Growing up, I was a huge comic book fan, but I often wondered why there weren’t many Aboriginal comic book heroes (or villains). I knew of Gateway from Marvel’s X-Men comics, and Condoman from health promotion posters and … Well, that’s about it actually.
When I went looking recently though, it turned out there was a lot more than I realised.
Here, I’ve listed many comics featuring Indigenous Australian’s in the pages and on the screens of superhero worlds. I note that many of the early characters have their powers connected to the ‘Dreamtime’. Although this is presented in different ways, it’s often done using separate dimensions within the extended comic multiverses.
I also note that very few of the comics have any mention of actual Aboriginal first nations and do not seem to have had much research or thought given towards any level of authenticity. However, the more recent characters appear to have given slightly more consideration to the Indigenous characters, their origins and their characteristics.
But sadly, very few entries here have been designed by Aboriginal artists, or written by Aboriginal authors. Perhaps, given the positive development within the field from the 1980s to today, this is something we will see more of in future.
Molo, an alien, was stranded on earth after his rocketship crashed in Australia. He was befriended by a boy named Willy Willy who taught him to speak English, and was apparently regularly seen sitting atop Molo’s shoulders.
Talisman is a ‘mystic’ who focuses his powers by whirling a bullroarer above his head. This allows him to transport himself and others to the ‘Dreamtime dimension’ and ‘to know the true nature, and the past, present, and future nature, of any person or object, and can flawlessly track any object, person, or creature’. He was abducted in order to battle against several other abducted superheroes in a game between Death and the Grandmaster. Talisman was crucial to defeating the villains and to helping the captured superheroes to eventually escape.
The Wombat is a war veteran who left the Seato courtesy forces to return to Australia and protect the animals of the land, with twin swords!
Most of us who were around in the late 80s and early 90s were familiar with Condoman, the Phantom-
inspired Aboriginal superhero who told us, “Don’t be shame be game”. But did you know that he was relaunched in 2009, with the help of Inception Strategies, with a female counterpart, Lubelicious, and that they fought against the ‘super-villains’ Stigmalien, HIV, HPV, Chlamydia, Hepatitis B, Gonorrhea, and Herpes?
Little is known about the iconic character Gateway, a powerful mutant with the power to create teleportational ‘gateways’ that can traverse time and space by ‘whirling his bull-roarer over his head’. He is also a powerful telepath and has the powers of precognition, remote viewing, and total recall. In order to save a site sacred to his (unnamed) people, Gateway was forced into servitude by an evil group of mutants known as the Reavers. He was eventually freed when the Reavers were defeated by the X-Men, and for a time became an unofficial member of the team, transporting them wherever they needed to go. Believed for a time to be mute, he is known to have spoken only once, saying the name of the mutant Penance who he brought to Xavier’s School for gifted children. He later revealed himself to be the great-grandfather of Bishop and Shard. He was killed off in Uncanny X-Force #27 (2012), at the hands of Ultimaton.
A one-off character, Umbaluru is technically neither a superhero or villain. He is a man who has come to Gotham City on a mission of justice. Kerry Rollo, an artifact collector, has a ‘power bone’ stolen from a tribe near Uluru and Umbaluru plans to get it back and to kill the man who stole it. Batman interrupts Umbaluru and Rollo, and once Umbaluru explains it to him, he tells him that Rollo will stand trial. Umbaluru rejects his ‘white man’s justice’ and dives with Rollo out of the window. Rollo falls to his death, but Umbaluru escapes.
According to the DC Wiki, “Betty Clawman was recruited by the Guardians of the Universe, the creators of the Green Lantern Corps, who planned to create their successors, a race of new Guardians on Earth. One
of the Guardians and a Zamaron, the Guardians’ female counterparts, channeled their powers into the “Millennium Project.” Gathering ten individuals together and teaching them about the nature of the cosmos, they endowed their “Chosen” with immortality and metahuman powers. One of these was a young woman named Betty Clawman, to whom the Guardians gave the power to merge with the inner being of the earth in Dreamtime, which allows her to enter and manipulate others’ dreams” – which makes perfect sense to me.
First mentioned by Thor, in Thor #301 in 1980, this collection of Aboriginal deities were not seen in Marvel comics until 1989. Based on actual Aboriginal creation spirits, this is the perhaps the weirdest and most surreal addition to this list. Just as Marvel have made characters of Norse Gods like Thor and Zeus, and Greek gods like Hercules, they attempted to do the same with Aboriginal spirituality; the line up includes Baiame, Daramulum, Gnowee, Marmoo, Mamaragan, Narahdarn, Julunggul, and Altjira. According to Marvel lore these gods are true immortals who cease to age after reaching adulthood. They all possess superhuman attributes and powers ranging from shape-shifting, flight, superhuman strength and the ability to travel between dimensions.
According to the Marvel Wiki “Lucas Bishop was born in the 21st Century A.D. of an alternate future timeline in which the mutant-hunting robot Sentinels had taken control of North America. Bishop’s parents escaped to America shortly before the island nation of Australia was destroyed in a tactical nuclear strike. They were soon captured and interred in a mutant relocation camp in Sheep’s Head Bay, Brooklyn, New York. There, Bishop and his sister Shard were both born and, like other mutants, they were branded with “M” tattoos over their right eyes for identification.”
Bishop traveled back in time to track-down an escaped criminal from his own past and became stranded in history.
Here he joined the X-Men and fought to avert the future that awaited him. Here he met his own great-grandfather, Gateway.
Bishop is a mutant with the power to absorb energy, either ambient energy or that directed towards him, and to project that energy from his body in the form of concussive blasts. He also instinctively knows his location at all times.
Sister of Bishop, and great-grand daughter of Gateway, Shard was a powerful mutant in her own right. She had the abilities to fire photonic energy. After a series of incidents, Shard was believed to have been killed, but her essence was actually converted into a photon-based life form (basically a hologram). This
transformation retained her photonic energy firing ability. Shard was eventually returned to a human body, and was transported into an alternate future where she died for the second and final time, saving her brother Bishop from a criminal from the future named, Fitzroy.
According to the Marvel Wiki “Willie Walkaway grew up hearing tales and legends from his Aboriginal family. However, he chose to live in the city and joined the police force.
While investigating sightings of ‘monsters’ with his partner, Willie suddenly realized that the legends his grandfather told him were true. He returned to his home and made a tribal costume as well as a boomerang to ward off the spirits.
He came upon the superhero team Force Works who were also investigating. They learned that all the town’s citizens were trapped in a dreamlike state as ‘nightmares’ ran freely all over the area. They found a being that called itself the Orphan in the ‘Dreaming Country.’ It explained that the Aborigine ‘dreamguards’ had taken care of it in the past, as it could make a person’s dreams manifest in reality.
However, two robbers had killed an old man and stumbled upon it. Both robbers were eventually killed by their own nightmares.
Willie agreed to serve as the new Dreamguard, as he possessed the ‘dream sight’ the previous guardians did. Force Works left a communicator in case Willie needed more assistance”
(Is it just me, or are there a lot of Dreamtime/Dreaming based superpowers going on here? Anyway…)
A tattoo artist from Melbourne, Johnny Riley was originally known as Scout and was the sidekick of the original Dark Ranger who was killed by Wingman. After his death Johnny took up the mantle of Dark Ranger and joined the Club of Heroes and Batman Incorporated.
Eden Fesi, aka Manifold, grew up dreaming of being a famous rockstar and a lead guitarist but was instead destined to become a superhero due to his powers (very similar to Gateway) of being able to mold reality to tear open space and time connecting one place to another thus allowing him to teleport to just about anywhere.
It was hard to find any official info on Kaboomerang, other than his real name is Daniel, but according to the awesome site
World of Black Heroes, “Kaboomerang is a member of an unnamed Aboriginal tribe in Australia. He is highly skilled in the use of boomerangs and is a highly trained hand-to-hand combatant. After using his skills to make a variety of boomerangs with different effects, he made a costume and cut a swath through the crime of Australia. After years of operating on his own he joined the Global Guardians.”
A three-part miniseries, Deadly is a post-apocalyptic, zombie (well, ‘mutant carnivores’ to be precise) story set in an Australia where everyone except for Aboriginal people have fled the country.
A graphic novel series by Yawuru writer and illustrator Brenton E McKenna, Ubby’s Underdogs tells the
story of a street smart young girl named Ubby in 1940s Broome WA, who leads a group of kids called the ‘Underdogs’ on all sorts of high stakes adventures.
Thunderer is described as a Weather God of the Mowanjum people and the last survivor of Earth 7. He eventually forms and leads a team of superheroes from across the Multiverse. Thunderer is also one of the few comic characters who does not come from either an unnamed or an imaginary Aboriginal nation. The Mowanjum community is based near Derby in Western Australia.
From the highly recommended Koori History website: “Basically Black was a program which featured a comedy skit “Super Boong.” Here was a hero with a decidedly racist term for a name, even in the days of the early 1970’s. Super Boong was a parody of Superman in the camp style of George Reeve and was the brainchild of legendary activists and civil rights leaders Gary Foley and Bob Maza. The character was designed to afford a few laughs but along with the rest of the characters of Basically Black, Super Boong gave audiences something rare and important – a glimpse at black Australian people, away from the evening news where we were invariably portrayed as victims or criminals. The show was imbued with a deliberate layer of social commentary which acted to tackle racism head-on.”
Lin Onus wanted to create an Indigenous superhero for his son, Tiriki. Although it never made it into an actual comic book Kaptn Koori is an iconic image that helped to create the drive and desire for more Aboriginal heroes.
Created by: Kids from Roebourne, in collaboration with Big Hart
In 2011, a group of young people from Roebourne got together to make a zombie film about how the energy of youth can transform and bring about change to things/situations that are stuck. The idea was that zombies just needed a bit of love and fun and they would come to life again. It was set to the song
‘What the World Needs Now’ and the characters the kids created for themselves became known collectively as the ‘Love Punks’.
Developed by Inception Studios (the team who revamped Condoman in 2009) in a workshop they ran with Indigenous youth at Bwgcolman School, Palm Island. Murrilicious is an healthy food superhero, and you can read the full story here.
The story of real life Indigenous war hero, Reg Saunders, was turned into a graphic novel in 2015, titled ‘Reg Saunders: an Indigenous war hero’. He is acknowledged as the the first Indigenous Australian to become an officer in the Army. The graphic novel is available via the National Library of Australia.
Although not a comic book, we couldn’t make a list of Aboriginal superheroes and comic book characters without giving a shoutout to
Ryan Griffen’s amazing series, Cleverman. A drama set in an alternate reality where Hairypeople, endowed with incredible strength, speed and longevity, strive to survive among humans who want to destroy them. (Season 2 due any week now!!!)
I couldn’t make a list like this without giving a nod to The Phantom too…
The Wuluti Tribe (1989)
In the story, Wuluti’s Secret, written by Team Fantomen (Swedish) the 14th Phantom travels to Australia hunting down an art thief during the early days of European invasion. He spends extensive time with the ‘Wuluti tribe’, who are being harrassed by British colonisers. The Wuluti assist the Phantom in capturing the art thief and the Phantom assists them with their mistreatment by the British. Years later, in the story The Black Fire, the 21st Phantom returns to Australia to track down an artwork stolen in the time of
the 14th Phantom. The villain is an ancestor of the art thief in the original story, and the Phantom is again assisted by the Wuluti. The Wuluti also appear in The Kings Cross Connection storyline, though here they are spelt as ‘Waluti’.
This article was first published 16 January 2017 on NITV online
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