Astoria Characters: The Monster Maker

Somewhere sinister, in a secret lab, Dr. Cube, a mad scientist intent on ruling the universe, is making a malevolent monster mob that can crush cities with a single stomp.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Sky Deviler on the loose.

When the bad doctor, who wears a box-like mask to hide his hideous face, unleashes his formidable force, the planet kneels before the likes of Kung Fu Chicken Noodle (a factory worker who’s a soup can) and Dusto Bunny (a hare-sage who needs a body Swiffer).

Will the earth be pulverized by these strange beasts called Kaiju?

You’ll have to ask Randy Borden, the creator of the series of live shows called Kaiju Big Battel that pits good against evil.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
The fate of the universe is in his hands.

Randy, who has been producing this brand of evil entertainment for more than two decades, grew up in Abington, Massachusetts watching Kaiju, the Japanese flicks featuring beasts in big battles.

Remember the so-bad-they-were-good Godzilla movies that were replayed on TV a gazillion times?

Randy, who decided when he was in fourth grade that he wanted to be an artist, forgot all about them until he was in Boston at The School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts studying sculpture and printmaking.

The next Kaiju Big Battel is March 10 at 2 p.m. at La Boom in Long Island City.

“Somebody gave me a book from Japan with Kaiju monsters,” he says. “I was friends with a film student, and we decided that I would create the characters and make the monster costumes and we would shoot our own movie.”

Things happened, but the movie didn’t.

“We ended up doing a stage version at a Halloween fund-raiser,” he says, “and it snowballed.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Randy with wife Yoriko and daughter Kiliko.

Soon, Randy was producing shows all over the country.

“Hundreds of people were coming,” he says. “We even did one show that had 4,000 people.”

College is also where Randy was introduced to Yoriko Shiraishi, a native of Tokyo, Japan.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Sky Deviler changing into human form.

Like Randy, she wanted to make art her career.

“My father taught me to draw stick figures when I was 2,” she says. “He was a car engineer, so I started drawing cars and never stopped.”

After going to a high school in Los Angeles, Yoriko decided to come back to America for college.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kiliko with her Kaiju monster.

“I was using the printmaking room, and I was impressed by Randy because every time I was there, he was cleaning,” she says. “In Japan everything was very tidy, but in America it was messy, so this caught my attention. I didn’t realize until later that cleaning the room was part of his job running the room.”

Their love of Japanese pop culture led to their friendship.

In 2001, they married, and in 2007, their daughter, Kiliko, was born.

When the economy went south and the shows stopped, Randy and Yoriko went west.

“I was offered a job building things in New York,” Randy says. “We have lived in this apartment since we arrived in August 2009.”

As it happened, Randy’s job was a bust, but Yoriko found part-time work.

She was an office assistant at a Japanese newspaper for several years before being laid off.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Randy’s all set for the March 10 show.

Now, Randy teaches after-school sculpture classes at P.S. 17, 85 and 166, and Yoriko does freelance graphic design projects, paints and has an Etsy shop that sells postcards and prints.

Randy is ramping up Kaiju Big Battel; the next show is on March 10 at La Boom in Long Island City.

It’s a fund-raiser for Our World Neighborhood Charter School in Astoria, which Kiliko attends.

Each Kaiju Big Battel is unique.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kiliko subduing her monster.

Randy’s the director, script writer and creature and prop designer/maker.

“Everybody in the cast – there are about 25 people from all over the country – sends me ideas, and I take the things I like,” he says. “We play off news stories. There’s a lot of political and social commentary, but it’s so subtle it goes over most people’s heads.”

From script to stage show takes about a month.

The Kaiju monsters are made of foam covered in rubber.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kiliko also is an artist.

“Each one takes a couple of months to do,” he says. “The rubber is painted on, and it takes a long time to dry between coats. Most have seven to ten coats.”

The Kaiju Big Battel shows are family affairs.

Yoriko often helps design the posters.

“I do them from his sketches,” she says, “because I’m better at drawing.”

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Kiliko with No. 13. Fear the evil.

Even Kiliko has gotten into the act.

She has danced as Sky Deviler, a blue alien-glutton who has one big red eye in the center of his face and fierce fangs.

If that creature looks familiar, it’s because there’s a similar one in Disney’s 2014 film Big Hero 6.

Photo by Nancy A. Ruhling
Dr. Cube is out to rule the world.

“The three-eyed battle suit worn by Fred is based on Sky Deviler,” Randy says. “I read an article about the director where he’s quoted as saying that my character was his inspiration.”

If things go Randy’s way, Kaiju Big Battel will, indeed, conquer the world.

For good.

“I want to do this full time again,” he says. “I hope to produce at least 12 shows a year all over the country.”

Astoria Characters Day: The 2nd Family Reunion is Sept. 23, 2018.

Support Astoria Characters at GoFundMe

Nancy A. Ruhling may be reached at Nruhling@gmail.com;
@nancyruhling; nruhling on Instagram, nancyruhling.com,
astoriacharacters.com.

Copyright 2018 by Nancy A. Ruhling