Saturday, April 16, 2016
RAR #12: THE AMERICAN EAGLE
The original version of the American Eagle appeared in 1981's MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #6, written by Doug Moench and drawn by Ron Wilson. A caption on the first page credits Wilson with sole creatorship, though given that the character only made sporadic appearances after this appearance, I imagine Marvel Comics owns this Real American superhero outright.
I would have to say that Eagle's design, with his colossal and counter-intuitive war-bonnet, strikes me as one of the worst-designed Native American superheroes ever. On his Wikipedia page, one author is quoted as liking the Eagle for not having his roots in Native American mythology, but I think that would have been better than what Moench and Wilson came up with.
In 1981 Jim Shooter ruled the Marvel roost, and he favored very static comics with lots of explanatory dialogue. Thus the story begins with the Thing of the Fantastic Four meeting with old buddy Wyatt Wingfoot to discuss the case of the American Eagle. Wingfoot originally tells a mythic story of two Native American brothers who fight over chieftainship of their tribe, both of whom assume superhuman status. Wingfoot apparently tells this myth-story as a prelude to his real story, regarding a falling-out between two contemporary Native American brothers. Jason Strongbow wants to defend the Navajo people's sacred mountain from a rapacious mining-company, and his thinly-drawn brother Ward wants to play by "the white man's rules." They get into a fight near a complex of machinery in the mine, for as it happens the super-villain Klaw is linked to the mining company. An explosion irradiates both brothers and turns them into superhumans. Only Jason takes a costumed identity, but he ends up fighting his super-powered brother again by the end of the Two-in-One tale, while the Thing, Wingfoot and guest-star Ka-Zar battle Klaw.
Apart from the Eagle's lame costume, I can see why he never inspired many creators. The mere fact that he owes his super-power to Klaw-- a regular punching-bag for the Fantastic Four, Ka-Zar, and the Black Panther-- means that there's no real chance that Klaw will ever really be a big part of the hero's mythos. The best origin-stories don't tie the heroes' beginnings to over-complicated continuity-events; they're at their most evocative when they keep in simple. So as routine as it might be for a Native American hero to get his powers from some supernatural spirit, it would still have worked better than this tawdry exercise in tedium.