Many “monsters” depicted in literature and film have a loyal fan following but few have the cult following at both the national and international level that Godzilla has achieved since his first film appearance in the movie “Godzilla” released on November 3rd, 1954 (Wikizilla). Godzilla is a monster, depicted as a new age sea monster, excelling beyond the sea monsters that came before him, as a movie star, a comic book character, and an unending series of toys. Like most movie monster creations Godzilla “demands a radical rethinking of boundary and normality” (Cohen 6).The three manifestations of the same creature in popular culture are what make Godzilla a monster among monsters, a Thesis III monster, characterized by his disturbingly hybrid body, his difficulty in categorizing, and the mixed response to his monster persona.
Folklore regarding sea monsters has existed, most likely, since man first build a boat, sailed into the open ocean, looked down into the depths, and wondered what was beneath him. Creatures such as the Kraken, giant squid, the white whale, and the Loch Ness Monster litter novels and movies. “Many sea monsters include features from living animals” (American Museum of Natural History)andGodzilla is no exception.
Godzilla, in his comics and films, has been depicted “battling” with, and supported by, numerous other sea and land creatures. The difference with regard to Godzilla himself is that “Godzilla is depicted as an enormous, destructive, prehistoric sea monster awakened and empowered by nuclear radiation” (Wikipedia). While the origin of Godzilla varies depending upon the source, the most popular story of his origin is as a dinosaur like creature that was hibernating beneath the sea, and awakened, and effected, by a nuclear event. Godzilla rises out of the ocean near Japan, home of several nuclear events such as Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Fukushima, to fight other more menacing sea and land creatures and to be a hero to the people of Japan. While Godzilla is not necessarily a “bad guy”, he does cause an enormous amount of damage to human structures during his various battles.
As for his physical appearance, Godzilla lacks tentacles, fins, and gills; the typical appendages of sea monsters. He walks upright with more of a Tyrannosaurus Rex body type than anything else, yet he can swim and remain under water for long periods of time. In contrast to most sea monsters, Godzilla is quite at home on land and has “atomic breath…which is usually a bluish or greenish blast which obliterates enemies and buildings” (Hill). Unlike the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Godzilla’s arms are more proportionate to his body with functional hand like appendages. He has rough skin and plates down his back like a stegosaurus. His eyes are quite large and, unlike most mythical sea monsters, he actually has ears. Godzilla, as a monster, seems to be a “freakish” hybrid of various prehistoric creatures that has a propensity for long life and an endearment to the various people of the cities he destroys.
Although Godzilla is technically a sea monster, when one studies the various aspects of his physical makeup, it becomes clear that Godzilla is made for battle at sea or on land. Unlike other sea monsters, Godzilla is typically fighting another creature that is set on harming some aspect of mankind. Godzilla, on the other hand, is usually portrayed as a hero in his comics and films. Rather than the typical sea monster, destroying ships and coastal towns, Godzilla is a hero to adults and children alike. If a sea monster can be said to have a “lovable” side, the creators of Godzilla have achieved a level of “lovability” in their version of the sea monster.
Godzilla is more than just a sea monster, he is a multimillion dollar marketing phenomenon. Since the 1950’s, companies with merchandising rights to Godzilla have sold his image and story in comic books, as toys, and as a cartoon series.
Godzilla, not surprisingly, is a very popular comic book series. In Japan, “Godzilla has been featured in various comic books since his inception in 1954” (Wikipedia). Godzilla is also a very popular comic book character in the United States having been featured in such known publications as DC Comics, Crossover Comics, and Marvel Comics. In 1979 Godzilla was in a feature comic where he battled the now very popular super hero group known as The Avengers. Although movies are his primary genre “comics and Godzilla have gone together remarkably well over the decades” (Townsquare Media Inc.)
Godzilla became a toy almost as fast as he became a film star. Since his creation Godzilla’s likeness has been made into, literally, hundreds of toys. From inflatables to action figures, there has virtually been no limit to what toy manufactures have done to market the Godzilla character to kids and toy collectors around the globe. In 2014 one manufacturer produced a Godzilla action figure that was “23 inches tall and more than 43 inches long, the gargantuan figure is reportedly the biggest ever to hit U.S. stores” (Child).Lego has also recently gotten into the Godzilla market with an “850 piece, 9 inch tall, 17 inch head to toe”, (Squires)build it yourself Godzilla Lego play set.
Godzilla has also been featured in an animated cartoon series. In 1978 Hanna-Barbera productions created a thirty-minute animated series (Wikipedia)featuring ongoing battles between a fiercely drawn version of Godzilla and a group of heroic humans and other creatures. The series was two seasons in length and was made up of twenty-six episodes. The series ran until 1981 and can now be found, and watched, for free on YouTube. Another animated series was created in 1998 and “and is based upon the surviving baby Godzilla that survived the destruction of Madison Square Garden and hatched from the egg at the end of the 1998 film” (Fandom).
There are hundreds of websites dedicated to the film history related to the character Godzilla. One site, ranks each of the thirty-one currently released Godzilla films from worst to best; with the 1998 American remake Godzillaas the worst and the 1968 film Destroy all Monstersas the best (Knight). Since the release of the first Godzilla film in 1954 “Godzilla has achieved icon status in Japan and America” (Noriega 63). Currently, according to Wikizilla.org, a site dedicated to all things Godzilla, there are four new Godzilla films currently in pre and post production in Japan and in the United States (Wikizilla).
In the majority of Godzilla films, Godzilla is depicted as created by nuclear radiation, which unlike previous nuclear events in Japan, is something that defends humanity rather than destroying human kind (Wikipedia). One can see the power in this depiction, and appeal, to Japanese movie goers less than ten years after the events of World War II.
In film, Godzilla faces an entourage of other beasts, with some as supporting positive characters, and others depicted as enemies against whom Godzilla must use his powers to defeat. Over the years, filmmakers have used technology to enhance what was already depicted in previous versions of popular films worth remaking. Godzilla is no exception to this strategy in the remaking of his films. It will be interesting to see what enhancements will be made to the Godzilla film story as new versions are released over the next few years.
Until I began writing this paper my experience and exposure to Godzilla was limited to a single recently released film. When imagining the setting of Japanese science fiction it makes sense, as one researcher wrote, that “a number of major works focus on the ocean surrounding Japan” (Schnellbacher 382)and as time went on that Japanese filmmakers exported “movies seen by millions of ordinary Japanese citizens” (Napier 327)to the United States. What is particularly interesting is that even though Japan and the United States share the same ocean, often we do not share the same taste in movies, and that of all the movies ever made in Japan, the one that would be the most popular in America would be Godzilla.
Through my research for this paper I have found that the Godzilla phenomenon as a creature of the sea, a comic, a toy, a cartoon, and a movie hero, are far more expansive than I ever imagined. Godzilla is popular worldwide with an ever-expanding audience of committed, supportive, fans. He is the Superman of the monster genre, but unlike Superman, Godzilla has his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
American Museum of Natural History. https://www.amnh.org/exhibitions/mythic-creatures/water-creatures-of-the-deep/sea-monsters/. 15 January 2017. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
This website provided a history of sea monsters and discussed their impact on current folklore and mythology. It described the different types of sea creatures that have been created by the imaginations of people over time I used this source in my evaluation by discussing the relevance of Godzilla to other sea monsters in how they have similar features to living animals. This is a great source for additional information about various historical mythical creatures.
Child, Ben. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2014/mar/18/giant-godzilla-toy-gareth-edwards. 18 March 2014. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
This website discussed the impact that the Godzilla name has had on the toy market over time. In particular it discussed a giant Godzilla action figure that was soon to be released at the time that the article was written. I used this source in my evaluation in order to support my discussion upon Godzilla’s relations to its film career history as well as his toy product history. This is a great source for further information upon Godzilla and the history of its financial career.
Cohen, Jeffery. “Monster Culture: Seven Theses.” Minnesota Press(1996): 3-25. Journal.
This article describes the seven theses of monster culture and the particular attributes of each thesis. It breaks each thesis into smaller categories allowing the reader to better understand a particular monster. I used this source in my evaluation in order to support my claims about Monster Theory. This is a valid source because Jeffery Jerome Cohen, the author of this publication, is an English professor and director of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute at George Washington University.
Fandom. http://godzilla.wikia.com/wiki/Godzilla:_The_Series. 1 January 2017. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
This website discussed and reviews the cartoon series that was created in the late 1970’s that featured the Godzilla character. It gave information about the series and where the series could currently be located to be viewed. This is a valid source because it provides many useful cartoon reviews and information about the various cartoons.
Hill, Kyle. https://nerdist.com/godzillas-atomic-breath-is-much-more-destructive-than-it-looks/. 5 January 2017. Web Page. 6 April 2018.
This website described the “powers” of the character Godzilla as presented in his various film appearances. In particular it addressed the “atomic” power of Godzilla’s breath.
Knight, Jacob. http://www.slashfilm.com/godzilla-movies-ranked-part-two/3/. 29 December 2017. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
This website ranked the current array of Godzilla movies from best to worst. The ranking was actually broken into two separate web posts on the site. It also included the reason each film was ranked where it was ranked and a short description of the film.
Napier, Susan J. “Panic Sites: The Japanese Imagination of Disaster from Godzilla to Akira.” The Society for Japanese Studies(1993): 327-351. Journal Article.
This professional journal article discussed the way the Japanese people react socially to the various issues that have happened in their society. It address the move industry as well as various trade issues.
Noriega, Chon. “Godzilla and the Japanese Nightmare: When “Them!” is U.S.” Cinema Journal(1987): 63-77. Journal Article.
This professional journal article discussed various trade challenges that exist between the United States and Japan. It used Godzilla as an example of the beginning of type of trade after World War II.
Schnellbacher, Thomas. “Has the Empire Sunk Yet? The Pacific in Japanese Science Fiction.” Japanese Science Fiction(2002): 382-396. Journal Article.
This professional journal article discussed the use of historical events related to the history of Japan in movies and science fiction. Godzilla was of course mentioned in the article since the character of Godzilla is Japans biggest movie star.
Squires, John. http://bloody-disgusting.com/toys/3484838/help-make-massive-godzilla-lego-set-reality/. 1 February 2018. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
This website discussed Godzilla related toys. In particular it discussed a massive Lego Godzilla play set that was available for purchase by Godzilla fans.
Townsquare Media Inc. http://comicsalliance.com/godzilla-comics-history/. 1 January 2018. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
This website is dedicated to the history of the Godzilla character in comic books. It discusses the history of Godzilla in comics from the release of the first Godzilla comic to the present day.
Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla. 5 April 2018. Web Page. 6 April 2018.
There are several Wikipedia pages dedicated to the character Godzilla. This particular page is the general page regarding Godzilla and discusses the history of the character from his creation to the current day.
—. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla_(animated_series). 18 March1 2018. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
There are several Wikipedia pages dedicated to the character Godzilla. This particular page is dedicated to Godzilla in an animated series that ran in the early 1980’s.
—. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godzilla_(comics). 24 January 2018. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
There are several Wikipedia pages dedicated to the character Godzilla. This particular page is dedicated Godzilla as he is features in comic book series.
Wikizilla. https://wikizilla.org/wiki/List_of_Godzilla_movies. 19 March 2018. Web Site. 6 April 2018.
This particular website is dedicated to the character Godzilla as the character appears in movies. It was particularly useful since it not only discussed past Godzilla films but featured upcoming Godzilla film releases as well.
—. Wikizilla.org. 1 Febuary 2018. Web Page. 3 April 2018.
This particular webpage is dedicated to facts about the character Godzilla. It features a great deal of Godzilla related information as well as link to several other Godzilla related webpages.