IN March, the world finally saw the meeting of Godzilla and King Kong in Godzilla vs Kong, a cinematic event that took six years to make.
Several weeks after the titans clashed on the big screen, Legendary Comics released Kingdom Kong, a graphic novel that serves as a prequel to the events in the movie.
The novel was illustrated by Malaysian artist Yazid Kamal Baharin. Written by Marie Anello, the novel is also a sequel to another entry in the Kong series that Yazid worked on.
“(It is part) of a compendium to Legendary’s Kong: Skull Island (and the previous four-issue series) Skull Island: The Birth of Kong. So, I was contracted to represent the titan then,” Yazid told theSun.
Credited as Zid, the artist said he has been professionally involved in the comic industry for about 15 years.
“I started doing my own personal comic projects sold at conventions during my tertiary education years. Then, I started freelancing doing comics during my final year, being a ghost artist for a studio like Mill Vanilli, and eventually landing my own international gig in 2012”.
Putting a king together
Yazid recounted that in 2013, he was in the running for a Godzilla prequel graphic novel that would eventually be named Godzilla: Awakening.
“I didn’t get the project. So, when Legendary approached me to take on Kong, it was a second chance for me,” he said. “Kong was actually an opportunity to prove my worthiness.”
Detailing how he approached the drawing and illustrating of Kong, from the ape’s hulking physique down to minute details like the fur, Yazid said the concept came from “working on my own”.
While Kong was not his first dealing with detailed creatures, it was still a challenge, he added.
“For Skull Island: The Birth of Kong, the only reference I had was clips from trailers and rough concept art. This was not Legendary’s fault as they had to keep it tight to avoid potential leaks.”
For that project, Yazid had video files broken down to multiple screenshots and saved as many angles as he could find of Kong as reference.
“Kingdom Kong was stricter, as everything was so secretive. I was only told that Kong was much older and bigger, and that he had a beard,” Yazid said.
Kaijus (giant monsters in Japanese), or “Titans” in Legendary’s MonsterVerse vocabulary, are the undeniable highlights of monster movies, even if human characters are present.
The same applies to Kingdom Kong, as an original Titan adversary is introduced for Kong, which Yazid created.
“Camazotz was a late addition to the project as they were working on a meeting point between the books and the films. They had several archetypes from the rogue gallery. Eventually, Camazotz was pitched to bring an element that was not represented in the MonsterVerse – darkness,” Yazid said.
The artist was approached by Legendary to create something canonical to the lore. Yazid sent hundreds of sketches for approval.
“To this day, I still cannot wrap my head around the surreal honour and responsibility that (comes with creating Camazotz),” he said.
“The pressure was intense. The name Camazotz alone has sprung up a plethora of iterations in popular culture, so the challenge was to not resemble anything that was designed before.
The resulting Camazotz became an aerial-Titan that was inspired by Mayan mythology, and quite literally “a bat out of hell”.