Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Understanding The Cosmos: Episodes 1-5

Look everybody! An article that has absolutely nothing to do with giant monsters what-so-ever!
"Understanding The Cosmos" is a series of web-shorts started by my two younger siblings, Gonzo and Gabe, which spoofs the kind of educational science programs that you barely see on television anymore. Namely The History Channel fodder that does NOT feature paranormal or apocalyptic shenanigans.
Of course the big joke about "Cosmos" is that the science is distantly minor compared to the insanity / stupidity of its lead character and host, Professor Gonzo (played by you know who). Not to mention its equally eccentric and thereby unfortunate guest characters, like Astronaut Gabe (incredible effort on those names, siblings of mine).
The following are the five episodes made thus far, which I had limited involvement with, but will share with you all regardless.
To call this a pilot would be an understatement, because Gabe and Gonzo really had no intentions on making this an ongoing series, beyond this one-shot gag. Hence the use of their real names (at least Gonzo's), and just the overall rough nature of it all. The questionable position of Pluto as a planet is the backdrop for this episode.
Professor Gonzo does a demonstration of the solar son, and its gravitational relationship with our very own Earth. I helped in the filming of this one, and make a small off-camera cameo as 'The Meek Fact Checker'.
Professor Gonzo welcomes special guest Professor Funky Fresh, to discuss the phenomenon of Black Holes. Gonzo really doesn't care about foul language, and freely spouts it whenever he can. I however, DO care about such harsh language, and hence why I'm warning you all about this entry, and its latter dialog. Though with that said, it's still quite funny.
Professor Gonzo's hated arch rival Professor Zoso attempts to steal his thunder! I have to admit, this is the strongest of the web-series production wise, complete with a great use of outside musical beats.
Whereas episode four is the strongest production wise, this one has its strengths in the simple scenario and humor behind it. This largely thanks to Gabe being the unofficial writer of it, along with Gonzo's performance. Astronaut Gabe returns to the program, to discuss meteorites with Professor Gonzo.
I'll share more episodes in the future, as they're made and uploaded onto YouTube of course.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When Giant Monsters Fall In Love

Before we begin, there's two things that you all should know about me.

The FIRST of which is my unfathomable knack for incredibly bad timing, especially when it comes to corresponding dates and releases of films or television shows worthy of mentioning. For example, I upload an article discussing an art project that I'm personally proud of, and then suddenly, Godzilla decides to return from movie retirement, overshadowing my aforementioned post.

The SECOND is something that's most certainly my willing fault, and its my disliking (sometimes dreading) of Holidays in general, and my attempts to ignore or avoid them outright. And I've been doing this for so long (mixed with my own bad timing), that I've often forget the majority of their yearly arrival times.

I really don't mind, if not care, about this at all, because for me personally, Holidays are like mandatory company picnics; you're forced to have fun with a relatively unimportant event, that eats up into both your own free time, and more important matters in real life as well.

Although to be fair, if you refuse to enjoy a Holiday, you'll usually get called a 'Scrooge' or a 'Grinch' before you even have the chance to explain yourself. But at a company picnic, where a similar situation happens, you run the very real chance of getting fired for not participating with the troublesome event 'one-hundred-and-ten-percent'. So I guess holidays is the lesser evil, BUT that still doesn't mean I want to put up with either of these two torture sessions.

And needless to say, this includes my own birthday, which I know doesn't technically count as a holiday...but its still just a bothersome, and as such, ends up being a holiday (bother) for me overall.


So with all that said, I do find myself sometimes, JUST SOMETIMES, getting into the spirit of some of these blasted holidays, because it really is infectious at times (i.e. Halloween). But again, mixed with my own bad timing, I often find myself doing such activities way too late.

The following portion is such an example of all the previously mentioned, and was originally uploaded at my DeviantART group dubbed Kaijuden. And it was my friend Mark Rivers who suggested this would have made better fodder for my official blog. And of course, me not giving a damn about holidays and proper scheduling, I'm presenting it here as my weekly update, as a good 45-minutes worth of online entertainment for all of you.

It's (late) Valentine's Day! And what better way to celebrate than to take a quick look back at bizarre moments in giant monster history, when the air was thick with romance.

"Inhumanoids: Primal Passions"

The 1980's cartoon (loosely inspired by the works of H.P. Lovecraft), was a fairly straight-faced affair when it came to its main villains, the subterranean beasts which included the demonic tyrant Metlar, the prehistoric zombie D.Compose, and the destructive plant being Tendril. But as with all cartoon shows from this decade, even the Inhumanoids had their silly moments, with this as a particularly infamous episode!

A failed chemical experiment puts our three main villains...well...'in the mood', who then seek out worthy mates for each of them. Though to be honest, only D.Compose ends up somewhat successful, by re-mutating, and then re-hooking up with the human heroine Sandra Shore. You can watch this surreal entry in the following link:

Godzilla's Dr. Pepper Commercials

In an early example of painfully overt movie product tie-ins, the US distributor of "Godzilla 1985", New World Pictures, teamed up with Dr. Pepper for mutual exposure. And resulted in some truly awkward product placement in the American version, while Godzilla stared in some surprisingly decent comedy ads on television.

The second of which featured a brand new monster called 'Newzilla' (AKA 'Mrs. Godzilla'), of whom the King of the Monsters becomes instantly smitten to (must be those blue ultra-bright spotlight eyes of her's). Warning, the following videos have low audio.

"Godzilla the Series: End of the Line"

Of course you can't talk about Newzilla without mentioning this far more beloved suitor to the King of the Monsters...or at least the animated American incarnation, that fans can tolerate better than the 1998 live action disappointment that spawned it.

Komodithrax is a mutated Komodo Dragon who is discovered on an isolated arctic oasis, heated by geothermic features. And because Komodithrax is somewhat similar to the mutant iguana version of Godzilla (or Zilla), the two fall in love, with the American Godzilla becoming a surrogate father to the female monster's unhatched egg. Unfortunately, both a trigger happy US military, and a Giant Arctic Turtle, threatens this makeshift monster family.

There are of course many other giant monster items beyond these three examples, but this post is going on way too long as it is, and may save those for next year's Valentine's Day...Or maybe not.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Ice Giant and Ice Men Sketches

Following up from my last post regarding the unmade movie "Gamera vs. The Ice Men from Outer Space", this was my first attempt at The Ice Giant, and again, based it on some educated (if not realistic) guess work.
My First Attempt At The Ice Giant.
The Ice Giant creature is deliberately humanoid, so I could easily ignore the wild design choices of Gamera's other Showa-era foes, with a more straightforward build. I also took cues from both Daimajin and Daiei's Yokai Monster films, in regard to minor effects make-up that would allow for the suit actor's eyes to be visible.

This choice made the Ice Giant quite monstrous, while keeping it to something that could still be easily constructed by 1966 movie monster terms. And in addition, invoked the style of traditional Japanese fantasy and monster art, despite the character being inspired by the Frost Giants of Norse mythology.

I really like this first design, but based on that last fact alone, I decided to do another take on the Ice Giant that would be more in tune with the Frost Giants...
My Second Try At The Ice Giant.
Egad, was that a bad idea!

Now this design is supposed to be full-blown actor make-up, like the title monsters from "War of the Gargantuas" (1966), but with the actor's face far more visible than the aforementioned movie beasts.

It's very true to the mythological Frost Giants, but at the same time, pretty lame for a Japanese movie monster. Or at least a Japanese movie monster from the sixties, as opposed to the strange, simplistic make-up effects from earlier films of the fifties and thirties. Like the pre-Godzilla era film "King Kong Appears In Edo" (1938), where in those two decades at least, this sort of design would have made much more sense.

In theory this should have worked, but again, its very weak compared to the design that came before it. Plus, why is he trying to drown a sea fairing turtle like Gamera? I know I drew this blasted thing in a creative haze, but seriously, what the heck ME?

Ice Man and Miscellaneous Designs.
I decided to try my hand at the second design once more, believing that the main fault lied with the head and face. The second attempt at a slightly less human-like Ice Giant is good, but also not all that great.

There's also an alternate take for the first Ice Giant design's head, and although it's cool looking (pun not intended), it comes off too much like Guiron's knife shaped cranium. Not to mention being way too elaborate for a 1966 Japanese fantasy film.
Also seen above is my take on the alien Ice Men themselves; again, it may be too elaborate for the sixties, but it follows the original concept quite closely, and it does look way too good for me to dismiss easily.

I'm guessing the Ice Men could only have been executed around this time through puppets, and tried to incorporate such a lifeless weirdness to their already grotesque forms.

I couldn't help myself from throwing in some humor to the sketch, since the Ice Man seen here really is a nasty looking piece of work, who would probably be more at home in one of Gojin Ishihara's wonderfully twisted illustrations, than a Daiei science fiction epic.


Realistically however, Daiei may have come to the conclusion that the Ice Men, as they were originally imagined, would be too extreme, both in their construction and operation on set. Or at least, far more extreme for audiences tastes at the time (the Japanese kids would have loved it though).

So the Ice Men may have ended up more human looking in the final film, had it ever been completed, minus some icy white skin and related uniforms, done with minimum effort. This purely hypothetical idea of mine and mine alone, is very similar to the alien races featured in other Kaiju Eiga around that same time, namely the Xillians of "Invasion of the Astro-Monsters" (1965).

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Gamera vs. The Ice Men (1966, Unmade)

Teaser Art for What Will Be My Version of The Ice Giant

I finally got myself a copy of Shout Factory's release for "Gamera vs. Barugon" (1966), and immediately headed straight for the audio commentary by tokusatsu (Japanese for live action effects fantasy films) expert August Ragone.

No offense to the film itself, but I've seen it plenty of times before, either by itself, or with the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" crew. And that being said, I was more interested in the obscure history of the Gamera franchise, which admittedly, no one touches upon beyond August Ragone's commentaries. And maybe, MAYBE, the odd magazine article that I don't have the time (nor money) to effectively track down.

And it's a real shame that the remaining Gamera DVDs from Shout Factory lack August's input, because I love hearing about giant monster movies that never were. And boy, did I get a welcome surprise gift with the "Barugon" commentary!


Now before I go any further, for those who don't know who Gamera is, let me enlighten you.

The 1960s was the golden age boom for Japanese movie monsters, with Toho Studio's Godzilla series and its various spin-offs, dominating the box office in both Japan, and globally abroad. Because of this, other Japanese film companies, who were somewhat reluctant to follow in Toho's knack for tokusatsu film making, eventually jumped on the band wagon, and with varying results.

The most successful of the these was "Giant Monster Gamera" (1965), a black-and-white B-movie from Daiei Motion Picture Company, which dealt with giant prehistoric turtle from the arctic, accidentally reawaken in modern times by atomic weapons. If that wasn't strange enough however, the giant turtle also lived off flames, had the crazy ability to become a flaming flying saucer-like form while tucked within his shell, and went on a destructive rampage across Japan to satisfy his millennium long hunger.

You know, just like us humans after a prolonged, jet lag induced nap!

In the end, Japanese and other foreign scientists work together to build the Z Plan Project; basically a gigantic rocket ship (far larger than even Gamera himself is), to trap the monster. And to safely send the deadly turtle to live on the planet Mars, since Gamera is too dangerous and virtually invincible to leave here on Earth.

"Giant Monster Gamera" turned out to be a surprised hit, and Daiei followed suit with more movies staring their previously doubted terrapin newcomer, along with other sci-fi and monster based movies that were to rival Toho at the box office. Since then, the Gamera series has been an off-and-on-again affair, especially when compared to Godzilla's more stable career. But to date, there has twelve entries into the series, ranging from sub-par children fair, to fantastic accomplishments that even novices to the genre can easily enjoy.

And like Godzilla and many other giant monster movies throughout cinematic history, Gamera has had his fair share of projects that never made it to final celluloid, which brings us to today's topic at hand...


"Gamera The Giant Monster Versus The Ice Men From Outer Space" (or "Gamera vs. The Ice Men" for short) was the original concept for the 1965 film's sequel. And was a surprisingly ambitious story idea, even by the standards of other unproduced Kaiju Eiga (Japanese for monster movie) ideas.

The original story treatment deals with alien invaders dubbed The Ice Men, whose transparent, ice-based bodies grotesquely exposed their internal organs and skeletons. They begin their invasion of Earth by setting off multiple volcanic eruptions across the globe, in hopes that the ash-soaked atmosphere will create a new ice age. And thus drive an unwitting humanity underground, so that they can have free range, and control over the surface.

Humanity insists on remaining above ground however, and thus the Ice Men are forced to reveal themselves, in order to forcefully enslave the human race instead.

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Meanwhile, Gamera is set free from the Z Plan capsule (not unlike the events from the completed '66 sequel), and flies back to Earth. And by fortunate timing and circumstance, joins mankind in its final, epic battle against the Ice Men, who also unleashes their own monstrous champion, the simply titled Ice Giant.


Unlike other monsters from the Gamera series, who were wildly original creations of a considerably inhuman, animalistic design, The Ice Giant was going to be a very humanoid entity, heavily inspired by the fearsome Jottun (or Frost Giants) of Norse mythology. Particularly the Ymir, who was said to be the most massive and ancient Frost Giant of them all. And of whom the semi-tragic Venusian monster of the 1957 film "20 Million Miles To Earth" takes its name from.

"Gamera vs. The Ice Men" never got pass a basic story treatment, but the concept of a contradicting cold element, against Gamera's fiery one, remained, resulting in the finished version's title antagonist of "Gamera vs. Barugon" (1966).

However, the idea of a humanoid being made from an geological element, stuck with the Daiei production staff, who soon after replaced the element of ice for that of stone. And taking cues from the Jewish folklore creature known as the Golem, and a little bit of Japan's own supernatural legends, resulted in the creation of stone idol Daimajin, and his impressive trilogy of films, all from 1966 alone.

I'm surprised that no one else brought up this awesome tidbit of unproduced movie trivia. And being an artist, I plan on doing my own interpretations of The Ice Giant and his masters, not unlike the educated guess work I've done with this particular Godzilla obscurity, Takegami.

Although knowing my luck, never-before-seen production sketches for the icy villains will suddenly pop up from movie oblivion, and half way into my project; not unlike what happened to me and my Ghost Godzilla designs a year ago. But ultimately, real design art from the original film makers themselves would be better than non at all, let alone my own 'fan fiction' style attempts.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

A Simple Introduction to This Blog

Greetings and salutations everyone!

A Somewhat Accurate Self-Portrait of Your Host and Author.

For those who don’t know me already, I’m Raf, better known through my online nickname of Enshohma , from such sites as DeviantART, and…well, that’s about it.

I’ve also hovered around multiple Godzilla inspired fan forums under my Enshohma guise, and have some small notoriety as an amateur expert of giant monster fiction and related characters…hence the aforementioned Godzilla forums (surprisingly, they do exists, my dear ‘Joe Public’).

I’m also an artist AND writer whose had success in small time publishing, including the independently funded graphic novel anthology “Iconic”, and one of its featured shorts “The Life and Death of Talos the Bronze”. I’ve also submitted illustrations to “G-Fan’’, the North American Godzilla fanzine, and character designs for Bonsai Games’ villain centric RPG “Infinite Enemies” .

I’ve also assisted on an ongoing series of short films with my brothers Gabe and Gonzo, spoofing scientific educational programs. Though presently, its been mainly behind the scenes work, including an off-screen vocal cameo, heard in the following skit; Understanding the Cosmos, Episode 2


Now that’s all I’m going to share about myself, at least for now, as my life story and creativity can fill up many future blog entries…unless that whole Mayan calendar malarkey turns out to be true, of course, which would mean a lot less entries than I had originally planned!

Apocalyptic humor…man, did that stuff get tired after 1996 or what?

Back on track...

I’ve decided to start a blog due to my growing number of online fans. And as such, I plan to share as many random things here as possible, but mainly film and episode reviews related to my love of fictional giant monsters (Godzilla, King Kong, Gamera, ect.); and to also use this site to humbly share (egotistically show off) my artistic projects, original character designs, and story concepts.

So that’s about it - a simple introduction to what I hope will become an enjoyable blog of weekly updates, and fun for all ages…unless I get into a tangent about women I find irresistibly attractive, than things might get a little ‘blue’, but I’ll try to control myself.

Did I forget to mention that I’m a struggling humorist too?

-Raf AKA Enshohma