Monster King Godzilla #1
 Hisashi Yasui
Pencils: Hiroshi Kawamoto Inks: -
Language: Japanese Release: 1992
Publisher: Kodansha Comics/Bombom Comics Pages: 190
Colors: - Cover: Hiroshi Kawamoto
Monster Appearances: Aliens, SDF, & Misc Appearances:
Godzilla, Sea Baragon, Neo Biollante, Megalon, Mechagodzilla III, Mechanikong, Minilla, Anguirus, King Ghidorah, Gigan, Godzillasaurus Supercobra Helicopter, Maser Helicopter, jetpack, Anti-monster missiles, UNF submarines, KIDS, nameless robot
Nicholas Driscoll

I have always thought Godzilla should have a ton of manga in Japan—and I don’t just mean the movie adaptations, of which there are many, but original stories. Comics are huge in Japan—per capita, the market for comics in Japan is bigger than anywhere else in the world. And Godzilla makes a perfectly natural fit in the world of manga, where giant monsters and robots regularly appear and get into donnybrooks all the time anyway. Thus I can’t help but be surprised at just how few original manga have been made about Godzilla in Japan—I think we Americans actually have MORE original Godzilla comic stories than the Japanese, not counting doujinshi. Granted, there have been a few one-shot comics (like Kaiju Raban and The Godzilla Comic), but not very many. And as for an ongoing series published in one of Japan’s manga magazines, so far as I know, there was only one—Monster King Godzilla (Kaijuu Ou Gojira, 怪獣王ゴジラ)—and it didn’t last very long.

Serialized in the early 90s in DX Bombom, which also featured such fare as superdeformed (chibi) Kamen Rider and Gundam comics, Monster King Godzilla showcased simple, action-packed storytelling for an elementary-school audience. The story is just an excuse for action, with a focus on monster fights. The first volume, which I will be discussing here, included five chapters. The second volume also included five chapters, plus some supplementary materials.

The story centers on a Kenny, in this case monster-expert Hideo, and his older brother, Yousuke, who is the leader of G-Team, an anti-monster military task force in Japan—so basically the manga’s version of G-Force. As a side-note, while Godzilla is drawn to basically look like the standard Heisei Godzilla, the storyline doesn’t really follow the movies, but rather seems to take plot elements from both Showa and Heisei films higgledy piggledy. The villain of the comic is Mad Oniyama (whose name actually means “devil mountain”), a lone mad scientist who can create his own giant monsters and giant robots in moments whenever the plot calls for him to do so. Providing some sex appeal is Linda Miller, apparently named after the American actress in King Kong Escapes (1967), who is a scientist with the United Nations who works with Yousuke and G-Team and is so competent at her job that she has to make a special request to call in Hideo for help in figuring out what to do. Each chapter in the first volume usually unfolds with Hideo just happening to be where Mad Oniyama is about to strike next with a new monster, at which point Godzilla shows up, they fight, maybe Yousuke helps Godzilla, and the new monster is whomped before the end of the chapter, usually incinerated in Godzilla’s nuclear breath. The majority of each chapter, then, is devoted to the monster fights—which are pretty memorable, actually.

As is also the case with the manga adaptations of the films, the monster fights here are more dynamic and more over-the-top violent than the suitmation fights from the films. Images from the two Monster King Godzilla volumes can be found all over the Internet, and thus most of the more memorable scenes can easily be spoiled for curious G-fans. Monsters frequently get brutally ripped apart and blown up, and some fans will take umbrage at some of the monster opponents—both Rodan and Anguirus, who are usually depicted as Godzilla’s allies, here fight against G and are savagely slaughtered. My favorite moment in the book, though, has to be where Rodan drops Godzilla onto an icy mountain, and then Godzilla just slaps the mountain with his tail, which launches him back up into the sky! Yeah! It’s that kind of ludicrous fun that makes the comic a blast to read, even if the story is far from special. I have to mention, though, that the pages in the Anguirus story are printed slightly out of order, leads to a couple head-scratching moments.

The depiction of the monsters sometimes takes liberty with the originals. Sea Baragon is a newly genetically altered Baragon with tusks and the horn of a narwhal, for example—possibly a shout-out to how many times the old Baragon costume just had a few appendages stuck on to create a new monster for the Ultraman franchise. The new Anguirus, meanwhile, can spin and fly like Gamera, turning himself into a whirling buzz saw. Neo Biollante is basically just Biollante, though she can also create a cage with her tentacles to capture Godzilla and is reliant on water tanks to stay strong. Mechani-kong is basically just Mechani-kong, Mechagodzilla III is a rebuilt Mechagodzilla II but looks the same and doesn’t have any new special abilities, and Megalon is just Megalon, albeit the energy blast from his antler is decidedly more deadly than before.

Another interesting touch is that the monsters can speak to each other—in monster talk. The comic will include their various bellows and shrieks, and then a translation. Godzilla grunts and growls are usually something like (no joke) “goo goo ga,” and the translations are usually along the lines of, “How dare you defy me? Now I am going to kick your butt!” Godzilla is depicted essentially as a gruff, take-no-prisoners hero throughout the comic, though the human population views him a bit more skeptically—except for Hideo, who basically hero-worships Godzilla.

Art is a mixed bag. The people in the comic are poorly rendered in a simple style with limited expressiveness and relatively few poses. Whenever there is a girl, usually she has huge breasts and a tiny skirt—I guess just in case some older boys bother to read, or maybe artist Hiroshi Kawamoto was just bored. The monsters, on the other hand, are often fairly well rendered. I thought Mechagodzilla looked especially good, and some of the head shots of Godzilla show a respectable amount of detail and his cool double-row of teeth. The overall style is still cartoony, and some of the individual renderings can come across as sloppy, but overall the monsters look fine and, just as importantly, for the most part the action is easy to follow. Oddly, at one point Oniyama is cackling on about his plans to defeat Godzilla, and references how Godzilla was once frozen in ice—and instead of a drawing, a screen shot from Son of Godzilla (1967) showing Godzilla and Minilla covered in snow is used. I guess Kawamoto didn’t want to draw the scene?

Overall, Monster King Godzilla volume 1 is not a great comic. The storytelling is pedestrian at best, the characters have almost no personality whatsoever, and the art is nothing to get very excited about. Still, the artist is a professed lover of Godzilla (according to the note at the back), and it shows in the monster art at times—and the writer, Hisashi Yasui, seems pretty familiar with the franchise as well. The action is fast-paced and occasionally inventive, and there are some cool twists on familiar monsters. I can understand why the comic didn’t last long, but it’s still a fun footnote for Godzilla fans, and, in my opinion, it gets a little better in the second volume. More on that next time.