You're not getting older, Big G — you're getting better!
Has it really been 60 years since Godzilla was loosened upon
the world? I remember when the Big G turned 25 in 1979, and since I was born
long after 1954, it felt like he had been around an eternity from my young
perspective. There was no time before him from my frame of reference. I grew up
with Godzilla and he was already eternal. Little did we know that when I was
growing up, Godzilla’s time was nigh; the first cycle of films that started in
1954 would be winding down by 1975. How could Godzilla not continue?
His popularity in the US was at an all-time high — we still hadn’t gotten any of the films following GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH (1971) — he dominated local television,
the pages of Famous Monsters and The Monster Times, and our thoughts.
As young Godzilla freaks, we drew pictures, created new monsters, and played with his
toys (or made our own from dinosaurs figures) — even using the Aurora
plastic model kit — but if you were lucky to live in Hawaii or California, you
could buy what the kids in Japan had: 8” tall, soft vinyl “monster dolls” (we
used to call them) with the iconic “Bullmark” logo branded on the bottom of
their feet. As some of us got older, and remained fans, we organized, we
started fan clubs, newsletters, fanzines, and hosted screenings. I was lucky to
be retained as the “Godzilla/Japanese Film Expert” for our local horror host,
Bob Wilkins, who had me talk about these films and television series on his shows, “Creature Features” and “Captain Cosmic,” thus pushing me in this direction.
The later films came, starting with GODZILLA VS. MEGALON in
1976 (our nation’s bicentennial), and his fans were legion, making the film a
box office hit: There was no doubt that the Big G was the "King of the Monsters." Until the summer of 1977. STAR WARS exploded box office records around the
world and Godzilla became an old hat, “So, 'last year.'” Even so, I — and others
like me across North America — didn’t give up on our mon-star. Long before the
Internet, we kept in contact through letters, fanzines, and phone calls. Still,
even though Godzilla had been popular, he was looked down upon by many people —
whether it was by those who still had a grudge against Japan or science fiction
fans who saw the films as subpar — and so those of us who remained loyal, also had to be fiercely protective (not defensive) of the character and the
There were promises of revival movies that never
materialized: “The Resurrection of Godzilla,” “Godzilla vs. the Devil,” and
several US attempts, including a semi-remake, “Godzilla, King of the
Monsters! 3D” (written by Fred Dekker and to be helmed by Steve Miner, which was
more Gorgo than Godzilla). Finally, by the swelling nostalgic popularity at
home, with record merchandise and home video sales, Toho announced an all-new
Godzilla for 1984… It was a tenuous return, but one that would eventually
spawn another thirteen films over the next two decades. In the 1990s, a
new generation of US fans discovered the Big G and loved him. Old Timers discovered these new films, and new fanzines sprung up, as well as several conventions devoted to kaiju eiga.
This brave new fandom did not fade away, it has become stronger through cable and home video, the web, events and social networks. This has
also grown to be embraced by those who just love monster movies and fantastic
cinema — unscathed by the Roland Emmerich debacle — the reception to both editions of my book, “Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters” (Chronicle Books) has been
phenomenal. New comic books, following in the footstomps those of the ‘70s and ‘90s,
have taken off with a new, rabid following. And this summer's megabucks spectacle from Gareth Edwards won hearts and minds across the globe.
Everyone seems to have gone gaga for Godzilla. The Big G, kith and kin, have finally
become “cool” (but we knew that already). After all,
not only is Godzilla the first and greatest true kaiju ever to grace a motion picture screen, he is the one and true "King of the Monsters" — long live the king!
Dedicated to the memory of my childhood pal, Eric Worth