Eiji Tsuburaya and Akira Watanabe based Varan's design on that of a Draco lizard, Godzilla, and a kappa. The name Varan is derived from Varanus pater, or "Father of lizards." In his film appearances Varan does not have any special abilities such as fiery or radioactive breath. He can however glide at speeds of Mach 1.5, and has a row of spines along his body which may afford protection.
Varan the Unbelievable
Destroy All Monsters (Cameo)
Godzilla Final Wars (Stock Footage)
In his first appearance, Varan is a monster that lives in a saltwater lake within the Kunishiroshima valley, where he is known to the natives as Baradagi-Sanjin. He kills an expedition duo and then completely destroys a nearby village. After his home is invaded again, the monster proceeds to attack Tokyo and is seemingly unstoppable until he is tricked by the military into eating bombs. After a few detonate in his stomach, Varan is mortally wounded and escapes back into the ocean, but one final bomb explodes, apparently killing the creature.
Years later, Varan reappears in Destroy All Monsters living in Monsterland with many other monsters including Godzilla, Mothra, Kumonga/Speiga, Anguirus, Baragon, Minilla, Rodan, Gorosaurus,and Manda. Varan is seen, however only in publicity photographs for the film, gliding in to join the other Earth monsters to fight against King Ghidorah, even though he does not actually take part in the fight. After King Ghidorah is killed, Varan, along with the other monsters return to Monsterland. Within the context of the film itself he is only seen gliding through the air prior to the fight against Ghidorah, and in the last scene as a static model rather than as a suit.
Varan makes a semi-cameo in Godzilla: Final Wars using stock footage from Varan the Unbelievable during the narrative at the beginning, claiming that Varan was one of many monsters that arose due to the devastation that the World Wars brought, along with Gezora, Baragon, Gaira, Titanosaurus, and Megaguirus.
In one of the early drafts of what would become Godzilla vs. Gigan, Varan was to have joined Godzilla and Rodan in defending the Earth against King Ghidorah, Gigan, and a new monster that had never been seen before with the name Mogu. Shusuke Kaneko, director of the popular Heisei Gamera trilogy had originally considered Varan, along with Anguirus to star in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack as antagonists to Godzilla. Varan and Anguirus were however replaced with the far more popular Mothra and King Ghidorah. The suit designer compromised by giving some of Varan's facial features to King Ghidorah.
Godzilla: Monster of Monsters (1988) Nintendo
Monster King Godzilla (1993) Game Boy
Godzilla: Unleashed (2007) Wii
Godzilla Trading Battles (1998) PS1
Varan was considered for Godzilla: Save the Earth, but was scrapped at some point.
Varan made his first playable video game appearance in the Wii version of Godzilla: Unleashed as an Earth Defender. He is given the ability to fire a sonic beam and a concentrated sonic energy ball. He has a gliding ability that works much like Rodan's flying, he can be unlocked by destroying the three purple objects on the Vortaak mothership while playing as an Alien. Varan himself appeared purple in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters.
Few figures of Varan have been issued compared to other kaiju. Bullmark released the first Varan vinyl toy in 1970. Bandai has only issued Varan in gashapon form as part of High Grade series 6, in promotion for the film Godzilla 2000. Y-MSF has also released a figure on the 6" scale in 2005. Other companies, such as CCP, Marmit, Trendmasters, and the modern version of Marusan have also released Varan figures.