Credit: Mark Capapas for Chicago Reader

One of Godzilla’s most fierce foes is King Ghidorah, a three-headed, no-armed, gargantuan dragon-monster with bright-red eyes and scales the color of molten gold. Armless, the monster’s power comes from its strong tail and its trinity of heads. When they open their jaws, six streaks of fiery light pour out, immediately incinerating whatever’s in the way. 

Friday evening of G-FEST XXVII, the largest Godzilla convention on earth, I decided to walk around the bar and see if anyone wanted to talk before heading out to dinner with my family. Just outside of the bar was a low table: a black pleather armchair and two loveseats crowded around it. Upon them, three teenage boys lounged in various states of nervous excitement. “You’re Ryan, and I’m Ryan, and he’s Ryan,” I overheard. “I can’t believe we’re all Ryans!” I stopped in my tracks, then turned around. “My name is Katie,” I said. “I hear you’re all Ryans. Can I interview you?”

Throughout our half-hour conversation, The Three Ryans frequently, joyfully interrupted whichever one of them was speaking, not so much talking over as climbing with, layering their words to reach some new height. One of the Ryans took off for the first half of the conversation, but rejoined his Ryans for the second. The following has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Ryan Perry, 13
Ryan Daley, 19
Ryan Jones, 13

Have you been to G-FEST before? 

RP: First time, probably the last—

RD: Mostly the last, due to the high expense.

RP: I’m having a great time! These are my people!! These are my brothers-in-arms!!!

RD: It’s amazing. With all these harsh times, so many people dying this year, it’s sad. It’s nice that everyone is just coming together to celebrate what we all love.

RP: To be with my brothers and sisters of the Godzilla community!

RD: Exactly.

RP: It’s beautiful.

Where did you meet?

RD: Right there [points at couch].

RP: I just kind of mentioned that—

RD: He met another guy Ryan. I said,  “Oh, I’m Ryan.”

Where are you both from? 

RP: I’m from New Jersey. 

RD: Oh, I’m from New Jersey as well. 

Wait, really? 

RD: Oh my god. 

RP: Oh my god! 

RP: Jersey.

[RP explained in detail a petition he’d started to get fan story lines into consideration for future Godzilla films. I mention Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), the story line of which came from an idea a fan submitted to a Toho Studios competition.]

RD: [Nodding] There have been hundreds of people making their own stories for thousands of people online. They’ve made some really good animations or stories. It’s just incredible. What I like about Godzilla is not only what he symbolizes for anti-nuclear weapons—

RP: He is an allegory for the atomic bombings on Hiroshima, Nagasaki. Sorry for something I forgot to add. He’s a very tragic character—

RD: Exactly.

RP: Sometimes he could be a superhero. Sometimes he could be a father. Sometimes you can be just an animal. Sometimes you can be an antihero or sometimes a symbol.

RD: Yes. Antihero. Godzilla is a lot of things, especially in the entertainment industry.

RP: But I guess the one word you can use for him is unstoppable.

RD: We don’t want anything like World War II to happen again.

RP: It’s a very scary time for the entire world, especially with what’s going on with Russia and Ukraine. My first thought when that happened—I was terrified because I thought World War III was happening. The memes on the Internet—as funny as they were, like, “We’re going to battle, boys,” it’s not respectful, because a genocide is occurring.

RD: Online fandom, online community can be really toxic.

RP: It’s just nice to know that this place, this event is somewhere I can actually be and talk to people that have my interest.

Yeah, especially when you’re Ryan. [To the boy who sat down next to me a few minutes before, too cool in his slouchy hoodie, sucking down a pop.] Are you also Ryan?

R?: I was the first one—[takes a slug of his pop, immediately starts to choke].

No choking at Godzilla convention. Where are you from?

RJ: [Coughing] Richmond, Virginia. Ryan Jones.

Why does G-FEST matter? Why is this convention important?

RJ: People like being here. Like myself. I haven’t slept for 48 hours. I’m that dedicated while being here—

RP: If we’re being serious, I’d say—

RJ: What! Ugh.

RP: It’s not about, you know, just Godzilla.

RJ: It’s a community coming together.

RD: Yeah, a fan base that’s been going around for nearly 70 years.

[The three Ryans take a moment to mourn actor Akira Takarada who died earlier this year. We discuss death, COVID, guests and fans who couldn’t come because they got sick, like mixed martial artist and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) actor Don Frye.]

RP: [Wistfully] I was gonna give him a fist bump and everything.

RD: This community and this festival is fans saying that Godzilla will never die.

[The conversation devolves into how much money they’ve already spent, rumors of a roaring contest (RP: I’ll put my dignity on the line), what Saturday will be like (RP: I hear it’s crammed with locals), what it’s been like to meet their favorite YouTubers while here.]

RP: Monster Island Bunnies, he goes by MIB. His YouTube channel is, quite frankly, a lifesaver in my opinion. In the darkest of times, I thought I was going insane.

RJ: Yes.

RP: Is this real? How could God, religious or not, punish humanity into the dark? Humanity is crumbling, isn’t it? As nice as it is to see some communities coming together.

RD: The world is kind of in a mess—

RJ: It’s like, imagine punching glass. It has cracks in every direction. Basically, as it is, like yes, there are really great people in the world. But then, there’s those who—why do they do this [violence]? To innocent people? Like with all these shootings going on? 

RD: I even got nervous when I heard about the recent Chicago shooting, ’cause I thought—yeah, I got a little nervous when coming yesterday. 

RP: It’s a time that is a little scary to be in. It can feel alarming to be out in public or in big groups. But also, like you’re saying—

RD: But now I do feel safe.

RJ: I do feel safe, because I know everyone in the Godzilla community will take a bullet for each other. And like with Godzilla, the bullet will just bounce off.