Layman Talks "Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths"

Because one monster rampage is never enough, IDW Publishing is set to follow up its ongoing series "Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters" with the five-issue miniseries "Gangsters and Goliaths." From the minds of Eisner Award-winning writer John Layman and Eisner-nominated artist Alberto Ponticelli, the mini blends elements of Asian cinema, mafia action and of course Toho monsters, as it finds one Detective Makoto Sato fighting alone to bring down the Tokyo underworld while struggling to survive the behemoths of Monster Island.

With the first issue set to crash into comic shops in June, CBR News caught up with Layman, best known as the writer and co-creator with Rob Guillory of "Chew," about "Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths" and whatever else he might have up his sleeve.

CBR News: To start, John, what do you remember about the first time you watched a Godzilla movie, or saw one of the other Toho monsters?

John Layman:I've loved Godzilla movies and monster movies for as long as I could remember, the first time seeing them. I'm very old, so I can remember watching Toho movies at weird hours, on weekend afternoons and during late late shows, in the early days before cable, back at the dawn of time. I was absolutely enthralled with the giants of giant frickin' monsters stomping around cities, fighting each other, and smashing shit up.

In IDW's new Godzilla ongoing, Eric Powell, Tracy Marsh and Phil Hester are showing the world's reaction to the first monster rampage. For your story, where are we in terms of monster attacks being a known danger? Are they fairly frequent, or is it just something you have to watch out for, a "if you see something, say something" sort of thing?

"Gangsters and Goliaths" is set in a more conventional "Godzilla" continuity, one where monsters have been around for a while. Godzilla and all the other monsters are well known, and rightly feared, by the citizens of Japan, and Tokyo in particular. There's even a Monster Island where most of the monsters spend their time, on their rampage down-time.

"Gangsters and Goliaths" stars Detective Makoto Sato as your classic cop on a crusade. What led you to take this approach to a "Godzilla" story?

I'm very into Asian cinema, arguably moreso than American cinema, which mostly bores the crap out of me. I wanted to fuse two of my favorite Asian cinema genres -- the monster movie with the hard-boiled gun-fu cops and gangsters movie. So the story is about a framed cop, wanted by the underworld and the police force, trying to clear his name, trying to protect his family, and trying to get revenge. He gets some help when he gets hold of the Mothra Twins, and starts using Mothra to systematically eliminate the families of the Tokyo criminal underworld.

Who are these gangsters Detective Sato is up against? What's his beef with them, and what's theirs with him?

Bad folks, crooks and criminals, and Detective Sato is such an obstinate, hard-headed cop he refuses to take a payoff or a buyout like the other crooked cops on the force. Sato is a familiar police archetype, an Asian Dirty Harry who's gonna do whatever it takes to take down the bad guys, even if he has to go it alone, even if he has to face impossible odds, and he's gonna keep doing it as long as he's drawing a breath.

You've had a few recent projects in addition to "Chew," including the "Identity Wars" story running through the "Amazing Spider-Man," "Incredible Hulk" and "Deadpool" annuals, and now this "Godzilla" series, as well as an as-yet unannounced project with Sam Kieth. Do the various series allow you to scratch a different sort of creative itch than what you're doing in "Chew?"

Yeah. "Chew" has opened some doors for me in that I no longer have to accept anything and everything in order to pay the rent, which I am very grateful for. I'm picking very selectively what I want to do -- and what I have time for -- and you can be sure if my name is on something it's going to be something very near and dear to my heart. Each thing has been satisfying in its own way and is approached very differently than "Chew." 

Are there any other series you've got coming up?

I spent the first half of 2010 getting way ahead on "Chew," so I could take on the Marvel annuals, "Godzilla" and the Sam Kieth thing. The books are mostly all done now, but I've lost my giant lead. So I'm gonna bunker down and get about 5 issues ahead on "Chew" again before I even think about taking on anything else. I'm thinking this might turn into my annual pattern. Half year on "Chew," half year doing other stuff. Who knows.

Speaking of "Chew" for a moment, I see you and Rob have a five-pager in IDW's Hero Initiative anthology. What do you have going on in that story?

Tony Chu ingests a designer drug! Five pages of mind-altering madness. [Editor] Scott Dunbier sold us on doing the story in the same book as a story with the original "Sandman" creative team [of Neil Gaiman and Sam Keith], so it was a real honor to participate in the book.

"Godzilla: Gangsters and Goliaths" #1 and "Hero Comics 2011" featuring a new five-page "Chew" story are on sale in June.

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