‘Never a horror like it!’
Like Godzilla and Anguirus, he is designed after a type of prehistoric reptile (the Japanese name “Radon” is a contraction of “pteranodon“). Radon is usually referred to as “Rodan” in the United States, possibly to avoid confusion with the atomic element Radon; any time his name is written in English in Japan, it is written as Rodan.
In the 1956 film Rodan, two Rodans were unearthed and awakened by mining operations in Kitamatsu along with a swarm of prehistoric insects called Meganulons. After devouring several people and reducing Sasebo to ruins, one Rodan is maimed in a bombardment of their nest in Mount Aso and falls, into a volcanic eruption triggered by the attack.
The other Rodan, in a doomed attempt to save its mate, flies into the mouth of the volcano as well. Also, as with Godzilla, the American version differs from the original Japanese release by more than simple matters of language translation; the original Japanese version is much darker in tone. It also has one of the Rodans damaged by a jet fighter, hindering its ability to fly at supersonic speeds.
Rodan went on to cross over into the Godzilla series. Rodan, resurrected by volcanic gas accumulated in the crust, emerges from a volcano in Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster first to do battle with Godzilla, then after some persuasion by Mothra, Rodan helped Godzilla and Mothra defeat King Ghidorah. After this point Rodan was no longer a monster of destruction, it was an ally of Godzilla, who after this point turned good as well. Rodan appeared with Godzilla again in Invasion of the Astro-Monster, where both were mind-controlled by Xilians to destroy Earth’s cities. After the mind control was broken on them, they attacked King Ghidorah defeating the creature once again. Both Godzilla and Rodan were plunged into the sea, Godzilla would go on to fight other Monsters, while Rodan was collected with all of Earth’s other Monsters and placed on Monster Island.
In Destroy All Monsters, the monsters of Monster Island including Rodan were used by aliens to wreak havoc on Earth via mind control, this time by the Kilaaks. Again the mind control was broken and the monsters fought King Ghidorah, this time killing the monster once and for all. Rodan was then placed back on Monster Land to live out his days in peace. Rodan would only appear again in the Shōwa series in stock footage used for Godzilla vs. Gigan,Godzilla vs. Megalon and Terror of Mechagodzilla.
Rodan in the Heisei series appeared in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, where he sought to protect Baby Godzilla, whose egg was in the same nest as Rodan. Heisei Rodan, while the suit was much bigger and heavier than the Showa version, is notably much smaller relative to the larger version of Godzilla, standing only about 2/3 as tall as the other monster and having a wingspan 1/2 Godzilla’s height.