Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The story behind the planet 'Moorjhone'

[ You're probably wondering why I'm posting this link and image relating to 'Star Wars'. This blog post is a little different than what I usually throw up here, but it's something I want to share. It's relates to the origin of this planet above, and an important piece in how I got to where I am so far in all this comic nonsense. Bear with me, skip over, whatever :). Personal, but I hope it makes you perhaps pick up the phone, or write that email. ]

I have a handful of regrets so far in my life. One of the biggest involves a close friend of mine. When I think to where I currently sit in my Comic endeavors now, I know that he played an instrumental role in giving me an opportunity to get here. In 2005, I had enough rejection letters from graphic design places to wallpaper one side of the bathroom walls. They were always in the similar vein of "not enough studio experience". I had freelanced a bit during my first uni degree, and continued to do so after my degree was over in mid 2004; website design and art in first year for a local business, logo designs and pamphlets for others, even regular cartooning and illustration for a business in Sydney, which took me anywhere from Woolongong to the Blue Mountains and back to the very tip of the Central Coast. But it was always "your work is good, but be picked the other guy/older guy with more experience". My frustration at the time was "how to I 'get' experience, if no one is willing to give it!

So, After my 2nd stint in the Australian Taekwon-do team in Mid 2005, coming back with no solid career, but a handful of dead-end options not leading to what I wanted to do, I was in a rut.

I was on the Central Coast of NSW, freelancing, reception work at a local gym, teaching fitness boxing and Martial arts classes, running a small Taekwon-do school, and sending job applications by the handful. During all this, while I taught at my own school, I would train at one of my best mate's school; he was a higher rank, plenty of knowledge, and other adults for me to engage with (my school was majority children). Over the time of training there, and also in my years working at one of the local gyms, I met a bloke who was friends with my TKD friends, use to train at one of the gyms where I worked, who I also ended up freelance designing a couple of magazine adverts for. He ran his own company, very smart guy, nice bloke, very driven. Sometime in 2005 he found himself up in Queensland, where I had spent a good chunk of my life  growing up before moving with the family back down to NSW, finishing the final few years of high school there. But, I missed the QLD lifestyle, and always wanted to return. He said to me before leaving "if you ever want a change, I have a spare room, give me a call." At this point, I was seriously considering it, as while I was applying for jobs, getting some offers but finding their location to be out in the middle of nowhere, or the usual knock backs, I came across the Queensland College of Art's Bachelor of Animation program. It was currently taking portfolio submissions: back in 05/06, there was a drawing component that was needed as well as previous academic records, in order to be considered. I applied, got selected, and phoned up my friend to see if the offer still stood.

He shared with me his home, time with him and his friends and family, and taught me a few things along the way. I remember the first time I attempted to cook a meal for myself in his kitchen. He insisted all the doors and windows of the house to be open, and the fans to be on "so it doesn't smell like food when I get home". It didn't matter that we were having unseasonably cold evenings...
 It also seems those years watching Mum cook for my Dad, little sister and I came in handy- except for the portions. I had made enough for two whole dinner plates. It took me several nights to get the hang of it, and thankful, my friend taught me to make one or two other meals, otherwise I would have died of steak poisoning.
 My friend and I didn't always see eye to eye, which use to make me laugh; he thought South Sydney shouldn't be in the NRL, as they weren't at "elite playing standard" (I always cringed when he brought this up with Dad :P),  he thought superheroes were lame, except Batman, as that was "kind of believable because he is a normal bloke with a lot of money" (and yet LOVED Star Wars), and he certainly let you know if you were doing something wrong, and should be doing it his way, or a "better" way ;P But it was always with the very best of intentions, or just teasing.

One of the things he absolutely loved was science fiction- in particular, Space and as mentioned, 'Star Wars'. In fact, one day he insisted I sit and watch all of them, as I'd never seen them all, and could only remember bits from my childhood. So I did- VHS- I missed all of the crazy extra bits Lucas went and changed- and sure, it wasn't my thing, but we had something else to talk about, laugh about, and tell stories of what else we'd read or seen over a coffee or pizza with him, his lovely partner and her younger daughter. He was a fan of Chris Lilley's 'We can be Heroes', so we were always laughing about something.

6 months later, family situations changed, and I set up base again with my family, who had also just moved back up to QLD. From there, a few months later, I was able to land another job or two, and set up my own apartment, and continue on with my studying/commuting/ working/training. My friend and I spoke once or twice on the phone, usually he'd buzz me while he was waiting for a plane to go to a conference somewhere, and I was just heading home from work, somewhat embarrassed I hadn't called him first after all these months, or that perhaps my current life in juggling uni and working a part -time job I didn't like wasn't where I wanted to be, or that he thought I should be. Despite sometimes not agreeing 100% with a suggestion of his, I always valued his opinion. Sometimes, I missed a call, and with all the commuting, and part time work in the opposite direction of Brisbane, I couldn't always return the call. The 3rd world championships took up more time in 2007, plus my studies, I met someone before that too, and we ended up moving away-  so life just pulled me away, and I lost touch with my old friend.

Last year, around Sept/Oct, I had heard through a friend he was in some sort of accident- not sure if urgent, and did not know any of the details of what happened. It didn't sound urgent, in fact, it sounded ok, given as a little "Oh, by the way, I think.." sort of thing. That week, I had a heavy deadline due, had just had my relationship end,  and found since I'd had the phone change a few times, over the last couple of years, I had no contact details, and just couldn't think straight in general.
Until, that same night, I got a text. It was his partner. Grateful that she still had my number, I called her back. It was very serious.
The accident was explained to me, and finding out what hospital he was in, I went to visit him. this was not something I was looking forward to. I hate Hospitals. My Dad had spend some time in ICU in a coma for about a month with a life-threatening illness when I was younger. This was where my friend was. And, it would be the first time I had seen him in years. Possibly 4. I couldn't remember. You have to understand, here is a man who owned his own companies at the top of their field, very intelligent, had a lovely family, always lived life to the fullest. We had trained at his local gym when I moved up, driven fast in his car, he was an avid cyclist, loved Motorcycles, raised money for charities, and still loved his Star Wars, according to his partner, and the pictures up in his hospital room. To see him like this was a shock to the system, and I'll never forget it. That day, I got a chance to tell him what I'd been up to, and brought my comic books along to read to him. I explained to his partner that the following week I was at a convention, and the writer for the Star Wars comics was going to be there, and I will see if I could bring another book to read to him.

The next week, I met Tom Taylor and Colin Wilson at the convention. I'd met Tom a year beforehand, and he did remember my face, but twigged when realized I did 'The Soldier Legacy'- the TV commercial had just starting playing on channel 7 and on the web. He was running off to give a panel, but very kindly signed a personalized copy of the Star Wars: Invasion volume 1 to my friend, along with Colin.

It was the last book I read to my friend. A few days later he was taken to palliative care, and passed away peacefully.

The next time I got a chance to talk to Tom was online, and I thanked him again for the book. I mentioned that my friend was such a huge Star wars fan, and how he'd made me watch the films, and I read him the trade which was the last time I saw him. Mr Taylor (we are friends, but at the time, had only just had one or 2 chats with) made a huge, kind gesture that I won't forget: "I will put your friend in my next Star War series". I am pleased to think that my friend is now officially part of the extended Star Wars universe. His name is an anagram of a planet in the 'Darth Maul: Death Sentence' series; rather appropriate, as he had a larger than life personality, and I did laugh at the '3 suns':  he had a good natural tan from his daily walks on the beach- that he insisted when I first got there that I needed (like a pale, freckled skin person could ever achieve that :P). He always used a dryer to dry his clothes, as the combination of the QLD sun and his white tiled, white-walled clothes line area would blench and burn anything you attempted to hang outside :P
Anyway, my friend's partner thought that this Star Wars tribute was fantastic, and I and his family are very thankful to have such a kind gesture from Tom. I know Tom would be embarrassed to know that I mentioned this- I know he didn't want to make a bit deal out of it, but it's only fair that an act of kindness should be mentioned. I am very grateful.

It's been just over 12 months now, this time last year was the funeral. I now have my own copy of the Star Wars graphic novel I read to my friend the last time I got to speak to him. I dedicated issue 4 of 'The Soldier Legacy' to him. It's not much, but it's a small something. I have his photo up in the lounge room. I find myself remembering silly things at silly points in time, like when doing a drop set of tricep extensions at the gym; I remember my friend saying he never felt anything when he did tricep exercises, so I made him do a set from my routine. He laughed halfway though- he certainly felt it burn them :P
Most of all, I remember that without offering a roof over my head, and an assist in breaking my 'rut', I would have never been able to study at QCA, to improve my illustrating, to begin making my own comic series, and  now continuing with post grad studies, and lecturing on a current casual basis. I regret losing touch, missing those one or two voice mails, not being able to have those conversations anymore, and thank him for the help that's lead to here and now. I can only hope that 2013 marches forward even bigger and better than 2011 and 2012, and that he'd dig what I'm currently doing.

I'm looking forward to the graphic novel release of 'Darth Maul: Death Sentence', I'm sure the battle on Moorjhone is epic.

As you were.

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