30 May 2024

This Wollongong artist's epic Godzilla comic is based on true local story

| Dione David
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Wollongong comic artist Louie Joyce in his studio at home

Wollongong comic artist Louie Joyce has produced an original five-part comic series for official Godzilla publishers IDW Publishing, set in Port Kembla and inspired by true events. Photo: Louie Joyce.

The tale of four young skaters locked in a melee against monsters threatening their “dinky DIY” skatepark sounds like pure fiction, but Illawarra locals might find there’s something very close to home about the comic series Godzilla: Skate or Die.

Obviously, not the part where four teenagers engage in an epic Kaiju battle against Godzilla, but the truth is the author – Wollongong comic artist Louie Joyce – was inspired by the real-life skatepark Wollongong youngsters set up in Port Kembla during COVID lockdowns.

“There weren’t a lot of options for physical activity that youths actually wanted to engage with at the time,” he says.

“So near King George V basketball court, there was an empty concrete slab, some local youths put in some skating elements, and from there, a thriving community grew around this dinky DIY skatepark.

“I would go often with friends and my kids during those pandemic years. It was a great place for skater dads to get together while the kids ran around and had a great time. It was so good for physical and mental health. It was a special place.”

READ ALSO Multi-industrial precinct and ‘super TAFE’ planned for 200 ha of Port Kembla Steelworks’ excess land

A gut punch came when Wollongong City Council announced they would demolish the skatepark due to safety and regulatory compliance concerns, but the community rallied with fundraising and marketing efforts and went so far as to acquire a local grant to build a permanent skatepark in its stead.

Cover of Louie Joyce's comic Godzilla Skate or Die

The first in the five-part mini-series Godzilla: Skate or Die hits comic book stores like Kings Comics and online retailers on Wednesday, 12 June. Image: Louie Joyce.

“They were able to stop the demolition and get an official skatepark sign put there. They upgraded the safety standards, and now the council is moving ahead with plans to build something permanent – and that’s something local communities have been trying to get over the line for decades.

“I think the movement around Port Kembla was instrumental in showing the benefit of these spaces. For a long time, skateparks have had a negative reputation with some members of the community as places for youth to gather and cause trouble. That’s quite an outdated perception.

“I challenge anyone to go to a skatepark now – like the one in Appin or the huge one in Berry – and I guarantee that they’ll find a positive family and community space filled with kids, parents, and grandparents who have wholesome outdoor fun that promotes physical activity and connectedness.

“Skaters have a really interesting way of looking at the world – we could learn a lot from how they reinterpret urban settings. They can look at cracks in the pavements and the edge of an overgrown garden bed – elements other people wouldn’t look twice at – and find a completely different value in them.”

Louie says the story of a community that rallied to stand up to “a big, monstrous entity trying stomp on this beautiful thing the community had created” seemed like an apt basis for a Godzilla story.

Not only is Godzilla a metaphor for the looming foot of bureaucracy trying to stamp out the grassroots community creation, but locals will be delighted to see familiar settings in an official Godzilla comic published by IDW Publishing.

The setting for Louie’s tale is the Port Kembla Steelworks, which in his alternate reality has been decommissioned.

READ ALSO Wreckage of lost steamer Nemesis ‘accidentally’ discovered off Port Kembla after 120 years

It also explores concepts relatable to teens and youths.

“It’s about those weird in-between ages of your teenage years when there are fewer spaces for you, and the spaces that have been made for you, you don’t want to be in. You’re at age when you’re forming own identity, you want to make your own place in the world and take control of your actions.

“The kids in the story have built their own DIY spot on this abandoned part of the Steelworks and created a positive community space – like the one that exists in Port Kembla.”

Set your reminder now – the first in the five-part mini-series Godzilla: Skate or Die hits comic book stores like Kings Comics and online retailers on Wednesday, 12 June.

Fans of highly original comics will also be able to purchase Louie Joyce’s Haphaven in stores from Tuesday, 4 June.

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