YES! Airboy is back in comics for the third time in 75 years and it is the book that we fans longed for.
Even better, the guy who wrote the entire 50-issue 1980s run for Eclipse Comics, Chuck Dixon, has returned and picked up exactly where he left off in 1989. And while I don’t agree with Dixon’s politics at all, I love his work on Airboy.
In the last series’ 50th and final issue, Airboy and swamp creature The Heap were seemingly blown up by a nuclear bomb used to destroy the villainous Misery.
The 1980s book was a relaunch of the popular Airboy series from Hillman Comics in the 1940s and 1950s. Unlike his father, the original Airboy, this new version was a young punk with no taste for his dad’s weird adventures.
I remember being so bummed at issue No. 50, because Airboy had become one of my favorite books. Even the last panel teaser for a new book called Aviator X didn’t help, especially since that book never came out.
The first time I saw an Airboy comic, just the cover really, I was a young boy rooting through my brother’s comic collection from the 1940s.
The cover was a beauty, but really? I mean, a 16-year-old kid flying a plane that flaps its wings like a bird? The story has got to suck!
I finally did get to read some of the original Airboy books years later and was surprised at how good they were. The characters (mostly) seemed realistic and spoke to me.
Fast forward three decades to 1986 and I found myself at my local comic shop in Philadelphia staring at the first issue of a new version of Airboy and I had the same reaction I did as a kid – c’mon, how can this be good?
I read it, then read it again, then again and again. I read every issue that the wonderful Eclipse Comics put out, including the many guest appearances.
And was it good? Better than good, it was incredible. Every issue was better than the last.
Dixon, in some of his earliest work, carefully constructed a world where the young Airboy, Davy, learns the secrets his father has kept for decades and why he gave up adventuring. Dixon, who went on to a long career at DC and Marvel, slowly reintroduced all the old Airboy characters, such as Sky Wolf, Iron Angel, and his dad’s girlfriend, Valkyrie, who was in suspended animation.
It did get a little kinky when the reanimated Valkyrie and the new Airboy started a romantic relationship, but we’ll let that go.
The newest issue, 51, takes places just days or weeks after 1989’s issue 50 with Airboy escaping the dimension ruled by the enigmatic Misery. The Heap escapes as well, and has a nine-page backup story, but the two heroes do not meet.
The writing is solid, but the art by Brian McKee cannot keep up. It’s okay, but pales in comparison with the work of former Airboy artists like Tim Truman, Stan Woch and Ron Randall. Yeah, yeah, those guys are hard acts to follow, but McKee needs to work on his faces, which just look strange.
That being said, I will continue to buy any and every issue that comes out.
There was actually another Airboy series a few years ago from Image that really doesn’t count. It was more of a confessional series by writer James Robinson about his adventures with drugs and sex, loosely based on an assignment to bring Airboy back. Airboy appears in it, but it’s weird and very sexually explicit.
And, back in the nineties, Image also announced there would be a revival of Airboy. But the character would be a man, not a boy, and he would drive a motorcycle, not a plane. Thankfully, that series was never produced.
It took 30 years, but Dixon has finally given fans a sequel to that infamous final issue, courtesy of It’s Alive publications. And there will soon be an issue 52. Beyond that is iffy, but I really hope the series continues.
Issue 51 started out as a wildly successful Indiegogo campaign last year, which earned about $24,000, pretty good for a single issue. A limited number of books will be available at your local comic shop, so grab a copy if you see it.