Interview with Matt Frank (2023)

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WZ Interviews.png The following is a Wikizilla-exclusive interview.

The Boy Who Cried Godzilla's interview with Matt Frank
• E-mail interview August, 2023

Interview with Matt Frank, notable artist on various kaiju projects for companies including IDW Publishing and Arrow Video. It is specifically in regards to his then recently-released comic "Godzilla Rivals: Vs. SpaceGodzilla," and on the creation and inspirations behind it and his new kaiju creation Singura. It was arranged by Wikizilla site bureaucrat Titanollante, who was commissioned by Frank to make a short trailer to advertize the comic's release.


Boy: Hello! This is The Boy (Who Cried Godzilla) from I understand that you are willing to answer some questions about your recently released comic, Godzilla Rivals: vs. SpaceGodzilla. Thank you for the opportunity. Do you have an idea of when/how you would like to proceed?

Best Wishes,

The Boy*

MF: Pretty much anytime works for me! If you wanna just send questions to me, that works, or if you’d rather do a call or something, that also works!

The Boy: Sweet! That said,

Thanks again for agreeing to speak with us, and congratulations on the comic's release. It's an incredible undertaking to write and illustrate an entire comic, especially just a one-shot, and to give it such poignant themes. In that vein, I'm curious exactly how this comic came to be? I'm aware the Rivals series has had a bit of a rocky publication history, but I'm curious how you were selected as writer and illustrator for the SpaceGodzilla issue. Furthermore, did you select SpaceGodzilla personally, or were you given a mandate for a SpaceGodzilla story?

Q1: We spoke briefly at G-Fest about the Star Trek inspiration behind the two alien species seen. Could you speak on that a bit?

Q2: There is an explanation of how you created the two species' language at the end of the book, but could you tell us a bit about how you implemented it? Did you write out the dialogue first and then translate it? Could it be translated back into English?

Q3: With the two species in mind, what can you tell us about them? Clearly there is an over/underclass system with the snake and insect people, but did you ever imagine names for them or their planet/cultures?

Q4: What were some key themes that you wanted to build on when writing/penciling the issue? Did you have any underlying allegories or metaphors in mind?

MF: How the comic came to be:
- Thank you so much! The comic sort of came out of Godzilla vs. Power Rangers, funnily enough. I had been out of the IDW game since the license went into limbo back in 2016, and had mostly done work for Phase 6 and the Godzilla Store in Japan. When GvsPR was announced, I reached out to IDW to see about getting a cover, but sadly they were all booked up. Thankfully, even with the completely new Godzilla editorial team, they were open to me staying in-touch for future work, and the option came up to pitch some ideas. When I inquired about Rivals, I asked about a few monsters that had not had issues yet, and of the ones I inquired about, Space Godzilla was open as no one had pitched or been assigned to a comic focusing on him. I remember actually writing out the email when Space Godzilla came to my mind, and the concept of the story slammed into my head; "Space Godzilla on an alien planet." Since I pitched the story, it was kind of automatic that I would write AND draw it, as I've been doing a lot more writing in recent years.

Q1: My assistant and manager, Kaston, has been introducing me to a lot of Star Trek over the last year. I had been only tangentially aware of the franchise for most of my life, having only seen a few episodes here-and-there. However, I was in the middle of watching Deep Space Nine when the opportunity to pitch Space Godzilla came up, and I definitely think there was some inspiration there. The idea of an alien culture, fraught with political and spiritual disquietude, was deeply appealing to me. Nonetheless, I knew I only wanted a broad set of inspirations to galvanize the plot, so I did my best to create the culture that was unique into itself, with the only specific touchstones being a strained relationship between two species/castes with a religious overtone as the primary influence.

Q2: The language of Pellucidia came as a consequence of the inherent problems in conveying a movie's worth of story in only 40 pages. A lot of one-shots that are trying to convey a lot of information and worldbuilding unfortunately have to fall back on a LOT of expository dialogue, which often means the characters' personalities take a backseat to conveying information to the reader. I also have a lot of personal writing issues with non-diegetic narration, or third-person "God's eye view"'s not that it's inherently bad, it's more of a personal preference, as I feel like the extra step of "where is this narration coming from?" is a good question to ask in order to flesh out your storytelling a bit more. So when I decided to make the narration a translation of this alien religious text, that solved a lot of my storytelling problems...but I knew I wanted my aliens to talk to a certain extent...but then I asked "Why would they be speaking English if there's nobody there to translate?" Because apparently I can't help thinking way too much about this crap!
The spoken dialogue can't be translated 1-to-1 back to English because, frankly, I didn't write it that way. Because the language is SO alien, an English approximation would be, at best, very loose. So it's more like there are certain words and phrases that repeat to indicate their importance. In the script I would write things like "Crowd repeats the same highlighted word as the Archpriest" and let the context fill in the blanks.

Q3: Oh yes, there's a whole series of nouns that I used in the script. Nobody has proper names, instead I used titles like "Grand Archpriest" and "Matriarch" to make sure the script stayed consistent. The Ophiogans are what I named the snake-descended people, and the Laitians are what I called the insect-people. As I mentioned earlier, I named the planet Pellucidia, and you'll have to do some googling to figure out what that refers to!

Q4: In recent years, I've been hesitant to explain too much about my work, and let it speak for itself, but it should be obvious I have some things to say about religion and the stratification of society. I tried not to be too doom-and-gloom, as there are always moments of beauty, camaraderie, and poetry even in the most downtrodden and despotic civilizations. It's been very rewarding to read the reactions folks have had online, and I have to say, most of them are right on-the-money at least from my own perspective.

The Boy: Thank you so much for the insights thus far. I'd like to shift focus onto your very own (Matt) Frankenstein's creation: Singura.

Q5: Can you tell us a bit about Singura's design and creation? I notice the serpentine and insectoid design features and their connection to the Ophiogans and Laitians both, but what else went into it? Did you have to ask to make an original monster? Were there any orders from the "top brass" as it were? And a personal question of mine, does it have four eyes or are the glowing cheeks just that?

Q6: Another original monster has popped up in IDW's works this year, that being Zoospora from Andrew MacLean/Jake Smith's Godzilla: War for Humanity. Is there any connection, or is this just a wild coincidence?

Q7: We have to talk about the baby. Why did he smoosh the SpaceMililla? Jokes aside, the baby is obviously of great ritual significance to the people of Pellucidia, which would separate it from the (super sick) snake mechs and Singura itself. Side note, what are Singura's pronouns? Or the baby's? But it bears little resemblance to Singura beyond its spiked tail, and instead seems more akin to SpaceGodzilla, hence my coining of the name "SpaceMinilla" in my earlier joke. I can't imagine you are allowed to say anything definitive about its parentage, but between the crystalline growths on the back, its general reptilian appearance and odd glowing tummy do give the two a sort of design cohesion. Do you have any comments on that?

Q8: I noticed on page 16 that one of the Ophiogans is wearing a single-lens set of eyewear. Was this another Star Trek inspiration?

Q9: I gather you've answered this already, but just to have it on record, the larval Laitian that my friend Titanollante has dubbed the "pickle baby" after the green thing it can be seen eating, is not inspired by the 2019 Mothra larva design, correct? Can you tell us about your inspirations for it and the life cycles of the Pellucidian peoples?

MF: Q5: I pitched an original monster from the start. I really think it's important that the Godzilla franchise continues to inject fresh ideas into its media, so I made sure to work it into the initial pitch. In the script and concept art phase, Toho took some extra steps to review Singura, but honestly I'm not sure about those details. My best guess is that they might have wanted to make sure Singura wasn't too similar to any other monsters in the core Godzilla roster, but I can't say for sure. Either way Singura was approved and I moved forward!
As for the eyes, Singura has two reptilian eyes and two sets of compound eyes beneath those. I didn't want to do the default "multiple eyes equals alien" design fallback that a lot of artists use to denote inherent other-ness from a creature...even though that's a totally understandable visual shorthand. As for Singura's design elements, I was initially struggling to come up with something totally unique. I was trying to think aggressively outside of the box, imagining weirdly shaped kaiju, even ones that were spherical in shape that would contain a singularity as their primary attack. My basic idea for an alien monster hinged on having Space Godzilla suddenly be forced to fight the thing that created him: a Black Hole, so I was trying to think of design elements that facilitated that. I'll have to dig up the initial concept sketches I had for weird alien kaiju!
Eventually, I kinda threw my hands into the air and said "screw it." I realized I was bending over backwards to develop a character that would probably only be seen one time in this one comic. So it would be better if I just had fun and threw together some cool design elements that I already liked, even partially inspired by old concept art for Orga that itself would spin off into designs for other monsters like Bogal and Dinozaur. Funnily enough, I realize now that one of Singura's primary inspirations was likely Vertigo from Primal Rage!
The idea of an insect-reptile hybrid hit early on. Pellucidia is a planet primarily dominated by insects and reptiles...although I didn't really get to show off the Grasshopper-Deer and Turtle-Elephants like I wanted...but the idea that Singura was a governmental weapon created by the forcibly merged DNA of Laitians and Ophiogans was a compelling one. Perhaps I was even subconsciously inspired by the Artificial Fusions from Steven Universe that were seen as abominable, specifically because there was no consent involved? Anyway I'm rambling.

Q6: Zoospora was purely coincidental. Actually, now that I think about it, Zoospora itself is a major marketing point for War for Humanity, so maybe the reason Toho needed longer to approve Singura is because they wanted to make sure the two monsters weren't accidentally similar? That could make sense. Regardless, Zoospora is really cool, I love the Showa-ness of it!

Q7: I WOULD LIKE TO SQUISH THE BABY. Singura I've mostly been referring to as "it." The baby as well. They're more concepts than characters, whereas since Space Godzilla embodies an even more aggressive and toxic form of Godzilla's inherent alpha-jerkface masculinity, I go with "Him." Actually, SpaceMinilla was the name thrown around by me and Sophie Campbell (TMNT writer/artist and artist behind the Destroy All Monsters Criterion poster) as a joke when I was first developing the story. As to the Baby's parentage...I don't want to give too much away, but y'all should dig up a particular videogame from 2007 for some insight...

Q8 - Nah I was literally just trying to imagine what sort of eyewear a snake would use!

Q9 - PICKLE BABY. Actually no, I was not inspired by Mothra directly. I was literally trying to imagine a cute and gross thing directly inspired by insect larvae. But I think I was inspired by Silky from Teen Titans?? Like most insects, the Laitians are born as eggs, hatch into larvae, and eventually pupate into adults with chitinous armor and gastric endoskeletons to support their weight. They have large broods, upwards of 6 or 7, but they form interconnected family groups. All Laitians basically think of each-other as family, but the harsh economic conditions of their slums make it difficult for them to have the large supportive communities they had before this planet's industrial revolution. Females tend to be larger than males, but rarely retain their natural healthy weight because of religious doctrine. They are quite industrious on their own however, and can actually build their own homes fairly easily given enough organic material. But without access to the resources being hoarded by the Ophiogans, their homes are rife with disease and crime. The Ophiogans, by comparison, live relatively easier but still deeply stressful lives predicated on status and wealth. They highly value gems and crystals, as it is a core part of their culture, both spiritual and secular. They long ago evolved past the need for eggs and give live birth. There is very little sexual dimorphism in their species, as it is difficult to tell the difference between males and females visually, so they tend to rely on pheromones (and pheromone-boosting treatments come at a hefty price...when they aren't literal snake-oil). In fact every Ophiogan you see could be any gender. Last thing I'll say for now is that the Ophiogans do indeed have a strong scientific and philosophical class, which has led towards a lot of enlightenment in recent years. This allows a lot of Ophiogans to become introspective and think critically about their places in society, and work to form coalitions and political parties advocating for the equal treatment of Laitians. However their impressively decadent economy, directly tied to the Sacred Quartz, makes social progress slow.

The Boy: Oh wow! I was certainly not expecting a deep cut like that to pop up in 2023, even in a "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" capacity. That said, I am in awe of the confidence and dedication as a fan to pull that off. I believe that may be all of the questions we had for you, and I'll thank you again for taking the time to speak with us. I hope Singura gets to appear again sometime in the future. I feel like the licensor-created monsters should really get a comeback some time. I'd love to see new takes on Bagorah, Sphectra, Yetrigar, or even Mister Meringue, lol. Maybe one day we'll get a Rivals issue of Singura vs. Zoospora. That said, you have now designed two original monsters (that I know of) for the Godzilla franchise. How does that feel? Do you have any thoughts about that? Lastly I'd like to ask if there's anything you are working on now that you'd like to plug. It's been great speaking with you.

MF: Final question: It's pretty friggin' cool, designing new monsters for the Godzilla mythos, but I'll admit that it also kinda helps one to "see the Matrix" a bit when it comes to the creative process. Really, getting to design a new monster for the Godzilla franchise is like the old saying: "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." I'm fortunate that the two monsters I've had a hand in designing had fairly little oversight. I can't imagine the creative rigors involved in making one for the movies, but who knows? Maybe I'll get to one day!
Aside from my Godzilla work, I've been able to contribute to quite a few other projects over the years. I'm still doing blu-ray covers, such as my recent GORGO work for Vinegar Syndrome and the upcoming TREMORS 2 from Arrow. My new GMK shirt for Cavity Colors is dropping soon as of this writing, and lastly, keep an eye out for my indie comic STATE OF THE MONSTERS!