With the largest ever GODZILLA now on the rampage in your local cinema, it’s easy to forget that there are many more building-destroying monsters out there. Referred to as "kaiju" by Western fans, the name literally translates as strange monster. The world famous Toho Studios have been bringing these horrors to the silver screen since 1932 and have created quite a list. We take a quick look at some of our favourites...
Pteranodons have always been cool, in fact the only thing cooler than a flying dinosaur is a flying irradiated dinosaur who can knock down buildings by flapping its wings so hard it causes shockwaves. Rodan is pretty graceful for a huge monster and regularly runs rings round the rest of them, especially the other flying monsters. He’s also able to shrug off almost anything thrown at him, from radioactive breath to fire beams.
Rodan isn’t that bright; his main tactic seems to be to pick things up and drop them. He’s done this many times to Godzilla, which is an excellent way to really annoy it. This typically results in an epic smackdown with Rodan sensibly running away.
One of the funniest looking Kaiju around, which is a remarkable feat on its own. Gigan appears to have stepped straight out of someone’s nightmare. With huge hooks for hands and legs and a massive buzz-saw in his belly, Gigan is a fan favourite who causes the most carnage when he’s fighting other monsters. The aliens who made him also fitted him with a rather neat looking laser cannon set into his Cyclops–like head. Gigan also has stubby little wings that defy gravity and allow him to perform full-on, wrestler style body slams. He’s one of the surliest monsters in the set and even has the power to fly to other planets, meaning that his bad attitude isn’t just limited to the planet Earth.
Obviously when you have a giant lizard running around dropping property values left right and centre, then the best way to get rid of it is to build an evil robot double. The original MechaGodzilla started out as a convincing copy of the original up until its first fight, when super-sized ankylosaurus Anguirus smacked it so hard the fake skin fell off. Subsequent versions just went for the shiny chrome look instead. Powers have included laser beam eyes, rocket launchers, plasma grenades and a whole set of ultimate weapons. The second incarnation could even combine with a specially designed flying tank to form Super Mecha Godzilla. Various people have had a go at making Mechagodzilla even more deadly, from evil aliens to the UN, but despite all its cool toys, Godzilla still manages to turn it into scrap.
It’s never been clear exactly what royal court King Ghidorah is from, but given that he is a three headed alien dragon, no one is in a hurry to question his nobility. His origin changes depending on what series of movies you’re watching; in some he’s an ancient serpent god, in others he’s a genetic abomination made by aliens. Our favorite version is that he’s three unspeakably cute baby dragon creatures (called Dorats) that were fused together by an atomic explosion to create the angry monster we see today.
It doesn’t matter where he’s from, he’s a huge winged monster that shoots gravity beams from all three heads. Gravity beams are a lot like lightning bolts, but in addition to blowing stuff up they can also move stuff around, allowing King Ghidorah to throw his opponents around. Long live the King.
One of the gentler and less destructive kaiju, Mothra is a giant, monstrous moth. Worshipped as a goddess by some, Mothra is one of the smartest and most powerful members of the franchise. Her powers include telepathy (which she uses to negotiate and co-ordinate), various types of energy beam (that shoot from her antenna) and she can also emit dust which is either poisonous or foils other energy attacks, depending on what movie you’re watching. She’s a defender of the Earth, but you’re entirely allowed to point and scream at her, as she is the biggest moth you’ll ever see.
She is usually accompanied by a pair of tiny pixies who act as her priestesses, and in the earlier movies these were played by a pair of twins who also happened to be a popular Japanese pop group. Predictably they sing to the enormous Moth at every opportunity, adding an even more surreal twist to any appearance from Mothra.
Not content to unleash a hug insect on the cinema going public, Toho has also terrorized us with a massive plant. In this case, a rose. The creation of a mad scientist, Biollante was a strange hybrid of rose and human DNA (specifically the scientist’s daughter). Following a solid defeat by Godzilla and a small earthquake, Biollante became fused with Godzilla’s own radioactive DNA. This resulted in a huge, vine spewing horror that caused even more devastation. She is one of the most striking monster designs, being utterly horrible and also rather cool, thanks to many creepy looking vines and other protuberances. Alas, she’s only ever appeared in one movie so far, but you never know, her seeds could be anywhere.
The son of Godzilla is not called Godzooky, no matter how many times you insist on singing the theme song to the cartoon series. In the movies, our hero’s pride and joy is called Minilla. Short, fat and cute, he’s the nicest of the bunch and is a friend to children. In one particularly surreal tale he even appeared in a child’s dream to teach the kid how to deal with bullies. Being young, he hasn’t quite mastered his parent’s radioactive breath yet, but he blows a mean smoke ring. Though he hatched from an egg, speculation as to who laid it has been rampant since his first appearance in 1967, there is still no sign of his mother, unless Godzilla has a very special secret.
Ebirah is a giant lobster, though his name literally translates as Shrimp-Rah. Though he doesn’t have any special powers beyond being really, really big, bright red and having the largest claws ever, he’s included in this list for three reasons. Firstly, seeing Godzilla battle a huge lobster is really cool, secondly every time you see him you start humming the song ‘Rock Lobster’ by the B52’s and finally, it’s impossible to see Ebirah in action without wanting to get either lobster thermidor or a surf and turf.
With all these monsters running around, you’d expect mankind to do something about it. Much like Mechagodzilla, Jet Jaguar is a robot designed to defeat monsters. He can grow and shrink at will, which is a useful power when your job is punching huge creatures. He can fly and is pretty strong, but his main powers seem to involve having a really catchy (yet corny) theme song and getting beaten up by kaiju.
Zilla is the official name for the giant mutated marine iguana that appeared in the 1998 movie, Godzilla. Known to the fans as GINO (Godzilla In Name Only), the movie was so bad that Toho had the creature’s name changed to avoid confusion with the real thing. Zilla has appeared in one Toho movie, Godzilla: Final Wars, where he gained the record for the shortest ever battle with the real Godzilla.
Back in the day, Universal Studios teamed up with Toho to produce Godzilla Versus King Kong, making King Kong one of the monsters that Godzilla has officially fought. The big ape has appeared in several movies and tends to have rather a rough time of it. After all, gorillas can’t fly or shoot lightning at things, no matter how big they are. He’s also fought Mecha-Kong, his evil robot double. (Mecha Kong was created by a Doctor that happens to have the surname of Who, but certainly isn’t a Timelord. That would be a cross-over too far.) A popular fan joke is that King Kong is Jet Jaguar in an ape suit, but this is probably too silly, even for Toho.
In Frankenstein versus Baragon, scientists discover that the monster from Mary Shelley’s novel was not only real, but also living in Japan. It seems that the monster heart was in a Nazi laboratory in Hiroshima when that city was hit by a nuclear bomb. The radiation caused the heart to regenerate and the monster was resurrected.
Not a Toho monster but a notable mention, Pulagasari is the metal eating monster from the movie of the same name, directed by Shin Sang-ok. Shin is a famous director and producer of kaiju movies who was kidnapped by North Korean spies on the orders of that country’s soon-to-be dictator, Kim Jong-il, who then forced him to make this movie. Despite it’s dark history, it’s a very good kaiju movie, made all the more remarkable for its story: peasants have an uprising and use the monster to overthrow a king, only to discover that their uprising creates more tyranny.
THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN
Another notable mention has to be the The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Actually a manifestation of the Sumerian god Gozer, this huge mascot is the final bad guy from the cult movie Ghostbusters, who are pretty much responsible for it manifesting the way it does. In one of the early drafts of that movie, The Stay Puft Marshmallow Man was going to be the first of many strange monsters that Ghostbusters fought. At the moment there are no plans to have him fight Godzilla, but it would be interesting to see how that fight would play out; would the Marshmallow Man get a punch in before Godzilla roasted him into a tasty treat? We can only wait and see.
GODZILLA is in cinemas now and is reviewed HERE. For more Godzilla goodies, check out STARBURST #401, on sale from May 16th.