Bob Eggleton

Nicholas Driscoll: I recently asked Bob Eggleton for an interview about all things Godzilla, and graciously he agreed, responding with enthusiasm and speed. The following interview was conducted by email.

First of all, thank you so much for doing this review. I am honored that you're taking time out from your busy schedule just for this humble interviewer, and I hope you enjoy answering these questions as much as I will, err, enjoy reading your answers!

Bob Eggleton: Anytime. Always fun to talk about Godzilla, kaiju, etc.

Driscoll: There are the standard questions that must be taken care of first, especially considering this is an interview for Toho Kingdom. What is your favorite monster (other than Godzilla, of course)? Favorite Godzilla movie? Favorite Godzilla costume?

Eggleton: Hmmm. Probably Rodan followed VERY closely by Varan. Varan is always so forgotten it seems! Favorite Godzilla movie--taking out the original as we ALL find that a given, my favorite sequel would be Monster Zero [Invasion of Astro-Monster]. It's a great, fun film that has a nice direction and pace to it. The monsters take a backseat but that's okay too. Favorite suit? Again, other than the 54 it would have to be probably the 2003/04 suit from Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.. Very streamlined and ferocious, but not too bulky either.

Driscoll: Almost all of your work is oil paintings, correct? Have you ever done work in watercolors or gouache, for example?

Eggleton: I work in all kinds of things. Watercolors are a blast and gouache is terrific. In fact I am getting back into working in gouache. It's got a great immediacy.

Driscoll: Many Toho Kingdom readers are probably most familiar with your work for the Random House Godzilla books, and the Dark Horse comic work of about the same period. Of these, I think my favorite must be the cover to Dark Horse's Godzilla King of the Monsters #10, in which Godzilla is rising from the water as lighting crackles around him. I'm also very fond of the cover to Godzilla vs. the Space Monster, in which the King Kong vs. Godzilla goji squares off against King Ghidorah. Do you have any stories about how any of these paintings from these books and comics came about?

Godzilla vs. the Space MonsterEggleton: Okay, at the time, Toho USA said basically, they wanted only for me to use Godzillas from between 1954 to 1964--Mosugoji as it were. They said that he was "the serious Godzilla" up to that point in the Showa series. I could also use any of the Heisei Godzillas as well. We went with some of the older ones only because we were fans of the Showa series more than anything. With Dark Horse they wanted to use mostly the Heisei era one as that was the one that was current.

Toho wanted us to stay before 1964, as I recall. They said "Bob will know what we mean." I think they saw those early Godzillas as being the most "fierce". If you remember also the Godzilla from King Kong vs. Godzilla was the one they based all the merchandising of the 60's on the Aurora models, the Ideal Godzilla Game and The Marusan Godzilla toy and Pla-models in Japan.

Driscoll: Totally geeky question: Have you ever considered doing a comic book in paintings, like what Alex Ross does?

Eggleton: In fact, I am. Working with writer/director and Jimmy Neutron creator John A Davis on something involving a giant robot.  I did a painting and he wrote a script and it's really great.

Driscoll: I've been working on reviewing a lot of the old Random House books for Toho Kingdom, and when I was looking over your wonderful Godzilla children's books, there was one thing I became really curious about. The cover art features a very cute Godzilla design, but the inside paintings are all of the scarier Heisei Godzilla. What was the impetus behind this design choice?

gEggleton: What happened was really strange. Alice Alfonsi, the editor, and I came up with the idea of using the Super Deformed look to all the monsters. A great idea as some of the books in Japan are like that. The idea was make them look real but, super-deformed. Toho said yes. But when they saw the sketches they basically said "All monsters have to look FEROCIOUS!" Especially Godzilla, because it's their company icon. So I wound up re-doing all the sketches and just using the serious looking monsters. Which, when I put them into a funny or cute situation, looked even funnier. Kind of like Airplane! where you had serious actors doing inane lines; it just made it better. So in the end, it all worked out. What was interesting was how Toho was dead serious about sticking to how Godzilla looked and such, yet GINO was such a departure. And GINO had his own series of books by another publisher. The thing was that the covers were already painted and I had to alter them a little bit but stay basically within that look they wanted. The covers are always done first for kid's books so they can get them into catalogs and such. So you see a little of the cute look left on the covers.

My most fun thing came when I did a Godzilla comic for Dark Horse. They let me write it and do the pencils and the cover. I came up with an idea for a time warp that sends Godzilla back to the age of dinosaurs and he meets a huge space dragon that is eating dinos and stuff. I was asked my M-1 toys to sign ten copies of the book for the Board of Directors of Toho. Flash forward to 1998, and Toho makes Rebirth of Mothra III and we have Mothra return to the age of dinosaurs to battle the Cretaceous King Ghidorah who's back there eating dinosaurs... so… you could say I had an uncredited hand in writing that film in part!! Unfortunately when you create anything for Toho under an agreement they can just use it.

Driscoll: Okay, I have to ask this next question. I think there are a lot of fans of Marc Cerasini's novel series, and I know I've always enjoyed them. Thus I know a lot of people were really disappointed when Godzilla and the Lost Continent was never released, even though there had been a preview chapter in Godzilla vs. the Robot Monsters, and you obviously completed the cover art because it can be found on the Internet. The cover featured a very angry Godzilla, along with Varan and Manda and a mysterious temple. Did you get to read an early draft of the book in order to make your painting? Can you tell us why the book was never published?

Godzilla and the Lost ContinentEggleton: Basically, a new continent arises out of the ocean thanks to a huge earthquake. Of course, it disrupts everything.  Manda and several Varans(!) come out of hibernation and Godzilla winds up there as does a submarine that is sent to explore it.  That's all I ever was told. What happened was that the books came out and sold very well, and then, the '98 GODZILLA (GINO) came out and merchandising tanked badly. A lot of bookstores felt very burned (same with toy stores) and everything just plummeted. The book was due to come out, as I recall, in the Fall of 98, and then the marketing people wanted to have the book as an online thing, which if it proved popular, they'd release it as an actual book. I can tell you the cover got printed, as far as I know. However, what happened was that Toho--a company that crosses every "t" and dots every "i"--didn't want it online for some reason. It's proven that free reads of a book online result in sales. They wanted a separate deal for the online rights, and thus the appearance of the book collapsed. That's how I got it anyway. It's just business. Toho is like any company in that they have a property and especially with Japanese, they like a very specific plan. So, without the online feedback, the actual book couldn't be published.

Driscoll: I understand your latest official Godzilla merchandising work was on the Comic Images cards in 2006. What exactly did you contribute to that effort, how did it come about, and what was the experience like?

Godzilla and the Lost ContinentEggleton:Well, it was a mixed bag and a lot of work. I was approached by packager Robert Conti because his company Chikara (I think it's called that) had a Godzilla license. He also works with KISS and knows Gene Simmons fairly well (and he's a Godzilla fan!) and he's worked in the comics industry for years.  And Conti is a rep for Asian printers where cards, books etc can be done rather cheaply. Comic Images just got a license to do the card sets. Robert, who wanted something special for the cards not only arranged for their printing but asked some people to do b/w art for the sets. I was given 200 cards to draw on. It was arduous and not really well paying. But then, he asked me to do 500 COLOR cards and those were just me doing them! The deadline was pretty tight and I had to develop a way of working that I could knock out 5-10 an hour. I used Copic Markers and colored pencils.

In the end, I got to give a bunch to Shogo Tomiyama who of course, is not only my friend but he's the president of Toho and that meant a lot. He's a really good guy. He's very happy that fans in the U.S. like the Japanese Godzilla so much!!! When he came to the ceremony for Godzilla's star on the Walk of Fame he was pretty bowled over at the support he was seeing.

Driscoll: It's been four long years since we last saw a new Godzilla film. How do you get your kaiju fix these days? Have you seen Gamera's latest movie, or some of the other new kaiju flicks, like Big Man Japan, Cloverfield, or Minoru Kawasaki's Guilala sequel?

Eggleton:I liked Gamera the Brave. I was prepared for the worst, or at least something corny and weird like the Rebirth of Mothra series but I was really knocked over at how well it was done. It's not a "big" film but it works for what it is--I liked the 1973 opening scenes with Gyaos. Sort of another look at the Gamera universe. More like a sequel to the 60's films than Shusuke Kaneko's films.  Cloverfield was great. A lot of fun and very scary. They really did that right. When I was in Japan, at Toho, Tomiyama and others were all asking me what I knew about it. So when it came out I had an assignment--I was asked to call Shinichi Wakasa--who's been my friend for awhile and he builds the suits, etc--and "comment" on Cloverfield. They were sure it was a reptilian monster sort of like Godzilla. I told them it was sort of like the Rat Bat Spider thing from Angry Red Planet minus a few arms or sorta like an emaciated Orga... that seems to be what all the fans here said when they saw it.  As to the Guilala sequel... I've become a fan of Kawasaki's cheesy films anyway, so I am looking forward to seeing (it). The new FX work in the film--as you know most of it is actually stock from the 1967 film--was done in one weekend at Toei Studios. Apparently they rented out one of the Dai Rangers series' sets and just did a series of fast shots using the new suits, just shot really fast on a marathon weekend. Just to get it done.  I have always had a spot for Guilala anyway. When I did the monster Poultra from Jimmy Neutron Boy Genius, I was inspired directly by Guilala and, Gamera. John Davis by the way, is a kaiju fan too.

Driscoll: According to your website, you do personal commissions of kaiju-related work sometimes, and some of that work is even in the galleries. If a fan wanted you to do a kaiju painting, how much would that commission cost? How do you decide the price?

Eggleton: Depends on size and complexity. I have done paintings in the several thousand dollar range that are large and others in the small range for a few hundred dollars. It all depends. I am doing three right now. Along with all my other work.

Driscoll: I was looking through the art galleries on your site, and I was delighted to find what appeared to be references to monster movies in some of the paintings, such as the giant celestial moth in the Space Sentinels cover, or The Green Slime monster holding hands with Callahan's Lady. Do you get a lot of inspiration from monster movies when you're working on your science-fiction book covers?

Eggleton: Oh absolutely. I stuck The Green Slime guy in there for fun, to see who would spot it. I watch my DVD collection when painting. Especially if the film somehow inspires something, I look for mood and even color ideas from movies. But in order for me to work, I have to know the movie line-for-line like Alien or something. I just work and the film engages my left brain and my right brain does the work without worrying about things.

Driscoll: Before we get off the topic of Godzilla and company, I would love to hear about your experience as an extra in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002). How did that happen? What was it like to be in a Godzilla movie?

Eggleton: Well, I became friends with Shinichi Wakasa in 2001. We went to Japan in early 2002 and had a great time. So he asked me what I thought of his ideas for this Godzilla--the idea was they would take the 1999/2000 Miregoji and make the head smaller and more expressive. Later, he asked me if there was any way I could come over and see the FX being shot at Toho, and then, he asked me to be an extra in the film. It was hotter than anything you can imagine, with the humidity and all. So we went down to Hakejima which is near Yokohama, and they had this whole thing set up for us to run from Godzilla out of the water park, as he was approaching. We went down with Norman England and his assistant Nobuko Nomachi, so it was cool that Norman kind of guided us, him speaking fluent Japanese and Norman is a fun guy to hang out with. Man it was HOT! And we all had to wear long sleeves, jackets, etc. They shot like eight hours of running and wound up with maybe 15 seconds of it. I appear VERY quickly and waaay in the back.  Then, at the shoot, Tomiyama comes up to us and invites us by the studio to see some effects work being shot.  That was incredible and a great day--he made us feel very welcome. I gave him a framed painting of four Godzillas and it now hangs in the Toho Board Room with all their Japanese film awards.

Driscoll: I also have to ask, what did you think of Japan? I lived there for two and a half years, so I'm really interested in your impressions.

Eggleton: Japan was great. A very interesting society that at once seems practical and like some real anime world. I like the fact you can find vending machines everywhere! And the mass transit is the best, it's always on time and you can get anywhere. And of course the toy shops and such. We stopped at one train stop and the doors open and suddenly I hear the chords of the Astro Boy theme. My friend Hicaru was with us, and he laughed and said "Oh yes...this station is the district that The Mighty Atom was born in... but in manga in 1999." To celebrate that and Tezuka's creation they dedicated the station to Astro Boy, basically. It was fairly amazing. And I love the food, sushi, ramen, etc. I found you can eat dirt cheap and good, if you know how to. If you order a steak in Ginza that's when you hear the $150 a meal stories.

Toho StudiosWe also went to see Toho again in 2007 and they've built this huge facade as a main entryway. It has a huge painting on it of Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai (1954) and a faux-bronze set up of Godzilla out front.

It's really, really cool!

Driscoll: What projects do you have on the horizon? Where can we see your art next?

Eggleton: I am doing a Making of Dragons book for Impact books--kind of a step-by-step thing, working on a Mammoth book, and a bunch of covers, and some commissions for myself. I'm really busy, to be honest, which in this economy is pretty good!! Nothing official with Godzilla yet but we'll see. I do not think we have seen the last of him.

Driscoll: Thank you so much for your time, and thank you for all your hard work in crafting some of the best Godzilla (and Gamera, and kaiju, and dragon…) art on the planet!

Eggleton: Anytime. I say this, just hang in with Godzilla. We're all die-hard fans. I have been for 42 years and still going strong.


Interview: Bob Eggleton (2009)


Bob Eggleton is a multiple-award winning science fiction/fantasy/horror artist who has captured the hearts and imaginations of Godzilla fans worldwide with his stunning paintings of Japan's most enormous monster stars. Along with numerous memorable covers for Random House's Godzilla series and Dark Horse's Godzilla King of the Monsters comic run, he painted the logo for Clawmark Toys and his art can be found on oodles of genre fiction novels, as well as several of his own art books, such as Alien Horizons, Primal Darkness, and Greetings from Earth. Eggleton continues to thrive, even producing movie concept art for films such as Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius and The Ant Bully.

Date: 01/21/2009
Interviewer: Nicholas Driscoll


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