho Kingdom: In Godzilla’s comic history, his roar has normally been “Skreeonk!” and now it’s “”eeeeeyoughkhkhhgg” Why the change?
Keyes: I just listened to the roar over and over, and that’s how it sounded to my ear. I also looked at graphic novels in other languages, to see how they represented noises, and took some inspiration from that. A rooster sounds like a rooster no matter what culture you’re from, but the English “cock-a-doodle-do” Japanese “kukareku” and Italian “chicchitichi” are fairly different forms of representing that sound.
Toho Kingdom: In Godzilla Dominion, was it Monarch who attacked Godzilla at the oil rig?
Keyes: It actually wasn’t Monarch that attacked Godzilla…you will want to get the full story of what’s going on there in Godzilla vs. Kong: The Official Movie Novelization.
Artist Drew Edward Johnson Interview
Toho Kingdom (Chris Mirjahangir and Noah Percival): Were any Toho monsters planned for these comics?
Drew Edward Johnson: Godzilla, of course, and one other that I know of. It should be noted, though, that I’m not part of the planning stages for these books. These decisions are made well before the script arrives in my Inbox. I work on creature designs and other character designs, but I’m not involved in picking the Titan roster :)
Toho Kingdom: The original Legendary Titans all have names existing in mythology and cryptozoology. How difficult was it to create each Titan with each name?
Johnson: It’s a cooperative creative process–more fun than difficult. In the design phase, the Legendary MonsterVerse Team creates overviews for each of the Titan’s involved in these books. I receive those, usually with some notated suggestions for necessary features for the creatures, as well as a visual idea board. This is super helpful in pointing the direction in which the Team would like to go with the creature design. The board usually features real animals, literary interpretations of other creatures that may share these Titans names in other mythologies, and sometimes passes at the design by other artists. For DOMINION I met in person with the Mythology Team and the Editorial team to talk out ideas, and to let me ask any questions I may have had. It was a lot of fun–
We all got really enthusiastic and creatively charged up for the book. I went home and got started with the design process. As I finished my sketches, I’d email them over to the Team and they’d send me any notes they might have, until we all arrived at the point where the Titan in question was approved and good to go. Some of my design sketches for the Titan, Jin-Shin Mushi are featured in the MonsterVerse
Toho Kingdom: How many designs were there for each before each was finalized?
Johnson: Not too many. Our pre-DOMINION meeting gave me a pretty good understanding of what to do for the designs. After my initial illustrations, most of the remaining work was fine-tuning to get each Titan to how they needed to look. I believe only two of my designs needed full redraws, and each only took one more pass before the remaining fine-tuning points. Fun bit of trivia, I actually did a couple of my design illustrations on my iPad at jury duty. I was grateful for the diversion :)
Toho Kingdom: From start to finish, how long did the art process take?
Johnson: I believe we started in February of 2020 with designs, and in March 2020 I was laying out pages. If I’m recalling correctly, I had been laying out the first 25 pages right before Covid got us sent home to work. I wrapped up my end of the books production in February 2021, and our colorist, Allen Passalaqua finished up shortly after I did. By the way, I’d like to mention that Allen’s colors for DOMINION are truly beautiful.
Toho Kingdom: Were there any Titans cut from the comics and who were they?
Johnson: If there were any cut, I wasn’t a part of it. I can talk about the illustrative end of things, but that’s as far as my knowledge of the project goes.
Toho Kingdom: How did you get involved with the MonsterVerse to begin with?
Johnson: I was fortunate to run into my buddy, Robert Napton of Legendary Comics, at House of Secrets comic shop in Burbank during a Wednesday comics run. We chatted for a few minutes, and he invited me for coffee to talk about a project he’d been thinking I might be good on…Godzilla: Aftershock.
Toho Kingdom: Did Toho have any guidelines for Godzilla?
Johnson: After I drew my first batch of pages for AFTERSHOCK, Robert sent over notes from Toho. They were mainly technical notes on his spines and details of his head and hands. I was drawing carefully from lots of reference of Legendary’s Godzilla 2014, and still trying to teach myself on the fly how to draw The King of The Monsters. Toho’s notes have always been very constructive, and I tend to find I finish the requested changes happier with the drawing in question.
Toho Kingdom: How was it to return to the series after Godzilla: Aftershock?
Johnson: I was thrilled to be asked back. Greg’s story is one like no one has seen before, and it was so much fun to illustrate. During the last year of the pandemic, spending my days bringing this new adventure of Godzilla to life was a wonderful diversion from all that’s been going on out in the world. I feel incredibly lucky to have had such a fun and exciting job to work on for the last year, and I can’t wait to share it with Godzilla fans everywhere.