After many moons of waiting I was rewarded with the arrival of the first volume of EAGLE: THE ORIGINAL ADVENTURES by Neil Vokes, Rich Rankin and Jack Herman!
I have a long history with Eagle really, it came out during the big Black and White comics boom and instantly caught my eye because it had so many elements I enjoyed. Kung Fu? Check! Mystic Mayhem? Check! Dystopian science fiction hard edged noir? Check! A big honking purple guy called DEATH’S HEAD?? Oh check yes… They had me hook line and sinker. The initial 12 issues stand as one of the best indies of the 80s when read as a stand alone unit. Back when a double sized issue meant something, #12 of Eagle was a king sized treat amidst a slumping big 2 “event” period. Also, I have some bittersweet memories of reading this book when a particularly close relative was sick and in the hospital. You know you really ENJOY something when you find yourself digging for something to read while you sit up all night at a bedside.
Eagle was that book.
Some years later I met Neil via the Eurotrash Paradise and I remember just typing “Neil “EAGLE” Vokes? Holy CRAP!! Of course, he has done lots of other stuff, but he’ll always be Eagle’s proud papa to me. We became good friends…but hey, I can say this without bias and be honest. I was a fan of this guy long before I knew him as the cherub faced man with the devilish dervish hands.
So…what is in this book and why do you NEED it? Well, you need it because if you are a comic fan and remember the book at all, revisiting the early issues will bring you back to not just the story, but the very best of that period of collecting comics. There were some excellent first issues coming out back then when creators (many that would go on to be quite famous) were cutting loose and putting out books that they personally felt and wanted to present. Grendel comes to mind, but I’ve long placed Eagle and the first Capital City (!!) issue of Whisper as the tops of the heap. You get the first 3 issues, which introduce Richard Eagle, Wulfgar, Acacia, Alarik and the rest of the crew in fine fashion. Fans of Neil’s work will find these books very interesting if they have not seen them-while they look different in some ways, there is a raw energy in every panel that he has harnessed and refined over the years. But they also feel just right-with tons of the trademarked Vokes fight choreography (the man sure does love his kung fu flicks) and a weird sense of ANYTHING can happen in the next panel that you don’t often see.
Oh, and there are ninja. I love ninja. Anything ninja is good.
But the package doesn’t stop at the three issues (which are full issues, not the independent books you see today that have about 14 pages of story and a ton of house ads for other 14 page books full of house ads for the book you just paid for)…no, it features a lot of bonus material. This is the Criterion DVD release of Eagle!
First up is The History of Eagle-a fascinating montage of editorials from the original books that were written by Rich Rankin and annotated by Neil Vokes. I love it because not only do you get a hands on history, but one that progressed with the rise and fall of the book and the independent comics market as well. From early success to cancellation notice, it really is a compelling read beyond the subject matter. I always looked forward to the original editorials… I knew who Siri was a very very long time before she would be giving my kids juice boxes in her new home. Those wacky Eaglers were always really upfront and made the editorial parts of the book a lot of fun to read.
After the main presentation is a selection of artwork that includes THE Vokes / Rankin Bruce Lee shot I’ve always enjoyed so much, the first 3 E-Book covers, an amazing Eagle’s Girls piece by Neil and Michael Avon Oeming from 1995, a great 1986 Christmas card (Eisner would love that chimney!) and some concept art for one of the “next phase” Eagle tales. This includes an image of Richard Eagle done in 2001 that I find is one of the most compelling images, very quiet and very strong, that Neil has put to paper.
Then (yes…there is more) there is an essay about those “next phase” books! Eagle: The New Adventures is an essay on how the original series was created and the things that have happened in between the now and then of Eagle’s next appearance. Most excitingly is a print version of the first pages of Eagle:Legacy…and this is a FANTASTIC knock down drag out battle that makes me happy with every little image. Comparing it to the issues that you just read is amazing-Eagle has matured stylistically along with Neil. In many ways I think Eagle will stand as Neil’s real achievement, his earliest works as a professional artist dovetail neatly in this character as he brings all his talents to bear on him. Fight scenes! High Drama! Weird Crackle! Inner Orbscapes! And yes…a wonderful sense of motion in the parts where the characters have to do all that talkin‘ and gesturin‘ will be there as well.
Hey, I’m excited…and I hope that those that haven’t read the book will try it. Or if you enjoyed The Black Forest, The Wicked West, Parliament of Justice or even Neil’s Spidey/Dr. Strange book and want to have some fun reading a book that just doesn’t slow down for a second-check it out.
You can order a copy from LULU.com by clicking HERE or better yet, you can get a signed copy, direct from Neil that will also include a sketch for only 30 dollars (barely more than a copy from Lulu.com after shipping by the way). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Or just email him EAGLE LIVES in all caps. He’ll know I sent you.
Also, you can preview the book via Lulu, or check out the new OFFICIAL FACEBOOK PAGE.
Eagle Lives again…good times both looking back and going forwards! Check yer orb at the door and check this book out.