By Ben Kooyman
Created in a laboratory by the Australian military as the soldier for a war that never came, this creature was left to die in the searing heat of the outback. But he was taken in by a kind Indigenous family, and raised in secret at a remote community, believed to be the reincarnation of one of the Dreamtime Gods. But before he could learn more of his possible heritage, his adopted family was wiped out over land rights from a corrupt government. After years on the road as part of a biker gang, this KILLEROO has become something of an urban myth, much like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. Neither man nor animal, his nomadic existence has kept him safe and out of the public eye. Until now…
Kangaroos are one of the most instantly recognisable signifiers of Australia and Australian identity. The roo permeates Australian culture, from our national coat of arms to our local currency to our marquee airline (Qantas) to our children’s entertainment (Dot and the Kangaroo, Skippy, Splodge on Blinky Bill). When D.H. Lawrence wrote his final (and most underrated) novel in an Australian setting, he titled the book and the enigmatic provocateur at its core Kangaroo. And when the delightfully vulgar Barry Humphries star vehicle Les Patterson saves the World transitions from the United Nations in New York to Sydney Australia, it employs this satirical shot.
But like any cherished symbol or sacred cow (or marsupial), it’s fun taking some subversive jabs every now and again. Author Darren Close has been doing that with his creation the Killeroo – aka Rufus, a laboratory-created military weapon turned bikie who also happens to be a macropod – since creating him for a student newspaper in 1995. In Killeroo: Township Mine, written by Close with art by Adam Rose, Rufus rides into the town of Pindara, which corrupt government officials have invaded for mining purposes. The new authorities have displaced and threatened the Indigenous community, damaged sacred grounds and endangered the area’s wildlife. Rufus is recruited to foil these nefarious plans.
There’s an undeniable base appeal to seeing a kangaroo in a leather jacket and wife-beater singlet riding into town on a motorcycle and kicking bureaucratic breech, and Killeroo: Township Mine could have simply cruised along on that base appeal. To the credit of Close and Rose, they’ve created a topnotch product that takes itself seriously and doesn’t indulge in easy schtick. Moreover, there’s thematic heft to the tale, with the exploitation of the locals mirroring and continuing a long history of Indigenous exploitation and/or mistreatment, a history which Rufus himself has experienced firsthand. Lest it sound like this story about a badass biker kangaroo is as grave as Wagnerian opera, let me reassure you there’s also a good dose of fun; the bureaucratic villains and their heavies are Troma-esque in their broadness, and their demises are equally colourful. Moreover, for those passionate about both the serious social issues being discussed and enjoying some pulp in their fiction, Rufus and the townsfolk’s counter-actions will carry a therapeutic kick and element of wish fulfillment ala Inglorious Basterds/Django Unchained.
Close notes in his editorial at book’s end that he and Rose adopted a creative process akin to Stan Lee and his artists in their Marvel heyday, with Close providing the broad plot beats, Rose creating the art, and Close adding the dialogue towards the tail end of the project. Consequently, Rose’s black and white storytelling is particularly strong, clear, and expressive. I’ve had a hankering for some comic book Ozploitation for a while now, and Killeroo: Township Mine satisfied that hankering.
Killeroo: Township Mine is now available from Killeroo.com.