This entry was written by GlarnBoudin; when not writing rambling articles about semi-obscure 70s cartoons, he’s busy writing rambling articles about speculative evolution, kaiju, cryptids, and other nerd shit. He’s currently working on a Godzillaverse of his own, but he’s been a consultant for various fan-made Gojiverses across digital space, which isn’t that impressive in hindsight but fuck it, it’s neat to him. His dA can be found here: https://lediblock2.deviantart.com/
Now, I’m not sure if you knew this, but Godzilla is a pretty big deal on this website. The various incarnations of the King of the Monsters have received plenty of coverage over the years, both from the illustrious website host and through guest ICHF entries talked about over the past few years. However, the incarnation that I’m gonna be talking about here is one that’s received… well, much less discussion than the rest of the series, and I’m including the Discount Eren Jaeger And Also Godzilla Is There movie trilogy. In the late 1970s, Toho was getting really into collaboration with American media productions – a few years after Godzilla’s debut in Marvel comics, they partnered up with an American animation company in order to make a cartoon series about their super-sized saurian showrunner, which ran for two seasons spanning 26 episodes from 1978 to 1979 but would continue running on TV until 1981. That studio was none other than Hanna-Barbera, and from this studio came the animated tale known as Godzilla: The Animated Series but more commonly as The Godzilla Power Hour.
The producer of this series, Doug Wildey, was the same mind behind the classic series Jonny Quest – rumor has it that the original concept behind it was noticeably darker than Hanna-Barbera’s usual fare before network standards twisted the creators’ arm into making something far lighter in tone; although I can’t find much information confirming or denying this, some of that lingering influence can be pretty readily seen from episode to episode. The story revolves around the crew of the Calico, a scientific research vessel crewed by Captain Carl Majors, Dr. Quinn Darien, her assistant Brock Borden and nephew Pete, and their friendly sidekick Godzooky; as they set sail across the world, with Godzilla following along and summoned by a subsonic signaling device (or a call for help from Godzooky), classic pulpy adventure and peril awaits them at every turn… adventure and rather poorly-aged animation.
Even by Hanna-Barbera standards, this series had very little allocated to it in terms of budget and time – I was lucky enough to listen to an interview with one of the series’ main animators at a convention a few years ago, and his recollections of what it was like to work on it sounded like war stories. The studio couldn’t even get the rights to use Godzilla’s roar, in a series about Godzilla. The animation is basic at best in a lot of places, with all the looped animations and scuffed still frames that you would expect of this studio’s golden age – I’m only exaggerating very slightly when I say that every single goddamn episode has at least half a dozen reaction images and gifs just waiting to be made. It didn’t last too long, having to double up with other animated features, and the first season took two years to be released in three different DVDs decades after the fact. The second season never even made it that far, meaning that the only episodes available anymore are the ones that were ripped to VHS as they aired decades ago, then uploaded online in all their fuzzy staticky glory. I remember growing up with the DVD of this series and looking around for information on it when I made my first forays into digital space, and I remember finding next to nothing about it save for unbridled scorn for this silly, goofy series for years and years.
And yet… the studio made it fucking work. Even with all the gloriously scuffed animation that comes part and parcel with the HB cartoons of this era, the combination of Hanna-Barbera’s classic cartoon aesthetic and the tone of the Showa era proved to be a winning one, with a plethora of wonderfully weird and varied kaiju designs each with unique powers, backstories, and even roars – the budget wears perilously thin across each episode, but when the monsters square off, the animators very clearly gave it their all to make each battle feel distinct, with choreography that oftentimes just wasn’t possible to stage with suits. Add in some absolute bangers for the musical score, and you’ve got a hidden little gem… a gem that’s been dragged through the mud for years and years.
But for all the scorn that this series has gotten over the years from the Godzilla community… it’s left quite a surprising legacy behind. Interviews with KOTM director Michael Dougherty revealed that the series was a big influence on him when it came to Godzilla, with the Calico itself actually making a cameo in the film itself – and when you look around at the Monsterverse, that lingering influence from this much-despised series rises to the surface. Slowly but surely, the series is starting to get proper recognition – the kaiju fandom is gradually starting to come to embrace the lighter side of the Godzilla franchise, and it’s my honor to share this piece of my childhood with you all.
As designs go, this one is much less complex than your typical Godzilla suit, with green unscarred skin that lacks much in the way of texture and a single row of triple-pronged dorsal plates down the spine. It’s pretty much by necessity as a result of the medium of the show – intricate details like the keloid scars of the hulking suits of the films would be incredibly time-consuming to add to every frame of animation, not to mention difficult to keep consistent between episodes – but it’s still very clearly, well, Godzilla, from the somewhat pyramid-like body shape to the plantigrade limbs, the ponderous gait expressly designed to invoke the heavy lumbering movements of the source material, and the short-snouted boxy head that retains that quintessential Gojiran grumpiness.
And speaking of faces, let’s talk about this one! This is, bar none, the single most emotive design for the King of the Monsters to date, taking full advantage of the medium of animation and the off-model style of Hanna-Barbera to give its skyscraper-sized star a range of expression that just wasn’t possible with the suit technology of the time period. This is a Godzilla that could emote in ways that no other Godzilla could before or since, and it. Is. Glorious.
I wasn’t kidding when I said that this show is a goldmine for reaction images.
The off-model features only continue to work in Godzilla’s favor when it comes to his size – depending on the scene, Big G can be either large enough to pick up the entire Calico with one hand or just the right size for people to fit neatly in the palm of his hand. It’s something that’s driven powerscalers absolutely mad as he merrily defies their attempts to stuff him away in the bizarre little boxes that they love shoving characters into… because honestly? It doesn’t really matter exactly how big he is. Godzilla is exactly as large as he needs to be for a given scene – that size is just always, well, gigantic. It’s the same principle that would go on decades later to be used for Kill la Kill’s own Ira Gamagoori – a man whose canonical height is “Bigger than you!”
That said, there is some other weirdness forced by the limits of being in a Hanna-Barbera cartoon – this take on Godzilla isn’t radioactive at all, and as such primarily breathes regular run-of-the-mill fire instead of atomic death that he can also fire out of his nose in one scene, much to the surprise of the monster he’s fighting-
“I didn’t know you could do that!”
“ME GODZILLA COULD WRITE BOOK ‘BOUT WHAT YOU NOT KNOW!”
-but, well, this is Godzilla we’re talking about here; it just wouldn’t be right if he only had such a simple power. And so he also has another trick up his sleeve in the form of shooting laser beams out of his eyes, usually red but sometimes a silvery-white in color depending on the frames. These babies are hot enough to melt solid rock and blast through metal, but can be wielded with enough precision to weld crumbling cliffs and dams together or snipe the core of a slime monster like a surgeon’s scalpel. Now, you may ask: why does Godzilla have laser eyes here? Why, it’s simple!
Like I said, this show had a shoestring budget even by Hanna-Barbera standards – the laser eyes were likely a way to help him stand out from just, well, a general fire-breathing lizard. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty unique power, and it kinda fits if you think about it: Godzilla’s always been a primitive-looking prehistoric brute of a colossus that wields an ability on par with the mightiest weapons of the modern day, and if your censors won’t allow atomic fire, then a laser will work just fine.
Honestly, the impact of this design is majorly understated – the general image of Godzilla as a giant green radioactive monster, well, comes from this series, as does the subtrope of said. Remember Reptar, the only tolerable portion of Rugrats? Yeah, he draws directly from here! Godzilla’s roars and snarls in this series would in turn go on to be utilized for countless HB productions – every time you hear a monster make that ‘ARRR-ORRR-EAHHR’ stock roar, especially in Warner Brothers productions, you’re hearing a bellow straight from the lips of Godzilla himself. Originally, though, the provider of the voices was the same actor who played Lurch in the Addams Family – apparently he would also do the same for an Incredible Hulk series that was airing at the same time. Guess that he was pretty perfect for the role of a hulking irradiated monster.
Whenever Godzilla takes the stage, shit has officially gotten real. Everyone, from rescued airmen and rogue Abominable Snowmen to sinister Sirens and leagues of international criminals, can’t help but stare in awe as the Calico’s champion rises from the sea as the percussion orchestra goes fucking ham. And trust me, that awe is more than well-earned. Natural disasters are batted aside by Godzilla’s might, crumbling mountains are welded back together, meteors are hurled back into orbit – when the King of the Monsters steps up to the plate as the music swells, nothing seems impossible. Overwhelming strength and power is part and parcel for any proper Godzilla, but this take? This take runs on nothing short of pure, concentrated “fuck you.”
“ME GODZILLA RECENTLY ACQUIRE OSHA CERTIFICATION!”
This is a Godzilla at the end of the character arc set into motion throughout the Showa era – a Godzilla that has found peace with humanity and found a way to coexist. The big guy gets the chance to battle with other monsters, while the crew of the Calico get a protector like no other… and yet, the relationship between the two parties is more than just using Big G as a deus ex machina. There’s this sense of wonder and earnestness with the Calico crew that never diminishes throughout the entire run of the series, this sense of awe that this utter colossus is on their side – and he is inarguably on the side of the Calico. On the occasion that someone or something is gunning directly for the crew, Godzilla immediately jumps into attack mode, giving no mercy to whatever brute dared to terrorize the tiny humans that have earned his trust. An Abominable Snowman is pulling a Kong and just kidnapped Dr. Darien? Game time, bitch.
Likewise, when Godzilla has finished the job, the human cast are always sure to sincerely thank him for his efforts, and they’re quick to pull their weight whenever needed – whether it’s to give the King of the Monsters a hand to distract the monster of the week, a piece of advice on what to do that’s relayed via Godzooky, or even the rare opportunities when he genuinely needs help, the crew of the Calico are immediately on the case without a moment’s hesitation. He’s not some weapon to be turned upon enemies – he’s a friend, just as much a part of the crew of the Calico as any one of them. It’s a trend that was already present throughout earlier entries into the Godzilla franchise, and here with Hanna-Barbera, its presence as a core component within the series’ DNA would be carried on for decades afterwards: humanity contributing to these battles between titans not through fighting against these living natural forces, but by working with them, offering moments of opportunity for the monstrous star to scrape by to victory.
Probably the best example of this is an episode in the second season of the series, “Island of Doom” – an international gang of criminals known as COBRA (yes, really – in fact, this episode came out years before G.I. Joe ever hit the toystore shelves) have imprisoned the crew of the Calico on their island base, which is armed to the teeth with enough men, planes, munitions, and ICBMs to leave the nations of the world at their mercy. And to make matters worse, the nuclear reactor that powers Cobra’s machinations is starting to go haywire, potentially condemning the entire island to a horrible fate… until Godzooky busts his way out of the prison and makes a break for the ocean, howling for Godzilla and summoning the King of the Monsters up from the depths, all thirty stories of him.
And just like that, the tables have turned completely. Godzilla isn’t fighting an equal here – he’s absolutely pissed. Shore batteries of anti-aircraft cannons open fire, but the King of the Monsters doesn’t even flinch at the assault, plowing through the defensive line and the minefield beyond it as if they weren’t even there. An ICBM is leveled and aimed right at him – a missile previously shown to be capable of sniping satellites out of orbit. It hits Godzilla dead in the chest, a direct hit at point blank range… only for the smoke to clear, revealing that he’s not even so much as singed. Tanks, cannons, aircraft – COBRA’s throwing everything that they have at the oncoming threat, and the absolute most that it’s doing is getting Godzilla even madder before he stomps an entire battalion of tanks flat, pilots included.
This was originally an artillery cannon made to shoot down passing warships and airplanes coming into COBRA’s airspace. Keyword there: ‘Was’.
Yeah, those little stick figures? None of them manage to run off-frame before Godzilla’s foot comes crashing down. And the carnage only continues on and on! Tanks and artillery pieces are melted down into smoking slag with blasts of fire breath and laser vision, jets are swatted out of the sky by the dozen and peeled apart like a kid dissecting a daffodil. The command tower of the airport is toppled with an almost contemptuous swat of the king of the kaiju’s tail, buildings are trampled underfoot – it’s all that the surviving COBRA soldiers can do to flee for their lives and hope that the King of the Monsters doesn’t give chase. The stone prison where the Calico’s crew is being held is torn open like a bag of potato chips, freeing our heroes, but there’s still the matter of the overheating nuclear reactor to handle – and just like that, Godzilla’s on the job again. The reactor shell is smashed through and the overloading core hurled like a baseball into a nearby lagoon, then bombarded with ocular lasers that stabilize the radiation leaking out of it. How do laser beams from a mutant dinosaur stop radiation from a nuclear reactor? Because fuck you, that’s how! In less than an afternoon, the terrorist organization that was ready to hold the entire world at their mercy has been completely destroyed – every last round of ammunition, every last shell and missile, they threw everything that had at Godzilla, and they couldn’t even hope to delay the inevitable.
This one scene lasts a total of five minutes, and those five short minutes completely recontextualize the entire show. We’ve seen Godzilla battle against his equals, we’ve seen the rare moments where he’s at his most vulnerable, where he needs to fight with brains rather than brawn, but this scene… this scene gives the Calico crew and the viewer by extension a sobering reminder of just how powerful he is. And yet, it’s not really played like a moment of triumph – this isn’t a “bring out the big guns” scene. Throughout this montage of destruction are an abundance of shots set at ground level, with Godzilla towering over the viewer as he continues his rampage – we see the shock and terror dawning on the faces of COBRA mooks as they realize just what they’re up against, as they turn tail and flee for their lives. This is the scale of this series’ adventures – this is the level of destruction that our friend is capable of. And through it all, the crew of the Calico are just as stunned as we are; they know just as well as we do how lucky they are to call Godzilla their friend.
It’s just five minutes long, and this one scene did more to show off the sheer level of power that its monstrous star is capable of than the entire run of Zilla’s cartoon. It’s this scene, out of a veritable cornucopia of amazing moments throughout this series, that puts it above the others – that shows why Godzilla is King. It’s not because he can beat up other kaiju, or because he’s the scariest out of them all – it’s because he can out-monster every other beast without even having to try. We’ve seen just what other kaiju are capable of in this series, and we’ve seen Godzilla defeat them all, but none of them ever quite manage this level of sheer destruction, much less so absolutely effortlessly. It’s what set Godzilla apart from every other beast and baddy in horror before or since, and it’s an element that this goofy little series with a shoestring budget understood perfectly.
As a kid, DVDs of this series were by far the most consistent source of Godzilla media that I had access to besides some library books and a couple of rather poorly-dubbed Showa era films. This was, for all intents and purposes, my Godzilla growing up, and it was the Godzilla for many kids before me. It’s easy to dismiss Hana Barbera for their reused formulas, their incredibly limited animation, and their tendency to try and monetize every IP they could get their hands on. Hell, it’s not an undeserved reputation, either. But when one actually sits down and gives this series a chance, you might find yourself pleasantly surprised by how much of the spirit of Godzilla survived his long journey across the Pacific and into 2D animation. This is ultimately a series based around the brighter, hopeful tone of the Showa era, free of the grating cynicism that made up the foundation of Zilla’s cartoon years later – as such, its Godzilla is a kinder, calmer being, one that has made peace with humanity. But a friendlier, kinder Godzilla is still Godzilla, King of the Monsters. This series never forgot that.