“They Say He’s Got to Go:” Godzilla in the Marvel Comics Universe

The 1970’s were a strange time for Marvel comics. On the one hand, the company’s model of ‘the Marvel Universe’ was fully in place, with most of the titles belonging to an interconnected web in which all stories shared a single continuity. On the other, the company still had the desire to trend-chase, which defined commercial comics since their inception. If something was popular, well… Marvel wanted a piece of it. Martial Arts movies are on the rise? Here comes Shang-Chi. Blaxploitation a big deal? Make way for Luke Cage. Horror features make millions? Dracula is going to rise from his tomb. It was both shameless and wonderful. 5

Yet instead of sequestering each of these in their own separate continuity, many of these characters, be they newly created or adopted from previous source material, were simply given their own little corner in the Marvel Universe. The logic is actually pretty sound: if you were predisposed to read Tomb of Dracula you’d probably get it anyway; if you were not the horror type but you were a Marvel fan there’s a chance you’d give it a shot. The result was a Marvel universe that stretched in all sorts of weird directions, adding ideas and concepts as it went along. Of course, the reason Marvel felt free to add characters that belonged to other people, such as Conan the Barbarian and Rom Spaceknight, was because this was the pre-collection age. When the rights for these characters relapsed, as was bound to happen, they would leave a hole in the Marvel Universe. But few would think so far ahead in the world of monthlies. 6

So in the seventies the Marvel Universe was a hodgepodge of by-now classic superheroes, martial artists, horror icons 7 and giant monsters. Granted, giant monsters weren’t a new thing for Marvel. Back in the day, before the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man, they were the bread and butter of the company: Blip, Elektro, Fin Fang Foom, Googam, you name it. But in 1977 Marvel, witnessing the craze for badly dubbed creature features from Japan, made a deal with Toho productions to bring the King of all Monsters to American shores: Godzilla! 8

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  1. Seriously, commercial comics need to go back to that well. The fact that neither Marvel nor DC tried to court the Fast and Furious fanbase with a car-focused action story is quite a shame.

  2. The odd side effect of these holes is that characters that were created in the comics remained Marvel property; which means long-time Conan villain Kulan Gath could be used in Marvel stories, but no one could mention the name ‘Conan.’ Likewise, the Knights of Galador are part of the currently ongoing Cable series with no one mentioning Rom Spaceknight.

  3. The Monster of Frankenstein was also an ongoing title.

  4. Play that roar.

  5. Seriously, commercial comics need to go back to that well. The fact that neither Marvel nor DC tried to court the Fast and Furious fanbase with a car-focused action story is quite a shame.

  6. The odd side effect of these holes is that characters that were created in the comics remained Marvel property; which means long-time Conan villain Kulan Gath could be used in Marvel stories, but no one could mention the name ‘Conan.’ Likewise, the Knights of Galador are part of the currently ongoing Cable series with no one mentioning Rom Spaceknight.

  7. The Monster of Frankenstein was also an ongoing title.

  8. Play that roar.