Saturday, July 05, 2014

Run Reader: Gamera #1-4

From Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe issue #1 (1995) by Mozart Couto and Mike Sellers. 
Now that the American mainstream's momentary case of kaiju-fever has been stilled, thanks to Gareth Edwards' Godzilla's quick exit from the top of the movie charts over a month ago, giant monster movie fans have probably overdosed on the re-releases of the Big G's more recent film offerings. I know I have. It is worth remembering, however, that while certainly the most prominent giant monster star, there are others worth following in both film and comic books form.

Cover to issue 2 by artist Yuji Kaida, who
 supplied beautiful covers for issues 2-4.
Which makes this the perfect time to revisit one of Godzilla's Japanese studio competitors, Gamera. While Godzilla (and Toho) have had a fairly extensive comic book history in the U.S. ranging from Marvel Comics classic late -70's run by Doug Moench and Herbe Trimpe to the current IDW series, Gamera's exposure has been limited to a single 4-issue miniseries published by Dark Horse in 1995.

Hot on the heels of the Japanese reboot by Daiei Studios of the original Gamera kaiju series of films in 1995, Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe, written by Dave Chipps with art by Mozart Couto and Mike Sellers, was published as a direct continuation of the movie of the same name. Because there were eventually sequels to the original (which in the end comprised a trilogy of excellent films, the second of which is reviewed here by moi), in terms of continuity, it acts as sort of an alternate take on the trilogy using the film as the starting point.

Page one of the Gamera
beginner's guide from issue 1.
For any who had not previously seen the movie, the comic book contains a two page synopsis introducing both the main characters and summation-of the relevent plot points of the movie. The comic book picks up one year following the events of the movie, though it can be read as a stand alone mini-series, the understanding of the relationship between the Gyaos (the primary "villain" in both the movie and first 2 issues of the comic book) and Gamera, as well as Asagi's connection to Gamera.

A quick search revealed that Gamera: The Guardian of the Universe writer Dave Chipps carved out a small niche in Japanese manga translations, such as Oh! My Goddesses and Gunsmith Cats, for a period of time in the 1990s. Chipps does a nice job in this series alternating between the human and monster stories, while developing the Gamera amulet mythology (it's how Asagi communicates with him). In the interest of aiding any readers new to the character, there is quote a bit of exposition provided during character interactions, but in each case it proves necessary to insure understanding of what is happening.

Gamera versus Zigra from issue #3 (1996)
by Mozart Couto and Mike Sellers.
The artwork by Mozart Couto and Mike Sellers is unremarkable but effective especially given how terribly wrong it could have gone given the era from which it comes. The colors are vibrant (Gamera never looked so green), and the panels are well composed. Whether an effort to communicate the bombastic nature of giant monster fights or not, there is a healthy use of sound words in panes depicting kaiju battles. See the panels to the left and below for examples.

I quite enjoyed the Gamera miniseries, despite (at the time) not having much backstory on the character. The consistency of the creative team and solid story-line made for a nice quick run read, and brought me back to rewatch the most recent Gamera trilogy. While not available in trade paperback, individual issues can be found at most local comic shops with a solid back issue stock or online for half-off the original cover price of $2.95. With Godzilla's recent Hollywood reboot in the books and a new take on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the horizon, one can only hope that Gamera is not too far behind--as noted on the cover to issue #2, he was the "Original Mutant turtle!"

Gamera versus Viras from issue #4 (1996)
by Mozart Couto and Mike Sellers.

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