Welcome to The Jewels of Apator, Ann & Jeff VanderMeer's bimonthly column on the intersection of art and the fantastic. Self-described "dinosaur nerd" and "friend to robots" Greg Broadmore recently wrote and illustrated Dr. Grordborts Contrapulatronic Dingus Directory-a serious critical study of the excesses of British colonialism. Well, okay, we're joking. There is a certain Lord Cockswain, "a blustering great white hunter and full time retard," doing un-PC things in goofish fashion in the back of the book, but mainly Broadmore's latest features a stunning display of steampunkish (puckish?) rayguns. Lots and lots of rayguns. With long and lugubrious names.
This isn't the first time the New Zealand-born and based Broadmore has done something silly. Three years ago he co-designed and oversaw the art direction of the Tripod-Wellington Film Industry Tribute sculpture, which he calls a "a six metre tall robot of doom which lives on Courtenay Place in Wellington city") He has also served as a designer and sculptor on Peter Jackson's King Kong and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Perhaps most famously, though, he is the genius behind the famed Weta Workshop's Weta Originals Rayguns, otherwise known as Dr. Grordborts Infallible Aether Oscillators. (We may not have mentioned yet-he seems to like rayguns...)
What does Broadmore bring to all of his endeavors besides a healthy sense of play? A great sense of old-fashioned adventure, amazing attention to detail, and a strangely baroque approach to seamlessness. Everything he creates tends to look like it could really exist somewhere in the world.
Influences for Broadmore include a variety of pop culture fodder: "Movies like Alien, Aliens, Star Wars, 2001, etc. Things like 2000 A.D., the comic that featured Judge Dredd, had a big impact on me. I love the art of Mike McMahon (Judge Dredd, Sláine) and many others. Specifically for Dr. Grordborts, classic pulp art of the first half of the last century has really inspired me."
Broadmore also has a healthy lack of respect for boundaries, saying of the terms "science fiction" and "fantasy": "Those two concepts are always funny to me. They are totally vague the more you examine them. They have both simply become backdrops for narratives. I would argue that very few science fiction stories are actually in any way speculative fiction based on real science or the realistic application of potential scientific breakthroughs. Most science fiction is just fantasy with more silver paint. I massively prefer the aesthetic possibilities of science fiction, but I'll enjoy any fantastic setting if it's had energy and inspiration put into it."
That said, Broadmore is "very into technology and science in general and I'm very excited by what science and technology opens up to us as possibilities. Computer tech is really producing the goods at the moment. The iPhone for instance is the future tech as imagined in years past finally coalescing. I'm an avid layman reader of any and all science I can find time for. Genomics, quantum mechanics, cosmology, evolution, nano-technology are all fascinating to me. I'm terrified on the other hand by the subtle anti-science, anti-medicine attitude that's become more pervasive in western society lately. All kinds of baseless pseudo-sciences are accepted by people that have little or no proof. Things like Homeopathy or the current celebrity hyped autism anti-vaccination trend that are pushed amaze me, the media in general don't seem to examine these things as critically as they should. I don't specifically make any of my fiction an allegory for these things, but I do like to poke fun at some human assumptions and foibles. My own included."
Broadmore seems to have enjoyed all of his creative experiences thus far, although he clearly has his favorites. "As far as feature films go, King Kong was great for me as I'm a Dinosaur nut, and recently District 9 (still in production) by Neill Blomkamp. But for me creating Dr. Grordbort's universe is the most fun, most satisfying. I have to say, I'm amazed by how fast the guns are selling out. There clearly is a desire for this kind of realizable art/sci-fi in the real world, and I'm really glad to be a part of that."
You can catch up with Broadmore this weekend at Comicon, where he will reveal a new manifestation of his wonderful imagination: the latest Raygun from the Dr. Grordbort's line, the Goliathon 83 - Miniature Version, labeled in the press release, "a masterpiece of micronised murder machinery."