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History of Godzilla in the US Comics

By Aaron Cooper (2001)

With giant monsters, movie adaptations and licensed characters being a mainstay of the comic book industry of North America, it should come as no surprise that Godzilla would have his chance in the spotlight.

Godzilla #1 (Marvel Comics, 1977)
Godzilla, King of
the Monsters #1

The first venture using Godzilla as a comic book property came in 1977 from Marvel Comics. The title ran for 24 issues and featured writing by Doug Moench and artwork by Herb Trimpe (Trimpe would also later be known for his artwork on another hot Japanese property of the time: Shogun Warriors). According to sources at Marvel, the title sold very well. It was only because an agreement with Toho (Godzilla's copyright owner) could not be reached when it came time to renew the contract that the title was pulled.

The issue of money and licenses would continue to plague any venture into Godzilla comics, as Toho demands a separate license to be bought for any of their characters. Because of that problem, none of the Marvel issues featured any classic Godzilla foes of the films like Rodan or Mothra, and rather had Godzilla face the likes of new characters like Red Ronin and Devil Dinosaur, plus classic superheroes like Spiderman, The Fantastic Four and The Avengers.

Almost a decade would go by before Godzilla would grace the comic book scene again, and this time, it would be through then-fledgling company Dark Horse. At that time, Dark Horse was known for using licensed characters like Godzilla, Aliens and Predator to gain their place in the comic book industry and the gamble paid off, as Dark Horse is still going strong today.

Godzilla #1 (Dark Horse Comics, 1987)
Godzilla Special #1

The first Dark Horse Godzilla appeared in 1987 as a black and white Special chronicling a different take on Godzilla's 1954 appearance. Then, an adaptation of Kazuhisa Iwata's Godzilla (AKA Godzilla 1985) was translated and released as a 6-issue mini-series in 1988. A few years would go by before 1992's Godzilla Color Special would be released, featuring artwork by Art Adams about Godzilla vs. an ancient stone statue come to life (hmmmm...."Godzilla vs. Daimajin", anyone?) Godzilla then continued to appear in various one-shot specials. Again, since contracts with Toho would only allow for the use of Godzilla, he would end up appearing in such one-shots as Godzilla vs. Hero Zero and Godzilla vs. Barkley (based on the infamous Nike commercial) as well as several short stories in various Dark Horse anthology magazines. To date, Godzilla has appeared in Dark Horse Comics issues 10 and 11 ("Blast From The Past", 1993), Dark Horse Presents issue 106 ("Godzilla's Day", 1996) and A Decade of Dark Horse issue 4 ("Origin of the Species", 1996).

In 1995, Godzilla issue 0 was released, reprinting Dark Horse Comics 10 and 11, plus adding new material. This issue involved the story first presented back in Dark Horse's first Godzilla comic in 1987, and set the tone for what was to come next: A 16-issue run entitled Godzilla, King of The Monsters (or simply known as Godzilla for those searching for back issues). The series featured giant foes, a G-Force team, a time-travel story-arc and so forth. This series also enjoyed a healthy readership and was popular enough for Dark Horse to bring over another kaiju for a comic book run: Gamera, who received his own 4-issue mini-series.

Due to the declining comic book market, nothing new has been released by Dark Horse as regards to Godzilla. In 1998 though, with the impeding release of TriStar's Godzilla film, Dark Horse reprinted a lot of their previous material under the Dark Horse Classics banner. The 6-issue adaptation of Iwata's Godzilla was re-released as Terror of Godzilla. Art Adam's Godzilla Color Special was reprinted and a 6-issue Dark Horse Classics: Godzilla, King of the Monsters series was released, reprinting material from the 1987 special (now colorized) and Godzilla, King of the Monsters 0-4.

Godzilla Color Special (Dark Horse Comics, 1992)
Godzilla Color Special
Click to Enlarge

Several trade paperbacks were also released. Iwata's Godzilla has seen two printings in this form (one in 1995, the other in 1998). Godzilla: Past, Present and Future (released in 1998) reprinted material from Godzilla 5-15 (the 1995-96 series) and Godzilla: Age of Monsters reprinted material from the Godzilla Color Special, Godzilla issues 0-4, issue 16, Godzilla vs. Hero Zero, Godzilla vs. Barkley, the 1987 Godzilla black and white special, and the short story "Godzilla's Day" from Dark Horse Presents issue 106. The short story "Origin of the Species" was also reprinted in the Decade: A Dark Horse Short Story Collection trade paperback.

Confused yet? As you can see, Dark Horse printed and reprinted a lot of material. The Marvel issues of Godzilla have never seen reprinting.

As of now, nothing else in comic book form has been released for Godzilla in the United States. Dark Horse claims to have interest in putting out more material featuring the classic Godzilla (they have no interest in the TriStar Godzilla design) but the failing comic book industry have left these plans in a sort of "limbo". Several comic type magazines have done articles on Godzilla, but as far as original stories with artwork go, only Marvel and Dark Horse have presented anything. A comic book fan can only hope that at some point, a company may consider picking up the license again.