Godzilla in Marvel Comics (1977-1979)

In my youth, Marvel Comics shoehorned Godzilla, King of the Monsters into the Marvel Universe.  I’m not kidding.  Godzilla was, for a brief time, a character in the Marvel Universe.  Written by Doug Moench and penciled by Herb Trimpe, the comic lasted two years.  Two years of awesome.

How the hell did this happen, you might ask.  Apparently someone at Marvel noticed the popularity of the Showa Era Godzilla movies.  This same someone convinced Marvel to buy the U.S. rights for Godzilla.  Somewhere along the line, the same entities incorporated Godzilla into the Marvel Universe.  I can only assume these entities were taking controlled substances.

Godzilla fought SHIELD, The Fantastic Four, Avengers and The Champions (now defunct,) while rampaging across America.  If that sounds bizarre and cool at the same time, the Big G also duked it out with Devil Dinosaur in an alternate prehistoric past.  (Having Jack Kirby pencil those comics is the only way to make that cooler.)

Don’t think that Godzilla contained only Marvel character cameos.  The comics crafted a few unique characters and monsters which manage to survive in the Marvel Universe to this day.  Doctor Demonicus (you have to love that name) and Red Ronin.  Demonicus is a loony scientist who specializes in mutating creatures and making giant monsters (who could have guessed?)  Red Ronin is a giant samurai robot built to fight Godzilla.  Red Ronin has since shown up in a couple of comics, including one in which the Avengers had to take it down before it started a nuclear war.

If all of this sounds like some kind of fanboy fiction mash-up, well, it kinda is.  I assume Marvel wanted to cash in on Godzilla popularity while incorporating their own characters.  In a bizarre, 70s way, it actually works.  70s Marvel comics got very weird and this isn’t even close to the strangest comics of that decade.

Technically, Godzilla is still part of the Marvel Universe, but they lost the rights to the character and had him ‘mutated’ by Demonicus.  I think the unofficial name now is “Don’tSueUsTohoasaurus” or something.  They changed him enough to avoid legal action but still milk a few old fanboy bucks.

This series is cheesy.  It’s crazy.  I still love it.  Amidst the strangeness are a few scenes that rise above the common cheese.  There’s the Devil Dinosaur versus Godzilla fight, of course.  However, the scene Trimpe did with Hercules (yes, that Hercules) and Godzilla sticks with me to this day.  Angel (of the X-Men, although with the Champions at the time) is unconscious and Godzilla is about to step on him.  Hercules runs beneath G’s foot, lifts, and throws Godzilla on his back!  As a kid, that one scene alone probably sped up puberty by a few months.

There are also the conventions one expects from Godzilla.  He fights other monsters, aliens, alien monsters and a giant Sasquatch.  Yes, a giant Sasquatch.  Suck that, D.C.!  There are also the issues where Godzilla is shrunk by Pym Particles down to the size of a rat and runs around in the New York sewers.  Told you it’s weird.

Marvel has a collected edition of all 24 issues.  Go check them out.  Preferably after taking controlled substances.

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Micronauts: The Coolest Toy Line Ever

In the dim, misty recesses of my youth, I encountered a toy line from Mego called “The Micronauts”.  Technically, the full title was: “The Interchangeable World of The Micronauts”.   “They Came From Inner Space” tagline accompanied it.  Simply put, these were the greatest toys of all time.  Even to the point that Marvel Comics had a successful comic book tie-in that outlived the toy line by several years.

Naturally, this line of toys originated–as most cool toys do–in Japan.  The original toy line came from the Japanese toy company Takara and was called “Microman”.  Mego distributed the bulk of these products under the Micronauts label in America.

I knew none of this as a kid.  All that mattered to me was the supreme coolness.  These toys rocked.  When it boasted ‘interchangeable’ it wasn’t kidding.  You could mix and match parts from pretty much every one of the figures and vehicles.  Plus, they looked rad.  Space Glider, Galactic Warrior, Pharoid, Time Traveler,  Acroyear, and Baron Karza were just a few of the neatest. 

Several of the figures were also vehicles as well.  Biotron turned into a big friggin’ tank and such.  Giant Acroyear turned into ships or other Acroyears. 

Baron Karza was probably the most unique figure, since most of his joints were magnetic ball joints.  You could move and pose the living shit out of him, as well as recombine him however you wanted.  The Baron had a horse he could combine with in a centaur-like fashion (named Andromeda, although I was too young to get the Greek Myth reference.)

The pride of my collection was the Battle Cruiser.  Never before had I seen something like this.  It was a massive ship that could separate into like a dozen ships or recombine into different ships.  (squeals in geekish delight)  Hornetroid closely followed in coolness–a giant, cybernetic mutant hornet you could put a pilot in.  How sweet is that?

While collecting the toys, I also read the comic.  I won’t get into too much detail, other than to say that the tragic genius Bill Mantlo wrote the series and it started off with Michael Golden doing the art chores.  Surprisingly, the story was quite a bit more adult than most comics at the time.  Yes, a toy tie-in was pretty advanced–and kinda dark (I won’t get started with Mantlo’s Rom.)

You may also be surprised that one of the characters from the comic is actually in the comic version of the Guardians of the Galaxy.  These toys have legs!

The bizarre thing is how few people outside of my age bracket have ever heard of the toys.  Sure, Transformers, GI Joe, Thundercats, etc.  But Micronauts languish in obscurity.

Ain’t right.  Go check out the internet for Micronauts pictures and go dig up some of the comics.  Breathe some life back into them.

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Adam Warlock and the Magus (Forgotten Gems)

adam-warlock-01Adam Warlock was a Marvel Comics character who first turned up in the pages of Fantastic Four in 1967.  Cobbled together by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and originally called ‘Him’, Warlock appeared sporadically for several years.  Roy Thomas later turned him into a kind of superhero messiah, inspired by (I’m not kidding) Jesus Christ Superstar.  Several goofy religious elements were used, including a death and resurrection. 

Jim Starlin entered the scene in 1975 as both writer and artist.  Warlock turned from a Christ figure into a paranoid schizophrenic.  To add insult to injury, Warlock battles a cosmic Universal Church of Truth (a thinly-veiled jab at Catholicism.)

(Side note: Jim later took another jab at Catholicism with his “Church of the Instrumentality” in Dreadstar.)

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It’s at this point that Adam Warlock gets interesting.  Jim’s take on Warlock struck me as a superhero version of Elric.  Starlin admits he was reading the Elric books at the time, but claims he read them after Warlock (I have my doubts.)  Parallels with Elric were obvious to me long before I read his claims.  Instead of a soul-drinking sword (Elric’s infamous Stormbringer,) Warlock has a soul-drinking gem on his forehead.  More than that, the existential angst of the two characters is nearly identical. 

adam-warlock-07Battling the Universal Church of Truth and its sinister leader, The Magus, Warlock engages the help of several characters familiar to younger readers–Gamora and Thanos.  Following several battles where Warlock devours enemies souls, he begins to go insane from the experience.  Finally encountering The Magus in person (complete with an Afro inspired by Angela Davis) he discovers that The Magus is his future self.  The Magus is what he will become after a thousand years of cosmic torture.

Cheery stuff, eh?

Thanos enters into the story when his protege, Gamora, fails to keep The Magus from adam-warlock-02‘marking’ Warlock to summon the being that will torture him: The In-Betweener (No, I didn’t make that up.)  Battling to save Warlock from his fate, it turns out that Thanos is only doing it because The Magus is the ‘champion of life’ and Thanos is ‘the champion of death’.  Even though The Magus is evil, he still aids life and civilization, whereas Thanos wants universal genocide.

To prevent becoming The Magus, Warlock commits ‘cosmic suicide’ by erasing his timeline in which he becomes The Magus.  Doomed to die in the near future, Warlock flies adam-warlock-06off after The Magus disappears from existence.  Thanos later kills Adam while in battle with The Avengers, only to have Warlock’s soul briefly return from the Soul Gem and turn Thanos to stone.

While melodramatic, the artwork and writing (especially at the time) are pretty damn good. Overly-melodramatic and angst-ridden, but good.

Much later, Starlin retconned the Soul Gem as just one of the six Infinity Stones in the adam-warlock-08Infinity Gauntlet storyline.  The Marvel Cinematic Universe is right on the cusp of introducing the last of the ‘Infinity Stones’–the Soul Stone.  Figured now was a good time to recap its origins.

Go dig the original or reprints up and take

You thought I made it up, didn't you?

You thought I made it up, didn’t you?

a look.  Well worth a second glance.

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