The Arts

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Roeburne’s Love Punks

Roebourne on the west Pilbara coast has been turned upside down with the latest sci-fi action and adventure – all courtesy of the Love Punks.

It’s part of a new interactive comic made by Big hART and a group of 11-year-old comic artists from the community of Roebourne on WA’s Pilbara coastline.

The comic is Australia’s first ever Aboriginal interactive comic book for iPad and is titled NEOMAD. It was developed as part of the Yijala Yala Project, Big hART’s long-term arts engagement project in the Pilbara. It involves a unique meeting of pop-culture and traditional culture using digital tools.

Multi award-winning creator of the NAWLZ interactive comic series, Illustrator Stu Campbell worked with the Love Punks to create the comic, films and a game based around the Love Punks and the NEOMAD storyline.

“We had the intention of only creating a comic, but the boys are crazy about video games, so we developed the online game. The cool thing about it is that we use animations of the boys in the game,” Stu says.

“They had to learn Photoshop and how to animate themselves. After we created the game, we upped the skill level and when I created the basic illustrations for the comic, they coloured it in through Photoshop. No-one had used it before and they had to learn about five tools for the game animation and about 10 tools for the comic. They also learnt how to use the keyboard shortcuts.”

Aside from the technical skills, the boys were heavily involved in developing the storyline and the comic’s dialogue.

“We consulted with them and nutted out the story they wanted to do, then they helped write the lines. Whenever I would suggest something they would say, ‘I wouldn’t say that!’ We also acted out the story and any fresh ideas that came up, we put them in the comic,” Stu says.

“You could see the power of the whole process at the community launch when we projected the comic onto the screen. I was surprised how locked in they were. The families were laughing and giggling. The community launch was really empowering.”

“The girls here wanted to also get involved, so we are recording their voices for a comic. We’ve seen such a transformation in the kids and they are surprising themselves, saying, ‘Did I just do that?’”

Stu relates a powerful story about what the project meant to the kids. One of the Love Punks, Nathaniel had a dream about the boys being invited to go to New York and show their comic to the world. Just a few days later, the boys got word they were invited to the International Children’s Comic Festival in Seoul, South Korea.

“They prepared their own comics ahead of the Festival. Eleven-year-old Maverick Eaton, also known as Garuwarra in NEOMAD says, “We met some more kids that make comics like Michael from New Zealand and Zoom from London, a Nigerian boy from Africa and two boys from the Netherlands. One girl from Korea drew all the Love Punks and a girl from China made a character that goes to space.”

According to Stu there were many stages during the project where the boys couldn’t believe that particular situations would ever happen in life, then discovering that those opportunities are real and actually out there.

The Love Punks have been hard at work for over a year on the project. The NEOMAD game was released in August 2011, then Episode 1 of the comic came out in April. They’ve just finished Episode 2.

“We’ve achieved more than we thought with the project,” Stu says. “They’ve developed technical skills and have experimented with computers. They have a great record that they were part of NEOMAD, not just with the comic but the film clips, too, and the comic is a story about their lives. It has changed the face of Roebourne itself and the town is perceived in a new light. We shot a film clip for RAGE (ABC Television’s music video show) and it was seen by millions of people. Roebourne is now the home of the Love Punks.”

The Love Punks themselves all agree that making the comic, the game and the film clips was “fun and wicked.”

“We got to do stuff and make a film,” says Woden, one of the Love Punks.

“And learning about Photoshop was wicked,” another Love Punk, Brody says.

The boys also liked the acting and the trip to South Korea.

And what’s on the agenda for them in the future? They all agree a full-length movie about the Love Punks should happen.

“Make a real movie,” Brody says. And EJ agrees, “Yeah, a movie about the countryside.”

“Yeah an action movie,” Nathaniel says.

One thing is guaranteed, the Love Punks have made their mark not just on Roebourne, but the world.


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