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Around this time last year I was very blessed to meet the awesome Akira Takarada while visiting Dallas Comic Con a local comic book convention, and cover that event for Toho Kingdom by writing an article detailing the convention for my fellow Godzilla fans. In concluding that article I wrote that I hopped to see them follow up their success with Mr. Takarada by adding more Godzilla or Kaiju related guests. My expectations were blown away when this year’s convention, (renamed to Fan Expo Dallas 2015) added the most impressive lineup of Godzilla related celebrities I’ve ever been blessed to see invade my home town with the lineup of Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa!
Haruo Nakajima is the man who created the icon that is Godzilla. He portrayed the character from its inception in 1954 to 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan. He also portrayed many of Toho’s classic kaiju beyond Godzilla, such as Rodan, Gaira, and Varan. Kenpachiro Satsuma began his suit acting career by performing as Hedorah against Haruo Nakajima’s Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) and would go on to embody Godzilla for the entire Heisei series from The Return of Godzilla (1984) to the concluding Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). Tsutomu Kitagawa portrayed King Ghidorah in Rebirth of Mothra III (1998) before he inherited the title of Godzilla from Kenpachiro Satsuma in Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999). Tsutomu Kitagawa would play Godzilla through the whole course of the Millennium series up to its concluding chapter of Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Shinji Nishikawa is a manga artist whose incredible artistic prowess lead to him becoming Toho’s monster designer for several of their Godzilla films including Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).
Obviously being a big G-Fan I was ecstatic when I learned of these legends coming to my home town! I immediately made plans to attend the convention and cover it as best as I can for you readers.
The convention was held in the Dallas Convention Center from May 29th to May 31th 2015. As you can see the Dallas Convention Center was a great location for this event. There was a very large number of people attending but never did the center feel overcrowded or claustrophobic.
Easily one of the best draws of any convention is the exhibition hall where dealers and artists are set up. Usually the vendors tend to carry a lot of merchandise related to the celebrity guests and this year was no exception.
Finding Godzilla related merchandise has always been a bit of a challenge in my home town of Dallas. Fortunately conventions such as these tend to be gold mines for Texan Godzilla fans.
From the pictures above you can tell that a lot of the current American mainstays in Godzilla products such as NECA’s various Godzilla and Pacific Rim figures were available for purchase as were a couple of Japanese produced collectables such as Bandai Japan’s figures.
As you can see there was a lot of great Godzilla related goods that fans could buy from the vendors and if you’re a local Texan who collects Godzilla goods I’d highly recommend visiting Fan Expo Dallas.
Set up right next to all these dealers was the Artist Ally and this year there was an added bonus for Godzilla fans! The fan favorite artist of IDW’s excellent Godzilla: Rulers of Earth series Matt Frank was there!
(Photo provided by Matt Frank)
I was able to hang out with and help Matt with his table and I have to say it was a blast! Not only is Matt a awesome guy to hang out with but working at his table also offered a great venue for getting to meet with other fellow Godzilla fans. The best part of any convention is getting to meet with likeminded people and for someone like me who was fairly isolated in my Godzilla fandom growing up, I can’t express just how much fun it is to meet other Godzilla fans both local and those who came from out of state or town. I would recommend any Godzilla fan attend Fan Expo Dallas simply for this experience alone.
(Photo provided by Matt Frank)
As you can see in the above photo Matt Frank was a big hit with the Godzilla fans at the convention and spent the weekend drawing commissions, signing copies of Rulers of Earth and even hosting his own panel!
(Photo provided by Matt Frank)
Matt was also fortunate enough to eat dinner with Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa! Matt was also very kind in sending over this photo he took at the dinner with these legends for this article!
I wanted to be sure to mention every possible aspect of the convention that could appeal to any Godzilla fan from collectables to fellow fans and now that I’ve done that I’m ready to write about meeting the icons that I know you’re all here to read about!
I attended the convention all three days and I decided to meet Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa on Friday evening. I waited in line with other Godzilla fans for our chance to meet our heroes.
The guests were lined up in the order of Shinji Nishikawa, Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa. They had a lot of great items for purchase that you could get signed. From posters to photos of the actors wearing their iconic suits. Shinji Nishikawa was taking commissions and had some incredible art books and manga of his own work available for purchase. Here you can see Haruo Nakajima signing a book I bought filled with photos of his entire suit acting career.
I really can’t describe how incredible it was to meet these legends. I’ve grown up watching their work, reading about their struggles to produce terrific performances under incredibly dangerous circumstances, and seeing photos of them. Getting to meet them and shake their hands is an experience that I cannot describe in words. Every Godzilla fan owes it to themselves to have this incredible experience wither it be at Fan Expo Dallas or G-Fest in Chicago. Whatever the time and place if you have the opportunity to meet these icons I cannot recommend it enough.
The photo above was taken on Saturday and as you can see Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa continued to be a huge hit throughout the entire weekend of the convention. On Sunday Nakajima, Satsuma, Kitagawa, and Nishikawa hosted Q&A panels. I attended both of them and I recorded them for your viewing pleasure. I have been to a lot of Q&A panels over the course of many conventions but I have never enjoyed a panel as much as I did the two I attended on Sunday. Since I filmed both of them I won’t spend too much time writing about them because that would not be doing them justice. I encourage you to watch both of these panels which I will provide the links for at the end of this article.
Nishikawa’s panel was the first of the two panels. Throughout the panel Nishikawa drew a series of chibi renditions of the Showa Godzilla and his kaiju brethren. Watching Nishikawa at work was amazing. He is an incredible artist and as soon as you watch his panel you’ll know what I’m talking about! Words simply cannot do his drawing skills justice.
The Q&A panel for Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa was just as incredible as meeting them on Friday night was! Hearing these three legends talk and describe their work and experiences was simply amazing. Their friendly exchange between the audience and themselves was tremendous and everyone present had an incredible time.
Following the Q&A panel Nakajima, Satsuma, and Kitagawa posed for pictures with a terrific Godzilla cosplayer! This was big hit with the crowd and lots of photos were taken of the actors striking their iconic poses.
Finally the trio returned to their autograph stand to continue to meet with fans as the convention drew to a close. I returned to their autograph stand one last time to pick up a second book and say my goodbyes. As I visited them for the final time I was able to shake their hands and thank them. All of them were incredible kind and gracious. They all seemed genuinely pleased to see me and smiled at me as I shook their hands. I know I’m sounding like a broken record at this point but I cannot describe how incredible this experience was and I’ll be darned if I’m not feeling emotional writing this article. In summary I cannot recommend this enough. Fan Expo Dallas is a yearly event and although the plans for next year’s convention have not been announced I will be stunned if they can top what they accomplished for Godzilla fans this year. I not only want to thank Fan Expo Dallas for a once in a life time experience, but I want to recommend it for all Texan Godzilla fans. Even if you live outside of Texas and these legends return next year I strongly urge you to make the trip down to Dallas. You will not regret it!
Panel videos:BY: Noah PercivalGeneral // June 16, 2015
I’ve been both a Godzilla fan for most of my life and a native Texan for all of it. While I was able to find a few like minded G Fans, and Godzilla related merchandise would show up in local comic book and toy stores from time to time, there was never any Godzilla related events to attend in Texas for most of my life. However as I grew older and became more involved in online communities I began to learn of events that appealed to my love of science fiction in general.
I learned of and attended my first local comic convention in the summer of 2012 in the appropriately named Dallas Comic Con and I was hooked from then on. Dallas Comic Con is one of three events in the Dallas area that run every year. Sci-Fi Expo runs during the beginning of the year and as its name suggests is focused on the science fiction side of fandom. Dallas Comic Con is run during the summer and features a healthy dose of comic book guests. Finally Fan Days run during the fall and tends to feature Horror related guests. I’ve attended many of these events had have always enjoyed them, particularly the guests who have ranged from William Shatner, Stan Lee, and Christopher Lloyd.
The summer of 2014 saw the return of Godzilla to the big screen and with his return Dallas Comic Con added their first big Godzilla related guest since I have been attending, Akira Takarada. Godzilla like any popular franchise has had some presence in Dallas Comic Con namely due to the various vendors who sell Godzilla related merchandise, but with the exception of Marvel Godzilla King of the Monsters comic series artist Herb Trimpe, Takarada was their first guest who had participated in any capacity with the Toho Godzilla series.
With this exciting addition to their guests and my recent position on the Toho Kingdom Staff I thought this would be a great opportunity to cover Dallas Comic Con for Toho Kingdom and hopefully expose local G-Fans to this event by specifically focusing on the Godzilla related aspects of this convention.
The convention ran for a total of three days, with Takarada giving and audience question and answer session on the second day. With that in mind I decided to spend my first day at the convention in the vendor area.
There was a good deal of Godzilla related merchandise available for G-Fans to buy from most of the various vendors. While there were a lot of the American mainstays in the form of Trendmasters and Bandai Creations figures, there were several vendors selling Godzilla collectables from Japan.
Besides the rarer Japanese collectables I also saw several vintage American items including the Shogun Warriors Godzilla, the Trendmasters Ultimate Godzilla, and the newest Godzilla 2014 figures including the sought after Jakks Pacific Giant Sized Godzilla figure.
For me personally this was the first opportunity I’ve had so see most of these highly regarded collectables in person, and G-Fans with a full wallet and a desire for these items would do quite well to visit here.
The second day of the convention was the day I got to meet Akira Takarada. With Mr. Takarada being the first Dallas Comic Con Guest to have been involved with the Godzilla series there was a substantial amount of G-Fans eager to meet Mr. Takarada.
The above picture was taken while I was in line to get Mr. Takarada’s autograph. There were a lot of Godzilla fans present and it was a lot of fun getting to talk with like minded fans. This social aspect of conventions has always been one of the best parts of any conventions and easily worth visiting a convention for.
Guests who sought Mr. Takarada’s autograph could bring one of their own items for Mr. Takarada, to sign, or pick from the many items available at his table. These included publicity photographs for his films including Godzilla (1954) and Invasion of Astro-Monster(1965), a blank white poster, or a poster for either “Gojira” or the Japanese re-release poster for “Godzilla King of the Monsters”. I decided to pick the original Japanese poster for Gojira for Mr. Takarada to sign.
Obviously this was an awesome moment for me as a Godzilla fan! Mr. Takarada was in the very first Godzilla movie I ever saw, Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero, and meeting him in person was a wonderful experience! Mr. Takarada despite not speaking a lot of English was very warm and friendly with all his fans. As the picture above shows, he took photos with anyone who came for autographs and who wanted a photo with him.
Pretty soon after receiving my autograph, Mr. Takarada went to begin his question and answer session. A fellow G-Fan and I were able to follow Mr. Takarada to the hall for his Q&A session, and on the way I spoke to a person who I believe was part of Mr. Takarada’s group and one of his helpers. He informed me that they were quite surprised to see how many Godzilla fans came out to meet Mr. Takarada which is pretty awesome.
I won’t go into great detail on the Q&A session because I filmed the whole event! I will put the link at the end of this article for you to watch and I highly recommend that you do. Despite some translation mishaps, Mr. Takarada was both a funny and energetic presence, who entertained us all with his tales of behind the scenes events, including his fear that the Gojira suit would bit him upon first seeing it, his feelings on Godzilla as a tragic character, and his desire to be in the sequel to Legendary’s Godzilla film.
All in all this summer’s Dallas Comic Con had a lot to offer G-Fans. Not nearly as much as purely Godzilla or Kaiju dedicated events like G-Fest, but more then I have normally seen offered to Texan Godzilla fans. Seeing the return of Godzilla to the pop culture fore front and how well Mr. Takarada’s visit went I hope that we see Dallas Comic Con add more Godzilla or Kaiju celebrities to their future events.BY: Noah PercivalGeneral // June 4, 2014
G-Fest: an annual convention all about Godzilla and really all Japanese kaiju. With merchants, theater movie screenings, art displays, costume contests, Godzilla video game tournaments and celebrities, its a bit of a kaiju fan wonderland. Although it has, many years ago, been held in Los Angeles, it is typically located in the Chicago area.
Godzilla fan and friend John Drooney was gracious enough to record this wonderful G-Fest XIX video tour. Now I have never had the pleasure of experiencing G-Fest for myself. Sadly, that’s not going to change this year either, as I am unable to attend. So this video is all the more special to me in particular.
After watching the video, I was able to, perhaps through the mystical vibe that was captured, feel the pride and joy of the fandom that is dedicated to Godzilla. Thank you John for this wonderful gift. Also, may my brothers and sisters in the Godzilla fandom enjoy their time this year at G-Fest.
Founded by J. D. Lees and John Rocco Roberto, G-Fest is an annual convention for kaiju, with an emphasis on Japanese monsters. It’s an offshoot, of sorts, of the fanzine G-Fan. The very first G-Fest happened way back in 1994 in Illinois, although it became much more organized the following year. It continued to take place in Illinois up until G-Fest ’99, when it moved to California. The convention’s stint there was short lived, though. By 2001 it had moved back to Illinois, which is where it continues to reside. From 2001 through 2004, it was also well known for hosting the American theatrical premieres of the Millennium Godzilla films. This tradition stopped with Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), which actually had its worldwide premiere in Los Angeles, California at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
For more information on G-Fest, including details on how to attend yourself, visit G-Fan.com.General // June 6, 2013