Godzilla Attacks Austin Books
Local kaiju artist Matt Frank signing new comic today
By Richard Whittaker, 10:30AM, Wed. Mar. 30, 2011
There aren't many businesses that get honored by the mayor and demolished by a 60,000 ton monster in the same week. But Austin Books and Comics is lucky that way, courtesy of Godzilla and local artist Matt Frank.
Along with colorist Josh Perez, the Austin-based artist will be at Austin Books today from 2pm to 7pm signing copies of issue one of Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters. A regular at Austin Books (named small business of the month last Friday by Mayor Lee Leffingwell), Frank was hired by IDW Publishing to draw covers for the new title written by The Goon creator Eric Powell. With an image riffing on the classic Bambi meets Godzilla, he leaped at the chance to draw the iconic Japanese irradiated beast crushing the local institution. In fact, he liked the cover so much, he drew it almost a hundred times.
In an innovative promotion, IDW offered comic stores a one-off opportunity: Order 500 issues, and they would do a special print run with a unique cover of Godzilla's foot smashing their store front. Frank said, "We only thought there were going to be 10, 20 stores. But then it just exploded."
Finally almost 100 stores signed up for the promotion. As anyone that knows the Texas kaiju scene can tell you, if you need a lot of Godzilla, there is only one artist to go to and that's Frank (if you were on Sixth Street for Halloween two years ago, and you saw Godzilla in a purple smoking jacket, that's him.) So how did he get the high-profile gig? "As my mom always says, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease," he said.
Frank had already done character illustrations and stand-in pages for IDW's Transformers line. So when the firm announced last October that they were unleashing the biggest, baddest monster on the west, he reached out to the comic company. Frank recalled that IDW editor-in-chief Chris Ryall told him, "Hey, I've got this really cool idea for a cover project, and I know you're a really big fan and the fandom knows who you are, so we'd love to have you help with this."
The promotion has become (pun alert) a monster smash, going into its second printing even before release day. However, with only two weeks to complete all the variants, Frank reached out to other professional line artists and talented first-timers he knew from the kaiju scene. "At the end of the day, we had 12 people, in four to five teams of artists, all working round the clock." Working from photos submitted by the stores, some even including staff and family members, Frank drew the bulk of the covers, including the Austin Books variant, but also served as visual editor on the rest. "Ultimately," he said, "my hand is in each one of them somewhere, but the only way we could do it was that we had to have a team."
This is no small press endeavor. While they may not have the name recognition of Marvel or DC, IDW accounts for about 5% of the retail comics industry. They have become the dominating force in licensed comics, with Transformers, True Blood, GI Joe and Dr. Who on their roster. According to Frank, unleashing Godzilla makes a lot of sense. "I think that it's really indicative of this underground resurgence in the genre," Frank said. "I think it started in 2004 when the original Gojira was doing the rounds at the art house theaters."
This is only the start of his involvement with the IDW relaunch, as he's already signed up to do variant covers for future issues featuring other kaiju classics like Mothra and Anguirus. The timing, he argued, could not be more perfect for an American resurgence. He said, "In Japan, they're kind of sick of it because they've been hammered with it for the last 50 years, but over here it's becoming cool again"
Today's signing is the first stop on a two week tour for Frank around Texas, followed by a flight to Florida for Fort Lauderdale's Tate Comics. "That looks like a really cool shop," Frank said. "I should know. I destroyed it."
Matt Frank and Josh Perez sign Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters at Austin Books and Comics, 5002 N. Lamar, Wednesday March 30, 2-7pm.