“It’s Road Warrior … with giant monsters!”
In 2010 and 2011, my co-writer, Tracy Marsh, and I had the pleasure of working with the awesome folks at IDW and amazing artists Phil Hester and Victor Santos on Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters. As a lifelong fan, it was a thrill to do anything Godzilla-related. Unfortunately, as often happens in creative fields, differences of opinion came up when developing stories. Toho, the Japanese company that owns the rights to Godzilla and his universe of kaiju, wasn’t comfortable with the direction we wanted to take, and since Tracy and I didn’t feel we could execute our concept as well as we planned, we stepped away from the book after eight issues. I tend to stick to creator-owned books, and when I venture out of that, it’s only because I’m inspired by the subject matter and feel like I can execute it really well. Toho obviously has a great responsibility to the characters they own, and they’re rightfully protective of them. While I wish they would have let us tell our Godzilla story as we envisioned it, I completely understand their reservations and hold no animosity. It was a work-for-hire job, and our ideas weren’t making the client happy.
However, I thought it would be fun to share with you readers who followed the book exactly what we intended to portray. Here’s our initial pitch for the series, originally entitled Godzilla: Monster World:
GODZILLA: MONSTER WORLD
by Eric Powell with Tracy Marsh
Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan and the rest of the Toho library of monsters have defined the genre for a generation of giant monster film fans. Now adults, these monster enthusiasts are hungry for a contemporary take on these characters. And that is the objective of Godzilla: Monster World. The monsters function as an allegory for modern-day society’s inability to effectively cope with disaster. Like Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, the monsters come, and the incompetence of the government and the public in dealing with them leads to mankind’s ultimate undoing.
With the obvious exceptions of the mechanical and space-oriented breeds, the origin of the monsters is never explained. Foregoing cliché science fiction explanations like genetic mutation and alien races allows readers to draw their own conclusions while reconnecting with the unnervingly raw and bleak nature of the original 1954 Godzilla film. Introduced one or two at a time, starting with Godzilla, the monsters are simply a force of nature whose attacks can be no more predicted or rationalized than a lightning strike. The mysterious nature of the events plays just as large a role in advancing the plot as the monsters themselves.
This book will entertain fans looking for all-out monster action as well as those seeking stories with intelligent, thought-provoking themes. Satirical elements like the monster rights organization M.E.A.L.S. (Monster Equality and Living Standards) provide a few light moments in an otherwise black comedy of errors, but our intent is to engage the reader by lending a sense of realism to the fantastic idea of giant monsters.
Just as they would with any other natural disaster, the book’s human characters face realistic consequences of the attacks. As the destruction of cities gives way to crumbling infrastructure—fresh water, food, shelter, electricity, sanitation, transportation, communication, etc.—the humans are driven to commit unspeakable acts against one another in a race for resources. It’s survival of the fittest. But for the humans in Godzilla: Monster World, it’s only a matter of time until you die.
A full-scale apocalypse is brewing. There will be no clean-cut heroes with perfectly chiseled chins and capes billowing in the wind. Only ordinary human beings struggling desperately to survive in a world gone mad.
Confronted with the concept of doing a serial Godzilla comic, I quickly came to the realization that the continually repeated film format of “monster comes, monster attacks, monster fights, monster returns to the ocean” wouldn’t work in an ongoing series. Seeing our society’s ineptitude when dealing with disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill made me wonder what would happen to our infrastructure if indestructible, city-sized monsters attacked. It would crumble, of course. In the face of unrelenting monster attacks, there would be no way to keep up with rebuilding efforts. So our idea was that—through an epic storyline—we would show the decline of civilization into a post-apocalyptic monster wasteland.
I’m more than a little bummed that Tracy and I never got to fully execute our idea. It was bittersweet for me to see this kind of concept being done in Pacific Rim last year. That movie featured several elements that we wanted to incorporate in our book … right down to the massive walls constructed to protect citizens from the monsters. (Obviously, our wall was a satirical take on the physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico built by immigration extremists.)
When Tracy and I left the project, we had just scratched the surface. The book we put out lacked all the grit we’d originally aimed to include. I really wanted to make an epic story that was also a social commentary like the 1954 Gojira film. We tried very hard to do so. If you read Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters, Volumes 1 and 2, which comprise the eight issues we wrote, you can see they’re dripping with social satire. Unfortunately, those volumes also contain a lot of setup with no payoff.
So for the record, this is what we were going to do …
While the introduction and death of characters was going to be a constant in this apocalyptic book, the ever conflicted patriot, Sergeant Woods, was going to be our Mad Max. He was our shaky moral compass, clawing his way to keep himself and Allie, the little girl whose parents were killed right before Woods finds her, alive.
And then there was the red herring of the Shobijin twins. Tracy and I had a lot of twists and turns planned for these characters, and we wanted to use the readers’ expectations against them in a couple of ways. We wanted readers to think: one, that Minette and Mallorie, the telepathic French twins we introduced, were Mothra’s fairies; and two, that like most reboots, we were taking familiar characters and making them edgy and dark. Well, Minette and Mallorie weren’t Mothra’s twins at all. Instead, they were a couple of evil Village of the Damned–style psychics who had the ability to control the monsters. This realization began to unfold for readers in Issue #3, when the egg that everyone expected to contain Mothra hatched to reveal the evil Battra instead.
The actual Shobijin twins were shown in the final panel of Issue #3 with their caretaker—an old man watching the monster madness unfold from a dilapidated shack. Tracy and I planned to set up what would appear to be an approaching conflict between the evil twins and the Shobijin. However, it was eventually going to be revealed that the tiny girls the old man was talking to were actually just wooden dolls and he was, in fact, completely out of his mind. The old man’s madness, though, had some method to it, and he would have later supplied Sergeant Woods with much information about the evil twins’ power and purpose.
As society collapsed, the twins were going to start collecting the monsters they brainwashed, building an army. They would use this colossal force of beasts to help them reach their goal of ruling the remains of the ruined world. The one monster they could not control, however, was the king of them all, Godzilla! The spoiled twins would unleash their monsters on Godzilla to destroy the one being that had defied them, setting into motion an epic monster battle. Piloting Mechagodzilla, the monster deterrent gone haywire, Sergeant Woods would come to the aid of Godzilla, saving him from certain defeat. After the twins were killed in the battle, and the monsters had regained free will, Godzilla would turn on his mechanical partner and destroy Mechagodzilla, with Sergeant Woods still inside. Allie would be left alone in the wasteland, Sergeant Woods having sacrificed himself to keep the maniacal twins from ruling the earth.
From that point, there would be only more death and destruction as clans of men and warrior tribes vied for survival and reign among a world of monsters. New threats would relentlessly pummel man and monster alike in the forms of SpaceGodzilla, Destoroyah, Titanosaurus, Hedorah and more.
Tracy and I started writing in the fall of 2010. We laid out several issues really quickly. One thing we immediately knew we wanted to do was foreshadow the arrival of certain monsters using unexplained natural phenomena. In the opening panel of Issue #1, dead fish litter the Japanese beach that Godzilla soon explodes from. In Issue #2, dead birds fall from the sky in Russia, and hundreds of cow carcasses are discovered in Mexico.
Here’s the weird part. One to two months after we finalized and submitted each script, this stuff actually happened. In December of 2010, tens of thousands of dead fish washed up along the banks of the Arkansas River. Weeks later, thousands of birds mysteriously died in Louisiana, Arkansas, California and Italy. In mid-January 2011, 200 cows keeled over in Wisconsin.
We thought we were really onto something. That, or we were predicting the future through funny books.
But no matter how on board the universe was with our storyline, Toho wasn’t down with our grittier take on all out monster destruction. Like I said before, I understand, but I was really looking forward to the opportunity to give fellow Godzilla fans a new and different kind of Big G story that paid homage to the social commentary of the original movie. Not being able to execute it the way we wanted to was disappointing, but hopefully you will enjoy hearing our plans and picturing what the book might have been like.