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Godzilla Comes To Comic-Con In San Diego


Godzilla has made it to retirement age. The kaiju, or giant monster, is 65. The original movie came out in 1954. Japan's Toho Studios is celebrating this moment by setting up a booth at San Diego Comic-Con, the comic book convention. Beth Accomando of KPBS is all over this cultural milestone.

BETH ACCOMANDO, BYLINE: Who says you can't teach an old monster new tricks? Japan's iconic kaiju just got on Instagram and Twitter. The reason for this push into social media is that Toho wants Godzilla to expand his footprint in the U.S.

AKITO TAKAHASHI: (Through interpreter) Yes, yes, absolutely. We're rebranding and repackaging and making him even better.

ACCOMANDO: Toho's Akito Takahashi has the coolest job title - head of project management for the Godzilla Strategic Conference.


ACCOMANDO: Godzilla was born in 1954 out of an atomic blast. And key to his success was suit actor Haruo Nakajima. Suit actors were breathing life into the giant kaiju even into the new millennium. One of those suits, from Godzilla 2000, is on display at Toho's Comic-Con booth.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Take a small step towards Godzilla, teeny-tiny. There you go.

ACCOMANDO: You don't often get told to stand closer to Godzilla, especially when it's a battle-scarred latex and foam suit.

MARK ANTHONY GADIA: But there's, like, a lot of, like, cool things all around me. I'm really distracted right now.

ACCOMANDO: That's Mark Anthony Gadia taking in all of the props on display from Ghidorah’s three heads from the 1960s to the Orca machine used in the new American "Godzilla: King Of The Monsters."

GADIA: Like, all this history just in one place, it's amazing. I'm not in Japan. I'm here in Comic Con just seeing all this. It's great.

ACCOMANDO: Joshua Gilliland of The Legal Geeks is hosting a panel about liability for Godzilla's damage. He bee-lined for the booth.

JOSHUA GILLILAND: And I came straight to the Godzilla booth because I want one of those 65th anniversary Bandai toys because, I mean, that belongs on my bookshelf.

ACCOMANDO: Annalee Newitz was drawn to the three heads of the dragon-like Ghidorah.

ANNALEE NEWITZ: I am a huge fan of Ghidorah. In the new American film, I feel like the Ghidorah is a very well-realized character. Each head has a different personality, which I love. But we also here in this booth can see the old Ghidorah where the heads were all pretty much the same, but they still had some oomf to them.

ACCOMANDO: Godzilla has a long list of friends and foes that appeal across generations.

LUCAS ROBLES: And the three-headed dragon King Ghidorah, Mothra, the larvae, and the other larvae and Rodan.

ACCOMANDO: Lucas Robles is 7 years old.

LUCAS: He's my favorite monster. And he was the king of the monsters. And he destroys buildings.

ACCOMANDO: Starting in 2013, Chris Mowry wrote the longest-running Godzilla comic, "Rulers Of The Earth," for IDW Publishing. Now he works for Toho promoting his favorite monster.

CHRIS MOWRY: It's really interesting see Godzilla, you know, a 65-year-old character, having such an impact on so many different generations. And there's kids that have never seen a movie, but they just love the way the character looks.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Exhibitors, please discontinue all sales. The exhibit hall is now closed.

ACCOMANDO: As the booth cleared out, Mowry got a brief moment to reflect on the day.

MOWRY: It's been fun. It's been a madhouse, as usual, as you expect on preview night. But the response from people has been fantastic.

ACCOMANDO: At 65, Godzilla may be a senior citizen, but he still reigns as king of the monsters on both sides of the Pacific and across all ages. For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando in San Diego. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Beth Accomando