Godzilla Discovers America
 Robert E. Sullivan, Jr.
Language: English Release: 1988
Publisher: Nevraumont Publishing Pages: 43
Genre: Fiction ISBN: 0945223005

Preview: Order
Back Cover
Nicholas Driscoll

Most Godzilla fiction books are fairly predictable, being adaptations of movies, or original stories that function essentially as further rehashes of familiar monster conflicts recast as mostly shallow action/adventure stories of varying quality. Generally there isn't a lot of innovation plot-wise, and a glance at a Godzilla novel's cover is generally enough to know pretty much exactly the sort of clichéd story contained therein. Such, however, is not the case with 1988's Godzilla Discovers America.

The story, told in a series of mock newspaper articles, details Godzilla on vacation to America, sunning himself in San Francisco; snarfing burgers in Cholesterol, Connecticut; running for U.S. senate; and fighting an enormous cockroach named Cokra. There isn't a strong narrative to follow; instead we get a series of ostensibly amusing vignettes as Godzilla experiences American life to its fullest—and stupidest. In other words, this is probably the strangest Godzilla book I've come across yet.

Godzilla Discovers America is a humor book essentially, and, as is the case with many humor books, the amusement is erratic, extremely uneven, and tied to the time period in which it was released, in this case with pop culture parodies of Madonna (here called "Lamomma") and a reference to Mr. T, among others. Much of the humor relies on brain-murdering puns, such as a hamburger shop manager named Melissa Medium-Rare and police chief called Jerry Lee Cop. None of the humor is especially clever, which isn't to say that the book is dull; Godzilla Discovers America is definitely entertaining in an "I-can't-believe-this-book-exists" sort of manner, and the text does manage to be genuinely funny at times, albeit never of particularly high quality. Matching the quality of the dumb jokes, the level of the writing never reaches higher than what might be found in a small town newspaper, and thus the prose sometimes comes off as being awkward and unfunny.

A special mention should be made of Cokra, the hideous roach monster and her army of babies. As a Godzilla opponent, despite being yet another oversized arthropod, Cokra is pretty unique, her design completely incongruous with the Godzilla universe; she appears to be a reject from an old California Raisins TV special. Furthermore, her conflict with Godzilla apparently ending in daikaiju romance. That that kaiju paramour would turn out to be the unappealingly designed Cokra, however, is deeply unpleasant.

Speaking of the visual design, the so-called "3-D illustrations" by Katheryn Sins are certainly unique. Utilizing primarily one of the large Imperial Godzilla action figures from that time period, slightly modified to give him creepy-looking blue eyes and a few other touch-ups (like green back plates), Sins crafts a number of goofy, very cheap scenes with papercraft, stickers, action figures, and what look like rearranged clippings from magazines like National Geographic. One of the more impressive pictures involves Godzilla carving his face into Mt. Rushmore as Lincoln, Roosevelt, and the others look on in apprehension. While the artwork is mildly interesting, it tends to come off like something a ten year old kid would put together as an art project in his basement with some of his old toys; cute stuff, but ultimately unimpressive when reproduced in book form. Strangely, the art doesn't always match the text very well, either; in one sequence Godzilla is described as being in a goofy disguise, but is shown in the buff, and in another he's supposed to be riding a skateboard but has cars strapped to his feet instead, suggesting roller skates. Still, it's kind of fun to see Godzilla in a Santa suit or decked out for a game of baseball. Toys of King Ghidorah and Ultraman also make appearances, as does a bizarrely modified smaller Godzilla toy with a mutilated head, and a number of repainted M.U.S.C.L.E. toys from the 80's (which those in the know will recognize as repackaged Kinnikuman toys) and Crocobite from the Masters of the Universe "Meteorbs" line. One might start thinking that this book was made for little kids, but such doesn't seem to be the case.

Cripplingly, Godzilla Discovers America does not have a strong sense of its audience. Deemed an "illustrated novel" on the back cover of this slim book, with a vaguely confusing title rendered in primary colors and cover art depicting a Godzilla action figure bursting through a map of the United States, the book appears to be aimed at young children, which the bright artwork throughout seems to confirm. However, the content of the text suggests otherwise, occasionally touching on mature themes as Godzilla is depicted as a womanizer indulging in late-night trysts and fondling enthusiastic females in a production of Miami Rice, among other bizarre romantic escapades. Yes, you read that correctly—Godzilla essentially has a sex life in this publication, with Lamomma no less! Additionally, some of the jokes, while not intellectual or particularly funny by any means, would probably go right over the heads of the very young—for example, a congressman named Peter Porkbarrel. Even the sell text on the back of the book seems to be describing a very different product, highlighting the "adventure-packed" contents and the battle between Godzilla and Cokra as if it was the exciting focus of the story, when in reality it is a dull subplot. The creators must have been aiming for a wide cross section of America, hoping to appeal to a large variety of people from first graders to adults, and ended up with a product that doesn't clearly match any particular demographic, condemning the publication to an early demise.

Godzilla Discovers America is, in the end, a curiosity, nearly forgotten and deservedly so, with very little coverage online—although there was a review in G-Fan way back in issue 28 which I haven't read. Both in the prose and in the visuals, the Godzilla Discovers America is poorly conceived and has a lousy grasp on its audience, coming across in the end as confused and slipshod. Considering the content, especially the offbeat representation of Godzilla's character, it's hard to imagine Toho ever licensing a product as unusual as this one again. For that very reason, Godzilla's only "illustrated novel" certainly is unique, and for lovers of the obscure, it is worth tracking down for a reasonable price, even if in the end you just want to incinerate your copy for suggesting that Godzilla fell in love with a cockroach.