With the recent launch of the Godzilla comic books by IDW and the upcoming Godzilla: Kaiju World Wars board game, I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to my favorite giant monster of all time – yeah, you guessed it – Godzilla.
The “King of the Monsters” and I go way back, all the way from me watching NBC’s Godzilla Power Hour during Saturday Morning Cartoons to wearing one of those tacky 80’s costumes with a picture of the character you were dressing as on the costume’s glossy torso. Before I ever became a fan of The Transformers, G.I. Joe, Knight Rider or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there was a kaiju-sized soft spot in my heart for the misunderstood terror/hero of Japan.
While dinosaurs were the cool thing of the decade (and more decades to come), once I saw the radioactive fury of Godzilla on the small screen, I knew I had found the love of a lifetime. Circa 1979, we in the Chicagoland market had (and still have) a host of a local television show titled “Son of Svengoolie” (he had taken over for the original “Svengoolie” and dressed in the same horror-show manner, hence the “Son of”). While most of the movies he would show on Saturday afternoons were in the traditional “creature feature” genre, i.e. vampires, werewolves and zombies, he spent a couple weeks promoting his upcoming Saturday night prime time special presentation of Toho Films’ King Kong vs. Godzilla.
While I was a home-grown American boy, I had seen the Godzilla cartoon, read some books at my school library and even listened to the Power Records classic story. Thus, instead of rooting for King Kong, the American icon, I was cheering for the fire-breathing foreigner. We had a larger color television in the basement den, where most of the family’s TV watching tool place. However, my parents didn’t want to watch badly dubbed people talking in between shots of men in rubber suits duking it out on the Japanese countryside. Therefore, I was exiled to the upstairs kitchen where I would watch this epic film in all its magnificent glory on an 8” B&W portable television in the enviable comfort of a barstool.
I was hooked. Next item on the giant monster movie marathon was Godzilla vs. Megalon, which was immortalized in infamy many years later on the highly popular MST3K, which had much higher viewership than Son of Svengoolie. While these movies were never considered “high art” and often dismissed as juvenile trash, I never stopped loving them. Later on, “Sven” did special shows for Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, Son of Godzilla and many others. Finally, for Godzilla 1985, he held nothing back in having fun with Raymond Burr in his reprisal of “Steve Martin” from the original Godzilla: King of the Monsters. When Son of Svengoolie came back to television in the 90’s after a 10-plus year absence, I was thrilled to see this Chicago TV legend back where he belonged: introducing viewers young and old to monsters of all types, including Godzilla and his friends Mothra, Gamera and the Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.
If you haven’t done so already, I recommend picking up Godzilla #1 from IDW at your local comic book shop (ask for the cover done by my pal, Matt Frank). Once you enjoy that, you might look up all the Godzilla movies you might have missed since your childhood (there have been quite a few), and renew your own relationship with the big, grey (not green, as is often misconceived), radioactive beast from the east.