In Australia, ‘Jackaroo’ is the term given to the young horsemen and women (known as ‘Jillaroos’) found on cattle stations throughout northern Australia, working hard to acquire the necessary training and experience to become overseers on large rural properties. Generally speaking, battling gangsters and supervillains aren’t deemed essential skills for most jackaroos, but someone clearly forgot to mention this to Jack Keegan, who left his outback home in Dugga Dugga, Queensland, to fight crime on the mean streets of Sydney as the masked vigilante known as The Jackaroo.
Keegan was originally hot on the trail of Johnny Rae, a crooked boxing manager who’d fled Dugga Dugga with Keegan’s prizefight earnings, but he eventually gravitated to the Australiana Café, an illegal gambling den in Sydney’s notorious King’s Cross district. Barely disguised as The Jackaroo, he helped the club’s enigmatic owner, Stanley ‘Gloves’ Donahue, repel the evil Dr. Draino, who sought complete control of Sydney’s criminal underworld. Things only got weirder when The Jackaroo met Flash Damingo, an intergalactic space ranger (who resembled a platypus), hell-bent on seeking revenge against the extraterrestrial killer Feral, who now worked as a paid assassin for Dr. Draino.
Created by writer-illustrator Gary Chaloner (1963 –), The Jackaroo was more of a pulp magazine-era crime-fighter than a bona fide superhero, whose costume consisted of an eye mask, a pair of leather gloves and a fedora. His resemblance to Will Eisner’s The Spirit grew more pronounced as the series progressed, but The Jackaroo was also very much in the tradition of mysterious, masked heroes frequently found in Australian comics during the 1950s, such as Jeff Wilkinson’s The Shadow and Terry Trowell’s Grey Domino. Chaloner was clearly enamored of Eisner’s work – the two had met at a Sydney comic convention in 1986 – even as he was developing his own distinctive style. Nevertheless, it was entirely fitting that Eisner chose Chaloner to resurrect his 1940s plainclothes detective hero, John Law, for a special graphic novel released in 2004.
The Jackaroo made his debut in Cyclone Australia in 1985, but when it was decided that the comic’s headline feature – a dysfunctional super-team known as The Southern Squadron – would take over Cyclone Australia, the character was to be given his own self-titled mini-series, but only one issue was released in 1989. Eternity Comics (US) subsequently published The Jackaroo as a three-part mini-series in 1990, which reprinted earlier episodes from Cyclone Australia, along with new material created for the American market. Jack Keegan’s masked alter-ego bobbed up once more in the first – and only – issue of Flash Damingo (1993), a tabloid newspaper-format comic of the kind not seen on Australian newsstands since Syd Miller’s Monster Comics (1945).