August 10, 2008

Background on American Eagle

Here's the story on American Eagle, an extremely minor superhero in the Marvel Universe:

American Eagle (comics)American Eagle (Jason Strongbow) is a fictional character, a Native American superhero in the Marvel Comics universe.

Publication history

American Eagle first appears in Marvel Two-in-One Annual #6 (October 1981), by Doug Moench and Ron Wilson. In a story entitled "An Eagle from America!" Strongbow gains superhuman powers and becomes American Eagle. He joins with Thing, Ka-Zar, and Wyatt Wingfoot to defeat Klaw.

Fictional character biography

Jason Strongbow, a member of the Navajo Nation (born in Kaibito, Arizona), attempted to stop a mining company from excavating a mountain sacred to his tribe. He discovered that the villain Klaw was in league with the mining company. Klaw needed uranium to augment his sonic powers. Strongbow's brother, Ward, did not agree with him about preserving the mountain. Inside the mine, an argument erupted between the brothers and Klaw which led to violence. During the fight, Klaw used his sonic blaster on the two brothers. Somehow a combination of the sonic energy of the blast and the exposure to the uranium gave both of the Strongbow brothers enhanced strength, endurance and senses. Klaw fled with his crew, including Ward, to the Savage Land in hopes of gaining vibranium to augment his powers. Jason emerged from the mine and, taking inspiration from a flying eagle, took up the mantle of American Eagle. He followed Klaw to the Savage Land. There he met Ka-Zar, the Thing, and Wyatt Wingfoot. The four joined forces and defeated Klaw and his minions, but during the battle, Ward was shot and killed by one of the miners.

Powers and abilities

American Eagle has superhuman strength, speed, stamina, sturdiness, and senses as a result of radiation-induced mutation. He also carries a crossbow which fires special bolts.
Comment:  MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #6 is notable for being one of the most bland, boring comics ever to feature Natives. Jason Strongbow looks and acts like a generic pink-skinned comic-book Indian. He has no beliefs or culture other than the generic "protecting his land and people." The story doesn't give his tribe a name--not even a fictional one like "Keewazi." It's a generic tribe in the American West. Strongbow is inspired by a bald eagle, a generic storytelling device. He gets the generic powers of enhanced strength, stamina, and senses.

Later comics establish that he's Navajo, but this isn't in his origin story. He's the epitome of a one-dimensional character: pure cardboard. He isn't a savage, at least, but he has less depth than Tonto or any other generic Indian.

As you can see below, American Eagle's original costume is generic too. It's actually a decent costume--or would be, if American Eagle were a Plains Indian chief. But since he isn't, it's stereotypical.

The only thing worth noting (until recently, that is), is the name Jason Strongbow. This is somewhat more original than the usual names involving a wolf, bear, or hawk. It hints that the character could become something better.

For more on the subject, see Comic Books Featuring Indians.

Below:  Black Bison? No, Super-Chief.

Super-Chief? No, American Eagle.


Anonymous said...

Hiya. New reader.
Would be interested in your take on Chris Claremont's ... damn. What do we call his attempts to portray race and culture? "Appropriation?" Everything the man wrote that involved non-white American middle- or upper-class characters was a stereotype.
Oops. I jumped ahead of your own interpretation. Sorry.

Anonymous said...

(same guy)
Anyway. Mirage in the New Mutants and X-men. Whatcha think?

Rob said...

See Chris Claremont's Indians for my response.