While the mighty Godzilla pretty much made Toho the number one name in Japanese monsters, they did have competition, mainly from a scrappy little studio named Daiei. Daiei’s main monster was Gamera, a flying atomic turtle with gigantic tusks. Yeah, even as silly as Godzilla got in the 70’s, he was never quite this silly.
But just as Gamera was himself an attempt to cash in on Godzilla’s success, so this Gamera comic book put out by Dark Horse Comics in the mid-90’s was an attempt to cash in on their success with Godzilla comics.
The comics certainly looked impressive on the racks, with beautifully painted covers by Mitsuaki Hashimoto and Yuji Kaida. Inside, the books were a little less impressive. One thing they did have going for them, though: unlike Toho, which would only let Marvel and Dark Horse license Godzilla himself, Daei apparently let Dark Horse license all the monsters from their series. So where Marvel’s Godzilla was fighting S.H.I.E.L.D. and some made-up monsters, and Dark Horse’s Godzilla was fighting a special secret government task force, Gamera was fighting the same monsters he’d faced on screen.
Writer Dave Chipps bases the series on the 1996 revival of Gamera, with Gamera as a sort of bio-engineered Earth defense system, summoned by means of an amulet. The plot follows two groups of people– tour pilot Lutz and teenaged girl Asagi, bearer of the telepathic Gamera amulet, and Mayumi Nagamine, an ornithologist visiting an island retreat run by scientist Patty and her hulking black assistant Gusano (Asagi and Mayumi are actually characters from the 1996 film, as well).
So Gyaos appears and Asagi uses her amulet to summon Gamera. You know what that means: GIANT MONSTER FIGHT!
Turns out that this Gyaos is actually an experiment created by the evil Dr. Greta Karbone, who has been posing as Patty. She has a lab full of other specimens which she is dying to unleash on humanity, but she apparently thinks she needs Mayumi’s help to perfect them. Because Gamera makes pretty short work of Gyaos to begin issue two.
But Karbone and Gusano are incompetent villains, so Mayumi is able to escape their clutches and blow up their secret lab pretty easily. Karbone manages to escape with one of her specimens, a mutant telepathic squid named Viras (a monster from the first series of Gamera films). Viras is actually controlling her mind, influencing her to twist her hair into tentacle-like dreadlocks and give really weird orders to Gusano, who in issue two has morphed into a white guy.
Meanwhile, Lutz has stolen the amulet from an injured Asagi, and lucky thing, too, because he has to use it to summon Gamera to fight an alien monster named Zigra, another creature from the first series of films. Artists Mozart Couto and Mike Sellers turn in an uninspired Alan Davis riff for the scenes with people, but their monster action is pretty good, if brief.
The Zigra fight lures in an alien monster hunter who wants to capture Zigra, but by the time she reaches Earth, Zigra is dead, and Gamera is being mentally controlled by the evil Viras at the end of issue 3. How will Earth survive?
I never actually found out. Looking at the dates on the books, the series was coming out right around the time I went back to Korea for my second tour, so I may have just missed it. And the story and art weren’t exceptional enough for me to add the book to the small hold list my wife was accumulating for me to read when I got back home. By the time I got back, the book was in the Vault and forgotten about. Looking back at it now, I’m still not interested enough to hunt down the fourth issue.
Kind of an anti-climactic ending to our Halloween festival of daikaiju, I know, but it was actually harder to find good giant monster stories than you might realize. Be here Monday for the second half of Mighty Joe Young!