The success of Legendarys Godzilla (2014) and subsequently Kong: Skull Island brought upon the birth of the MonsterVerse cinematic universe. A multimedia franchise that primarily consists of movies and graphic novels (comic books).
Recently, I contacted and interviewed the illustrator of Legendary Comics' Skull Island: The Birth of Kong and the upcoming GvK: Kingdom Kong graphic novels, Zid (Mohammad Yazid Kamal Baharin). The interview went as follows.
Rex Xeno: Firstly, why did you become an artist?
Zid: Sure, let’s start with a heavy question! I have no direct or rational explanation as to why I became one. It’s the only thing I remember doing voraciously since memory registers. But I guess if I had to be objective about it, is that I am a storyteller. For me drawing is my boon to visualize what’s in my head that keeps nagging to be told. Since I was in school I just couldn’t see myself measuring up to the textbook's top 5 professions. I struggled to live my life to fit into that convention until I found out that there is another path that is challenging, potentially nerve-racking, but the trudging will ultimately give me the satisfaction that I’ve always wanted.
RX: Before becoming involved with Legendary Comics, were you a fan of Godzilla or King Kong?
Zid: Definitely the former as I grew up being exposed to more Godzilla material than King Kong. But 80s childhood in Malaysia was fed with more Tokusatsu, Sentai, and Metal Heroes more than anything else from Japan. The 2 titans are well-known names, but they were niche and not as permeated on national television unless you specifically looked up for it in video stores or had access to rentals, etc.
RX: Do you have any interest in Japanese Tokusatsu television shows like Ultraman? If yes, have you done, or would you like to do art based on your favorite tokusatsu show?
Zid: Careful, you’re going to start something you can’t stop. But I’ll try to control myself. I was obsessed with the Ultraman series as a child. I even made my own Ultraman fan comic which I modestly sold at local comic conventions. It had its audience, haha. Later on, in my (young?) adulthood, I gravitated more towards the Kamen Rider series, specifically the Showa period. This interview would not hear the end of it if I start to talk about the late Heisei and subsequent Reiwa Riders. I digress. Naturally, I made something similar to a Kamen Rider meets JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure mixed with a local mysticism specific to the Malaysian culture. Just to be safe, I’ll stop here.
RX: How did you get involved with working for Legendary Comics?
Zid: I used to work with Robert [Napton] who is now my editor at Legendary Comics, way back when he was still writing comics. We worked together on our maiden project, a mini-series called Son of Merlin, a joint publication between Heroes and Villains Entertainment and Top Cow Productions in 2011. It wasn’t my greatest work but I guess it left an impression that a couple of years later, Robert contacted me for Legendary’s Trick ‘r Treat anthology, which would later be subtitled with Days Of The Dead. I suppose Legendary [Comics] fancies what I have been producing that when I kept asking for more work, they’d have something for me to gnaw.
(Artwork by Zid made for Skull Island: Birth of Kong)
RX: What was it like illustrating the art for Skull Island: The Birth of Kong, and how do you feel about having gotten this opportunity?
Zid: Are you kidding me it was the highlight of my career as a nobody! It was also more of a redemption for me actually. A couple of years back I tested for Godzilla: Awakening but it didn’t work out. Perhaps the timing wasn’t right, or maybe I wasn’t capable of handling it quality-wise. Whatever it may be, it didn’t happen, and it bummed me out greatly. So when my Legendary Comics Godfather presented upon the opportunity, I devoured it like my life depended on it. It actually did as I was going through a financial crisis after gambling on my own aforementioned tokusatsu + sentai intellectual property had to be canceled. I had to prove to myself that I wasn’t a failure.
RX: What is your process when drawing?
Zid: As conventional as almost every artist I assume. Unless I’m Kim Jung-Gi who sees the Matrix codes laid out on an empty piece of paper, I have to sketch the skeletal foundation first and foremost.
RX: After COVID-19 became a worldwide issue, how has working from home affected your outputs?
Zid: By default, I work from home even before the pandemic. But I also have an infant and a toddler who is ever so curious, explorative, and parkouring off the walls with no peers to distribute the energy. I only get to focus on work uninterrupted during the witching hours. I did a comic about it under the hashtag #DOAWFHD (an abbreviation of Diary of a Work-from-home Dad) in my spare time.
My secondborn was diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome, so my time when the sun is up is divided between making myself useful around the house and interacting with her to intervene with her delayed development. Due to the pandemic, we could no longer afford to send her to therapy and we also do not want to take the risk of being outside. So everything is done at home.
Initially, I thought the pandemic and living in quarantine wouldn’t affect us as much. Back then, sometimes we would have the kids sent to our folks to have a little breather, or we’d go out at odd times to the park, malls, etc. on weekdays when it’s not so crowded since we’re not in the rat race. But since the virus has coronated our planet, we’ve been strictly living indoors, isolated, like we’re in a bunker for almost a year now and it certainly has slowly taken its toll on our health and sanity. Work suffers too, definitely. I don’t produce as fast, so I try to get some of my friends to help out with the workload, like getting the colors flattened, base paints laid out for me to finalize, etc. At the end of the day, the end game is just to survive.
RX: Are you excited for people to see your work in the upcoming GvK: Kingdom Kong comic?
Zid: I’m actually quite nervous. Skull Island: The Birth of Kong was made with so much care and love when I had all the time in the world. I even discovered that certain “look” in my work I don’t think I would have had I not worked on it. Having set the bar for myself and being a pessimistic perfectionist, my fear is if I could not live up to the visual aesthetics I had presented in my MonsterVerse debut in this continuation.
RX: What are your thoughts on Marie Anello's story for GvK: Kingdom Kong?
Zid: I think she brought up something that all of us can relate to. Without revealing too much, the story is about self-redemption, rising up to the challenge however daunting it may be, as much as it is a preamble to the movie Godzilla Vs. Kong. It’s a lot more personal and has a lot more heart this time around.
(Camazotz from GvK: Kingdom Kong)
RX: Is there anything you would like to say about Kong's new opponent, Camazotz?
Zid: Other than I’m thrilled to have my own design made canon into the MonsterVerse, I think it’s both iconic AND ironic that we got a bat to be the opponent for this installment. Kingdom Kong will be a significant bookmark in many years to come as a trivia, a memory that we were once plagued by a virus that originated from bats. The funny thing is, when I was tasked to design Camazotz, we were ways away during pre-production, MONTHS before the Corona was discovered.
RX: Are there any interesting stories you have from working with Legendary Comics that you haven't already mentioned?
Zid: Legendary Comics has been a savior for my career. Working with them was the tide-turner at a point when my life was at its lowest after years of jumping from one frying pan into more fires of abusive bosses and paymasters, and ill-fated projects. I’m grateful to have found a place where the people appreciate my hard work (I hope!) and respect each other as human beings.
RX: Who do you want to win in Legendary Pictures Godzilla vs. Kong?
Zid: Oh man, this is a tough one. I love them both, I really do. Like I said earlier I was more of a Godzilla fan growing up but after working on Skull Island: The Birth of Kong, and then watching the movie, I tend to feel more empathetic towards the bipedal primate. I’m a sucker for a hero’s journey. Godzilla since day one has been established that he’s the top of the chain, the apex. He’s already there. But Kong, we learn his struggles, his tragic past, being the last of his kind, and so on, kind of makes me root for him a little more now.
RX: If you were contacted in the future to provide artwork on another MonsterVerse or Kaiju project, what would you want it to be?
Zid: I keep telling Robert that I’m eternally indebted to have work at all in these difficult times that I’ll take whatever they have to throw at me. I don’t know what direction Legendary is taking this MonsterVerse towards, but it would be bonkers to illustrate Mechagodzilla in the somewhat grounded reality the MonsterVerse has set up.
RX: Finally, do you have any messages you would like to say to artists that may aspire to work on Godzilla or Kong comics in the future?
Zid: I’m not sure if I have the authority to speak of talent employment because I didn’t get hired by means of competition, scouting, or interviews myself. But in general, all I can say is that a strong portfolio alone is not enough. You need to have accountability and professionalism because, at the end of the day, they need to know that they can count on you to see the project to the finish line. Skills can get your foot in the door, but being responsible will secure your longevity in the long run.
A huge thanks of mine goes towards Zid for making this interview possible and for being a fantastic artist. You can find Zid on Twitter @whoiszid.
If you want to view his art you can find it on Zid's own website. http://www.mohammadyazid.com/
He also has a page on ArtStation. https://mohammadyazid.artstation.com/
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This article was written By Rex Xeno and published on 2020-12-05 03:14:13
More about upcoming Godzilla movies
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021) is the sequel to Michael Dougherty's Godzilla 2: King of the Monsters and will be the fourth and final installment in the Monsterverse movie quadrilogy. It will also bridge both the Godzilla movies and Kong: Skull Island by bringing Godzilla and Kong face-to-face for an epic match-up. To learn more about Godzilla vs. Kong, check out the Godzilla vs. Kong about page here!
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