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Comic lover and the political passion his Granny gave him

05 December 2019 - By Jock Anderson

Employment lawyer Simon Martin’s interesting reading tastes often gets him gently hassled – but he sees his beloved comics as another form of art and storytelling.

“I have always had a very misplaced affinity for comic books, which gets me hassled quite frequently,” says Simon, who was recently made partner at Quigg Partners in Wellington.

“About 40% of my bookshelf are old volumes of comic books. I enjoy comics as light relief. My favourites are Marvel and DC, stuff that everyone knows now with all the films that are coming out.

NameSimon Frederick (Simon) Martin
BornAshburton
Age35
Entry to LawGraduated BA (Political Studies) and LLB from Otago University. Admitted in 2008.
WorkplacePartner at Quigg Partners, Wellington.
Speciality areaEmployment law.

“I have a few original copies of what are now called graphic novels.

“I’m not too sure of values. Circulations have gone up so much it is very rare now to get a comic that is hard to get.

Photo of Simon Martin

“Anything that is old and anything signed by the creators can be worth a bit. I’ve got a couple signed by creators when I went to New York – Spider-Man and Batman – but I’m not holding out any hope it is going to be any financial investment for the girls (daughters Charlotte and Emily).

“It’s somewhat of a niche area. I don’t often talk about it much because people laugh at you. I will probably be ridiculed for this but I see them as another form of art and another form of storytelling.

“I don’t want to get too high level on it but I often marvel at the sync between the writer and the artist and making sure the artist knows exactly what the writer is trying to convey.

“The form itself is one I find engages a different part of the brain. My work hours involve a lot of looking at a computer screen and a lot of reading. It’s nice to break that up with something light.

“If I named a book I think everyone should read in terms of a graphic novel it would be Watchmen.

Watchmen deconstructed the whole genre and changed the face of comics. It was rated by Time magazine as one of the 100 greatest books of all time. I read Watchmen once a year. It is recognised globally as being the peak of the form itself. There’s a movie but they are never as good as the real thing.

“My overall favourite comic character is The Preacher from the comic of the same name, written by Garth Ennis, who is an excellent writer and someone whose new material I always make sure I read.

“I listen to people I respect and try to catch the good writers, such as Brian Michael Bendis [an award-winning American comic book writer whose creations include Ultimate Spider-Man and New Avengers].

“About 80% of my books are non-fiction, which I often get hassled about. But I will also read anything focused on the Middle East and US politics, my number one passion.”

Rarotonga a second home

Brought up in Ashburton, Simon’s mother Marion has been a practice nurse for many years, and his Dad Roger, who owned Martin’s Garden Place in Ashburton for about 15 years, is still an active landscaper and horticulturist. “He is well-known as the man to go to for gardening advice.”

“We get to Ashburton as often as we can to see them.

“There is no legal dynasty or backgrounds and I am the only lawyer on my side of the family.”

Simon and his wife Alexandra met while students at Carrington Hall in Dunedin.

“We got married in Rarotonga and have been there three times. It’s a home away from home, a beautiful spot and a special place for us.

“Alex went into human resources, which fits with employment law, and was an HR manager and business partner for some time. Since the kids came along she has recently started her own coaching and development business.”

Simon Martin

Daughters Charlotte (four in January) and Emily (15 months) keep Simon and Alex busy.

“Sport has always been a big thing for me and I played in the front row for about 25 years until my back finally gave up. I played First 15 rugby through school and for the Allenton club in Ashburton.

“At university I played colts reserve grade with Alhambra Union in Dunedin. It is good rugby down there. In Wellington I managed to fit in with a couple of teams, including one undefeated season with the famously-named OBU Yardies. That was much more social.”

A golfer and cricketer in summer, back surgery a couple of years ago put paid to his days as a fast bowler.

“My other sports passion is American Football (NFL). I have an unhealthy obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles, who for the 20-odd years I have supported them have been perennial under-achievers. They finally won the Super Bowl for the first time in 2017, one of the top five days of my life.

“Away from sport we’re centred round family, friends and barbecues.”

Simon has enjoyed getting to the annual Easter Bunny shoot in Alexandra a couple of times, with his team of 20 shooters finishing second one year with a tally of 1,300 rabbits in 24 hours from a block at Queensbury, near Cromwell.

New York

When Simon and Alex first moved to Wellington she was working in HR and coordinating for the Australian High Commission when an opportunity that could not be turned down sent them to New York.

Alex took up a similar role at the Australian Consulate in New York in 2013 and 2014. Simon left Quigg Partners, not expecting to return to the firm.

“It was too good an opportunity to pass up for Alex. We lived in the upper west side of Manhattan. Alex’s job was challenging. It was when Australia was on the United Nations Security Council, so they were surging a lot of research into New York and from an HR perspective it had its particular challenges.

“I was not doing much and having a great time. I ended up working for the Australian Consulate’s mission to the United Nations, working with protocol matters – getting people in and out of the UN, office administration and helping with events.

“They gave me the title of Office Coordinator – it was a real departure from the law. We enjoyed everything New York had to offer and met some wonderful people - mostly Aussies and Canadians.

“We used New York as a base to travel through a lot of the States and fell in love with a lot of what America has to offer. Obviously, there are difficult sides to living in Manhattan, especially for a kid from Ashburton. It opened our eyes.

“At the back end of that trip we visited Mexico and Europe.

“I played the drums at school and got close to being in a rock and roll band, but not quite.

“Home life necessitates not having a drum kit, but one day I will get a drum kit and some sort of padded room and get back into it. I love music, from 90s grungy rock to hip hop, rap, and softer stuff. If I was drumming in a band now it would be classic 90s rock - Pearl Jam, Nirvana.

“I like a tight thriller or drama at the cinema. Tom Hanks and Denzil Washington in Philadelphia orMartin Scorsese’s The Departed.

“Tom Hanks is my favourite actor and I have yet to see a bad Hanks movie, although Alex yells at me for wanting to watch Forrest Gump because she can’t stand it. His role in Captain Phillips was outstanding, and in Bridge of Spies.

“I’ve also been interested by the various superhero movies.

“I try to keep up with the TV shows everyone’s talking about - Game of Thrones, The West Wing on dvd, which sparked my interest in American politics, The Wire, Sopranos, Breaking Bad.”

A mean carbonara

“We have a timeshare in Oreti Village, Pukawa Bay, at the south of Lake Taupo. Alex’s Dad has another one so we often end up at the same time as him, and he has a boat.

“Kaiteriteri is the place I most associate with. From the age of 10 to about 16 I would go there every year to the camping ground with Mum and Dad. For me it was the quintessential summer.

“I would love to meet and talk with New Yorker magazine Editor David Remnick over dinner, I love his books. He has an interest in everything and he shares my politics, which are a bit left-wing, and he shares a similar ideology to me on justice and fairness. [Māori rangatira of the Ngāpuhi iwi and a war leader in northern New Zealand] Hone Heke would be fascinating as well.

“I make a mean carbonara Italian pasta. I have one recipe and I follow it. My kitchen skills are not great but I profess to also have a good crack at the barbecue.

“During summer we have a sheltered spot where I barbecue decent sized roasts and good steaks. I aspire one day to have a lovely fire pit.

“Gin and tonic is always acceptable. I like a reliable Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray or Botanist. A few crates of Speights went down well at our Leith Street flat in Dunedin.

“I grew up with lots of cats but we don’t have any pets at the moment. Charlotte asks me every night if it is time to get a cat. When Emily is two or three we will look at a getting an ordinary moggy. Cats don’t want and need much from you, they do their own thing.

“We have just got an electric car, a 2014 Nissan Leaf, which does 130km on full charge. A lot of our neighbours have moved over to electric. We also have a Lexus 5-seater SUV for longer trips. Life is all about balance.

“From a legal perspective, the case that had the biggest impact on me was the Lynne Snowdon employment dispute with Radio New Zealand, whom we acted for.

“The case had been ongoing for some years when I started at Quigg Partners, in 2007. It finished in 2014.

“We always got close to a trial, then often it would get abandoned for some reason. The hearing took place while I was in New York so I wasn’t there at the end, but it ended well for the client, RNZ.

“The beautiful thing about employment law is it is so varied. You’ve got the human element, people’s work gives them purpose and is such a massive part of their lives. There are stakes to it as well, which I enjoy, whether acting for employers or employees.”

Having majored in political studies at university, Simon says an alternative career would be in national politics – “Definitely, I have an ambition to enter politics and one day I will.

“I’m not sure in what form and what it will look like and whether it will be local or national or whether I will have any chance. It is a definite passion. I want to be more engaged locally, within the next few years. And national politics is much more appealing and extremely interesting.

“I have a passion passed down from my grandmother, Shirley Body (88), who lives in Methven. She was a teacher in Bannockburn, Central Otago, and ended up on a dairy farm in Methven with grandad.

“She is the only grandparent I have left and a very strong woman. She’s a hardline Labour supporter.

“Her and my mother would have got me interested in the need to be engaged, which probably pushed me toward a legal career as well.

“My other option before being a lawyer was a truck driver.”

Over a long career in journalism Jock Anderson has spent many hours in courtrooms and talking to members of the legal profession. If you think you would make for an interesting profile, or know of someone who would, contact Jock at jockanderson123@gmail.com

Last updated on the 5th December 2019