My Godzilla Gang


There was no more important figure in my collection growing up than the Popy Godzilla vinyl figures released by Mattel as Godzilla’s Gang in 1978-79. This Godzilla was the cornerstone of my collection. To me it resembled Godzilla from my favorite movie Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla (1974). He was my justice warrior. With his strong brows and large fists raised he was posed to fight all enemies from above and below for the cause of justice and the earth. Although it was a small figure, dwarfed by my Mattel Shogun Godzilla, it stood out among my fledgling figure collection as the best of my collection on display.

By the late 70s, my Aurora Godzilla model kit had long been disposed of, not well-assembled and damaged and disposed. There were no Bandai figures for me until 1984. But Mattel was about to change all that with a great lineup of Godzilla and Godzilla-related toys.

Then came that day in 1978, when I spotted the Mattel Shogun Godzilla. I couldn’t afford it, but I bought my first official Godzilla in my collection, the Godzilla King of the Monsters Bendy Figure by GLJ Toy Co., released that year. I was hanging out with my childhood friend Eric and his mom checking out the toy store in the Gallery at Market East and the Kiddy City across from it, in Center City Philadelphia. I was blown away by the Mattel Shogun Warrior Godzilla and I had to have it. And later that year, it was a present from my parents for Christmas. And not long after, in 1979, I encountered Godzilla’s Gang and it would be mine!

Godzilla’s Gang was part of Mattel’s Godzilla lineup in 1978. The Big G’s gang was made up of eight figures. Surprisingly, seven were unfamiliar Ultraman kaiju rather than Godzilla’s fellow Toho monsters. Th gang was made up of King Joe キングジョー from Ultraseven (1137), Bemustar ベムスター from the Return of Ultraman (1138), Godzilla (1139), Noko-Girin ノコギリン from the Return of Ultraman (1140), Miclas ミクラス from Ultraseven (1141), Eleking エレキング from Ultraseven (1142), Ikarusu Planeter イカルス星人 from Ultraseven (1143) and Muruchi ムルチ from the Return of Ultraman (1144). And little did I know that Popy had many more.

Mattel acquired the models from Popy, the Japanese toy company owned by Bandai. Popy sent them to Taiwan for cheaper production. The figures had no Mattel logo or marking, only the Popy logo, their Japanese names, the Tsuburaya copyright and “Made in Taiwan.” Each figure had a unique footprint. So there would be no doubt what kaiju was stomping around Godzilla’s turf. These footprints follow the Japanese tradition of the “Hanko” (判子, はんこ) the personal stamp and seal used for signing documents rather than our custom of using a handwritten signature. When applied the Hanko leaves an Inkan (印鑑) or Inei (印影) behind.

Although they were unfamiliar and their names were strange, I only began to identify them in the mid 80s, after buying my first Ultraman books from Rocketships & Accessories, my favorite toy store in Philadelphia. I only had three along with Godzilla, Noko-Grinn, Eleking and Muruchi. But I only have two of my original group, Yoko-Grin and Eleking. My Godzilla and Muruchi were lost by an old friend.

I sought for a replacement but no luck until the 90s. A couple weeks ago I found another one and I was not going to leave it on the shop shelf. Neither of the two I own have their original packaging. And it has proven difficult to find the figures in their packaging. But I found something better, an original Mattel Toys 1979 Catalog announcing the coming release of the Godzilla’s Gang and the Shogun Warriors. It contains the beautiful full-page Godzilla’s Gang ad and a full-spread layout of Godzilla and his Shogun companions.

Godzilla’s Gang owns a piece of my heart. Whenever I look at Godzilla I see the films through my childhood eyes. Recently, Toy-Ventures magazine wrote a great article on Godzilla’s Gang (Issue #002, Winter 2021, pp 28-43).

Gallery at Market East, The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
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