Interview:
Marc Cerasini

Joshua Reynolds: I am interviewing author Marc Cerasini, who has penned numerous Godzilla books back in the 1990's such as Godzilla at World's End and Godzilla vs. the Robot Monsters. Today we will be talking about his work on the character, and also some additional plans that never materialized. In particular Godzilla and the Lost Continent, a proposed follow up to Godzilla vs. the Robot Monsters that was never made. This book has had both a cover and brief synopsis circulating, to give fans an idea of its contents.

So on that latter note and my first question: concerning the lost project, Godzilla and the Lost Continent, what exactly was the monster that was described as a new threat to both Godzilla and the world?


Marc Cerasini: The monster was Earth itself, as personified by Biollante (plant and water), and a new kaiju of living stone (to represent earth and fire. It was a spiky, gnarly thing not unlike Shin Godzilla, but a bit more anthropoid than reptilian).

As for the plot, when the Lost Continent rose, nature completely renewed herself. Nuclear waste was neutralized, whole swathes of waste land were reforested overnight. Florida became a swamp again, Central Park an overgrown forest. Even the average well-tended American backyard became a tangle--literally overnight. Lakes purified themselves, Mercury and Lead vanished from the oceans, it was all good—until it wasn't.

Triffid-like, forests began to choke off roads, shatter bridges and structures. Monsters emerged or reemerged, all heading salmon-like, to the Lost Continent for a huge kaiju confrontation.

Reynolds: Is there any monster that you wanted to use in any of your books but Toho strictly said "no" to?

Cerasini: Alice Alfonsi, the amazing editor who brought Hank Saperstein and Toho together with Random House, argued that without the other monsters, the appeal of the Godzilla franchise was limited, and Godzilla would always be the villain as he was the only monster. Because the series was for children and young adults, Ms. Alfonsi knew other creatures were needed, and that Godzilla should be majestic, a little scary, but ultimately beloved.

Toho agreed, but with some restrictions. No King Kong (for obvious reasons), and no "human" characters—the twin fairies of infant island and the Frankenstein monster were off limits. So were the Gargantuas. To this day I do not know why. I also know that no toy company officially released figures of Frankenstein, or the twin fairies of Infant Island. There was a Bandai King Kong (from KK vs Godzilla) many years ago, and the X-Plus Diamond reissue Gargantuas (Still looking for those guys!). I think there must be some rights or likeness issue.

Reynolds: Was there any limit on original creations? Could you have made up your own monsters or were you strictly tied to the Godzilla franchise? If you had any monster ideas you wanted to use but couldn't, could we get some details?

Cerasini: The kaiju of living stone I created, very Daimaijin like, but not like a samurai, of course. Unfortunately the novel was not vetted by Toho before the book series was cancelled (due to the disaster that was GODZILLA 1998), so they may not have let the creature stand. I had an alternate ending in case that happened.

Raijin
Image by Chris Eye

I used the name Raijin (after the Japanese thunder god, but also to allude to Daimaijin).

I had an alternative name, Daitengu, after the most powerful of the four Japanese god-creatures of folklore. I thought either name appropriate, but it was up to Toho, (I would have picked Raijin if it was up to me).

Reynolds: Was there any storylines that you wanted to do but couldn't for various reasons, Toho or time restrictions?

Cerasini: Toho was great. They pretty much approved everything with few exceptions, but Lost Continent never got past them so who knows?

Reynolds: Exactly how far were your creative liberties with Godzilla and his co-stars. For example, in Godzilla At World's End, you had Anguirus rip Gigan's arm off. Would you have been able to get away with a similar scenario, but with Godzilla replacing Gigan?

Cerasini: As odd as it sounds, Toho seemed to prefer it if I created a new origin for an existing kaiju, as I did in Robot Monsters. They loved that I tied kaiju to American Indian lore and more or less ignored the movie origins. They didn't seem to mind when I "killed" a kaiju, either, because I mostly did it with a good chance the creature might not be dead.

Reynolds: Your thoughts on the 1998 remake from Sony?

GODZILLA 1998Cerasini: It was bad on so many levels. Too much comedy with nothing at stake. A good friend and fellow writer pointed out that in the original Gojira, the stakes were the survival of humanity in the face of a new nuclear threat. In GODZILLA 1998 the stakes involve Jean Reno getting a good cup of coffee. On top of that are the horrible Siskel and Ebert jokes, and the taxi ride in Godzilla's mouth. The producers MAY have pulled the jokes off with a witty, quipping Will Smith in the lead, but Matthew Broaderick was just a lumpen nonentity who recited banal lines instead of working to make them better.

I felt that bad watching a movie only one other time—when my beloved Conan the Cimmerian was portrayed as a mentally challenged stiff by a certain Austrian bodybuilder. But let's not go there.

Reynolds: Given the chance, would you be willing to revisit the Godzilla franchise in either continuing your series or starting a new?

Cerasini: I would jump at the chance. I have ideas, too.

Reynolds: Have you read any of the recent comic runs by IDW and, if so, would you have any interest in joining them as a writer for a limited run?

Cerasini: I read their first few issues and was mightily disappointed. There was a scene where some characters from MTV's Jersey Shore show got killed off and I just threw up my hands.

Sure I would join them for a limited run but I doubt they would have me.

Reynolds: It made the world you crafted very interesting when it was revealed that your series didn't use one established size scale for your monsters. When Godzilla faced off against Hedorah, it was described that Hedorah was 50 meters while Godzilla was 100 meters, sticking with their official sizes from different movie eras [Showa for Hedorah and Heisei for Godzilla]. Was this something of your own doing or something Toho enforced?

Cerasini: I chose the size to fit the story. Toho was fine with that as long as I didn't make Hedorah as tall as Everest or something stupid like that.

Reynolds: In Godzilla 2000, the Kamacuras originally play out as a really nice homage to the 1950's movie THEM!. Were there any other movies that you used this series to play homage to that come to mind?

Cerasini: That was indeed a homage to THEM!. The scene where Rodan snatches up the cattle train was also a homage to a lesser known and frankly lesser film, The Giant Claw.

I have an approach to writing that I think is valid, but I can only explain it by example, so here goes.

Stan Lee created the Marvel universe from his own reading of comic books, yes, but also from a wider reading of Shakespeare, Homer, the Old and New Testaments and Norse and Greek Mythology, and Golden Age Science Fiction. That is why his superheroes were not pale imitations of Superman or Batman, but full blooded creations that stood on their own, and passed the test of time.

Too many comics today are written and drawn by people who read nothing but comics, and watched a lot of movies and TV, and too many comics are pale imitations of the heroes and villains and stories that came before.

So of course, I drew from other "kaiju" traditions--films like The Giant Behemoth, The Black Scorpion, The Creeping Unknown, The Manitou, Gorgo, The Blob, Caltiki, The Immortal Monster, the first great dinosaur kaiju film The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, Kronos, the TV show Ultraman, and the fiction of H P Lovecraft, American Indian lore and of course Japanese mythology when I wrote the Godzilla novels.

I wanted my stories to be more than mere imitations of the great Toho films. I owed that much to the fans, and to Godzilla.

Reynolds: Given the chance for future storylines, was there any alien race from the Godzilla series you wanted to use?

Moguera 1957Cerasini: In the next Godzilla (which I never got to write) I wanted to use the Mysterians, but as victims of a much greater threat who come to earth begging for help. I envisioned Moguera (the old 1957 version) popping out in the middle of Tokyo, and the aliens exit from the robot, including (if Toho let me) Dr. Etsuko Shiraishi, who wrote the notorious report that started it all and did not die at the end of the film as thought. My vision was that The Mysterians indeed invaded in 1957 and were repelled. A dying race, their technology has not advanced in the fifty plus years while ours in many ways surpassed theirs... I didn't get much beyond that as the series was cancelled.

Reynolds: In Godzilla 2000, Mothra's twin priestesses were not included. While still a great take on the character and plot, was this done of your own idea or was this because neither you nor Random House could acquire the rights for those characters.

Cerasini: Toho had qualms about using any "human" monsters, the twins included. No Frankenstein, either, though I had plans for the Gargantuas, with a different origin not Frankenstein connected.

Reynolds: There were several monsters that weren't said to be included in your series when the books ended their run. Did you have any plans in your head for kaiju like Kumonga, Ebirah, Titanosaurus, King Caesar, etc?

Cerasini: Titanosaurus, yes. Kumonga was cut from Godzilla 2000, just one chapter for length and the editor thought it was repetitious (another bug) after the Kamacuras scene. I wrote something about a massive spider web between Seattle skyscrapers, if I recall.

I hate King Ceasar He just looks like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz to me. Or an early incantation of an Ewok. I see King Ceasar and I hear Bert Lahr's dopey voice as the Lion...

Reynolds: Do you know how your books were received in Japan and Toho's offices?

Cerasini: Well, I am told. Toho execs had them on their desks, and scenes from my books were actually staged for the "new millennium" movies (the F-15E attack on Godzilla from all directions for one).

Reynolds: Which Godzilla movie and monster happen to be your favorites and why?

Cerasini: The first two black and white films are tops in my book, because they were the first I saw, the second under the title Gigantis The Fire Monster. I remember being a kid of eight going, "Hey, that's not Gigantis. That's Godzilla!"

The third Godzilla movie I saw was my first in a theater, Godzilla vs. the Thing aka Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964). Still my favorite Godzilla suit of the Showa cycle. I could have seen King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) in a theater, but my father dragged me to the Baseball Hall of Fame for a "vacation" the week it played in my town. To this day I loathe baseball and everything connected to that stupid ass sport for that reason alone.

After that I saw every Godzilla film released in an American theater in a theater. Some were good (Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster, aka Godzilla vs. Hedorah) but most were not impressive, just average (though I really hate Godzilla's Revenge, aka All Monsters Attack. With those kids in it and (gag) Gabara, it should have been a Gamera movie, not Godzilla!)

Things got great again with The Return of Godzilla (1984), and Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989) [Still my favorite Godzilla suit of this era], I liked the films after those two but did not love them. Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) was an embarrassment all around, with SpaceGodzilla wasted.

Godzilla vs. Biollante

Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999) I loved. Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) has a great Godzilla suit, and the best opening sequence of ANY Godzilla film (the new Godzilla wrecking Tokyo in the 1950s) but isn't much of a film. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001) was a lot like one of my novels, so of course I liked it. The Dead Eye Godzilla is controversial but I thought it was fine. I watched Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) like seven times and I still don't know what the hell was going on. It was just too farcical for me, but it had a good score and great opening and closing credits.

Reynolds: Do you have any thoughts on the recent 2014 Hollywood Godzilla movie?

Cerasini: I was impressed that the writer and director took the "friendly Godzilla" route and made it totally believable. Godzilla became something of a metaphor for the United States instead of something evil created by the United States. Paralleling the story of Godzilla with that soldier was truly stunning, how they both collapsed at the same time, and were reborn together too (only after the soldier was reunited with his family did Godzilla reawaken and dive into the sea).

I loved the Godzilla design and the blue spines, though I thought he was a bit too large (how is he going to fight Kong?). I know the film has haters but I loved it.

Reynolds: Have you seen the trailers and design for the upcoming Shin Gojira aka Godzilla Resurgence (2016) and have any thoughts you'd like to share?

Cerasini: The movie looks great. Godzilla is a little wild (I gather he has two heads) but it is a natural evolution of the character I think.

Reynolds: Do you happen to collect any of the Godzilla merchandise and have any favorites?

Cerasini: I collected the Bandai figures in the 1980's and '90s. X-Plus now. I love those figures. 30cm is the right size for a figure. The Bandai's were too damn small.

Reynolds: It has been long thought that Godzilla and the Lost Continent was pulled from release because Random House lost the license at the last minute. Do you know if this is true and the details on what happened?

Godzilla and the Lost ContinentCerasini: Absolutely not true. My editor had to call Toho and break the disappointing news to them that the final book would not publish. It was the terrible 1998 American Godzilla that killed the series. Toho and Hank Saperstein were both proud of the Random House books and sad to see them go.

Fans understand things that corporations and sales people don't. The fact was that bookstores would not order Godzilla and the Lost Continent because they were stuck with crap books from that worthless movie, and they didn't understand the difference. I sat in the debut at Madison Square Garden watching it and I knew the 1998 GODZILLA would kill the series, and it did. Mayor Ebert? Hank Azaria? And the Please Go Away Award for the worst performance by ANY American actor in a Godzilla film goes to, Matthew Broaderick.

Reynolds: Do you know the current status of your novels? Do you, Random House, or Toho now own the rights and could there be any possible re-release in the future considering the revival of the franchise? Would you be interested in seeing a comic based on your four (five counting Lost Continent) novels.

Cerasini: Toho owns the rights as they reverted back to them. Could not tell you how they could be reprinted. Both RH and Toho would have to sign off, and provide the negatives or bookplates or whatever.

Reynolds: Back in 2000, when Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999) was first announced, what did it feel like for you that Toho was now using the title of one of your books for their own movie?

Cerasini: Someone at Toho told me they were going to use that title and I felt honored. I still feel honored. My tiny contribution to a major icon of modern film.

Reynolds: Have you ever thought about writing stories for other, non-Toho kaiju such as Gamera, Ultraman, or even the newer Pacific Rim?

Cerasini: In a heartbeat, but they have to come ask you. I think Pacific Rim would be a thrill to write. Ultraman too. Gamera I like but don't love. Except for the first two films that franchise is just too childish.

Reynolds: A tremendous thank you to Marc Cerasini for taking the time to answer all of these questions and give insight into his work and, unfortunately never released, novel. Be sure to check out his books whenever you can!

PERSON DETAILS

Interview: Marc Cerasini (2016)

MARC CERASINI

Author Marc Cerasini has written many media tied publications for over a decade. This includes covering properties as diverse as 24, Wolverine (X-Men), Star Wars and naturally Godzilla. Working with Random House on the King of the Monsters, Cerasini authored a series of novels on the character. This includes early work on Godzilla Returns and Godzilla 2000.

Date: 09/19/2016
Interviewer: Joshua Reynolds

 

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