Iron Man #193
Writer: Denny O'Neil
Artist: Luke McDonnell, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Nearly six years after the closure of Marvel's Godzilla series, writer Denny O'Neil decides to revisit the character in what would become a controversial move among fans of the King of the Monsters. This book, Iron Man #193, sees the title character with some of the West Coast Avengers tackling Doctor Demonicus. The twisted geneticist, not fighting directly, utilizes the heavily mutated Godzilla to do his bidding and battle the heroes on a remote island. The other Avengers are powerless against the beast, forcing Iron Man to grapple with the monster and fly out to sea, where the comic ends on a cliff hanger.
This book represents the third story arc to include the Doctor Demonicus character. Originally in Godzilla #4, Demonicus sent Batragon and other genetic creations at Godzilla before being beaten back. His next appearance was in another licensed series by Marvel called Shogun Warriors, which was based on a Mattel line of toys (which, interestingly enough, featured Godzilla and Rodan even though neither appeared in the comic adaptation). The villain then slipped into obscurity for more than half a decade before reemerging in 1985. The timing for his reappearance should be obvious: with an upcoming US release of The Return of Godzilla (1984) under the Godzilla 1985 marquee, what better time to bring back one of Godzilla's old foes?
Demonicus is not alone, though. With him is a giant aquatic beast who has been bent to the doctor's will. To be clear, this creature is purposely, and conveniently, never named. Yet the allusions as to who it is are clear. Marvel no longer had the licensee to the Godzilla character, yet through some creative writing from O'Neil the identity of this beast are easily traceable.
Demonicus, giving a monologue about the creature, refers to him as his "once greatest enemy", and when coupled with the fact that he had only faced Godzilla, the robot Shogun Warriors and S.H.I.E.L.D. at this time that statement narrows the field. So what happened to Godzilla? This is also made clear in this issue, as Demonicus tells the creature that if he performs well the doctor may even spare him of "further mutation". For some fans, this isn't enough of a confirmation, and who can blame them for not wanting to think that one of Godzilla's obscure, and fairly lackluster, opponents managed to get such an upper hand over the King of the Monsters. Yet the evidence, and certainly the timing of this reemergence, make the attempted connection by the writing staff overt.
This wouldn't be the first time the company flirted with licensed properties outside of their comic runs either. In the 1970's and 1980's, this type of practice was not uncommon. For example, characters from both the comic adaptations of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Transformers (Machine Man and Circuit Breaker respectively) have appeared in the main Marvel Comics continuity. Certainly Godzilla's own comic run from the company featured a plethora of Marvel heroes already, such as the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, so his induction into the continuity was already established.
Sidestepping the controversy, though, how does this comic fare? Well, it's pretty standard actually. There isn't much to the story to begin with, while the art isn't too impressive, although there are a few shots to the contrary of that statement. If not for the Demonicus/Godzilla angle, there would be little reason to even give the book a second glance, as it feels like a fairly run-of-the-mill and rudimentary entry in a long running series.