Godzilla is coming back to the big screen. That's not the only place he's coming. He'll also be landing in a comic shop near you this week. Legendary Comics is releasing GODZILLA: AWAKENING, an original graphic novel that ties into the movie that hits theaters next week. Max Borenstein wrote the screenplay for the movie and co-wrote the graphic novel with his cousin, Greg Borenstein. We had the chance to talk to Max about both the movie and graphic novel.
COMIC VINE: Do you remember the first Godzilla movie you ever saw?
MAX BORENSTEIN: You know what, that’s a really good question. The answer is no. Before I ever saw a whole Godzilla movie, I saw bits and pieces of Godzilla movies on TV. I remember watching more in full like when The Mighty Morphing Power Rangers became big. I was a kid. I remember then, going back and getting some VHS tapes from the Tower of Video. I watched a bunch of them back then. Mostly the black and white ones. Somewhere I got into the second series and, by that point, I had stopped watching for a while. I got back into re-watching and seeing more of the second series only after I got involved with this.
CV: How did it feel when you first found out you’d be bringing Godzilla back to the big screen?
MB: It was incredible. It’s an incredible opportunity and it’s tremendously exciting. You’re dealing with a character that is so much a part of, not only movie loire culture, which I’m an obsessive film geek and film buff, but popular culture. Everyone knows the name Godzilla, even people who’ve never seen a Godzilla film. There are people, it’s weird to me actually, but there are people I’ve met since working on this, who think Godzilla is a giant ape. They confuse him with King Kong. It’s interesting given the origin of Godzilla’s name which is half gorira, which is gorilla and kujira, which is whale.
What that’s a testament to, I think, is the extent of what Godzilla represents in that metaphor, in something of that power and size that dwarfs humanity and makes all of our accomplishments insignificant and we’re suddenly powerless in the face of it. That idea is very pervasive. It’s so powerful and extends well beyond the confines of a screen. It’s invaded culture, as a whole. One thing that’s so exciting and interesting about Godzilla, as a character and as a franchise, is that aspect of his multiplicity. It’s not, over the course of the years, one coherent character who looks the same, who stays the same, who acts the same. He’s more of a vessel that contains ideas and fears that are resonant from the particular time and place, in which that story was told. It makes him kind of a folk hero, I guess.
CV: When you came on board for the movie, was it decided right away that a graphic novel prequel would happen?
MB: It wasn’t decided right away, although it might have been. Legendary is such a great company and they have a comic book division and imprint within. I’m sure there was a long game plan of once we get the movie going, then wouldn’t it be great to start to expand that universe to the comic book world? The main thrust of everything, from the beginning, was “Let’s make a great Godzilla movie and do what’s necessary.”
That was the number one priority and number two priority and everywhere down the list. Once that was underway, once the film was in production, that’s when when the plan was revealed to me. They said, “Okay, how would you feel about doing the comic book?” and I jumped at the chance. The idea of being able to expand that universe and also being able to utilize some of the ideas about backstory and things like that, that had popped up, but only as background in the course of creating the film. That was really exciting.
CV: Will we see an origin in the GN or movie?
MB: It’s an origin, in a sense. I wouldn’t say it’s explicitly an origin story of Godzilla. It is something that sets up some of the characters and infrastructure, let’s say, that we see in the film. The graphic novel will serve almost as some kind of appetizer for the film. It sets certain things up. I don’t want to go too much further because I don’t want to spoil it.
CV: Can you tell us how long before the movie does the comic take place?
MB: Well, the graphic novel takes place in the period about, let’s say about six years ago to about sixty or seventy years ago. It jumps around a little bit.
CV: Is the entire graphic novel broken up into different chapters with art by the different artists?
MB: There are three chapters, of sorts. It’s not broken up too much. Really as a factor of time and constraints, there are multiple artists who contributed. They were all overseen by Eric Battle. It’s not exactly that one did one chapter and one did another chapter. There are certain scenes and sequences that have a certain feel, creatively, just because of where they take place. The effort was made to try to fit the artist to that so it didn’t necessarily change from panel to panel. So I think the flow is really nice.
CV: Did you approach the writing of the graphic novel differently than writing the screenplay? Different visuals.
MB: Yeah, well you have to, right? It’s certainly a challenging and interesting learning curve. This is my first graphic novel. I wrote it with my cousin [Greg Borenstein] and we had been collaborating on a different project as a fun lark in the background of our day jobs, our careers. He’s an academic at an MIT Media Lab. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to talk to him, he’s brilliant and awesome. We’ve been working on another project together so when this project came up, I immediately thought of him because he’s the guy I’d start to learn how to write a comic book with. I thought this would be really fun to collaborate on. Luckily he was able to fit it into his schedule as a media technology person, doing things I don’t entirely comprehend. It fascinated me. We kind of, together, learned that, on the job, really.
GODZILLA: AWAKENING is on sale today from Legendary Comics. Check out Godzilla, the movie, in theaters beginning on May 16.