DC Comics recently announced plans to re-release 1978’s Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali, a beloved piece of pop cheese, in a new hardcover edition. With any luck, this will inspire Dark Horse Comics to reprint their major contribution to novelty comic books featuring famous athletes, Godzilla Vs. Barkley. This single-issue special was put out in December 1993, not long after Barkley was awarded the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award but before Shut Up and Jam!. The story—scripted by Eisner-winner (but not for this comic) Mike Baron—follows Matthew, a spirited preteen, as he cajoles his hero into facing certain death.
Poking fun at a comic like Godzilla Vs. Barkley might seem about as challenging as dunking on a five-foot tall hoop. Baron and his collaborators are no doubt aware of how goofy their premise is, so why bother? Well, the funniest thing about GVB is not the actual Barkley-Godzilla face-off–though Barkley does get in a couple good jabs about Godzilla’s breath. It’s the comic’s relentless depiction of Charles Barkley and Matthew as total creeps. At the end of a story about a superstar athlete, the plucky boy who inspires him, and Godzilla, Godzilla looks like the best person.
Godzilla Vs. Barkley begins with a sighting of the monster off the west coast, followed by a splash page from Jeff Butler (pencils) and Keith Aiken (inks) that’s admittedly kinda rad:
We then transition to the beach, where we meet Matthew, a boy who likes to watch pro basketball and blithely ignore the ravages of age.
Baron and co. waste no time establishing Matthew as an entitled little jerk. They also get the obligatory John Hinckley reference in early:
Matthew’s denied access to Charles Barkley and his grandfather tries to console the boy by giving him a deus ex machina shaped like a silver dollar. He also refers to Barkley as a “great warrior,” which may explain Matthew’s later insistence that his hero is a match for an irradiated monster several times his size:
Meanwhile, there’s something oddly soothing to me about this panel of Godzilla destroying a fighter jet. I think it’s the muted blue:
Matthew reaches Barkley, who seems to lack peripheral visions but gets really excited about having his name called.
Barkley is surrounded by handlers. These men and women work to keep Sir Charles away from Matthew and headed toward an appointment at the Optimists’ Club, meaning there actually two enemies in Godzilla Vs. Barkley: giant monsters and community service organizations.
Barkley could not care less about stopping Godzilla but Matthew’s bald flattery wins him over. He immediately fires all handlers. Mike Baron’s Charles Barkley is at least as unstable as the real thing:
Barkley appraises Matthew’s coin while driving, and the conversation turns to whether or not he should put it in his mouth. We learn that “you don’t put strange money in your mouth.” You do give an unfamiliar child a ride in your convertible after firing your staff at his behest.
We are more than halfway through. Charles Barkley still does not care that Godzilla is ravaging the west coast.
The coin is flipped and lands on its side. Barkley grows taller by several hundred feet. This is dumb, but not much dumber than Pym particles.
“It’s a little-known fact that Godzilla is a sucker for b-ball.”
Barkley lures Godzilla to an Air Force base and goes out of his way to destroy government property.
Playing commences and Matthew starts seeing dollar signs.
Barkley cheats unapologetically. Also, to the right of where this image is cut off, we see Matthew and his grandfather watching the game alongside Jack Nicholson, Rush Limbaugh and Bill Cosby.
Godzilla destroys the giant ball in a display of poor sportsmanship for which his opponent has set the precedent. Charles Barkley condescends to Godzilla:
Godzilla gets giant Nikes and, like a trooper, agrees to do 1,000,000 lay-ups. Our closing image is, appropriately, of Barkley, Matthew, and boy whose money greedy Matthew has just taken in a bet: