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Anime Inspires American Comics -- WORLD WAR KAIJU

Talking to the architects of giant monsters' sinister secret history.

Josh Finney and Kat Rocha are the masterminds of 01Publishing - - creative talents who've crafted edge-crushing cyberpunk comics like THE UTOPIATES and TITANIUM RAIN. We brought them on the VICE PIT last summer to discuss their latest project, WORLD WAR KAIJU; and then to set the record straight, once and for all, about the greatest and the worst films in the kaiju cinematic tradition.

At the time, WORLD WAR KAIJU was only still on Kickstarter. It went on to surpass its funding goals, and the series' first volume hit the streets recently. The time was right to check back in, and ask some Q's about this series that turns Godzilla inside-out, just like MADOKA MAGICA picked SAILOR MOON apart.

ANIME VICE: So what is WORLD WAR KAIJU about and just how many cities can I expect to see destroyed in the story?

Josh Finney: WORLD WAR KAIJU is a graphic novel series set in an alternate history, one in which the atom bomb was never created and the ultimate weapon of mass destruction is the Kaiju. The story begins in 1973, after the earth has been ravaged by an all out kaiju apocalypse. We're following a lone investigative reporter who has been contacted by a retired CIA operative who wants to spill the truth and reveal the secret history of the Cold War.

As the CIA man weaves a tale of conspiracy and destruction, readers are drawn into a series of flashbacks which guide them through the hottest moments of the 1950's and 60's. Ultimately, a mystery begins to unravel - - who were the architects of the Kaiju War?

AV: So... how many cities get smashed?

JF: Well, eventually all of them get stomped, but that won't happen until book three when the Cold War goes hot.

As for book one, though? Tokyo gets destroyed and New York takes a real beating. Also, a model of a city is death rayed in a laboratory. So two? Possible three?

AV: Where did the idea for combining all the tropes of Japanese kaiju films with the real-world politics of the 1950?

JF: The spark began with a nostalgia kick.

I was coming off of putting the finishing touches on TITANIUM RAIN 2 and needed some time to get away from the heavy military themes that dominated that book.

So, I chose to take a trip back to some of the better memories of my youth. I immersed myself in the golden age of kaiju cinema— GODZILLA, GAMERA, KING GHIDORAH: THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER. I figured these films would be a perfect escape from the bleak headspace that comes with composing an unforgiving story about war.

Then I watched GOJIRA, the original GODZILLA. You know, the Japanese version which includes all the references to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Goddamn, is that a dark, dark ninety-six minutes of film. Even by today’s standards, GOJIRA cuts pretty deep.

AV: And that's what got you thinking?

It did. How'd this nuclear apocalypse monster go from being a symbol of the bomb, to a lumbering (and occasionally goofy) hero who often did more harm than good?

Much of this had to do with the Big G becoming a metaphor for the USA . Sure, after the war had become ’s protector, but just like wasn’t exactly comfortable with the nuclear giant that watched over them.

From this a whole alternate history started taking shape in my head. What if these monsters weren't a metaphor for the dangers of the Cold War, but an actual reality? What if the kaiju didn't symbolize the bomb, but rather was the bomb, so to speak.

AV: So along with kaiju cinema, was anime an influence at all?

JF: A lot of what we consider common place in modern anime—ideas, methods of story telling, certain character archetypes—largely had their roots in the films coming out of Toho in the 1960's, actually.

And not just the kaiju titles. It's amazing how much anime borrowed from the samurai epics of the 1950's and 1960's.

AV: Are you yourself an anime fan?

JF: I'm a geek and I'm Gen X. A love of anime came with the territory back then, when most of what we were watching were bootlegged VHS tapes sent by friends living abroad.

But yes, I've always loved the artform. To this day one of the biggest influences on me as a creator has been the work of Mamoru Oshii -- GHOST IN THE SHELL, JIN-ROH, AVALON.

There are few films that I can say truly "speak" to me, but Oshii's THE SKY CRAWLERS will always hold a special place in my heart.

AV: Growing up, were you also a hardcore kaiju fan?

JF: Strangely, no.

Throughout elementary school my two big obsessions were robots and aircraft, then later cyberpunk. Yet, throughout my life kaiju films have been something of a staple. I've always liked them, I've always watched them, but it wasn't until college that I began to recognize the genre as something more than campy fun.

AV: And what sparked that?

During my first year at SFSU someone showed me a fan-subbed bootleg of the 90's era GAMERA: GUARDIAN OF THE UNIVERSE. That movie was a real eye-opener for me. Not only did it present a modern and mature take on the kaiju mythos, it gave me a window into the cultural significance of the genre. There's a lot of subtext to these monster films -- even the old, campy ones.

In a sense, kaiju are something of a metric for the Japanese zeitgeist. It reflects the nation's hopes and fears, and how they view their place on the world stage.

AV: World War Kaiju ends on cliffhanger. What's the sequel going to be about?

JF: I hope to tell WORLD WAR KAIJU in three parts... Part 1: The Cold War Years. Part 2: A Prelude to War. Part 3: Monster Assured Destruction.

Through the entire story arc Agent Hampton and the interview with Keegan will be the two constants. A few new characters will find their way into large parts of the story, lots of being historical figures. Expect to see a lot of Richard Nixon. As for the cliff hanger ending of Book 1, the second book will pick up right where that scene left off. And as the name WOLRD WAR KAIJU implies, yes, we do get to see a WWIII fought with kaiju in Book 3.

AV: So where can Vicers find out more about the book, and when can they get their hands on a copy?

JF: All your WORLD WAR KAIJU needs can be fulfilled here. The website is packed with art and information, as well as 16 page preview of the graphic novel. As for getting a copy, the best places to go is Amazon.com, Barnes & Nobel, or ask your local book store owner to get it through Baker & Taylor.

AV: Any parting words?

JF: Damn it, Goku! I'm not a goddamned Yoshi!

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