EXCLUSIVE: Swierczynski Battles "Godzilla"

Toho's iconic movie monster continues his rampage at IDW Publishing in May, as writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Simon Gane launch a new "Godzilla" ongoing series. IDW's first series starring the giant creature, "Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters," wrapped up in February; while the new ongoing is set in the same world, several years have elapsed since the events of the previous book and new readers can begin fresh, with a new set of central characters.

Since debuting in 1954, Godzilla has appeared in a slew of movies on both sides of the Pacific, often squaring off against another deadly monster and occasionally playing the role of hero. Created at a time when the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still very fresh in the Japanese consciousness, the destructive, unstoppable force of Godzilla became a metaphor for the power of the nuclear bomb. This aspect has played a role throughout the years, even as the tone of the monster's films and appearances in other media have shifted between horror and action to more kid-friendly fare and back.

Comic Book Resources spoke with Swiercyznski about relaunching "Godzilla," his own experiences with the franchise, and what to expect from the new series.

CBR News: Can you share a bit about your history with Godzilla as a fan. What do you remember about the first time you watched these movies?


The new "Godzilla" series takes place several years after "Kingdom of Monsters"

Duane Swierczynski: I remember as a kid they used to play the old ones on UHF stations. I used to love to love to act them out with my younger brother, which meant tossing him over a couch. You know, your living room becomes like Tokyo, you just knock things over, and it becomes great fun. I thought that was children's programming back then. I thought that's what kids should watch! [Laughs] Later I learned, maybe not. I've since gone back and seen the original "Gojira," it's very dark and scary -- it's a horror movie, unlike some of the later films. I grew up with that, watching "Ultraman" and all this cool stuff. I even remember the Saturday morning cartoon of Godzilla, with his little sidekick Godzuki. [Laughs] It kind of comes full circle in, how long was that, 30 years? Horror movie to the cute little adorable side kick.

That was growing up, and checking in with it every so often. I remember being really interested in seeing the 1985 movie when it came out, I was 13, and later "Godzilla 2000" when it came out was a big deal. And I saw the abomination that was the American "Godzilla" and thought, "What?" But since then, I've had a chance to catch up with some of the things I missed in the '90s and even in the last ten years, with my daughter, who's 8, who loves them. It's kind of cool to be turning her on to this stuff.

Other than having an excuse to throw your brother around, what did you find most appealing or exciting about the "Godzilla" films as a kid and as you grew older?

As a kid, I think it was the spectacle. It was a cool monster, knocking down buildings that, even then, I knew they were fake, you know? I could tell. But I didn't care. I liked the whole wrestling aspect of it, where you've got two monsters throwing down and both reach a point of utter failure, and you can't get up, and it's almost over, but surprise! Godzilla gets up and... As a kid, that's how you play, anyway. You're in your back yard scrape, you throw each other around and go crazy.

Later, I appreciated the historical aspects, the idea of nuclear holocaust and annihilation, where the monster became the symbol for that. That's kind of fascinating. And that's relevant even today. I feel like sometimes there are these giant things that are bigger than all of us that we're still surprised by. Tornadoes break out and we're like, "Oh my God, tornadoes!" But these things happen. This is the world we live in. And I think Godzilla and giant monsters can be a symbol of that, too. We're still afraid of those things, obviously.

From what I understand, the new "Godzilla" series will be a "soft reboot" of IDW's previous ongoing. What aspects will you be bringing along from "Kingdom of Monsters," and how will your take be a departure from that series?

We're treating it as the same world. It takes place a few years after the events of that series, but it's a whole new cast of characters. What I think we're doing different, too, is that it's focused on a team who have gathered together to take down these monsters freelance. We've had enough, the government's dropped the ball, no one has figured this out, but we can, because we're bad asses. It's kind of fun, the arrogance of it. The leader thinks he can do it, he has a reason for doing it, and he's not doing it out of the goodness of his heart, either. Why do mercenaries typically take a job? It's for the money. [Laughs] He sees a great opportunity for giant monster killing.

With a team, rather than global snapshots -- we'll do that, too, see the global impact of the invasion -- but I want to focus on one team and their experience, bring that slightly "Cloverfield"-ish feel to it where it's the ground team, see the world through their eyes and follow them through twelve issues of surprises.

Has this team already formed as the series begins, or do we see them come together?

They come together. In the first issue, you'll see the leader's story and a glimpse of other people who are going to join the team, but it comes up pretty fast. By issue #2, they're all together, ready to kick giant monster butt.

So you have your egotistical leader pulling all these people together, for profit...

Mostly. I don't want to get too much into it, but there is a personal aspect.

Are the rest of the team members people who come at it with different motivations, or are they recruited?

Different motivations. The leader knows what buttons to push to bring people on board.

You mentioned natural disasters earlier. Given that we've already had one series, these monsters are obviously not appearing in this world for the first time. Are they regarded as a threat like a tornado, one which could appear at any time but isn't always present?

Exactly. The world is rebuilding from the previous devastation. By the end of the last series, the world is really messed up. And now there's a spirit of rebirth. They want to rebuild and also prevent these things from happening ever again. And just like in the wake of 9/11 we spent a lot of money on antiterrorist techniques and new security -- for good reason -- this world is putting a lot of money into defense mechanisms that may or may not work. We'll see some of that play out in this series.

You've touched on the characters and the state of civilization. Is there anything else you can tell us about the story in your first arc?

Well, it's a team story but the first arc will also explain why the monsters are rising again. There is a reason for that. It'll come together issue by issue what's going on, the real story behind it. It's mostly a twelve-issue movie. My editor Bobby Curnow and I have plotted it out and really have it nailed down where it's like a big epic. I almost see it as a classic TV miniseries. One thing people should know is that there will be a ton of monsters. We have permission to use more monsters than ever before from Toho and I'm going to exploit that like a mother! Giant monster rally!

You write crime novels, made your name in comics with "Cable" for Marvel, and now write "Birds of Prey" for DC and "Bloodshot" for Valiant. Creatively, where does "Godzilla" fit with your interests and the sorts of things you want to write?

Good question. Two ways, actually. The team is kind of my '80s action movie dream team come to life. But also I'm a huge horror fan and monster fan, and those two great interests get to collide here in a fun way. In fact, I grew up more as a horror fan and kind of segued into crime fiction because of that. So it's almost like I'm returning to my teenage roots. It's been fun. Personally, my favorite comics and novels are those that blend two genres. It's neat to have a chance to do that with this series.

Simon Gane is your artist for the series. What does his style bring to the particular story you're telling?

He's just great. He's ultra-detailed, and yet his work is pulpy. He has more of an indie feel than anything else, which is kind of cool. It's not your typical commercial style. It's very edgy and strange, but very detailed. We had a conversation early on where he mentioned he really liked architecture and buildings. I told him that's great, because you'll get to destroy a bunch of them, too! I always like to ask the artist what they like, what they don't like, so I can avoid things that they're not into. But he's been great to work with, we e-mail quite a bit. I've seen a lot of the art for the first issue and it's just fantastic, it really is.

"Godzilla" #1 crashes into stores in May.

Tags: arthur adams, idw publishing, toho, duane swierczynski, tony harris, godzilla, simon gane

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