I recently had a chance to sit down with Patrick Kelley, long time Godzilla fan and author of the recently published Godzilla: the Monster Fight Records Volume I (1954-1975) and Volume II (1984-2021). Kelley has been an enthusiastic Godzilla and kaiju hobbyist for many years, and published his chronicle of Godzilla’s cinematic fisticuffs in two volumes back in August. In this interview, we discuss the project’s origins, the iterations through which the book went through, specific challenges, and unique attributes of his work–plus some fun diversions and a glimpse into the future of this promising writer. Enjoy!
Nicholas Driscoll: First of all, I like to ask a few standard questions. I will include a brief introduction above this, but could you kind of introduce yourself as a fan? Who are you, what’s your favorite kaiju film, your favorite version of Godzilla, your favorite kaiju, your favorite movie soundtrack? And, just for fun, if Minilla fought Godzooky in an epic pie-eating contest, who would win?
Patrick Kelley: My name is Patrick Kelley and I’m near lifelong Godzilla fan and kaiju enthusiast. I have been cheering on the King of the Monsters for over thirty years!
My favorite kaiju film is probably a boring answer. It’s the original 1954 Godzilla film, which I consider to be a masterpiece and one of my all-time favorite films. I realize many fans give that answer, so to spice it up, I’ll also say that my favorite series entries include:
- Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964)
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
- Destroy All Monsters (1968)
- Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971)
- Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975)
- Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989)
- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
- Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995)
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
- Shin Godzilla (2016)
In addition, I have a big soft spot for King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), my first Godzilla film, and Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), my favorite one to watch as a kid. I have also found the recent MonsterVerse films to be very entertaining entries in their own right.
Outside of the Godzilla series, I am very high on Rodan (1956), The War of the Gargantuas (1966), and of course, the Gamera series. Gamera vs. Guiron (1969) is my favorite of the Shōwa era Gamera films, and like most fans, I love the Heisei Gamera trilogy. I didn’t start watching Daimajin and Ultraman until I was an adult, but I’ve come to love them as well.
And I guess my fandom expands to just about anything with giant monsters in it. Gorgo (1961) was a big favorite of mine when I was a kid, and I’ll watch just about any movie with Ray Harryhausen’s classic stop-motion special effects. The list is endless! Everything from King Kong to Gappa to Jurassic Park (1993), I guess you could say I love them all.
I’ve probably bought the Godzilla films on physical media more than any other film series out there. I had them on VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray and spent a lot of time tracking down some of the harder-to-find entries (Destroy All Monsters was near impossible to find when I was young).
My favorite version of Godzilla is tough to answer. In terms of design, I’d go with the 1989 version from Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989). I love the look and presence of that version. If I had never seen Godzilla before and you described the character to me, this version is probably how I’d envision the look of the creature in my head. That version captured the massive bulk and size that is synonymous with the character and has an imposing presence.
However, my favorite version of Godzilla as a character is probably the Shōwa-era version. If you’re like me and you assume that the Godzilla shown in Godzilla Raids Again (1955), Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975), and all films in-between is the same character, then this is the ultimate version of The King of the Monsters. He begins as a destructive force, evolves into something of a tragic anti-hero that benefits humanity if their goals align, and then finally becomes a full-fledged hero, Earth’s greatest guardian. That is a great character arc, and we see it unfold over fourteen films! Seeing that arc unfold as a kid made me love the King even more. He started off as something to be feared and became one of my heroes.
My favorite kaiju is Godzilla, obviously. I also have a huge soft spot for Rodan, who was my mom’s favorite. For me, Rodan provided a nice contrast as he was all about speed in a world filled with hulking beasts that slowly destroyed their intended targets. King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla are probably Godzilla’s two greatest rivals, with Gigan not too far behind. Anguirus is another favorite, mostly for his time as Godzilla’s sidekick. If he ever comes back, I’d like to see Godzilla team up with Anguirus once again. Biollante and Destoroyah are probably my favorites from the Heisei era based on their amazing designs.
I also love the Gargantuas, Gamera, Guiron, and Legion. I guess you could say that I love monsters.
My favorite movie soundtrack: Well in the world of kaiju, I am obviously a huge admirer of Akira Ifukube’s scores. I think his best work was on the films Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) and Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). Outside of kaiju films, I love the scores for the Rocky series and the classic Star Wars trilogy.
If Minilla fought Godzooky in a pie-eating contest, who would win? I have no idea, but I want to see it. Sounds like it make for a great episode of Godziban.
Driscoll: How did you come up with your idea for these books? Can you explain their origins?
Kelley: A Godzilla win/loss record is something I’ve thought about for years if not decades. Ever since I found a documented win/loss record on the classic Godzilla fan site “Barry’s Temple of Godzilla,” I’ve thought about what a Godzilla fight record would look like and what my results would be if I called the shots. I never fully agreed with the results documented on Barry’s old site nor any of the ones I stumbled across over the years. However, I never got around to documenting my own record. (By the way, Barry Goldberg, the site owner of ‘Barry’s Temple of Godzilla’ wrote one of the introductions to my book, and I was very thankful and happy to have him involved).
I also read several Godzilla books over the years. Those books were so thorough, I thought there was nothing I could really add. What could I say that isn’t already covered by Steve Ryfle, Ed Godziszewski, David Kalat, John LeMay, and several others?
That all changed in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic happened, and I was stuck inside, day after day, week after week, and month after month. I’m a pretty introverted guy. That’s my default setting. At first, I thought I could handle it. It also helped that my job allowed remote work, which made the adjustment into the routine easier.
However, it started to wear on me after a while. All that time living alone, unable to see my family and friends, and unable to do every day things like go out to eat or go to the gym started to frustrate me. I guess you could say I got too much of a good thing. I had so much pent-up energy that I had to direct it somewhere, or else I would have gone completely mad.
During this time, I watched and re-watched old shows and movies, including the Godzilla films. Needing something to do and thinking about these classic films again, I finally decided to document a win/loss record. Before I knew it, my document, which I was initially creating just as a self-imposed project to keep myself from going crazy, grew to such an extent that I thought “Hey, maybe I should publish this.”
Once I started getting serious about the book, massive changes happened in my life. The world opened back up, and I could go outside and do stuff again. I met the woman who would become my wife, and we became parents in July of 2023. The last few years have been very busy, but my goal was to have the books out before the release of the newest Godzilla movie, and I barely got it out in time!
Driscoll: Probably for a lot of people, when they first hear the idea of a “monster fight record,” they may wonder how there could be enough there for one book, let alone two—and both books are three hundred pages or longer! How can these books be so longwhen you’re “just” analyzing who won the fights?
Kelley: The original plan was for this to be one book. My initial scope was also larger and set to include comics, TV shows, books, manga, and just about everything else with Godzilla’s name on it. I soon decided that would make the project way too long and decided to focus on the in-scope films.
Even with the reduced scope, the first draft of my manuscript was over a 1000 pages long! I trimmed the fat and reduced the content to only things that were relevant to the monster fights and the win/loss records.
And even after that reduction, the book was still over 700 pages! I think it ended up long because I needed to describe a methodology for this record and explain the scope and all the details relevant to the record. Even focusing on just the films, there were 51 total films with over a 150 individual recorded fights. There was a lot of material to cover.
When I had people look at my early drafts, the common criticism I got was that it was too long, but I didn’t know how to reduce it without losing something important. Someone finally told me “Why not split it into two volumes?” and that’s ultimately what I did.
Looking back on it, I could have reduced each fight analysis to just the finish and the winner instead of detailing each scene, but I had so much fun writing about the full action sequences, and I think the books would be missing some flavor if I cut all that out.
Driscoll: What was most challenging for you in preparing these books?
Kelley: As a first-time author and self-publisher, I feel like I dove headfirst into an empty pool. There was so much more that went into the process beyond just simply writing the book. John LeMay (author of The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monsters Volumes I, II, and III and also a writer of one of my forewords) helped me a lot with formatting of the manuscript, something I never even considered. He explained what “Mirror Margins” were, and I felt stupid for not knowing beforehand, but his help was invaluable.
Building off of that, getting the forewords was something I wasn’t sure how to tackle. I figured I was a first-time author and a bit of a nobody, so I assumed most people I asked wouldn’t be too excited about the project. I decided to reach out to three people in the hopes that one of them would reply. Well, much to my surprise, all three of them did! Barry Goldberg, John LeMay, and James Rolfe of Cinemassacre and Angry Video Game Nerd fame were all great about it and seemed excited to help. It meant a lot to me to have them involved in the process of getting the books done.
Another big challenge for me was finding a balance between writing for the fans and being understanding to people unfamiliar with the Godzilla series. For example, one piece of feedback I got was that I went back and forth between referring to Moguera as “Moguera” and “MOGUERA.” To die-hard Godzilla fans, this makes sense as they know about the acronym for the Heisei version’s name, but newcomers were confused. One big question I got more than once was “Why does Volume I end with 1975 and Volume II begin with 1984?” Again, Godzilla fans know the answer, but it isn’t obvious to new fans and outsiders. Finding that balance between being an informed fan and making it easier for non-fans and new fans to access was challenging for me.
Driscoll: An important part of your books is the inclusion of many kaiju profiles, with things like bios and power gradients ala trading cards and games. How did you decide what to include in the profiles, and how did you come up with the power levels?
Kelley: I blame my friend John for that, haha. John is my best friend and was also the best man at my wedding. He was the first person I told I was writing the book. John loved the idea and suggested adding the monster profiles to it, including the power levels.
I thought about his suggestion for a bit, and even though it meant more work for me, it actually helped out by letting me shine a spotlight on the monsters. It also lets readers know which monsters count as combatants for thebattles they are about to read about.
As for how I came up with the power levels, that was entirely based on me watching the films and making my best determinations. I wish I could say it was more scientific than that but, nope!
Driscoll: One aspect of your book that really surprised me was that you included lots of entries on movies with no monster-a-monster fights in them, such as Mothra (1961) or GODZILLA (1998). Why include these movies if your focus is on recording the fights?
Kelley: Those films were included for the sole purpose of being thorough. I didn’t want to assume every reader had an encyclopedic knowledge of every in-scope film, so I made sure to include them just to avoid readers asking me why I didn’t include certain films. I also wanted to let all the readers know that I watched these films and determined that there were no monster battles in some of the entries.
Interestingly, this turned out to work in my favor. The son of a friend of mine told me “You better give a good score to Shin Godzilla” and I was able to show that Shin Godzilla has no score because it never fought another monster in its lone in-scope film appearance.
I also include films with no fights to fully demonstrate the application of my thought process for the fight record. I included the film Atragon (1963) in-scope and ultimately determined that the film has no monster battles in it. If anyone left the film out entirely, I might have people asking me “What about Manda’s fight with the Gotengo?” In this case, it was an attempt to get ahead of any questions I might get in regard to battles that didn’t count towards the record.
Driscoll: Why do you include piloted robots as monster opponents, but not flying ships? This choice may be especially controversial since you included Mechagodzilla City, but no bio or fight record for the Gotengo, which is a pretty iconic “mecha” at this point. Also, did you have any other difficult calls?
Kelley: The original scope was set to include all the different warships throughout the Godzilla series, including the Super X ships, the Moonlight SY-3, the Gotengo, and many others. This would have given me a lot more battles for the analysis, and I was happy to talk about them. Some of my favorite sequences in these movies are the monster vs. military battles, and some of those specialized warships participated in some of the best examples of those scenes.
Ultimately, I decided that including them would defeat the purpose of the book as I wanted to highlight Godzilla’s record amongst other monsters. The Gotengo, the Super X-2, and many others added a lot to their respective films, but at the end of the day, the intent of the book was to highlight those monster vs. monster prizefights that defined the series.
As for including piloted mechas, I decided that any piloted mecha that served as a “monster facsimile” was worthy of being counted as a monster combatant. If I decided that no piloted devices would count as monsters, then I would have eliminated at least the Heisei version of Mechagodzilla and arguably Mecha-King Ghidorah as combatants and I don’t think anybody would have supported that. That’s why I decided if the mecha is shaped like a monster and generally fights like a monster, then it can count as a monster.
One ship I was very close to designating as a monster combatant was the Garuda warship from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). Its role in the movie is almost like a Mecha-Rodan of sorts, and since it does combine with Mechagodzilla, I thought maybe it should count. In the end, I decided it was still just a warship and more of an accessory to Mechagodzilla than its own separate monster. Regardless of whether or not readers agree with my final determinations, I hope I conveyed that I at least thought about all of these things and didn’t make any decisions lightly.
Mechagodzilla City from the anime trilogy is a particularly weird one that I had to think through. It is more of a large city run by AI than it is a monster. However, I thought that since the city came to be from the nanometal from Mechagodzilla, which would have counted as a combatant, then the city is an evolution of an existing monster. I think the kaiju fighting game GigaBash kind of pushed me in that direction. Once I saw one of the monster fighters they created for the game was Kongkrete, a living giant building, I thought “You know what? Mechagodzilla City does count!” Haha.
Another potentially controversial one was the UFO from Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999). Initially, I overlooked it as a combatant to stay consistent with my rulings on the Gotengo, Super X ships, and so on. However, I watched the movie again and realized that the ship was not an alien vessel, but rather a protective shell for Orga. I deemed that the UFO was part of Orga and I ended up counting Godzilla’s brief first skirmish with the UFO as a monster battle because of it. That one will raise a few eyebrows, but it came down to a gut feeling. Honestly, Orga’s ties to the UFO reminded me of the old Transformers Pretenders from the Generation 1toy line where the transforming robots hid inside of a shell that looked like an organic creature. I probably put too much thought into it, but I wanted the record to be as thorough and complete as possible, and the UFO felt like a part or a separate form of Orga.
Driscoll: When you wrote the summaries of the fights, sometimes you had a more blow-by-blow style, sometimes the analysis seemed to be a more overall look, and sometimes critical commentary on favorite moments on a more personal, gut level. How did you decide on how to analyze the fights? Were you interested in looking at things like strategy, luck, or the attitudes of the monsters (pride, courage, cowardice) as part of the fight calculus?
Kelley: How I wrote the summary for each fight largely depended on the fight itself. If the fight was short and to the point, the blow-by-blow style seemed to work the best. If it was a wild free-for-all all with multiple monsters, it worked better to break the fight down from each monster’s perspective and detail their contributions to the big battle. If the fight was silly and over the top, then it worked for me to have fun with it and make jokes. Each fight seemed to have its own small story to tell within the overall narrative of the film, and I wanted to convey that as best as possible.
Driscoll: I like that you included stats or details on other fun recurring themes, such as visits to Mt. Fuji, the monsters with the perfect win streaks, and which movies had splash-finishers for their fights. What were some of the biggest surprises or interesting tidbits you discovered while doing this project?
Kelley: The biggest surprise to me was that there was one monster who had a better win/loss record in its head-to-head series with Godzilla. I won’t say who (buy the book to find out!), but it took me by surprise. I expected Godzilla to be the dominant force and for the most part, the record as I calculated it reflects that. However, Godzilla has one opponent that bested him in their head-to-head series. I guess it is kind of a weird anomaly like Eli Manning leading the Giants to two straight Super Bowl wins over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. You don’t expect to see that, but the numbers don’t lie.
Another surprise was the list of monsters that obtained a perfect 100.00% win percentage (no losses and no ties). It was a weird little motley crew.
Driscoll: What can we expect next? Gamera: The Monster Fight Record, perchance?
Kelley: I have a few ideas for upcoming books. I thought about doing additional volumes to the fight record. A Gamera edition would be a fantastic idea, and I also thought about doing one focused entirely on King Kong. Of course I’d have to rewatch the animated Kong musicals to get the complete record, and that doesn’t exactly thrill me. And then of course there is other Godzilla media out there like the TV shows and comic books, all filled with epic battles worthy of the same analysis.
I also considered tackling the subject of comparing Japanese original cuts of these classic films to their Americanized versions that I grew up with stateside. I thought it would be interesting to examine the differences between multiple versions of the same movie and try to answer the question if these American versions are disrespectful to the original films or if they have their own merits worthy of praise.
Outside of the Kaiju world, I have also thought about writing a book about the history of WrestleMania from a fan’s perspective.
However all of those ideas are just that, ideas. Maybe something will materialize soon, but for right now, I’m focusing on my new job, my wife, and my baby girl.
Driscoll: Thank you for doing this interview! Any final words for the fans?
Kelley: Thank you for having me! If you’ve read the books, I hope you enjoyed them. If you haven’t read them and they seem interesting, check them out. I love the Godzilla series and the kaiju genre and was happy to show my appreciation through my books. The project is also special to me as it represents the most noteworthy period of my life. In the amount of time it took me to finish both volumes, I went from being a recluse living inside because of COVID-19 to being a husband, a father, and an author. That is a heck of a turnaround.