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Australian Son the story of Ned Kelly by Max Brown
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Ned Kelly by Monty Wedd

PLATE ONE | PLATE TWO

Although there have been many comic versions of the Ned Kelly legend, none have been as detailed nor as authentic as Monty Wedd’s version. The original plans called for Ned Kelly to run for twenty-five to thirty weeks but when Wedd sensed the opportunity to be able to produce a detailed examination of Kelly's life he approached the Sunday Mirror and explained what he had in mind.

They agreed he should draw the comic on an open-end basis and so Ned Kelly ran for one hundred and forty-six weeks, finishing in July 1977. Apart from the standard research that would go into a comic of this nature, Wedd visited the courtroom and various other spots in order to make the strip as authentic as possible.

He told the story with an even-handed approach and left it to the reader to make his own determination of Kelly's rightful place in our history. Rendered in a style that resembles earlier engravings, with considerable crosshatching, the comic was an excellent example of how to use the medium to teach history.


Iron Outlaw by Greg and Grae

ISSUE 09 | SECOND LAST ISSUE | LAST ISSUE

In June 1970 the politically incorrect comic Iron Outlaw commenced in Melbourne's Sunday Observer. Written by Graeme Rutherford and drawn by Gregor MacAlpine, Iron Outlaw sometimes ridiculed but mostly poked fun at the political and social institutions of Australia and set about the ‘Ocker’ image with great relish. At the same time they highlighted the popularity of comic book super-heroes, particularly the characters from Stan Lee's Marvel Comic Group, and imitated the styles of well-known comic book artists, like Neal Adams, to reinforce their point. The alter ego of Iron Outlaw was Gary Robinson, a junior accountant for the Melvern City Council who was tormented by the injustices against the good people of Melbourne.

On a visit to Glenrowan he finds an old Ned Kelly style helmet and wishes that he had the strength and courage of Ned Kelly to combat the forces of evil. From nowhere appears Yum Yabbi the spirit of the bush and an Aboriginal answer to Britannia. With a winged kangaroo perched on her head, an Aboriginal kangaroo motif on her shield, she points a bone at Gary and by uttering the magic words “Ah hoo la la”  she transforms him into a super being and presents him with a pair of golden boomerangs. Gary thinks it is 'Bonzer'.

In typical super-hero fashion, Iron Outlaw soon gained an off-sider in the form of Steel Sheila, who is really Dawn Papadopolis, a council typist. Together they ride the countryside in Iron Outlaw's orange FJ Holden with mag wheels and a broad GT stripe. The early stories were restricted to Melbourne where they mercilessly caricatured Sir Henry Bolte, the then Premier of Victoria, as Humpo - The Hunchback of St Paul's, who is determined to spread doom and gloom by making every day like a Melbourne Sunday. Called upon by Prime Minister John Gorton to serve their country, the strip broadened its area of operation.

A number of episodes involved the Prime Minister, then William McMahon, as the super-hero Kokoda Kid - complete with digger hat and a chest full of medals. The strip kidded the conservative reputation of Melbourne in a panel where Steel Sheila was changing out of her costume. A text box was added to read “In deference to our sensitive Victorian readers, Dawn appears nippless”.

With the closure of the Sunday Observer imminent, Iron Outlaw and Steel Sheila (as the strip was now called) transferred to the pages of the Sunday Review in February 1971. Now in black and white, the strip hit its visual peak with some stunning artwork by MacAlpine on a story about the Yellow Peril and featuring Madam Loo and Warlord Nong. By the time it had finished in June the same year, the comic had satirised everything in sight and, in the process, confronted readers with some of the more unpleasant aspects of our society. In the final story, Iron Outlaw becomes the dictator of Australia and imprisoned the incredulous Steel Sheila - after all, she was only a “little wog”! Greg and Grae, as they by-lined themselves, moved on to other fields and the world of comic strips was poorer for their leaving.

TALKING SENSE
While not everyone wants to read about Ned Kelly or the ANZACs or even The Great Depression, we hope they want to learn something about Australian History. From the ex-Prime Minister John Howard to a confused ex-NSW Education Minister Carmel Tebbutt (see the ex-pattern here?) a number of politicians have jumped on the teaching history bandwagon. But at what cost? From Right Wing Liberals to the multitude of State Governments, seems everyone has an agenda. We'd like to let the readers decide what is worth learning. Here at IronOutlaw.com we present the facts, the fiction and everything in between. It all adds to the experience and hopefully makes History an exciting place to be while also proving it needn't always have to be written by the victors.
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Ned Kelly: A Pictorial History available on the iPad App Store
SHOPPING
If you're looking for that perfect gift then head over to our shop where we are featuring Max Brown's 312 page hardcover limited edition novel Australian Son: the story of Ned Kelly for $34.95 with free Australia wide postage (or $14.95 international postage). All of Max's books come with a bonus Australian Son bookmark. These books are only available for purchase online (and not through book shops). Of course the money we raise goes back in to building the world's greatest Ned Kelly web site.

Australian Son by Max Brown

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