Kyodai Hero Profile: Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is a Basketball Hall of Famer, an Olympian, an MVP, and an 11-time All-Star. But this is Wikizilla, not Secret Base, so this video will focus on his brief career as a kyodai hero. In 1992, advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy devised a Japanese Nike commercial pitting Godzilla against Barkley. The commercial was produced by Industrial Light & Magic, the special effects company behind the likes of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Men in Black, and so amazed Nike that they let it air in the U.S. as well. It even had its own trailer. [Announcer: "Godzilla versus Charles Barkley."] Dark Horse, which had been publishing Godzilla comics since 1987, unleashed Godzilla vs. Barkley upon the world a year later, featuring some of the strangest dialogue ever written by a human being.
Charles Barkley was conceived by Charcey Glenn and Frank Barkley in mid-1962. For more information on how they did this, ask your parents.
Okay, this section should probably be more than a few seconds long. Let's talk about that Nike ad. The commercial was directed by ILM visual effects artist Michael Owens. ILM built their own Godzilla suit, the head of which could be removed and utilized as a standalone animatronic prop. The suit was designed to be highly emotive, and it took up to four puppeteers to effectively control Godzilla's expressions. ILM also created a separate prop of Godzilla's tail controlled by a lever to slap the basketball out of Barkley's hands.
In order to effectively capture Barkley's increased size, ILM employed a technique utilized in the original Godzilla and many kaiju films since: shooting Barkley with a high frame rate, which made him appear to move more slowly when the footage was played back at the standard 24 frames per seconds. The shot of Barkley fouling Godzilla on the chin was accomplished by performing the shot backwards, to ensure the intended final expressions would appear in the shot. "Godzilla vs. Barkley" was Barkley's first acting role, but he's since appeared in many films and TV shows, usually playing himself. The WWE propaganda film Rumble was a rare exception—in that one, he voiced a giant monster wrestling champion, Rayburn Sr. Coming full circle!
The making of Dark Horse's Godzilla vs. Barkley is more mysterious, and at least one person involved was deeply unhappy with the result—"Alan Smithee" is a pseudonym typically used by Hollywood directors to disown a film. It was scripted by Mike Baron, who would also write for Marvel, DC, and several other comic labels. Jeff Butler, James Sinclair, and future SciFi Japan cofounder Keith Aiken comprised the art team for the issue.
"Godzilla vs. Charles Barkley" (1992, ad): Godzilla's rampage through Tokyo is interrupted by the arrival of a giant Charles Barkley. Godzilla dons a pair of sunglasses and invites Barkley to his makeshift court before attempting to steal the ball. Barkley, too fast for the atomic giant, regains control, and both fouls and dunks on the King of the Monsters. Afterwards, Sir Charles leads him away from the city. His final line is different in the Japanese and U.S. versions. "The Lakers are looking for a big man." / "Have you ever thought about wearing shoes?"
Godzilla vs. Barkley (1993, comic): Off the coast of California, amidst a torrential rainstorm, Godzilla rises from the sea beneath a Japanese shipping vessel, breaking it in half. The following morning, a young boy named Matthew and his grandfather visit the set of a photoshoot in the hopes of meeting Charles Barkley. Unable to get into the shoot, Matthew is escorted off the set by security. In an attempt to cheer him up, his grandfather tells Matthew that one day he could also become a great warrior like Charles Barkley, and gives him a silver dollar he claims has magical properties.
No sooner have Matthew's spirits been lifted than Godzilla lifts himself out of the sea. As the boardwalk erupts into chaos, Matthew grabs the silver dollar and takes it to the only person who can truly stop the King of the Monsters' rampage: a basketball player. Badgered by his entourage to evacuate, Barkley fires them all and takes Matthew for a ride in his car, though he still doesn't believe he stands a chance against the monster and can't figure out how the silver dollar works. Feeling that Barkley doesn't care enough about the fate of San Francisco, Matthew challenges him to a game on a court mere blocks from the rampaging kaiju. Matthew flips the coin, only for it to land on its side, and when Barkley picks it up, he suddenly grows 300 feet tall!
Now roughly the same size as the King of the Monsters, Sir Charles challenges him to a game of one-on-one, exploiting his little-known love of basketball to lure him out of the city. Barkley improvises a hoop at an Air Force base as a crowd gathers to watch the match. Godzilla makes the first basket, fouling Barkley in the process. Earth's Greatest Warrior retorts by scoring two baskets and delivering a foul of his own. Godzilla, frustrated with Barkley's lead, unleashes an atomic heat blast at the basketball, melting it. Barkley reprimands the beast for his unsportsman-like conduct and for being a sore loser. But he does see potential in Godzilla's basketball ability, and provides him a training arena in a Utah canyon as well as a pair of size 13,000 EEE Nike Airs designed just for him. After bidding a fond farewell to Godzilla, Barkley flies back to California, returning the magic silver dollar to Matthew.
Size manipulation: In the Godzilla vs. Barkley comic, Charles Barkley harnessed the power of a magic 1889 silver dollar to grow 300 feet tall, calling to mind Jet Jaguar. Though the transformation was accidental, he seemed to have no trouble returning to his normal 6'6" height afterwards. In the ad, he was 160 feet tall when he took on Godzilla—or 310 feet if you go by this promotional t-shirt—but the method he used to grow wasn't explained.
Physical abilities: Though shorter than most power forwards, Sir Charles utilized strength and aggression to become one of the most dominant forces in the NBA. At the time of his retirement in 2000, he was the fourth player in history to score 20,000 points, grab 10,000 rebounds, and record 4,000 assists. On the court, base form Charles Barkley had a vertical leap of 39 inches. That suggests his giant form could leap 150 feet in the comic and 80 to 155 feet in the ad. In the comic, Sir Charles exhibited amazing reaction time and speed, dodging a point-blank blast of Godzilla's atomic breath. He also easily outmaneuvered the King of the Monsters, and even overpowered him in the ad before executing a Thundering Court Smashing Slam.
Durability: Barkley may not have even needed to dodge the Monster King's deadliest weapon. When Godzilla melted the basketball with his atomic breath, he was unharmed by its molten remains. He also absorbed a tail whip to the face without any bruising.
Weaknesses: Though nigh-invulnerable in his giant Barkley form, base form Barkley was susceptible to injury. He played through the pain in the 1993-94 season, but missed significant time in 1997-98. On December 8th, 1999, he ruptured his left quadriceps tendon and had to be carried off the court, effectively a career-ending injury. But he refused to let that be the final memory of his career, playing one more game on April 19th, 2000, determined to walk out of the NBA on his own terms. Barkley is also susceptible to verbal attacks from colleague Shaquille O'Neal.
Settling the score: The final score of Godzilla and Barkley's game in the comic seems to have been Barkley 4, Godzilla 2, with all three of their baskets scored inside the three-point "line." Charles Barkley had a career win-loss record of 658-415. However, this does not take his two wins against Godzilla into account, which would elevate his record to 660-415.
Brand endorsements: Though Godzilla and Barkley have been frequent opponents, they may be able to bond over a mutual love of Taco Bell, as they did ad campaigns for the fast food restaurant in 1998 and 2010, respectively. No word on if Barkley enjoys Dr. Pepper or Snickers as much as Godzilla does.
...and the rematch?: Barkley referenced his bout with Godzilla during his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live on September 25, 1993. He explained that he tried to arrange a rematch for charity, but Godzilla backed out at the eleventh hour. Barney the Dinosaur agreed to take his place, and Sir Charles sadistically wiped the floor with him.
The odds of Barkley and Godzilla meeting again seem slim: Barkley's playing days are long over, and even LeBron James has forgotten Godzilla's basketball skills. But the upcoming Monarch show is premised on a dive into the past—maybe, just maybe, that includes a Titan basketball game. With advances in deaging VFX, Barkley could even play his younger self! Until then, thanks for watching.