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Comics and New Zealand and Weta

One thing’s for sure. If you make comics in New Zealand, you make em’ for love. That might be true for most people who work in comics, cos there’s just something really pure about making comics, but it’s emphatically true here.

Growing up in New Zealand I was obsessed with 2000AD and Judge Dredd. I loved to draw and invent worlds and characters and I knew comics were in my future. You realise quick enough though, that in a small island country like New Zealand, isolated by oceans and thousands of kilometres from the rest of the world, that you’re really not going to get a job making them.

When I decided to start making comics (after I left my hometown of Whakatane for Hamilton city, which actually had a comic store) there was only one way to make comics that I knew of: Write and draw them yourself, photocopy them at the local photocopiers (hogging the store’s only photocopier for hours at a time), staple them together and sell as many of the 20 copies that I could be bothered making to the highly uninterested man at the comic store down the road. Actually, it was sale or return, meaning you only made the fifty cents-a-comic back after someone actually thought to themselves “What is this inept blurry black and white nonsense with dinosaurs and robots fighting? Oh look, I have fifty cents in my pocket and need toilet paper but can’t be bothered going to the supermarket!”

So I would check back in every few days to see how many actually sold and be filled with joy when one had disappeared off the shelf, only to be gutted when I found it behind some other local comic.

I must have sold 30 or 40 comics total this way in my entire life.

But I made em’ anyway, cos I loved em’. That and I was unemployed so I had a lot of spare time.

And that would have been that for me, and I was quite happy with it. Comics, punk rock, beer – cheap habits all. But then Peter Jackson went and made the Lord of the Rings, which blew my goddamned mind, and living in Wellington at the time I thought I should try my luck getting into on what looked to be the best place on Earth – Weta Workshop.

It turns out Weta Workshop is not the best place on Earth – that is ‘any beach in Rarotonga’ – but it is bloody amazing nonetheless.

If you’ve heard of Weta, it’s likely due to the film work on LOTR, District 9, Avatar etc, but the great thing about the Workshop is that it’s really just a big magnet for ridiculously talented artistic people, who’ve just happened to have had their creative energies angled towards the making of movies.

It’s a home of sorts for artists of all types. Comic artists, sculptors, painters, fashion designers, graphic artists, musicians and many more that I couldn’t guess.

And it makes perfect sense – Richard Taylor, co-founder and creative director of Weta Workshop, is simply an artist himself and an enabler of artists. He loves to make art and sculpture but has found a home in film.

Luckily, he likes comics too.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair, you can meet Greg and his colleagues from Weta Workshop, Richard Taylor and Martin Baynton, at the StoryDrive Masterclass “Across all channels: From book to film to game – and back again” on Friday, October 12, 1.30 pm, or at a Weta Workshop session at the Guest of Honour Pavilion (Forum, Level 1) on Saturday, October 13, 4.30 pm. He also holds a session about “The making of Steampunk” on Saturday, October 13, 10.45 am.

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  • Mike Goodman

    Greg,
    Really enjoyed your comments here, particularly about how you started out. I think I might have bought one of your comics from Mark One in Hamilton back then, but dammed if I can find it now. Bit out of the loop now comics-wise,but if you ever did any reprints of the early stuff point me to them please.
    Mike Goodman