By Chuck Dixon, Timothy Truman, Tom Yeates, Stan Woch & Will Blyberg (Eclipse)
ISBN: 0-913035-59-9 (limited edition) ISBN: 0-913035-60-2 (trade paperback)
The recent ads for the totally unrelated movie reminded me of this little corker of a tale from the 1980s which returned a classic Golden Age hero to the killer skies. Created for Hillman Periodicals by the brilliant Charles Biro (Steel Sterling, the original Daredevil, the Little Wiseguys and Crime Does Not Pay among many other triumphs) Airboy featured a plucky teen and his fabulous super-airplane, affectionately dubbed ‘Birdie’.
He debuted in the second issue of Air Fighters Comics in November 1942 and the comic was eventually renamed Airboy Comics in December 1945. For more than twelve years of publication the boy-hero tackled the Axis powers, crooks, aliens, monsters, demons and every possible permutation of sinister threat – even giant rats and ants! The gripping scripts took the avenging aviator all over the world and pitted him against some of the most striking adversaries in comics. He was the inspiration for Jetboy in the 17 Wild Cards braided Mega-novels by George R.R. Martin and friends.
Then the world moved on and he vanished with many other comicbook heroes whose time had run out. In 1982 comics devotee Ken Pierce collected all the Airboy adventures that featured the pneumatic Nazi-turned-freedom-fighter Valkyrie, which apparently inspired budding independent comics company Eclipse to revive the character and all his Hillman comrades.
Always innovative, Eclipse were experimenting at that time with fortnightly (that’s twice a month) comics with a lower page count than the industry standard but also a markedly reduced price. Airboy premiered at fifty cents a copy in 1986 and quickly found a vocal, dedicated following. And looking at this compilation after more than a decade it’s easy to see why.
Deep in the Florida Everglades the monstrous bog-creature known as The Heap stirs after decades of inactivity. Something momentous is beginning to unfold. It remembers a previous life, brave heroes and a diabolical evil. It begins to walk towards a distant villa…
In the Napa Valley David Nelson is a bitter, broken old man. Not even his teenaged son can bring joy to his life. Trained since birth by the Japanese Ace and martial artist Hirota, the boy is a brave, confident fighter but still doesn’t know why his life has been one of constant training.
Then suddenly a horde of assassins attacks the compound and the old man dies in a hail of machine gun bullets. Only then does young Davy discover the truth about his father. Once he was the hero known as Airboy, with valiant comrades and a unique super-aircraft. Once he loved a beautiful German woman-warrior named Valkyrie. But for thirty years she has been trapped in suspended animation by Misery, a supernatural being who feeds on evil and steals the souls of lost fliers…
Forced to do the monster’s bidding for three decades (such as providing weapons for South American despots to slaughter and enslave innocents) the old hero had gradually died inside. But now his son is ready to avenge him and free the beautiful sleeper, aided by such combat veterans as Hirota and the legendary Air Ace Skywolf…
Fast-paced, beautifully illustrated and written with all the gung-ho bravado of a Rambo movie, this tale of liberation and revolution rattles along, a stirring blend of action and supernatural horror that sweeps readers along with it. The book collects issues #1-5 of the comic plus an 8 page promotional preview with a cover gallery that includes art from Stan Woch. Tim Truman, and the late, great Dave Stevens.
I’m reviewing my signed and numbered hardcover limited edition which has a beautiful colour plate included plus a superb Steranko painted cover, but the standard trade paperback is almost as good, if that’s all you can find.
Let’s hope somebody’s got the rights and sense to reissue this great book – and all the other stories from this superb little mini-franchise which was briefly one of the best indie titles available.
Story © 1989 Timothy Truman and Chuck Dixon. Art © 1989 Timothy Truman, Tom Yeates, Stan Woch and Will Blyberg. Cover art © 1989 Jim Steranko. Airboy, Valkyrie, Skywolf, Misery, The Heap ™ Eclipse Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.