Trailblazing artists Stick Mob return, bringing their experiences to life in comic books

In short: Indigenous comic book group Stick Mob are preparing to publish their next three comics after their break-out release in 2021.

The comics bring to life their experiences of growing up in Alice Springs as First Nations people.

What’s next? The group wants to highlight the positive sides of their hometown and give young people hope and inspiration.

At a local arts centre in Alice Springs, a group of young Indigenous artists is preparing banners and merchandise ahead of launch day.

The group, called Stick Mob, have been working diligently on the hotly anticipated second series of their comic books after breaking out into the niche industry in 2021.

Borne from the dreams of four high school students — and featuring mutants, cyborgs and phantasms — Stick Mob brings to life unique, central desert stories through their imaginative art.

Comic book panels with characters, set in the desert.

Stick Mob’s comics feature mutants, cyborgs and phantasms against a Central Australian backdrop.(Supplied: Stick Mob)

Their inaugural releases — Mixed Feelings, Exo Dimensions and Storm Warning – took a deep dive into a range of topics, from climate change to intergenerational trauma and healing, set against the backdrop of life in Central Australia.

When their series launched in 2021, writer-illustrators Alyssa Mason, Seraphina Newberry and Lauren Boyle became the first female Aboriginal graphic novelists to be published in Australia.

Meanwhile, Declan Miller, Stick Mob’s creative director, was just the second male to achieve such a feat, behind his mentor Brenton McKenna — a Broome-based artist and Australia’s the first published Indigenous graphic novelist.

‘It feels almost surreal’

Alyssa Mason, now in her early-20s, said the creations had filled the group with pride, and inspired them to keep making new work.

A young woman drawing on a tablet

Ngaanyatjarra and Pitjantjatjara woman Alyssa Mason has been hooked on drawing since she was eight years old.(ABC Alice Springs: Chris Murrkarany Fitzpatrick)

“Even still, to this day, it feels almost surreal,” she said.

“We keep forgetting that we did that … that we are the first female Indigenous graphic novelists [to be published] … I still feel like I have to live up to that title truthfully.

“The only way I can do that is to just keep pumping out books and stuff.”

A young women stand around art and sketches

Alyssa Mason and Seraphina Newberry became the first female Aboriginal graphic novelists to be published in Australia.(ABC Alice Springs: Chris Murrkarany Fitzpatrick)

For Seraphina Newberry, the work is an opportunity to create a brighter future for her hometown of Alice Springs.

She said many young Indigenous people, including herself, had faced adversity but that it does not need to define their lives.

“We’re showing them that Alice Springs, or the youth, or whatever is happening in town, is not all bad,” she said.

“There’s some really great stuff coming from this community, and the fact that we’re all working together and we’re actually thriving and not, essentially, just being really closed off.

“There are a lot of great people in this town … some of them just need that little push and to be shown the right direction.”

Dreams to bring characters to the screen

Declan Miller, who was named Young Centralian of the Year in 2021, said he and his friends began making comics in high school thanks to the encouragement of their English teacher, Wendy Cowan, who “really believed” in them.

A group sit around a table working on their laptops.

The group hopes to inspire other young First Nations people with their work.(ABC Alice Springs: Chris Murrkarany Fitzpatrick)

Throughout school, Miller struggled with dyslexia and started creating comics to express himself through his disability.

To help him cope, Ms Cowan allowed him to submit assignments in comic book form — something that completely changed the way Miller saw the art form.

Today, he is continuing to pursue his craft by studying animation at Griffith University, and has brought on Ms Cowan as the group’s strategic director.

Stick Mob comic sequel

The second series of each of their titles are due to be released in Alice Springs in September.

“What I’m hoping for in the future with Stick Mob is more comics and more animations, and possibly being able to turn these series into fully fledged TV shows and cartoons,” Miller said.

“Also … travelling around the world, working with other mob and non-Indigenous people on comics … and we want to build that, and we want to keep building and building.”

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