MONSTERS

D I TK O
Scripts by

JOE GILL

GORGO!
Edited & Designed by

CRAIG YOE

Edited and Designed by

CRAIG YOE
Produced by

CLIZIA GUSSONI
Comics from the collections of

DAVID BURD, JIM VADEBONCOEUR, JR., and JOE LATINO
®

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

IDW PUBLISHING

MONSTE

D I TK O

T H E 1961 movie poster for Gorgo boasted “like nothing you’ve ever seen before,” but that was obvious hype. Gorgo’s story was a synthesis of the giant monster flicks that stomped before it, particularly Godzilla. Later, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 folks did a send-up of the flick. Tongues firmly in cheek, they proclaimed, “The plot of King Kong! The monster from Godzilla! The set decorations from Oliver!” Gorgo was directed by Russian-born Eugene Lourie, who fled his country after contributing to an anti-Communist film, Black Crowes, in 1919. He financed his way to France by drawing movie posters. In the 1930s, Lourie worked as a production designer for directors Max Ophüls and René Clair in France. He also collaborated with Jean Renoir on La Grande Illusion (1937) and followed him to Hollywood. There Lourie worked as an art director on Charlie Chaplin’s Limelight (1952). His own directorial debut was in 1953 with the profitable The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, the first of three dinosaur movies. The special effects were by the direc-

tor and Ray Harryhasen. According to film historian Tom We a v e r, “The director said that hissix-year-old daughter was upset that the monster met his demise at the end in The Beast, crying ‘You’re a bad daddy! You killed the big, nice beast!’ ” Gorgo was Lourie’s answer for her, with its happier outcome and I n t r o d u c t I o n b y c r a I g y o e theme of maternal love. Reportedly, ex-gangsters Frank, Maurice, and Herman King of King Brothers Production, loved their dear ol’ mother and gladly bought into the film. In fact, Gorgo’s mom was the only female of any note in the film. Lourie became typecast as a science fiction director, which he felt limited him. After putting Gorgo in the can, he declared he would not direct “the same comic-strip monsters.” Guess which were replicas of the guy didn’t respect the comics! Eight years later, Louthe Tower Bridge and the surrounding shore rie received an Academy Award nomination for his visual installations. Here we effects on Krakatoa, East of Java. He also designed Clint staged the destruction Eastwood’s wonderful Bronco Billy (1980) and appeared on of the bridge and the screen in Jim McBride’s Breathless (1983) starring Richard beast walking away Gere. The original location of Gorgo was planned to be in the river.” Japan. It was then switched to France before King BrothLouers finally settled on England. Keep Watching the Skies, a rie went on to say, book by Bill Warren, contends that Australia was anoth“We obtained benevoer locale in the running, but the producers concluded filmlent cooperation from goers “wouldn’t care” if a monster leveled that continent. the British Army and the LonAnd it was thought that Australia didn’t have any recognizdon police authorities. We were able national monuments to destroy. So Merry Old allowed to use army tanks and England it was, and in the breathless words of Forrest vehicles and to shoot day and J. Ackerman in the 11th issue of Famous Monsters of night sequences on the TowFilmland, “Despite every military effort the mighty moner Bridge and many central ster makes its way up the Thames and across the teeming streets. We later had to combine shots city of London, sending national monuments crashing like made at night in Piccadilly Circus with bowling pins, crushing buses and people like eggshells. shots of panicky crowds. SimultaneousBig Ben… Westminster Abbey… the Houses of Parlia- ly the beast was destroying the lumiment… and the Thames Tower Bridge—all are left in ruins nous signs on the roofs of the surroundby the great Gorgo’s rage and rampage.” Lourie recalled, ing buildings. From the sheer number “The actual making of the film was interesting, and I tried of special effects, it was a very ambito make it as spectacular as possible.” He related that the tious enterprise indeed.” Lourie conLondon-smashing scenes were “all done with breakaway cluded, “I joyfully destroyed the city of sets. For these scenes we had built a large tank about three London... in color and with a wonderfeet deep, occupying an entire stage of MGM Studios, in ful display of spectacular photograph-

GORGO!

ic effects.” It is said that Nara Island, where Gorgo is first discovered, is possibly a nod to Japan’s nemesis Godzilla as Nara is a Japanese period of history (710–794). Or Nara may be a reversal of Aran Islands, which are near the west coast of Ireland. Reportedly, “The exterior scenes set in Ireland were filmed at Bullock Harbour and Coliemore Harbour, both near the town of Dalkey, County Dublin. Other scenes were filmed at the MGM-British Studios in Borehamwood in Hertfordshire.” Empty streets of London during the early morning were used when filming the sequence where Gorgo is driven through the city. In his autobiography My Work in Films (1985), Lourie wrote an interesting anecdote about some special effects in Gorgo. “I was marooned with Freddie Young, our cameraman, and all

his crew in a lighthouse at the end of a jetty in the port of Dún Laoghaire near Dublin. The storm was terrific. Waves splashed high above the jetty. The port authorities ordered us to stay put until the storm and tides subsided. Tossed impressively by the mountainous waves, a freighter tried to approach the port. It was exactly like a scene described in the script. I thought it would be a good chance to catch the scene. ‘No way,’ was Freddie’s reply. Later on, I had to shoot the scene with a miniature ship in a studio tank.” Of course, our cartoonist Ditko thankfully experienced no risk to life and limb in the crafting of the Gorgo comic book. Just what the heck are Gorgo and his mother, anyway? For the answer to that I turned to Yoe Books’ resident dinosaur expert, Clizia Gussoni, author of The Awesome Book of Dinosaurs and The Awesome Book of Sharks (Running Press, 2006) and producer of this book. Ms. Gussoni says, “Gorgo is an interesting mix of animals. At first, we might think him a Tyrannosaurus rex for his big head and teeth, but T. rex had puny arms, only two fingers, no opposable thumbs, and no frilled gills. Also, dinosaurs didn’t dwell in the water. Ancient reptiles that did live in the water include Plesiosaurus, which, like Gorgo, lived in the oceans and was carnivorous. But, Plesiosaurus had fins, not arms or legs like our mov-

ie/comic star. In Gorgo I see similarities with an ancient crocodile, Deinosuchus, which had a long tail, osteoderms (the ridges along the back), and powerful teeth. Deinosuchus walked on all fours in the typical reptilian belly walk. In the end, whatever Gorgo is, he’s a species only a mother could love! The Gorgo figure and animatronics used in the filming were created by twotime Oscar winner Tom Howard, who worked on Village of the Damned, Children of the Damned, and The Haunting. He went on to do stunning effects for 2001: A Space Odyssey alongside Douglas Trumbull. Howard’s special effects in Gorgo were quite good for the times through the use of miniaturization and what was called in publicity “suitmation” (just what it sounds like—some guy in a rubber suit!) Studio publicity also gushed, “The picture introduces the new process known as Automotion, which makes the movements of the stars, Gorgo I and Gorgo II, extremely lifelike. The monsters were made of fiberglass, foam rubber, and hundreds of ingenious m e c h a n i s m s . ” “Automowas nothtion” ing

BELOW The director of Gorgo (King Brothers Productions, 1961), Eugene Lourie. RIGHT Gorgo immortalized on the greatest monster magazine forever and a day... Famous Monsters of Filmland #11, April 1961 (Warren), artist Basil Gogos. From the collection of Tom Stein.

more than an eager publicist’s term for stop-motion animation. But, the technical aspects were complicated and have been thought well of by both artists in that field and monster movie fans. Besides praise for the special effects, some of Gorgo’s fans have cited that there is an environmentalist moral that ends the film and that this is one of the few flicks where the monsters aren’t done-in by the humanoids. And who could hate a movie about maternal love? Gorgo’s mother rescuing her cute little city-destroying offspring would soften even the hardest heart. The film starred Bill Travers as Joe Ryan, William Sylvester as Sam Slade, Vincent Winter as Sean, Christopher Rhodes as McCartin, Joseph O’Conor as Professor Hendricks, Bruce Seton as Professor Flaherty, Martin Benson as Mr. Dorkin... and Mick Dillon as the monster Gorgo! Ackerman reported that “Gorgo is the most costly, time consuming production the King Bros. have made to date—and 38 productions have rolled off their slate.” They certainly hoped to make back the investment. The January 25th issue of the theater owner’s Motion Picture Exhibitor Showmen’s Trade Review included a special insert that proclaimed “Like nothing You’ve Ever Seen Before” and “because there’s more ‘GO’ in ‘GOrGO’ the grosses will be like nothing you’ve ever seen before!” Not to mention the artistic merit of the film, right? In spite of its merits, Gorgo was honestly a bit cheesy, but still very cool. The same can be said for the company that published the Gorgo comics, the Connecticut-based Charlton. Started by two gents who had met while serving time in jail, the company paid very low rates to the artists—but at least their work was printed, if quite shabbily! The company had street smarts, though, proven by securing the Gorgo license. Charlton had already had success with their Konga comics selling, at
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one point, over 234,000 copies per issue. Gorgo followed in Konga’s big footsteps with nearly the same numbers. Many of the artists in Charlton’s stable were of the hack variety. But, Charlton, maybe to help insure the success of Gorgo, put their very best man on the job, Steve Ditko. Ditko had worked for the company since the mid-’50s, pen-and-inking a myriad of horror and fantasy stories and even a few cowboy and romance tales. At the same time he was drawing Konga and Gorgo, Ditko was also working for Marvel and created Spider-Man with Stan Lee and Doctor Strange. It was a wonderfully creative period for the master artist and comic readers were greatly enriched. Christopher Hayton has insightfully observed, “Steve Ditko’s work output during these early ’60s years illustrates how important the Charlton monster books were to the artist by virtue of the fact that he continued to work on them, and increased his work on them, even while his work at Marvel was rapidly gaining momentum.” Ditko indeed didn’t skimp on this lesser paying work, but brought an obvious zeal, animation, drawing, and layout chops to it. And he must have been proud of it, too, evidenced by his caricaturing himself in a surreal manner as the artist at the drawing board on the cover of Fantastic Giants (September 1966), a one-shot comic that featured both Gorgo and Konga in reprints in their last hurrah. It is typical of Ditko to do his finest work no matter what the financial rewards. Part of Ditko’s pleasure was from the manuscripts. Ditko has been quoted as saying, “I read the (movie) screenplay of Gorgo. From the first reading to this day, I marvel at how well Joe adapted the character to comic books.” The “Joe” Ditko refers to was Joe Gill (1919-2006), with whom he teamed up with on many a story for Charlton. Gill was a talented but underrated writer. His early output included working for Timely (Marvel) in the ’40s. He also wrote for DC and Dell. Gill quickly pecked out one story after another in every genre to make a living with Charlton’s meager page rates. Aside from the low compensation, he, like Ditko, enjoyed the complete editorial freedom the company granted.

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ABOVE Caramba! The rare Spanish pressbook cover has smashing artwork from the Gorgo movie poster.

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BELOW Drawing upon his artistic skills from his previous career, Lourie storyboarded Gorgo.

Everything was published “as is,” with no editorial conferences or meddling. Gill’s stories at their best would show literary craft with a touch of humor and often a bit of romance. They were always entertaining. During Gorgo’s production, both Joe and Steve were living in Derby, Connecticut, the location of Charlton’s editorial offices and printing plant. In Charlton Spotlight #5 (Fall 2006), Gill told Jim Amash, “Ditko and I were drinking buddies for a while, even though he wasn’t a drinker. We both lived in the only hotel in town, and we’d have supper together in a nearby bar or restaurant, and we were totally unalike. We had nothing in common. But we hung out together. He had a nice sense of humor at that time. I think he ran out or used it all up… He was very withdrawn, he was devoted to his comic book art, and he used to say that everything he did, no matter who he was working for, if he was working for DC for two times the money, or if he was working for Charlton, he still did the same quality work.”

had his own look in his work. He did some terrific stuff at Charlton. Gorgo and Konga, the Japanese [sic] monsters, and so forth. He does a great job on the horror and mysteries and that stuff. I thought it was as good as his Spider-Man. He was always sickly. The funny thing is, I had a million laughs with that guy at Charlton. He looks like Steve Allen and he’d laugh like him and everything. He was a fun guy, believe it or not.” The fun Gill and Ditko were having certainly found its way into the Gorgo stories. Ditko’s character designs and layout had a lot of zing. It was far from the first time that Ditko drew such a creature. Gorgo resembled some of the monsters Ditko and Jack Kirby were drawing for Atlas/ Marvel’s titles, except Gorgo didn’t wear the customary bathing suit in which Marvel clothed their more modest mankinddestroyers.

Other comic book artists besides Ditko that worked for Charlton drew Gorgo, including Charles Nicholas, Vince Alascia, Bill Molno, Joe Sinnott, Vince Artist Frank McLaughlin has ABOVE Blimey! A sedated Gorgo is paraded through the streets of London. Colletta, Bill Montes, and Erspoken of Steve Ditko in a simnie Bache. Dick Giordano and ilar way. “You know, when I first met Ditko at Charlton, he was terrific. He was funny. He was friend- Rocke Mastroserio had a hand in some covers. For the purpose of ly. He was affable. He was best man at Billy Anderson’s wedding. But Ditko Monsters: Gorgo!, we are only reprinting the Ditko-illustrated he would never allow his picture to be taken. And still doesn’t. He scripts and covers.
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