*Interview* Godzilla Comic Book Artist, Drew Edward Johnson



[Image courtesy of Legendary]

To start off, when did you first realize that you wanted to become a comic book artist?

Instinctively? When I got my first comic books at maybe five years old. As a fully formed, actual career goal? Probably around 14 or 15. Made it a reality shortly before my 25th birthday.

Do you draw by hand or use computer for your art?

I’d always worked traditionally until 2013, when I joined Garage Art Studios. My studiomates were instrumental in getting me to try Photoshop, and then helping through learning how to make comics with it.

This was a great boost–It made me faster, and I really enjoy working digitally. I still hand ink on paper when I can, because I love the craft of it, and I find it to be a meditative thing that I love to get lost in.

With the release of Godzilla Vs Kong just passed, fans will know you have served on artistic duties for Godzilla: Aftershock and Godzilla Dominion, how did you initially come aboard these projects?

[Image courtesy of Legendary]

I was lucky enough to run into my friend Robert Napton of Legendary Comics at the comic shop one day. We were chatting, and he said he’d been thinking of me for a project. He invited me for coffee so we could talk it over, and it was Godzilla: Aftershock. I almost dropped my scone. I’m really glad I went for comics that day.

How long did it take to complete Aftershock & Dominion? Did Covid-19 hold you back at all?

Each one worked out to about a year. During Dominion, Covid didn’t seem to hold us back much. It definitely changed my working conditions, but it gave us more time to work on the book.

I was back working at home, and my wife was/is too. My kids were/are home and trying to get through school. I was really grateful that we had plenty of time to work on Dominion, because these new conditions required attention throughout the day. After the first couple of months, my studiomates and I had to close down our Garage Art Studios office, which still stings.

Overall, though, we adapted, and I got into the flow of production. Legendary was wonderful, and my editor, Jann Jones, was so great at cheering me on and keeping me on task during times when I was having trouble just being creative. I’m really grateful to my friends at Legendary, to Jann, and to Robert Napton for keeping me working, and for another great experience working with The King of The Monsters.

Before coming onto these projects, were you a fan of Godzilla and the Monster-verse?

Defintely! I’d really enjoyed Godzilla (2014) and Kong: Skull Island. I really love the Monarch Organization that Legendary introduced in those films, and was thrilled to draw them in Godzilla: Aftershock.

I grew up watching Kaiju movies featuring Godzilla and the other Titans. I’ve also been a big fan of Ultraman since I was little. I started drawing Ultraman fighting giant monsters when I was little. Wore out all my red and silver crayons.

When illustrating a character like Godzilla, how much time does it take to get the final product you are happy with? The detail that you put into Godzilla is amazing!

[Image courtesy of Legendary]

Thanks!

Godzilla can take hours to get right. I love to do detailed work, but I had to learn to figure out shortcuts, and to use shadows where I could to simplify the drawings. It’s just too easy to let myself get caught up in Godzilla’s (and other Titans) textures and details.

At the end of the day, the book needs to get done. I learned to save my more ambitious drawings for some of the splash pages in Dominion. I think the root of drawing a book full of titans is figuring out how to pace one’s illustration time per panel, and knowing when to amp up the detail vs knowing when to take short cuts and work smarter and faster.

Legendary really made Godzilla a standout character in 2014, what were your initial thoughts when seeing this new take on Godzilla? He was much more than a big out-of-control dinosaur.

I thought it was fascinating to see Godzilla very clearly delineated as the hero of the film. As a kid, I just saw Godzilla vs __ movies as all out brawls, and didn’t apply a heroic view to any of the kaiju. To me, it was like two tornados fighting: lotsa property damage and loud noises, but I applied no moral standard to them. It’s amazing that Godzilla (2014) made Godzilla’s moral standard immediately clear. He is the King of The Monsters, and it’s his job to reign in his subjects. He is, in his world, noble, and has a duty to perform. At the end of the film, we see him battle weary, his job done as he slowly walks out of San Francisco and into the ocean. I love how much of his character is defined in this moment–and with no words! I feel that moment is the point of the whole film—to get us to that moment, where we can see Godzilla’s nobility, and his purpose clearly.

Skull Island showed the same with Kong, defining the reason that he and Godzilla had to fight—Both are alpha titans, and both have the ability to rule and protect—so of course one’s gotta go. The films set that up beautifully.

Having done some work with the Godzilla character, would you like to explore other titans in the Monsterverse?

I really like the new version of Mothra in Godzilla: King of The Monsters. I’d love to see her brought back somehow. G:KoTM seems to define her as Queen of The Monsters, and I’d love to explore what that could mean, and what her instinctive role in the Monsterverse could be. I thought she was really heroic in G:KoTM, and I think as a character, there’s a lot more of her story to be told.

In Godzilla Vs Kong, were you team ‘Zilla or Kong?

Godzilla all the way—I mean, we’ve spent a lot of time together over the years. I will say that Kong, as Legendary has interpreted him, is such a heroic character, that I never wanted to see him as a villain in that story. I really loved that it was more like when two superheroes fight—They have a misunderstanding, they have the big fight everyone wants to see, then they team up to take down the true villain of the story. It was perfect. In the end, we could love them both. I mean, If I ever get the action figures, I’d pose ’em side by side on my toy shelf, not fighting each other.

Do you have anything upcoming we can look out for?

Something very, very cool that I can’t talk about, that will be out later this year.



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