New mini-series airing on Sundance TV Wednesday at 10pm EST
In case you haven’t heard about this series, it’s a superhero story, but not one that we’ve seen before. Amongst the flashy and well-known superheroes of the Big Two, Cleverman skillfully slides onto our TV screens from Australia.
The “near future” world of Cleverman is eerily similar to present day. “Hairies” or “sub-humans” have peacefully existed for thousands of years. So peaceful that no one knew of their existence until six months ago. In light of their emergence they are treated like animals and criminals if they are found outside the “Zone.” The only people who’ve accepted them into their community and treat them with respect and common decency are Aboriginals.
In the first episode a family of Hairy people try to get out of the Zone aided by Koen, an Aboriginal man who owns a bar. However, he is not as helpful as he first seems. The Hairy family is found out, captured by the Containment Authority and in the process an officer kills one of their children. The news network spins the incident to make the child and family seem at fault.
Djukara, one of Hairy people that were captured, is a compelling and defiant character. Through him we have a view into the cruelty that goes on behind the walls of the Containment Authority. If there was a world that needed a superhero, this would be it.
At the crux of the series are two brothers, well half-bothers, Waruu and Koen. Waruu is the self-appointed spokesperson for those living in Zone and the Hairy people. As the Cleverman is passed down from the previous Cleverman (who happens to be their uncle), Waruu has envisioned himself as the next Cleverman since he was a boy. On the opposite end is Koen, who lives a life of relative ease outside of the Zone and apparently doesn’t care what happens to the Hairy people.
It does not go over well with Waruu when their uncle choses Koen to be the next Cleverman.
Halfway through the six episode mini-series we still don’t know exactly what powers the Cleverman has or the mythology behind his presence. The gritty world building and development of supporting characters is fantastic and at times even overshadows the slow progress of our super anti-hero.
The lore of Cleverman is based on Aboriginal beliefs and stories of the Dreaming. While viewers don’t need to have an intimate knowledge of Aboriginal stories, it does shed light on one glaring fact. For a culture that is the longest continuous culture in the world, Aboriginal stories and beliefs are largely unknown in the Western world.
As African Americans we have tendency to get caught up in our own struggles (if you haven’t then I’m speaking for myself). Sometimes I forget that we aren’t the only ones who’ve experienced racism and discrimination. Occasionally there’s a reminder that we are not alone in the fight for agency and equality. This time it’s in the package of an indigenous Australian superhero.
Only three more episodes to go, but good news! It’s been renewed for a second season. Join live Tweeting with hashtags: #Cleverman and #ClevaMayne
Dey Rivers is a full-time art student, indie comic enthusiast, and tabletop RPG regular. An avid reader and part-time blogger, you can see her art on her blog, worldofdey.wordpress.com and follow on twitter, @worldof_dey