Friday, September 2, 2011

Crestwood House: Godzilla and King Kong

I wouldn't be a fan of Godzilla if it weren't for the Crestwood House Monster Series of books.

If you were a monster-loving kid in the late 70s, 80s, or even the early '90s, you probably discovered the Crestwood House Monster Series too. With orange spines and enticing black-and-white pictures, the Crestwood House Monsters Series introduced kids to the classic horror movies like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Wolfman, but the series also introduced kids to the biggest and the baddest of the giant monsters: Godzilla and King Kong.

 By the time I was in Elementary School and able to check out these books, King Kong and Godzilla were not as new to me. I had watched King Kong 1976 on VHS with my parents, probably watching it upside down as I laid under the glass coffee table and chewed on the wood frame (a habit that must have convinced my parents I was part rodent). I was aware of Godzilla too, although I don't recall if I had seen Godzilla 1985 at that point. Godzilla, like King Kong, was a ubiquitous cultural icon forever parodied in cartoons and commercials, so these characters weren't new to me.

What the books did, however, was introduce me a wealth of monster movie material I didn't even know existed. In Elementary School, I had no idea that King Kong was originally a black and white film from 1933 or that movies like Son of Kong and Mighty Joe Young even existed. Furthermore, by the the first printing of the series in 1977, there had been 15 Godzilla films released in Japan. If I was aware of Godzilla at all, I had no idea of the character's long tradition of wrestling strange and wonderful monster rivals like Gigan, Mothra, and Rodan. The Crestwood House Godzilla book was a rich world of insane monsters that were completely foreign to me and plot summaries of movies that made the monster movies I was used to pale in comparison. More than the King Kong book, I poured over the Godzilla book and soaked up as much knowledge about the King of the Monsters that I could between checkout and due date. For years, I remember that cover image of Godzilla fighting Ghidorah, a creature I thought too bizarre to exist even in the movies. In North America, Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, the Wolfman, the Mummy, and the Universal stable of monsters had become so commercialized and common place they were a standard part of North American iconography. King Ghidorah, a three-headed golden serpent with two wings, two tails, and two legs but no arms, was so out-there that it stimulated my imagination for years.

In the days before a quick Google search could bring you more information about Japanese monster movies than you could handle, the Crestwood House Monster Series was an invaluable window into the history of monster movies, and it shaped me into the monster fan I am today.

Thanks Crestwood!


  1. thank you for reminding me that these existed. i used to spend hours pouring over the pages of those same books when i was younger.

    the picture from Destroy All Monsters is forever burned into my brain. so great.

  2. I always remember king Kong in the back page saying in a speech Bubble "I suggest you read about my friends"

  3. I always remember king Kong in the back page saying in a speech Bubble "I suggest you read about my friends"

  4. This is how I found out about the suits still no clue why these were in my elementary school library.