Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Big G and Me

In the summer of 1976, Godzilla vs. Megalon was released in the U.S. and I fell in love with movie monsters.
While perusing the Recent Releases table at the local comic shop last week, I came across the cover of the first issue of IDW Publishing's Godzilla: Half Century War. Like many of the titles that I don't purchase, I have been marginally aware of the recent Godzilla resurgence that has taken place since the franchise has been placed in the capable hands of independent publisher IDW. Despite this awareness, I haven't purchased a Godzilla comic book since the Marvel Comic Group's Godzilla: King of Monsters series wa-a-ay back in 1977, and then it was because the Big G was battling the Yetrigar. Fortunately my brother, also a Godzilla devotee, did collect the entire series--all 24 issues--that I have subsequently gone back to read. In many ways, that experience with Marvel comics, as a result of my affection for Godzilla as the King of All Monsters was my entre into the world comic book collecting.

Godzilla King of Monsters #10.
Art by Herb Trimpe and Fred Kida
(1977, Marvel)
When my brother and I were eight, we and some of the kids in our neighborhood began a Godzilla Fan Club which consisted of really only three activities: seeing Godzilla movies (either on weekends at the Riviera Theater on Lake Avenue or, later, on local Saturday afternoon television) and pooling our money together to purchase whatever fanzines (Famous Monster of Filmland, Fangoria, etc.) happened to have a mention, or better yet picture, of Godzilla. Then there were the small plastic replicas of our monster heroes that would come to life on our street. Our weekly dues (50 cents) were collected in a large jar that we would bring out at our occasional club meetings at which point we would decide to purchase something. Like most of these sorts of childhood groups, there was an older kid "in charge," (I think he was the ripe old age of 15 or 16), who ultimately made the orders on our club's behalf. As a result much of our pooled funds were spent on cool models of our movie favorites such as Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster (also known as King Ghidorah, Monster X or Monster Zero) or, especially, the Big G himself.

After impatiently waiting for the next model to arrive at a local craft store, the Presque Street Godzilla Fan Club would gather to watch the our defacto leader shave plastic nubs from freshly separated pieces and glue delicate joints. Assembly was required and it was magical. From a makeshift paint set, we were entranced as he meticulously painted the characetrs' scales and eyes: gold and red for the evil Ghidorha (or Monster X or Monster Zero) and dark green and black with white accent for Godzilla. Far too impatient and clumsy myself to build such beautiful creatures so paying a $1 to spend afternoons seeing my film idols come to life seemed an extremely fair trade at the time.

Each of us had a role. My role at the time, as it remains today, was to be the ever diligent expert fanboy. What American actor was spliced into the original Godzilla King of the Monsters! (released in 1954 Japan as Gojira) when it was released in the USA in 1956? I knew that that. Who won the epic battle in King Kong vs. Godzilla? Trick question, and I had that too!

Elementary school friendships end, movie theaters fall into disrepair (sadly, the Riviera showed x-rated movies before eventually being torn down) and hard copy magazines are pushed even further to the media margins thanks to the Internet, but in the end, some 30+ years later, for me, Godzilla carries on.

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