Airboy flies again!
Iconic comic creator Chuck Dixon, best known for his work writing Punisher, Batman, and Robin/Nightwing, is returning to one of his favorite characters thanks to the recently announced continuation of Dixon’s 1980s series Airboy.
That series was a revival of its own since Airboy has been around since his debut in the HILLMAN PERIODICAL book Air Fighters Comics #2 (November 1942) by writers Charles Biro and Dick Wood and artist Al Camy. The series was renamed Airboy Comics starting with Volume 2 #11 (December 1945) and ran all the way into 1953 with the book’s sales rivaling those of Batman and Superman.
Airboy was David Nelson whose father was an expert pilot and taught Davy to fly at a young age. He also inherited a prototype plane with flapping wings (appropriately named Birdie) and a French Revolutionary-era costume from a Franciscan friar and inventor friend of the family. Hey, it was the Golden Age – it didn’t have to make a lot of sense! Davy dubbed himself Airboy and helped the Allies win World War II with compatriots like Skywolf, Iron Ace, the Flying Dutchman, and the Heap (the original bog beast decades before Swamp Thing and Man-Thing) against such villains as the mysterious Misery and female Nazi pilot Valkyrie, who eventually defected and became a staunch ally and love interest.
Dixon’s Airboy was printed by ECLIPSE COMICS beginning with issue #1 (July 1986) featuring beautiful art by Tim Truman, Ron Randall, and Stan Woch. The story featured Airboy’s son David Nelson, Jr. witnessing his father’s assassination. Upon investigating the circumstances, Davy, Jr. discovered Birdie and his father’s old uniform. He decided to seek vengeance as the new Airboy with the help of former Japanese fighter pilot Hirota, who had become his father’s confidant over the previous 40 years. The series also brought back most of the original supporting characters and even featured a relationship between Davy and the time-tossed Valkyrie. Yep, you read that right, the same Valkyrie that slept with his father, but who are we to judge!
The series ran for three years culminating in Airboy #50 (October 1989) that saw the hero travel to Misery’s graveyard world to end his villainy once and for all. Then the series ended, with so many unanswered questions.
Dixon has paired with comic innovator Drew Ford and his IT’S ALIVE! imprint to pick up the story where it left off with a brand-new Airboy #51. Comics Price Guide’s Rob Otto caught up with the pair for a Q & A right after they launched a crowd-funding campaign full of incentives to get the project off the ground.
Otto: How did this project to revive Airboy come to life?
Dixon: It’s a brainchild of Drew Ford’s. He asked me if there was any Airboy project I’d want to do. In recent years I’ve produced a couple of WWII stories with the original Airboy, but I thought it was time to tell the story (with a few changes) that I’d planned to tell afterAirboy #50. I think it was Drew’s idea to keep the original numbering.
Ford: As a teenager, I was a huge fan of Airboy (and Chuck) when it first came out from ECLIPSE. It’s definitely one of my dream projects to publish new issues of Airboy written by Chuck Dixon. The cool factor on this one is off the charts!
Otto: How did IT’S ALIVE! come to be?
Ford: IT’S ALIVE! is my imprint which specializes in republishing old, out of print comic book runs and graphic novels, in new updated collections. Along with reprints, I will be working with creators to create new issues of comics from the past that I believe fans would like to see on the shelves again. Some of the classic comics I will publish new issues of include Red Range, Airboy, The Bozz Chronicles, and Aztec Ace. There are more, but these are the upcoming comics I can talk about right now.
Otto: So what can we expect from Airboy #51?
Dixon: Airboy fans have waited patiently for 30 years to find out “what happened next?” We decided to lean into that and make it like no time had passed. This story picks right up where #50 ended and I tell the story I’ve waited all this time to tell. It will be ’89 when we open up but further issues will move us up to current times with new characters, old enemies, and lots of fresh challenges. Ol’ Birdie will get something of a makeover but still be the crazy bat-wing aircraft she’s always been.
Ford: Airboy #50 ended on a major cliffhanger. I didn’t want to create another new incarnation of Airboy. I wanted to continue Chuck’s story from his incredible 1980s run.
Otto: What about readers that don’t know the original series? Will they be able to enjoy it?
Dixon: I’ll do my best, as I always do, to engage new readers from page one. They’ll catch up pretty quick! Also, the whole 80s run (including mini-series and one-shots) is available in five fat volumes from IDW.
Ford: It’s no secret that there are a lot of older fans who are excited to see this comic continue with issue 51 after all these years. But Chuck is introducing a new character with new adventures, and I honestly think it will be fun for anyone who picks it up. Of course, we will include a “what came before” section at the beginning of the first new issue to get any new readers caught up.
Otto: How did the art team (Brent McKee and Mark ‘Jok’ Simpson) come together?
Dixon: Drew asked me to look around for someone suitable. Mike Baron suggested Brent McKee. One look at his stuff and I knew he would be perfect. Looking at his initial pages, I’m more convinced than ever. He “gets” the property. There was always an organic quality to Airboy that continued on at Eclipse. The series eschewed superhero gloss for a funkier, more fun quality. Brent is ALL of that. Simply gorgeous work.
Ford: Jok’s colors and letters came on board because of me. Jok is also the artist on another new comic book I am publishing entitled Red Range.
Otto: The series is being crowdfunded on IndieGoGo. Why go that route?
Ford: Crowdfunding has been a big part of my business model. I have run several successful campaigns, which produced a bunch of great books. Some are out, and others are coming out soon. We were able to raise over 50% of our goal in the first 24 hours of the campaign, so I would say…so far, so good!
Dixon: When I do (crowdfunding) on my own it’s horrible! I don’t have the knack. But Drew is one of the guys I’ve been lucky enough to deal with who knows how these things work and is interested in producing a quality product that fans will be happy with.
<The IndieGoGo campaign is live through April 21, 2019, and features amazing incentives like Chuck Dixon autographed issues; eight variant covers from guest artists including Don Perlin, Emma Kubert, and Graham Nolan; original artwork, exclusive character sketches, and even an opportunity to be drawn into the book! If you want to be part of Airboy’s relaunch before it hits your local comic shop, you can check it out here: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/airboy-returns-after-30-years/x/20611028#/ >
Otto: Any final comments about Airboy #51 you want to add?
Dixon: It’s just fun stuff. The characters are as gonzo as you can get and SO idiosyncratically American! And having roots in WWII is icing on the cake. Nazis for villains? Nothing better! It’s fun to return to a comic that was one of my early successes and the series that got me the job writing Robin at DC Comics. It really is like no time has passed.
Ford: I hope everyone who reads this will at least take a look at the campaign page…and if you like what you see we hope you will join us on this incredible journey by becoming a backer!
by Rob Otto