So, I'm one of those slow, word-by-word readers, and as much as I enjoy a good fantasy/sci-fi novel, I find I don't have the time to graze the page like I used to. Hence, comics have always been more my cup of tea. A sexy triumvirate of electric static images, smart narrative and crackling dialogue is my reading heaven.
The stairway to all of it began kind of like this ... Sometime back in the late 80s a high school buddy of mine produced a copy of a 2000 AD comic from his bag and said: "Bro - check out this fulla's artwork". The artist was Simon Bisley, who was working on a serial called ABC Warriors.
Beneath the action, chrome, hot babes and muscles of the narrative and art, was this underlying political subversion, like a big "f*** you" to society, and all the above hugely appealed to teenage me. My heroes were rebels, outcasts and fringe-dwellers. My mother seemed content to fuel this new passion, giving me $2 a week for the latest 2000 AD - I think she was just super-happy that I was actually reading anything on a regular basis.
While ravenously consuming Bisley's work, other artists came to my attention. Dave D'Antiquis (Brigand Doom), James Hewlett (Tank Girl) and Kiwi genius, lost too soon, Martin "Marty" Emond (White Trash).
As I hit my 20s, my taste in comics evolved, it was writers who appealed to me more than the artists: legendary British scribes like Alan Moore (The Watchmen, Promethea), Garth Ennis (Preacher, Bloody Mary) and James Robinson (Starman, Golden Age).
I had this heaving comic collection, now fuelled by the fact I was working in a hobby and games store that also had a vibrant comics section. Comics were going through a modern-age renaissance and I felt right at the centre of it - about this time, somebody coined the term "graphic novel" because comics needed a more "adult" name. Comics had grown up - and so had I.
These days, my comic collection is a mere shadow of the once-glorious beast that dominated my shelves. Girlfriends and growing up put a serious dent in it, but ultimately the accessibility of new works online has meant most of the collection now exists on my laptop.
There are two writers of that initial collection that I couldn't find it in my heart to leave behind and I still own the non-digital comics I collected of Alan Moore and James Robinson from waaay back. Both have been a huge influence on my own work as a playwright and screenwriter; Moore for so many reasons - his sheer genius is incomparable - while Robinson has this great ability to get to the core of his characters and seamlessly bring them to life amid fantastical worlds. One of my favourite lines from any piece of literature comes from James Robinson's character Alec Swan - "I'm just a Touchstone Guy in a Walt Disney World" - and I get it, I totally get it.
Albert Belz leads the Tuhi Tika emerging playwrights masterclasses as part of Kōanga Festival at Te Pou Theatre, New Lynn. Kōanga Festival runs until Sunday, Sept 17.