Roebourne’s comic superheroes
The spinifex scrub near Cossack might be a long way from the glamour of Hollywood, but seven Indigenous girls from Roebourne don’t seem to mind.
They have big ideas about why they want to star in the second episode of NEOMAD, a sci-fi iPad comic featuring real-life characters from the Roebourne community.
“Because we want to be movie stars,” 12-year-old Alison Lockyer told the Pilbara Echo from the shade of a mangrove tree, in between takes in filming for the comic.
The girls aren’t exaggerating, either. The first episode of NEOMAD is currently on sale in the iTunes store, and will be shown on a big screen at the Roebourne oval this Wednesday September 26.
Local kids have also starred in a string of other productions produced as part of community organisation Big hART’s ambitious Yijala Yala project, which aims to help Roebourne locals preserve their cultural stories.
A group of Roebourne boys have already attended an international comic competition for kids in South Korea and helped make and star in a video game that has been featured in a US gaming magazine.
Stu Campbell, an artist specialising in interactive comics for the iPad, has spent the past year working in Roebourne and says the boys are learning Photoshop and storytelling skills fast.
“Probably the most important goal for the project is to skill these guys up so, in the future, they can preserve their own culture through new technological means that suit them.
“At the same time there are general objectives that we are trying to meet, like improving literacy.
“That is why there is a big focus on telling stories that the kids are interested in reading.
“And all the kids in the community pretty much know the first comic word- for-word now, which is pretty exciting.
“They keep going back and tapping the speech bubbles again and again. They know each kid’s voice and they mimic the way they say it.”
The Roebourne boys have not only been involved in every step of the creation of the NEOMAD comic, but they are also the stars of it, being featured in the comic’s filmed scenes as well as having animated characters based on them.
In the story, they are known as the Love Punks, a group intent on solving the mystery of a space rocket carved with petroglyphs that falls from the sky.
Along the way, they seek regular advice from the community’s elders.
Tyson Mowarin, who owns the house where the boys come everyday to work on the comics, says the Yijala Yala project is exciting because it is building skills in the community that complement his own work called iCampfire TV.
“iCampfire TV is a living breathing archive of Indigenous culture and history,” Mowarin said.
“And my site needs content like comics and apps and videos.
“So we’ve talked a bit about how when Big hART leaves there will be a whole community of skilled people, like these boys, to enhance the stuff that I do.”
Mowarin said the boys might even be able go work for him full-time one day.
The benefits of the Yijala Yala project are also flowing to the families of the Roebourne kids.
“I was a bit concerned that we were maybe being a bit avant garde or jumping the gun by releasing the comic on the iPad rather than just a computer,” comic artist Stu said.
“But in actual fact iPads are much more affordable than computers, and just recently a whole bunch of the families went out and bought iPads, they were so excited by the comic.
Now that the families have iPads, Stu said the Big hART crew were also installing a bunch of great learning apps on each tablet too.
But it’s not all about learning, there’s plenty of fun along the way.
Two of the Roebourne boys, Nathaniel Edwins and Maverick Eaton, went to South Korea for a kids’ comic convention where they weren’t afraid to pester the vice president of Marvel comics.
“We were hanging out with Marvel’s vice president most of the week,” Stu said.
“And the boys were hammering him about X-Man and how they weren’t
happy with the latest Hulk and that Marvel should have used the old Hulk.”
Being the superhero stars of their own comic strip, Stu said the boys might also be starting to get a little too big for their boots.
“Nathaniel and Maverick think they are awesome. We have really had to pull their egos in a bit,” he said.
That’s where the girls come into it. Having seen all the fun the boys were getting up to, they insisted they star in the second episode of NEOMAD.
“Having the girls for this new episode has kind of pulled the boys’ egos in a bit,” Stu laughed.
“And some of the girls are getting pretty good at Photoshop quickly, which is creating a new energy of competition between them and the boys.”