Talk about a mash-up for the ages! In the glory days of the Bronze Age, Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, the star of a zillion rubber suited monster films, the greatest monster that ever flattened a city, arrived in the Marvel Universe. While this scenario would give filmgoers of today an aneurysm of pure joy, it was par for the course of the anything goes comic scene of the 1970s. But that doesn’t make it any less awesome that Godzilla met, fought, teamed up with, and terrified some of Marvel’s greatest icons.
One of the wackiest parts of this book is that even though Marvel lost the rights to Godzilla after the book was canceled, some of the characters introduced in the Godzilla, King of the Monsters comic (including Godzilla himself-sorta) became part of the Marvel Universe. We’ll get into those characters in a bit but first, a little about the Godzilla title.
Godzilla, King of the Monsters was first published August 1977 and ran twenty four issues until 1979. The book was written by Doug Moench and drawn by Herb Trimpe. Trimpe was one of the greatest Hulk artists who ever lived and his work on Godzilla met the high monstrous standards he established on his run of Incredible Hulk.
Marvel’s Godzilla was thoroughly bugnuts and introduced some awesome new kaiju for Godzilla to fight. But the book also put Godzilla against some of Marvel’s mainstays. So let’s journey back to the days of bell bottoms, disco, and coked up baseball players with strange facial hair and take a long, fun look at the Marvel characters that faced the King of Monsters, Godzilla.
Godzilla #1 (1977)
Well, Godzilla and Nick Fury never actually fought but how awesome would that be? Nick Fury was the first Marvel mainstay to pop up in Godzilla (the very first issue in fact), but it seemed like when Fury saw the thousand feet of nuclear terror that is Godzilla, he did what any great boss would do, he delegated the hell out of it to his underlings.
Which brings us to…
Timothy “Dum Dum” Dugan, Gabriel Jones, and Jimmy Woo
Beginning in Godzilla #1 (1977) and pretty much appearing in every issue of the series
Man, that’s a who’s who of SHIELD, huh? We have former Howler and SHIELD mainstay Dum Dum Dugan, we have Marvel’s first African American character in Gabriel Jones, and we have Marvel’s first Asian American character, a hero that actually predates the Marvel Age, the future leader of the Agents of ATLAS, Jimmy Woo. These weren’t generic soldiers for Godzilla to step on, they were tried and true Marvel legends and they had themselves a nuclear lizard to corral.
Now think about this, Dugan, Jones, and Woo have fought Hitler AND Godzilla and if that’s not a reason to love comics, I don’t know what is.
Anyway, under Fury’s orders these three SHIELD agents formed the “Godzilla Squad” and basically became the human protagonists of the Marvel series. Remember when you were a kid watching kaiju flicks and when the human characters came on screen, you would go get some chocolate milk and a PBJ with the corners cut off? Yeah, in the Marvel version of Godzilla those “dull” humans were three awesome and classic SHIELD agents. Beat that, Toho!
Doctor Demonicus and Batragon
Godzilla #4 (1977) Art by Tom Sutton
While not exactly a legend, Doctor Demonicus was one of the very few characters introduced in the pages of Godzilla that stuck around in the Marvel Universe long after the House of Ideas lost the publication rights to the King of Monsters. That being said, Toho had Godzilla face off against Mothra, Gidorah, Hedorah, Mecha Godzilla, and Rodan while Marvel had Godzilla go up against this La Parka looking douchebag.
Demonicus was once Douglas Birely and used some bit of nonsense called the Lifestone to mutate animals into Kaiju. Okay, that’s kind of cool. After he tried to take down Godzilla with his mutated menagerie, Demonicus later appeared in the pages of Shogun Warriors (and God, I really need to hit the 25 cent bin and get a run on that gem of a title), Iron Man, and West Coast Avengers.
I mention Batragon here just because the monster’s name is almost Baragon, a famed Toho kaiju who had the distinction of taking on Toho’s version of Frankenstein in Frankenstein Conquers the World (1965) and also made a brief appearance in Destroy All Monsters (1968). Marvel’s Batragon was killed by Godzilla in its first appearance. Dick.
Anyway, while Batragon went to the big Monster Island in the sky, Demonicus would pop up now and again and serve as a reminder that if Demonicus was still around in the Marvel Universe, then Godzilla existed in continuity as well. So there.
Godzilla #3 (1977)
What can be more Bronze Age (Bronze Age-ier?) than the strangest and most makeshift super team of them all going up against God-freakin’ zilla. For those of you not savvy with the finer points of Bronze Age trivia, The Champions were a Los Angeles based super hero team made up of a bunch of heroes that had absolutely nothing in common. It consisted of two classic X-Men (Iceman and Angel), a demon (Ghost Rider), Scarlett Johansson, a god (Hercules) and sometimes, a little known Russian woman who had darkness powers (Darkstar, because what else would you call a Russian chick with darkness powers).
Sadly, Ghost Rider and Darkstar did not appear in this issue but the rest of the team did after Godzilla came on shore in San Francisco. After hopping aboard the Champscraft (CHAMPSCRAFT!), the Champions arrived to stop Godzilla from taking out the Golden Gate Bridge (hey Hollywood, Marvel did it first!). It was pretty awesome to watch Hercules topple Godzilla with his bare hands, but tell me, what the hell was Black Widow supposed to do? Out-espionage Godzilla? Silliness.
Anyway, we did get to see Iceman try to freeze Godzilla which is all sorts of awesome but the four Champions were no match for the beast and Godzilla took off without even registering the Champs. Sadly, we never got to see a demonic biker versus a radioactive dinosaur but the very idea of that clash pretty much defines everything my eight year old mind desired.
Godzilla #6 (1978)
Red Ronin was a giant Shogun Warriors looking piece of awesome that SHIELD built to take down Godzilla. It was supposed to be piloted by James Woo of SHIELD but when the designer’s grandson Robbie stole the armor to help divert Godzilla in one of its rampages, boy and robot became bonded and Marvel had its own version of Ultra Man/ Johnny Socko/ Jet Jaguar.
The Red Ronin armor and Robbie became a consistent part of the Godzilla title and like Doctor Demonicus, Ronin even stuck around after the book was canceled. Red Ronin popped up in the pages of Iron Man and even took part in a Civil War crossover of all things. It was also part of Marvel’s Mega Morphs toy tie-in title and I’m pretty sure only I and Den of Geek’s own expert on all things strangely and wonderfully esoteric Gavin Jasper remembers that bit of business.
Whatever the case, thanks to Moench and Trimpe, Marvel now had its own kaiju stomping mech and it was glorious.
Godzilla #10 (1978)
I really, really wanted to find a place for Yetrigar on this list because he’s a giant kaiju Yeti thing and I kind of love him in a bromance (not furry) sort of way. And lo and beyond, that Yetrigar here appeared in an issue of West Coast Avengers, so it totally counts!
Yetrigar was a Sasquatch encased with ice infused with and driven mad by radiation. It ran afoul of Godzilla and even took part in a three way dance with Godzilla and Red Ronin. Godzilla defeated the awesome looking beast but it was to return when Bobbi Morse, yes the very same Bobbi Morse on Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, revived the beast to distract her teammates so she could attend to a private matter.
Wow, she revived a giant Sasquatch as a ruse, that’s dedication and the whole thing really needs to be adapted on ABC at some point because you all know that the way to make Agents of SHIELD better is with a giant, radioactive Yeti thing.
Sadly, not a giant Dum Dum Dugan
Godzilla #17 (1978)
The cover of Godzilla #17 is almost the greatest comic book cover in history. It shows a seemingly giant Dum Dum Dugan about to take down Godzilla. One would think, nay wish, that Dum Dum somehow grew to enormous height and was ready to bare knuckle box Godzilla. Sadly, very sadly, this was not the case as this issue saw Dum Dum and SHIELD use Pym Particles to shrink and capture Godzilla.
So we were treated to a tiny Godzilla which is totally adorbs but we were deprived of a giant Dum Dum Dugan which is a tragedy, really. Imagine, Dum Dum’s mustache hairs would have been like suspension cables.
Godzilla #18 (1979)
Just to show that Moench and Trimpe had balls the size of Mothra eggs, the two legends had Godzilla go up against a New York sewer rat. Now, those rats can be pretty damn scary but this vermin was no match for the pint sized, Pym shrunken Godzilla. It might not have been much of a fight, but damn, is that one of the coolest covers ever or what?
Godzilla #20 (1979)
And then there was the time the Thing punched Godzilla in a giant shark tank. Thing. Godzilla. Sharks. How are you not buying this on eBay right now?
During this issue, Godzilla is still affected by the Pym Particles but now is the size of a human. But Godzilla is still the King of Monsters and still gives the entire FF a run for its money. Sadly, there was never a Godzilla versus Galactus brawl but a nerd can dream.
Godzilla #21-22 (1979)
Things get timey wimey because why not just add time travel to the Bronze Age insanity of Godzilla. After the FF fished Godzilla out of the shark tank (and for that reason, I’m out, HA!), the team uses Dr. Doom’s time machine to shoot Godzilla back to prehistoric times because awesome. There Godzilla meets Devil Dinosaur and Moon Boy and fights off recurring Devil foes the Lizard Men. The time platform grew unstable (because reasons) and exploded, transporting a size restored Godzilla to the present.
But of course Godzilla met Devil Dinosaur because how could Marvel resist? The only thing that would have made these two issues more awesome would have been if Marvel recruited Devil’s creator Jack Kirby to draw Devil Dinosaur going up against Trimpe’s masterly crafted Godzilla.
Godzilla #23-24 (1979)
Godzilla arrived from the prehistoric past pissed off and ready to rumble. The Fantastic Four knew that they would need more help as they barely were able to take down a human sized Godzilla so they recruited the Avengers to help. So fans got Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Yellowjacket, Wasp, Vision, and Scarlet Witch versus Godzilla. How’s that for a marque clash of the titans?
The Avengers were able to force Godzilla to retreat but the beast rallied and fought back more furious than ever. Where the FF and the Avengers failed, young Robbie succeeded. The boy who controlled Red Ronin tearfully begged Godzilla to leave New York alone. Godzilla understood and went out to sea.
J. Jonah Jameson and the Daily Bugle
Godzilla #23-24 (1979)
During the tussle with the Avengers and the FF, J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robinson, and the Daily Bugle popped up. One funny gag saw Jameson verbally going off on Godzilla in his office when suddenly Godzilla’s eye appeared outside Jameson’s window. It’s a good thing Jameson was wearing dark trousers I tells ya.
Fun fact: I am actually the very proud owner of the Trimpe original art from that sequence.
Before the door was shut on Godzilla at Marvel, when the King of Monsters was swayed from destroying New York by young Robbie, Marvel’s flagship hero bid Godzilla a fond farewell. It was a heartfelt send off as the very symbol of the Marvel Universe said goodbye to a monster that had a too short stay.
But technically, things weren’t over just yet. Marvel may have lost the rights to Godzilla, but the monster in these awesome stores stayed in continuity. Soon, in the pages of Iron Man, writer Denny O’Neil and artist Luke McDonnell created a mutated dinosaur and established that this new dino was the mutated beast that rampaged across New York, went back in time and teamed up with Devil Dinosaur, and fought a sewer rat. Godzilla was gone in name only as O’Neil and McDonnell established that all those great Moench and Trimpe tales actually took place in the Marvel Universe whether Toho’s lawyers liked it or not!
Of course, Dark Horse Comics and IDW Publishing would continue Godzilla’s four color legacy, but before that, the King of Monsters left a blazing footprint across the Marvel Universe in some of the most insane comics published in the 70s.