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Louie Joyce drops in to talk 'Godzilla: Skate or Die'

Comic Books

Louie Joyce drops in to talk ‘Godzilla: Skate or Die’

The King of Monster’s latest adventure arrived this week.

It only makes sense that Godzilla would have some very weird stories over the years across his various multimedia iterations. (If your baseline is “atomic-powered mega-lizard, the sky’s the limits for insanity, folks.) Like, the time he was just a teeny, tiny little guy. Or, that comic where he fought actual bloodsuckers. Heck, even that one day he went to hell (and killed a multiversal god). Yet few other tales seem as potentially weird and wonderfully out-of-place than the newly-released Godzilla: Skate or Die.

Created by writer-artist Louie Joyce (A Fistful of Pain), Godzilla: Skate or Die is actually a wholesome tale about four skateboard-loving friends growing up in central Australia. Just when the youngsters are about to finally open their very own skate park, Varan appears to smash up all their hard work. So why, then, has Godzilla appeared off the nearby coast, and what’s it all got to do with some kids’ skate park dreams? Appropriately playful and also genuinely earnest, Godzilla: Skate or Die is as much a book about the King of Monsters and skateboarding as it is about growing up and fighting for what you believe in the most.

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Godzilla: Skate or Die #1 is out now from IDW. (Issue #2 arrives on July 24.) To get a better understanding of this especially wild moment in Godzilla’s bibliography, we caught up with Joyce to ask some questions. That includes the story’s origins, how he crafted such great skating action, his love of dragons, and the most vital question of all, will we actually see Godzilla actually skate?

Louie Joyce drops in to talk 'Godzilla: Skate or Die'

Variant cover by Juni Ba. Courtesy of IDW.

AIPT: Where did the idea to marry Godzilla and skating actually come from? Was it a nacho-induced fever dream?

Louie Joyce: Haha — no nachos were involved (unfortunately!) The whole spark for the story came from the real life Port Kembla DIY skatepark that was created by a mate of mine and his kid during the pandemic. A bunch of us parents had all gotten back into skating together so we were all skating there non stop with the kids since it popped up. It became this amazing community space that was always shifting and changing, a great quality of an active DIY spot. Every time you go there things might’ve moved around, or there’ll be new features added. It kind of feels alive, in a way. It’s a beautiful thing!

But eventually the local council got wind of it and announced everything was going to be removed and trashed as “it wasn’t safe.” But the community rallied around it, raised funds, and brought everything up to a certain safety standard and eventually got the council to reverse that decision! The PKDIY is still there and active, and we’ve actually gotten a grant for a permanent skatepark to be built in its place. So, really, that idea of a huge indifferent entity coming to stomp on this thriving community space seemed like the perfect basis for a Godzilla story!

AIPT: I was into skating in its ’90s heyday, and it’s definitely made a comeback in recent years. What do you think is behind that?

LJ: Certainly a lot of the people who were so into it in the ’90s, in their early tween and teen years, are now in their mid-30s [and] maybe have kids they need to entertain, need to stay fit, and are looking to recapture some of that old passion and fire. That was the case for me. As soon as I started rolling around again I was completely hooked and have just been frothing on skating since!

Louie Joyce drops in to talk 'Godzilla: Skate or Die'

Courtesy of IDW.

The pandemic also played a huge part in the resurgence of skating. Everyone suddenly having all this extra time during lockdowns and looking for exciting ways to stay active or new hobbies. Skateboarding never really went away, [and] it’s always managed to maintain its popularity, and now being in the Olympics and whatnot has become more legitimized as an actual sport. The pandemic was massive for rollerblading in particular, which was ridiculously popular in the ’90s and then completely crashed in the 2000s, to the point where it seemed like it had disappeared. But there’s been a core community that has been doing it all these years and it’s matured a lot as a subculture. Park/street style quad skating feels like it’s in that new exciting place that skateboarding was in the ’70s, where it’s just all raw creativity and pure punk energy happening, and it’s mostly being led by female skaters which is amazing!

AIPT: You’re Australian, but is there any specific reason the book’s set in Port Kembla, Australia? And what’s skating mean/look like in Australia vs. the US perhaps?

LJ: Yeah! I mean, taking inspiration from the real DIY skate community and culture in my local area, I really wanted to set it here so I could properly reflect and pay tribute to it. And I never got any push back on that, which was awesome! Being an Aussie myself, it just made sense to me to set it here and show off this little slice of the earth. We are so used to seeing Godzilla or kaiju come in and destroy the iconic spots, the capital cities, that I love the idea that this is all happening in a small coastal town that the majority of readers have probably never heard of!

I’ve never been over the U.S., so I can’t speak too much on the comparisons, but obviously so much of skating culture originated in the states and that influence has traveled far and wide. I’d love to get over to the States one day and hit up some of the famous spots though, that’s for sure! Growing up playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater defined everything I thought about skating as a kid, but now being able to go online and see skating communities from all over the world is really cool! It’s so interesting to see the way that skating evolves in different cultures, whether it’s as simple as different trick names or certain styles becoming more dominant.

Godzilla

Courtesy of IDW.

AIPT: Do you actually skate yourself, and is that necessary for crafting these really interesting and fluid depictions of skating in issue #1?

LJ: I do! As mentioned I used to rollerblade back in the late ’90s/early 2000s and got back into it again at the beginning of 2020. I’m not going to say you have to skate to draw great skating action, but it definitely helps! As soon as I started skating again, it immediately bled into my creative practice. I’ve drawn hundreds of blading related drawings, animations, zines etc. since, and my whole style has evolved. There’s a very clear before and after if you look back at my work, so it’s been hugely beneficial to my drawing!

Skating is very much a form of creative expression, every skater has their own unique style, approach and way of thinking about it. It’s just like drawing in that regard, so it makes sense that one will influence the other.

AIPT: What makes Godzilla so versatile and applicable to so many stories/scenarios? Is he basically like Jason Voorhees or The Leprechaun?

LJ: Definitely! Godzilla’s very much a force of nature, this unstoppable being within a story that immediately raises the stakes a hundred-fold. So it’s a great device to put a bunch of characters up against and really find out what makes them tick. And as we’ve seen over the years in the films, it’s super flexible tonally, too. Like all great icons, you can move across different genres, go super serious or super silly with it. I think IDW has been doing a great job of providing a really diverse range of options for Godzilla stories, which comics are the perfect medium to do so in. (Can’t tell you how excited I am for Monster Island Summer Camp!)

AIPT: After A Fistful of Pain, you’ve clearly got an interest/affinity for giant lizards. What’s the appeal here?

LJ: Haha — true! Past the Last Mountain (which is getting a new release next month) also stars a dragon named Willa as one of the main cast! I have been lucky to have had a good run of dragons and Kaiju in my comics. They are just so much fun to draw! I’m really enjoying exploring shapes and textures in the kaiju in Skate or Die. Making them super craggly and hectic looking. Kaiju always bring out the best in artists I reckon!

Louie Joyce drops in to talk 'Godzilla: Skate or Die'

Courtesy of IDW.

AIPT: I also really love the way you depict Godzilla — very lithe and graceful. Does that play into the skating gimmick or just how you generally perceive the King of Monsters?

LJ: I think it’s mostly a by-product of how I draw. I’m always looking for ways to depict dynamic movement in my art, drawings that feel like they’re gonna zing off the page. It’s an interesting exercise trying to do so for something as big as Godzilla though. I was camping recently and saw these two huge Goannas have a bit of a biff over territory and one of them had to swim across the river to get away from the other. It was so intense! You know most of the time they’re like these gnarly statues that barely move clinging to a tree, but when they rile up they are so fast and powerful! So I’m kind of trying to translate that into how I approach Godzilla and Varan.

AIPT: Despite the “gimmicked” nature of this book, I think you touch on ideas like the loss of the third place and being young and having your own place/culture. Do you think it’s that deep, or is it that deliberate for you thematically?

LJ:Absolutely — those are themes that are baked into this comic. It’s a huge action packed adventure story for sure, but at its core it’s about these four teenagers who are at that weird in-between age where they’re establishing their own ideas of who they might be and railing against whatever expectations are put upon them. It’s that age where you want to assert your independence and start creating your own places in that world, whether it’s a dirt bike track down behind the local soccer field or a hideout in the bush or a DIY skate spot in an old abandoned steelworks! But now that this place that is so important to them is in the path of two rampaging kaiju, what are they going to do? (The answer, in typical teenager fashion, is something really really stupid.)

AIPT: I don’t think Varan gets nearly enough love in the “Godzilla-verse” (at least compared to other monsters). Why include him here?

LJ: I agree! Varan has such an incredible design and really cool abilities, plus one of the few to have their own movies too. It’s crazy that it hasn’t popped up more in the Godzilla-Verse! That was an exciting prospect though, to take this lesser used Kaiju and really put my own spin on it. Varan’s quickly become one of my faves, and might just be more enjoyable to draw than Godzilla itself!

But really I chose Varan for a very simple reason: We’ve got a lot of Goannas in Australia. Just made sense to me!

Godzilla

Courtesy of IDW.

AIPT: What moments or highlights can you tease beyond issue #1?

LJ: Lots and lots of *SKKRRRTTT* *KRRRRR* *POP* SFX, angry cops, tectonic instability, explosions, debris, the epic clash of huge kaiju bodies colliding, blood, tears, and much more! Things get pretty intense, but we also get some more insight into what skating and the Coin Toss means to each of these kids.

Also…why are Varan and Godzilla both heading for this steelworks anyway? Hmm…

AIPT: The million-dollar question: Are we going to see Godzilla skateboard by the book’s end?

LJ: For the answer to that one, you’ll just have to keep reading! ;P

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