The King Of Monsters Shreds Australia In Louie Joyce’s Godzilla: Skate Or Die

The King Of Monsters Shreds Australia In Louie Joyce’s Godzilla: Skate Or Die

It’s been a while since Godzilla visited Australia. The last time was during 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars when he destroyed both the Sydney Opera House and Zilla – AKA the titular monster from Roland Emmerich’s much-derided 1998 Godzilla flick. But after 20 years, the King of the Monsters is back on Australian shores – in Port Kembla, to be specific.

In Godzilla: Skate or Die, a five-issue mini-series written and drawn by Australian cartoonist Louie Joyce, the titular monster will face off against one of his lesser-known opponents, Varan. As these two colossal beasts face off against one another, we follow a group of friends who attempt to save their local DIY skate spot from encroaching kaiju chaos.

With the first issue of Godzilla: Skate or Die set to shred its way into comic stores soon, we spoke with Louie about the series’ origin, his influences when creating it and the kaiju-sized task of tackling such an iconic character.

godzilla skate or die louie joyce interview
Image: Louie Joyce/IDW Publishing

“Skateboarders facing off against Godzilla in Port Kembla” is a pretty unique pitch for the character. How did the concept for Godzilla: Skate or Die come about?

Louie: Originally I was contacted by Jazmine Joyner, who was an editor for IDW at that time. They asked me to pitch an idea for the Godzilla Rivals series, where each issue is self-contained. It’s like 40 pages, and you have a list of kaiju you can pick from.

Around that time, I got back into rollerblading. I grew up skating around Newie and Sydney, and I got back into it hardcore. I’ve been frothing on it since then – I would do heaps of rollerblading drawings. Around that time, it must have been like a few months before and all through the pandemic, there was this DIY skate park in Port Kembla that was started by some friends of mine and had a whole community grow around it.

A few months prior to Jazmine contacting me, the local council had said that they were going to demolish the DIY [park]. Just tear it down and get rid of it. Because technically, it was illegal and they have all these bullshit safety concerns. But it was this amazing community space that was flourishing. The community rallied to save it and it’s gone so far that the people running the whole thing have secured a grant to build an actual permanent skatepark there.

This idea of the big, monstrous entity of the council coming to step on this thing, this beautiful space that this community created, it just felt like a natural fitting story. Godzilla as a metaphor worked beautifully for it. I knew I wanted to get skating in there somehow – I kind of work it into everything that I can at the moment – but that seemed to fit really well.

I pitched that idea [to IDW] and they liked it, but they didn’t think it would fit the Rivals series. But then they asked me to pitch it as its own mini-series. It was a long drawn-out process, but I expanded the pitch so that it would work as a mini-series and added more crazy kaiju elements. They’ve been really receptive. I think because it’s so niche and [set] in a very specific part of the world, there’s not a lot of changes or stuff that they’ve had to input. It’s the story that I wanted to tell in the way that I want to tell it, which is really cool.

Yeah, nice. I was curious how much input IDW or Toho had for the project, but it’s good to hear that it seems pretty close to your original idea.

Louie: They haven’t changed the project much. I talked to some people and they said that Toho can be quite hands-on, but most of the comments I’ve had are just appearance-based stuff. But not even as much as I expected, because my work is pretty stylized now. Someone there must be a skating fan or something.

Working with IDW and Toho has been really good so far. I’ve gone through a couple of editors. Firstly with Jazmine Joyner, then David Mariotte, and now I’m working with Jake Williams. They’ve all been really good to work with and have helped push the project and make it better.

Godzilla is one of the most endearing pop culture figures of the last 75 years. Was there much pressure tackling the character?

Louie: There is a pressure there, but I wasn’t a huge Godzilla fan going in. Like, I wasn’t a diehard Godzilla fan who’s seen all the different eras and all the movies. I love kaiju films, and I had seen the original film years ago, but the first Godzilla film I would have seen was the bloody American one from the ’90s. So I [didn’t have] very strict ideas of what a Godzilla story should be.

In researching the world, and all of the different eras and characters, it’s really flexible. It’s like Batman or Superman – those really iconic characters, they can be stretched and the genres can be shifted. You can be funny, or you can be really serious; you can go dark, you can go light. I just knew that what I wanted to focus on was creating a compelling human story. Because, for me, that’s the stuff in most Godzilla stories that I respond to. There’s a really good human story that kind of anchors the whole kaiju conflict. That’s where my focus is.

And because it is a very niche, specific location and I have a very specific idea of how I want to represent it, I think some of that pressure is alleviated a bit.

You’ve done a few graphic novels in the past, like Haphaven and A Fistful of Pain, but this is your first long-form work where you’re both writing and drawing. What was that experience like doing both roles and working on a monthly series?

Louie: It’s tricky and still ongoing. With A Fistful of Pain, we did that at our own pace. Not until the very end did we have strict deadlines. Haphaven had strict deadlines, but it was a graphic novel so we were completing the whole thing before anything was going to be released. This has been different, certainly, because it fits more into that monthly mould of your traditional American comic releases.

Pass the Last Mountain is probably the closest thing I did to that – and I had a layout artist on that, so again, it was much more collaborative. Here it’s tricky. A lot of balls in the air. I haven’t done a long-form thing like this. I’ve got other stories that I’ve written and I’ve done a lot of shorter-form zine-based stuff, which is usually the space where I’m doing everything. So this has been a very big learning curve and a really fun experience in a lot of ways.

Now I’m just in the thick of it and trying to bang out pages, write issues and get covers. So there are all these balls in the air that I have to be constantly juggling. I’m not lettering the book, so someone else’s letterings, but other than that it’s intense.

  • godzilla skate or die louie joyce interview
  • godzilla skate or die louie joyce interview
  • godzilla skate or die louie joyce interview

Are there any other big influences on Godzilla: Skate or Die?

Louie: Yes. Heartbreak HIgh, the ’90s version [laughs]. Drazic, all the rollerblading that they’re doing in that [laughs]. No, but, around the time that I pitched it, I was reading Akira again. Something that I love in that book is the way that Kaneda, Kei and all of those kids, all these teenagers, are just caught up in this crazy thing that’s happening. They’re like these indestructible little beings that are just bouncing around as buildings are falling down around them, and somehow they miraculously survive.

I feel that is kind of representational of what it feels like to be a teenager sometimes. You think you have control, but you have very little control. You get yourself into situations that you have no real understanding of, but you have this indestructible passion and sometimes a refusal to submit to how society, or whatever it is, expects things to be.

A part of DIY spaces, skate spaces in particular, is [that the people creating them] have this really unique way of like looking at architectural spaces. A flat area of concrete that no one else would kind of attribute any value, they can arrange a bunch of trash, like boxes and pallets and cones, [to] create these really active community spaces. I remember being a teenager and we would do that.

There’s not a lot of spaces for teenagers to have as their own. When you’re younger you’ve got playgrounds and when you’re older you’ve got bars and whatever. But [for] teens, even if there are places that are made for you, there’s a drive to create your own spaces. And that’s definitely what the kids have done in this book – they have created this amazing skatepark that is built in the steelworks and they love it, they cherish it. They take care of it, and to see it suddenly, on the verge of being taken away from them is what motivates them to wade into this crazy situation that goes out of control. Akira was a big influence in that sense. Just these indestructible teenagers getting caught up in this crazy shit.

Other than that, definitely the skate communities and the various DIY spots that I’ve skated around here – like PK DIY and there was another good one in Wollongong that was called Mavrikis. The characters, the locations and all that are mostly inspired by my experiences of skating around here, and the people that I observed there.

What’s next for you after this series wraps?

Louie: I don’t know. Ask me again when I get to the end of it [laughs]. I’ve got other projects at various stages of completion; various stages of wanting to start, and wanting to make significant headway on them. I’ve written a kid’s book that was inspired by my kids that I’d love to draw. I’ve got a bigger comic project that I want to write and draw. I feel like after doing this, I will be able to tackle that properly.

I’ve got a couple of other releases this year. Oni Press is releasing a deluxe hardcover version of Haphaven, which comes out June 4. That’s really exciting to see that book getting another push and a prestige treatment in hardcover format. Past the Last Mountain is getting published as a smaller format book, to hit the YA market a bit more. It’s cool to see some of the projects that I’ve done in the past having legs and continuing to find new readers.

Throughout the first issue of Godzilla: Skate or Die, you include these character info inserts that list their favourite skate videos. What’s your favourite skate video?

Louie: I think I put mine in as the rollerblader’s choice, but it’s really hard to pick. Coup De Tat is the first rollerblading video that I bought when I was originally into it, [which] would have been around 2000, 2001. It’s an amazing, amazing rollerblading video that is just filled with the GOATs of the sport and an amazing soundtrack. Songs that I will still listen to now and when I do hear them I immediately picture tricks and certain sequences from that video. So that one, for me, is a personal all-time favourite.

But the other one that I mentioned in the book, Dance Mix ’96, is my current new fave. It’s by these guys called Mushroom Blading, and it is an absolute joy to watch them rollerblade. They are so experimental and creative; they are just having so much fun. They have an incredible sense of humour in what they do. Dance Mix ’96 is the perfect video to really represent what they do. And so that’s one that if I put it on, I can’t not watch the whole thing because I just get absorbed into it.

GodzillaSkate or Die #1 stomps into comic shops from June 12. You can check out more of Louie Joyce’s work here.

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