Godzilla is about to get some company in the world of kaiju movies as Gamera is set for a Netflix debut.
Only weeks ago, Toho Studios announced that it would bring Godzilla back to the masses with the monster’s first Japanese film since 2016’s hit Shin Godzilla. Since then, we’ve learned that Warner Bros. Discovery is making another Godzilla/King Kong movie, and Apple TV is reportedly developing a Godzilla streaming series.
As many fans around the world have known for decades, Godzilla may get top billing in the kaiju world, but he is far from alone. In fact, the recent WB Godzilla/Kong movies have only barely touched the surface of the Japanese monster-verse. Now Netflix is expanding away from the nuclear-breath giant lizard with an animated film in development, Gamera: Rebirth.
Gamera first appeared on the silver screen with 1965’s Gamera, the Giant Monster. While most kaiju fans associate giant monsters with Toho, Gamera was a Daiei Film original. Banking off the success of Godzilla, he was meant to compete for those sci-fi dollars. Instead of a straightforward ‘Zilla ripoff, Daiei went with a massive, prehistoric turtle (though the origin was later changed to being extraterrestrial) with similar powers.
One of the main differences, however, was that Gamera could fly and spin on its shell because…why not? He also was more of a protector than Godzilla in most depictions.
In all, Gamera has appeared in a dozen movies, the most recent of which was 2006’s Gamera the Brave, a Japanese-language original that went unnoticed by mainstream viewers. However, the Netflix announcement should have fans curious about that particular movie. In fact, that curiosity should spill into the comics as well, beginning with this issue.
In 1996, Dark Horse Comics brought the intergalactic, mutant kaiju turtle to American comic audiences. Pinning down Gamera’s first comic book appearance has been difficult. Well before ‘96, he appeared in various Japanese manga, so Dark Horse’s Guardian of the Universe #1 is not his first comic appearance. However, since finding his actual debut issue is not bearing fruit, this is what we have to work with.
This was a tie-in to the 1995 film Gamera: Guardian of the Universe. The giant, friendly monster starred in his own four-issue limited series that had all the look and feel of those 1970s Toho films. While the title didn’t spawn a slew of spinoffs, it did strike the right chords with kaiju collectors. With Gamera getting his own starring role in an updated Netflix movie, this could be a decent pickup for the shrewd investor. The best part is that you can have a high grade for pennies on the dollar, at least compared to bigger keys. In August, a graded 9.8 sold for $63. If you head over to eBay for raw copies, you can find the entire four-issue set for around $50.
PLAYING THE GAMERA GAME
Similar to those Godzilla keys, you’re not going to get rich off Gamera comics…unless you happen to know the answer to his first appearance mystery. There’s obviously a market for kaiju comics, and they will only get more popular as Netflix and other studios develop a wider variety of monster movies and shows.