October 21, 2011

The interview I conducted with multiple Eisner award winning artist GEOF DARROW for Super 7, was posted on their BLOG. This was, however, a very abridged version. The full transcript is below.

TF: We’re very excited about the launch of Taoking at the New York Comic-Con. I guess what we want to know is what was your introduction to Japanese monsters? How did you first get into them?

GD: Oh, Godzilla. I saw, at the theater, “Godzilla vs. King Kong” actually. Because I grew up in a small town that didn’t have many movie theaters, and, you know, Godzilla, the Toho stuff was like, you know, B pictures and those didn’t play in the main theater. They generally played in the drive ins. And my parents never wanted to go to the drive in. And the only one that played in a theater was “Godzilla vs. King Kong.” I mean, I’d known of him before because, I think, I’d seen him in “Famous Monsters” but that was the first one (film) I ever saw.

TF: Was there anything on TV, or was this in the theater primarily?

GD: Yeah, yeah, I remember watching Godzilla vs. .. “Gigantis the Fire Monster,” they called it, on somebody’s TV set. Because we had three tv stations in my area, and a neighbor was able to pick one up from the neighboring town. And I remember going over there on a Saturday afternoon to watch that one. And it was, like, real fuzzy but I could still see it

TF: Did you really connect with this stuff so strongly, instantaneously?

GD: Oh Yeah, yeah because I loved dinosaurs. I mean, my aunt was so concerned that I knew all the names back then. She thought I should see a psychiatrist because “He’s too obsessed with dinosaurs.”

I remember going to see “The Lost World” by Irwin Allen. And I think, I guess, the first dinosaur movie that really touched me was “Dinosaurus!,” which I thought was fantastic. My parents took me to go see that one.

TF: When they started showing up on TV, did you get more and more into them? Do you start seeking out information about Japanese monsters? Because, you know, there was really limited exposure

GD: They really hardly showed them where I was at. Like I said, it was, by American standards, a very small town. They would just run whatever was on the network. But there weren’t any independent stations that had time to fill. So I saw very few, except the ones I mentioned – until I actually, finally was able to drive a car. And then, I think the first one I saw after that was, I think, “Destroy All Monsters.” I actually took my father to take me in to see that. It was a miracle that he took me.

TF: What was that experience like? I mean, that must have been like drinking from the firehose.

GD: Yeah, but I lot of them, I hadn’t seen. Like Minya (Manda) or whatever that thing was from. I can’t remember I think it’s from I don’t know which ones it from “Latitude Zero” or one of those. (It’s actually from “Atragon”) I didn’t know what the hell that monster was. I mean, I only knew the main ones, you know. The giant spider, Spiga, I think they called him. And some of those I was like “Where the hell did these come from?” but yeah, I mean it was amazing to see them, but, at the same time, I was a little taken aback because Godzilla had become kind of… he just wasn’t the fire-breather he was in the beginning.

TF Sure.

GD: He became a little domesticated.

TF: Right.

GD: But, I mean, I really liked it.

TF: Where you drawing these monsters as you were seeing the movies?

GD: Well not so much. I remember being really taken by…because when “King Kong vs. Godzilla” came out, Aurora released those two model kits.

TF: Right.

GD: I bought that one. I mean, because I thought it was amazing. And I was very disappointed in the theater that, you know, King Kong won. Because I was like “No way. No way that that goofy thing could ever beat, you know, Godzilla.” And so I bought the model kit. Saved up got the model kit. Used to play with it all the time. And I, I don’t know. I’ve always been drawing dinosaurs and stuff like you know fighting airplanes and tanks and stuff. I’m sure I must have drawn Godzilla once.

TF: So did you have a lot of Dinosaur toys as well?

GD: Well, yeah I… but there really was only one and that was the Marx Dinosaur Playset.

TF: Right

GD: And that was about it. Sinclair. Sinclair gas stations. Their logo was a dinosaur. And once a year they would have a premium that you could get. And it was generally like an inflatable beach toy of a dinosaur. And I remember, you know, for getting passing grades in school, my parents would buy me the premium from Sinclair. I would play with them, but they were so big that – they were kind of corny. They were cartoon-y. Not like the stuff you can get now.

TF: So you had the Godzilla Aurora model kit. When did you get your next Godzilla toy?

Did you ever get really into collecting Japanese monster toys? Even as an adult?

GD: Oh yeah, I’ve got a bunch of them. As I became a little known, I have some fans in Japan and friends. And they would just send them to me. I’ve got, you know, a lot of them. I mean, Probably not by Arthur Adams standards. But I don’t know if you know who he is.

TF: He’s really into that? He’s got a significant collection?

GD: Oh my God, yeah. Yeah. He’s amazing. He just did three amazing covers for IDW. He did one of Rodan and one of Angillas. One of – I don’t know what the other one is. I don’t know the name. It’s one of the ones that I don’t know. He’s in one of the ones with…. I think he was in the one. God what is it? The one with Jet Jaguar?

TF: Megalon or Gaigan?

GD: Something like Megalon. No, not Megalon. No, not Gaigan. Very strange looking one. It was a later one. But anyway, beautiful drawing. (The monster in question is Titanosaurus – “From Terror of Mechagodzilla” and seen in the center of the Art Adams covers below that Darrow is describing)

art adams

TF: So you started getting stuff from fans in Japan?

GD: Yeah and I would buy things when I saw them. I remember when they came out with those “Shogun Warrior” things, but you might not remember those. (Anyone who knows me should get a laugh out of this) They did one of Godzilla, which I just thought “I refuse to buy.this.” I just thought it was ridiculous. I don’t know , I think. I don’t know if his fist shot off.

TF Well there is a Japanese version of that which is a completely different sculpt.

GD: Oh really?

TF Mattel brought that toy over and sort of messed it up. Some people sort of think that it’s sort of beautifully ugly, but…

GD: Oh yeah, yeah. I think it’s funny now. But back then, I mean I remember getting Raydeen

and a lot of those, because I got into the robots and stuff. I was into Ultraman. Because when I moved to Chicago at art school they had independent stations here and they just started showing

“Ultraman” and “Space Giants” and “Johnny Sokko” and they also had “Speed Racer” and I had never seen any of those things. I was like “wow.”

TF: And are you still fond of those shows now?

GD: Oh Very much so. I remember I introduced my daughter to them. And I remember going over to a toy show – I was living over there. I went to a toy show. I don’t know what the actor’s name is, but he played Moroboshi Dan, who was Ultra Seven. And he was there and I remember watching him because he walked right by me and I was like “Wow that’s Moroboshi Dan.” Yeah, I still love all that stuff. I still collect stuff.

TF: When you say you collect stuff is it just stuff that you think it looks cool?

GD: Yeah.

TF: So it’s not like a checklist thing? “I have this holy grail. I know it’s rare I know it’s tough to find…”

GD: No not so much. I mean, I don’t know. I got so much stuff and I just buy stuff that’s cool. Sometimes I’ll buy things where I don’t know what the hell they are when I’m over there but they are just so beautifully sculpted. Those little gashapon things, which I think are fantastic. Some of the…. There’s just a lot of stuff. I mean, they’ve got so much stuff over there that it’s mind-boggling

I finally just had to stop. Because it’s just too much. I don’t know where to put it all. I’ve got stuff still in boxes and I don’t what what to do with it. But it’s so cool to look at.

TF: That’s a high class problem. Having Too much stuff.

GD: Yeah.

TF: With monster vinyl toys there are sort of two schools of aesthetics:

The older, sort of, Bullmark and Marusan toys are much more simple in design and

then you’ve got the Bandai which are more realistic and more detailed-looking. Do you have a preference towards either sort of look, the vintage or the modern?

GD: No not really. I mean I like them both. I bet if I were a kid, I’d probably go for the Bandai stuff because I’d want the stuff that looked just like the monster, but I love the simplicity of the Bullmark stuff. I mean I remember I got into buying the robots when they first started to come out. Because I was working as an art agent and I’d occasionally get to go on these business trips. And I went to San Francisco. And I went into a toy store there and they had, you know, I guess they call him Voltron here. But you had to like buy five of these toys and they’d call came together to make this one robot

TF: Yeah, they’d gattai together.

GD: Yeah. I think, I guess those were made by, I guess, they were made by Bandai. They were metal and they weighed a ton. And they were expensive. And I was like “Wow.” I’d buy a piece at a time and I still have those but I thought those were just… . And I wasn’t into collecting toys at those points but I was just so amazed by the engineering of it.

TF: Those are very popular today.

GD: Yeah. But back then, I had never seen anything like it Because the American stuff was.. I don’t know. I’m not a big a fan of the Mego stuff. I just… I admire the goofiness of it. But beyond that…

Probably because I’d talk to people in Japan and it was amazing how many of them preferred the American toys to the Japanese ones. I was like “Man, you guys got us beat hands down.”

TF: I guess the grass is always greener. What are some of your favorite toys that you’ve gotten from Japan? Is that combining Chogokin toy that you mentioned in San Francisco up there? How about monster toys? Which are some of your favorites?

GD: Well I mean, Just what ever I like a lot of these, you know they come up

I mean they come up with Godzilla gashapon things and they are these beautiful little scenes. They come in these boxes – you know those hidden boxes. What are they called? You don’t know what you’re getting and you have to buy a whole case to get them all. But, you know, they’ve got scenes of Godzilla breaking into a nuclear reactor or smashing Tokyo Tower. And those things are so well made. They are just beautiful little sculptures.

TF: Do you use any of your toys for reference for your drawings?

GD: Oh yeah. Yeah. I was just working on some cover for IDW I remember I used…. Well, when actually when I was working “The Big Guy” – when I was working on what became known as Taoking – well, he actually had no name in Big Guy. I was looking at a Kaiyodo dinosaur kit, because I like them. Those things are so beautiful sculptured.

TF: So that was sort of the basis of Taoking?

GD: Yeah. I was looking at some like, I would look at one dinosaur for arms and another one for legs, and I just kind of mixed them all together and kind of tried to come with something that I thought was kind of goofy-looking

TF: Was it difficult matching the details from panel to panel? To remember this horn tilts this way or..

GD: I played it pretty loose. I kind of went with the Japanese – what I consider I think is the Japanese way of doing things. I mean, they’ve got the guy in the suit, but the scale changes. You know, sometimes Godzilla is smaller so you can have a human in a shot so he’s not too tiny. And I would I think the size of that monster (Taoking) kind of shrinked – depending on what I needed to get him into frame. I did the same thing with the main characters Big Guy. I made him big enough so you could see him against the monster. I mean, you know, it’s just a comic book.

TF: What did you think of the Big Guy toys that came out by Bandai when the TV series was on?

DG: Yeah, I liked them. I was living overseas when that show came out and I’ve only ever seen one episode of this thing

TF: Which one?

DG: The first one. I went to San Diego (Comic-Con) and they premiered an episode. I think it’s the first one.

TF: Right. And Taoking is in that one.

DG: I don’t know. I don’t even remember, to be quite frank. I thought they did a good job. I did a few monster designs for them. And I remember telling them I wanted a theme song. And I remember humming to the producer, making up lyrics for what I thought the theme song should be.


You know, what they wanted to do at that point – there were no theme songs in cartoon shows and I wanted there to be one. And they actually listened to me.

TF: So the theme song is close to what you thought it should be?

DG: Yeah. I thought they did a great job. They had a sort of Russian chorus kind of a thing. Going on I thought it was great.

TF: Are you aware that they were planning on releasing a toy of one of the villain robots called Argo? That was never released as far as I know.

DG: Yeah. Yeah. That one looked cool. Well they didn’t because it was so badly…uh, well,

it’s a whole long story of why. There was a battle between the network and the producers over.. and they kind of buried the show after about, I don’t know, 3 or 4 episodes And then they just yanked it. And Bandai was none too happy because they had this whole line of toys and there was no show to support it. So they gave up and I don’t blame them. And they were very, probably very angry.

TF: Do you know what happened to the prototype of Argo?

GD: I’ve never seen anything. I mean, even those toys. I mean, when you’re working on a show like that the studio is always “Oh don’t worry we’re going to keep you in the loop and give you all this stuff.” And as soon as it gets going, they don’t want to know you beyond anything. I mean, they never gave me anything. I had to go out and buy the toys.

TF: Wow.

GD: The same thing with….I think it was Wendy’s or one of them. They did, you know, Happy Meal toys. And my family went out and bought some. And I’ve got them. I’ve got a bunch of them because people gave them to me. But, once again, the studio, they don’t care once they’ve got what they want. The say “Adios.”

TF: Is there any chance of more comic books of Big Guy and Rusty?

DG: Eh, I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe. I just – the reason I stopped doing it was because…I got tired of drawing of… I mean, I wanted to draw people.

TF: Instead of windows?

DG: Well, the Big Guy, well it’s very hard-edged. And not quite as flexible.

TF: is that part the reason for “Shaolin Cowboy?” It’s all outside?

DG: Yeah and I just like that stuff. The thing I’m the biggest fan is probably Japanese movies.

I mean Japanese, you know, Jidaigeki and Chanbara movies. I mean, I had seen as a kid, on TV, once again, “The Seven Samurai” and I was just “Holy smokes.” And I’ve got a huge collection of that kind of stuff, like, posters and things.

TF: I’ve seen a lot of original art of Shaolin Cowboy fighting Japanese licensed characters.

GD: Yeah, I do drawings to take conventions to sell. For the longest time I was making monsters up, which I still do on occasion, and I thought “Oh, I can actually draw Godzilla. Who cares?” I’m not, As long as I’m not actually, you know, printing them, I’m okay.

TF: You recently did a cover of Godzilla for the new comic book, which was just beautiful with all those dinosaurs and trees everywhere.

GD: Yeah. Yeah. I did the first one and I did the last one in that miniseries. Because I actually wanted to do it because I wanted to draw him in Tokyo.

TF: Is the last issue in Tokyo?

GD: Yeah, I actually wanted to do him, like, destroying Tokyo and smashing buildings. And between the time the earthquake hit – I didn’t have it in my heart to show him smashing buildings because it seemed to close to reality. So I did draw him, but he’s just kind of -you don’t see him smashing any buildings.

TF: In talking about Godzilla, how do you think he would do in a fight against Taoking? Who would win?

GD: Oh, Godzilla would kill him – destroy him. BUT, but Taoking would regenerate himself. It’d be like, he’d constantly be trying, but he couldn’t beat Godzilla. Nobody could beat Godzilla…. except maybe, my other, probably, I don’t know, maybe even my favorite monster is Gamera. Gamera is so funny and great and surreal. Actually the later – the new movies – I thought were really good.

TF: Do you know that a fan made a fourth movie to pick up where the third movie left off?

GD: Wow.

TF: With all those Gyaos descending on Gamera. And it’s never shown. But It’s called “Gamera 4: Truth” and it has, like, an albino Gyaos and it’s like 40 minutes long, but it’s apparently great.

But Daei won’t let him make any money off it so it was only shown for free in a few theaters in Japan.

GD: Yeah, I’d love to see that. I mean, I think I met the girl, who I think is Steven Segal’s…

TF: Daughter.

GD: Yeah, I met her in Japan a couple of times.

TF: Do you like drawing monsters or robots more? Or is it a tie?

GD: Monsters are easier, but I like drawing them both.

TF: And what’s coming up? I know there was talk for a long time of a Shaolin Cowboy animated series and I heard that some work had started on that. Is there any hope of that or is that just stalled out at this point?

GD: It’s stalled out. Two years down the toilet. That’s showbiz

TF: And how about a trade paperback for Shaolin Cowboy? I see a lot of people are hunting for individual issues online.

GD: That’s a whole another story that I can’t really talk about.

TF: Fair enough.

GD: (Laughing )With the movie, things became extremely complicated. And those issues that I did of Shaolin Cowboy, I don’t know what will ever happen with them all I know is that they will probably have nothing to do with me.

TF: Understood. Well thank you for talking with us, we’re very excited about the release of this toy at the New York Comic Con

GD: It’s a beautiful toy

TF: I heard the sculptor also made a realistic version.

GD: Yeah, I saw that in the background, which I thought was great. Just seems crazy.

One comment

  1. Big Guy and Rusty was such a great cartoon! There’s so little information about it and it hasn’t even been released on DVD. The theme song was great, so it’s cool to know Darrow had something to do with it.

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