Oh no, there goes Tokyo! Yes, the King of the Monsters has returned to comics with IDW’s all-new Godzilla: Monster World series in March 2011. And they’ve got an all-star crew bringing death and destruction – Eric Powell of The Goon co-writing with Tracy Marsh and doing covers, Phil Hester on the art, and Alex Ross doing a special incentive cover.
We got up with Powell and Marsh to talk about their reign of terror – and why this is going to be a Godzilla comic worth reading. He even brought some exclusive Phil Hester art along for the ride. Warning – there might be some saucy language in here.
Newsarama: Eric, Tracy – tell us about the premise of your Godzilla book.
Eric Powell: Well, when first approached by IDW I gave the standard, "Let me think about it and get back to you," with little expectation that I would actually take the job. How do you do a monthly Godzilla book and make it interesting?
All the films follow a certain formula that is not really compatible with a serialized form of storytelling. I thought about how mankind would handle it if giant monsters actually attacked. With our inability to handle big problems like Katrina and the BP oil spill, I thought, “Probably not very well.”
And with that thought, the floodgates opened. Taking the giant monster idea and making it semi-allegorical with a good dose of dark satire... I think Tracy and I plotted about 24 issues in about an hour. We have more ideas than we can fit in an issue.
Godzilla started as an allegory about the nuclear age; I think it's fitting to bring back an updated type of social commentary to the story. And for those worrying that we're gonna attempt to make this too brainy, and we'll have only two pages of monsters in the book, don't worry. I like monsters smacking each other in the face and setting fire to things. There will be lots of monster action.
Nrama: What made you want to come on board for this?
Powell: I love Godzilla, and they said yes to everything I wanted to do. I get work-for-hire offers regularly, but they don't interest me that much. I like working on my own creator-owned material like The Goon, Chimichanga, and Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities.
But when I pitched my idea to IDW, an idea I was convinced they'd say no to, they loved it and I found myself in the rare situation of a work for hire job where I was going to get to do exactly what I wanted to do.
Tracy Marsh: Eric called me one day out of the blue, and I could hear how excited he was over the phone. He really just needed someone to help share the load with brainstorming and writing because his schedule stays so packed.
Even though – and here’s where some people might get antsy – I didn’t grow up a huge Godzilla fan, I was immediately attracted to the prospect of the comic, because it was such a departure from anything I’ve ever written. To me, it sounded like the perfect opportunity to explore a new genre and use my imagination to wreak havoc on paper.
And I loved the allegorical angle Eric was going for. I mean, take a look around; there’s material everywhere. Because I work a regular 8-to-5, though, I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t have enough time to give Eric the help he needed, so I told him I’d think about it overnight… It took me approximately two-and-a-half minutes to come to my senses, call him back, and tell him that, yes, of course I wanted to do it.
Nrama: Godzilla doesn't exactly say a whole heck of a lot in his films other than "RRRAAARRRGH!" Who are the POV characters in this?
Powell: The people dealing with the situation. It will be a revolving cast. Or really, no set cast. It's all going to be about individual stories in an unbelievable situation. We're taking an approach to the Toho monsters that I don't believe has been done before.
We're making real consequences to their attacks: Monster tramples half of Japan. Guess what. Japan's infrastructure is screwed. No water. No food. Refugees everywhere. This is gonna be monster chaos and it's not gonna be pretty. For anybody.
Nrama: Will we we be seeing classic monsters, new monsters or a combination? Could you describe some of them for us?
Powell: I'm not going to give too much away yet. But the first monsters are going to be Godzilla, Anguirus, Mothra, Rodan, and King Ghidorah. As an homage to the films, Tracy and I are introducing them in the order they appeared on screen.
Nrama: What's your writing collaboration like?
Powell: We've been making it up as we go along a little bit. Tracy is a longtime friend and freelance journalist, who is co-writing a prose humor book about Roller Derby with me that will be coming out in the future from Dark Horse books.
Because I've been wanting to scale back my workload a bit to concentrate on just illustrating The Goon, I knew I would need some assisting on this book to keep my schedule in line. I knew that I could probably get an established comic writer to work on it with me, but I had a very specific vision in mind for this and couldn't see myself saying, "No, we're gonna do this my way," to another comic pro if there was a difference of ideas.
But Tracy I can order around and trade her off for a pack of cigarettes when I'm done like a little prison bitch!
Phil Hester ArtMarsh: It’s true. I tried to challenge him once, and he literally threw one of his Eisner Awards at my face.
Powell: I’m kidding! I knew that I could bring Tracy on as an assistant/co-writer and, while contributing a wealth of ideas, she would not be offended if I vetoed something she brought to the table. Tracy also provides a social and pop culture perspective that I myself don't have. It makes for a richer and more complex narrative.
Marsh: The medium is a real challenge for me. I’m used to writing news and feature articles and short fiction, which allow you to be descriptive and, to some extent, wordy. Telling a story with pictures and minimal words is a fine art, and one that Eric has mastered. So I’ve got a lot to learn from him in that respect.
Technically speaking, though, our process is pretty simple. We sat down together and mapped out several issues at once. One of us puts something on paper, and we swap scripts back and forth – editing as we go – until the picture is complete. The hardest part is finding space for all the ideas we have.
Well, that and suddenly being required to refer to Eric as “Mr. Powell” after nearly a decade of friendship. You really think that’s not offensive, Mr. Powell? Pshaw.
Nrama: And what's it like working with Phil Hester? That boy's known for the scribblin's as much as the pretty pictures, has he collaborated with you any on the plot?
Powell: No, he's just drawin' this one. But I just saw some of his pencils and daaaaaamn! I'm excited he was able to do this! Great way to launch the series!
Marsh: Absolutely! It was so exciting to see Phil’s sketches. He’s bringing it all to life in a big way, and I’m really grateful to be working with him on this.
Nrama: Name your favorite Godzilla movie.
Powell: The first one. Gojira.
Marsh: Yeah, I agree. I had a lot of catching up to do when I signed on for this project, and Eric gave me the equivalent of a summer reading list…kind of a “here’s what we’re going for, and here’s what we want to avoid” type of thing.
Gojira just did it for me. It’s dark and heavy and raw, which I think has more to do with how and when it was made rather than a conscious decision about artistic direction, but it inspires me more than any other single film when I’m working on our scripts.
Nrama: For that matter, name your favorite Godzilla comic. There ain't a lot, though I dug the Art Adams one and the one where he fought Charles Barkley.
Powell: The Art Adams special where he fights the Daimajin like Samurai.
Nrama: If the Goon fought Godzilla, who would win?
Marsh: The reader.
Powell: See The Goon #6.
Nrama: Will your series examine why people keep living in Tokyo when it's constantly destroyed by giant monsters?
Powell: No. There's not even a Tokyo to go back to two issues into this thing.
Marsh: I always did wonder about that, though. New Orleans only got wiped out once, and people were seriously debating about whether or not to rebuild it. I guess since people continue to live in California and Kansas even though there are earthquakes and tornadoes, we were expected to believe that people who live in Tokyo just accept monster attacks as part of life.
Either that or Japanese people just love running around waving their hands in the air.
Nrama: You know, you watch those old movies, and it's obvious that the suits are rubber, the buildings are models, and Ghidorah is only flying around because someone's pulling on a harness.
And yet, they're still freakin' awesome. How do you explain this intense psychological attraction viewers have to watching big monsters break stuff?
Powell: Monsters are fun and so is destroying stuff. I recently went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago and they have about a 50-ft square model of the City of Chicago. All I could think about was what would happen to me if I didn't quell my near uncontrollable urge to jump on the table and start smashing it like Godzilla.
Marsh: Yeah, these monsters are icons. Everybody knows who Godzilla is, no matter where they live or how old they are or what they're into. For some reason, it just resonates. It doesn't matter that those are Matchbox cars or that the scientific explanations make absolutely no sense. It's all just straight-up entertainment.
Nrama: Describe the extent of your Godzilla fandom here.
Marsh: Well, like I said before, I was raised more on My Little Ponies than giant monsters, so I had to come up to speed on Godzilla and his buddies by doing extensive research…and by “research,” I mean watching monster movies in sweats on the couch while mainlining popcorn and Raisinets.
And I’ve definitely become a fan. I changed my ring tone to one of Godzilla's crazy roars, which is awesome when I'm standing in line at the grocery story.
Powell: When I was a kid I had the 2-ft Shogun Warrior Godzilla figure with the shooting fist. I don't think I have to say anything else. (I sadly no longer own that masterpiece of a 1970's toy.)
Nrama: Further earn the loyalty of hardcore Godzilla fans by offering your..um, perspective on the 1998 film with Matthew Broderick.
Marsh: Actually, that was one of the movies that Eric forbade me to watch when I started researching Godzilla films. What was it you said, Eric? It was either, “That movie will taint the entire Godzilla experience for you,” or “That movie is about as relevant as my taint.”
Powell: Loath is not a strong enough word. I think it was a plot to make the Japanese like us even less.
Nrama: What's next for you?
Marsh: As Eric already mentioned, I’m helping him write a book about roller derby. When it comes out, I can’t wait to see it sitting all by itself on the “Humor/Self-Help/Erotica/Quasi-Non-Fiction” shelf at Barnes & Noble.
Powell: I'll be writing Godzilla and Billy the Kid's Old Timey Oddities and drawing The Goon for the foreseeable future.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about that we haven't discussed yet?
Powell: Yes, Godzilla has a penis but it's kinda hidden like doggy chapstick.
Marsh: Ah, I’m glad you mentioned that, Eric. “Wadzilla” will become a pretty major plot point around Issue #10.
Godzilla: Monster World attacks in March 2011 from IDW.Are you ready for some giant monsters?