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July 14, 2008 | by  | in Books |
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Graphic Novel

Graphic Novel
Greg Broadmore, Dr Grordbort’s Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory
(Wellington, Weta Publishing & Dark Horse Comics &
HarperCollins, 2008)

This is Greg Broadmore’s first foray into graphic novels, and Weta Workshop’s first piece of wholly owned product; in the past, product has been released through New Line production house, with Weta only receiving a proportion of the royalties.

Greg came up with the idea from a series of acrylic paintings he had done, stemming from his own personal fascination with guns of all sorts, which he showed to Richard Taylor, who sugested that he do a comic based on the artworks. This morphed into a catalogue-type project with lush graphic content, and the accompanying production of the first item, a “toy” raygun cast in metal from Weta Collectibles, which was shown extensively here during the Armageddon Pulp Culture Expo in April. The gun was premiered at this year’s ComicCon in San Diego – their aspect of a toy in contrast to the other Weta sculpture product was well received, as was the metalworking, which got raygun collectors in the States very excited.

During a quick coffee and chat out at Eva Dixon’s in Miramar, I asked Greg what else was in the pipeline – will we see more rayguns, as the catalogue nature of the graphic novel seems to suggest? A TV series? A film? Greg and his publicist both chuckled and said that “big ideas” were in development, and there would be new product previewing in San Diego at ComicCon in March 2009, which they were currently working towards.

My trusty sidekick Grant Buist asked what Dark Horse Comics had been like to work with, to which Greg responded that Dark Horse had been really enthusiastic; they are the Weta Collectibles distributor in the USA, and also Mike Richardson, the publisher, is a huge raygun collector, so it was a project that was ideally suited to them.

The main quibble I had with the graphic novel was the thickness of the cardboard-like pages, meaning that less material was found within the covers of the hardback book than I would have expected – so I asked, why? And will there be more? There certainly will be more.

Grant and Greg then went off into a big discussion about 1970s French painterly-styled comics, and some technical stuff about how the artwork was created in Photoshop using customized digital brushes, without so much actual production using acrylic paints, as the original art seen by Richard Taylor had been.

Grant said the artwork looked as though it was influenced by European comics printed in the magazine Heavy Metal in the 1970s. It also reminds him of the work of Enki Bilal.

This European style is distinct from the “clean-line” style popularised by Hergé, and shows how comics are often taken more seriously over there, with more emphasis on setting and environment than the action of the typical American superhero comic. The attention to detail (in props and element design) is exquisite – similar to Dan Dare by Frank Hampson, possibly England’s greatest comic ever. It requires a great deal of skill to produce work like that in Photoshop, especially without much figure reference.

There are some cool characters, mainly parodies of “jolly hunter” macho idiocy from the 19th century, with a jump to 1940s sci-fireferences in the ‘moon mistress’ sequence right at the end of the book. There seemed to be influences from pulp novel cover graphics of the same period.

I was a little underwhelmed by the ‘Sears Roebuck Catalogue’ style of the first section, too – the lack of narrative made me feel that this was not a satisfying example of the graphic novel genre. However, I am not a part of the target audience – those who hanker after futuristic raygun toys – so I guess I’ll just have to say that the illustrations were gorgeous, but I wanted more. I guess I’ll have to wait until after the ComicCon ’09 in San Diego to find out what the next episode looks like.

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