Though geographically speaking Gestalt Comics are an Australian company they have never stressed that the works they publish are uniquely Australian in spirit or location; they strive, it seems, to simply publish what is good, not what is near. Neomad, however, presents as something of an exception to that rule; it is a truly Australian title, one that could not have possibly come from anywhere else.
Co-produced with Big hART as a part of their Yijala Yala project, one that pushes to give voice to the indigenous people’s of Australia, Neomad mixes together true-blue Australian tropes with a fictionalised future world: one in which water becomes a resource worth stealing, anthills an obstacle for your hover bike, spraycans and slingshots a weapon against security bots, etc. It’s what Mad Max might have looked like had George Miller made it for the Happy Feet crowd.
So NeoMad is then undoubtedly an Australian comic, but the term should come with none of the stigma attached to say ‘Australian Film’; it is the lightest, largest and perhaps most lovable book that I have read in a very long time. One that, like Axecop, is not only written for children, which is something that the often over serious comic industry lacks, but also by them. The Love Punks, main protagonists of the Neomad adventures, are a real gang of kids living in the actual outback landscape depicted in this comic – albeit a more mundane, present day version – and they not only inspired the scripts but actively participated in the colouring of this issue.
The Deep, Gestalt’s other All-Ages title, has the Art style of a AAA animation akin to those once made by Dreamworks, but the style shown here by writer/artist SuTu and The Love Punks themselves is somehow more particular. It seems certain, for example, that SuTu plied and practiced his trade watching Nickelodeon cartoons when he was himself a child and with the help of Haw Kong the Love Punk kids lend his linework the exact energy needed to lend it that same youthful life.
Though it is technically ‘unprofessional’ the colouring in this book is actually some of the strongest and most striking that I have seen; each scene is enlivened exponentially by the bold, clashing colours that they cast, which is what colours should do. There is no way that this book doesn’t catch your eye while flicking through it, no way that the art doesn’t hold the attention of the kids that it is aimed towards.
In contrast with its polished art the story of this collection – two parts released thus far – is a little rougher around the edges, though this is occasionally a part of its charm. Not content to simply sit back on the high-concept ideas embedded in their initial setting Neomad‘s scripts stretch further and further off into the innocent imaginations of the Love Punks. SuTu seemingly validating each and every crazy image that they described to him, which only emboldens them to come up with crazier ones; perhaps awakening in them a new dreamtime. Little effort though is ever given to tying too many of these together, but then that’s not really the point.
This approach also adds to the colourful and chaotic feel of the comic as a whole: during each swift-paced scene the massive Love Punk gang are constantly in action, often talking at the same time, talking over each other, repeating the same ideas and never staying still just like a real gang of young guys does. It’s that authenticity that shines through each and every page of Neomad – and there are a lot of pages in each issue, plus a whole host of bonus content when you purchase the app – and that spoke to me, even though I’m not the one it was truly made to address. If you have kids, or are one, then this is the kind of book you should be buying for them; that perfect blend of entertainment and education that results in the best kind of kid art.