Before this past Wednesday I knew absolutely nothing about Airboy. I’d heard the name, knew it was some kind of old comic-book character, but that’s it. I had no idea that there was a new title, launched last month, being published. But then comic-book writer B. Clay Moore posted a link to the solicitation for the second issue on his Facebook page , and I read it and thought it sounded incredibly interesting. So I bought the books on Comixology and read them yesterday during my lunch break at work.
Written by James Robinson, drawn by Greg Hinkle, and published by Image Comics, the first issue has James Robinson getting a called from Image Comics publisher Eric Stephenson, asking him to write a new Airboy series. James initially doesn’t want to do it, because Airboy is a stupid golden age character, and James is tired of being thought of as “the golden age guy” thanks to his seminal work THE GOLDEN AGE, but Stephensen pressures him. Since Robin hasn’t been thrilled with his work for DC Comics in recent years, he decided to take the offer. But he quickly realizes that he’s stuck with writer’s block. James’ wife Jann suggests that maybe he should find an artist for the series first, and that may help him come up with some idea. So (we don’t see how) he contacts Greg Hinkle, and flies him out to San Francisco (where James lives) so they can talk about the series. They rent a motel room to work in, so as not to bother Jann, but still no ideas for the book come to them. That night they go out to a bar, and these leads to a night of wild debauchery. They get drunk, then score some cocaine and some heroine. They pick up some random woman and take her back to the motel for a threesome. And they next morning they wake up with wild hangovers only to be confronted by…AIRBOY!
This issue opens with James and Greg totally freaking out. AIRBOY is real, and living breathing person talking to them. After the shock mostly wears off, James and Greg become convinced that he’s a drug-induced figment of their mutual imagination. AIRBOY doesn’t know where he is, he still has all the memories of his fictional comic-book world, where he was a hero fighting in World War II. So the two men have to explain the modern world of the present to him. As they walk around the city, AIRBOY ends up eating some marijuana-laced brownies, getting him a little high. They go to a bar at night where AIRBOY approaches a woman and gets a blowjob in the bathroom. James does the same. Except when AIRBOY finds out that the woman is actually a transvestite he freaksout. Becomes angry and starts denouncing our modern world and…TO BE CONTINUED
That’s where I’ll leave this, with no further spoilers. But I find this very fascinating. The unique high concept of this meta-fictional story about two comic-book creators encountering the character that they’re supposed to be making a comic-book really sets this series apart from anything else currently on the stands. This primarily a “talking heads” book, so far, but it works very well. James Robinson (the characters) speaks a lot about the current state of the comic-book industry, the merits of working for DC and Marvel vs. creator-owned projects, and the type of feedback that you get from fans. And it all flows very naturally, it’s written as if it is really just two guys talking as they would in real life. And it’s still an open question as to whether any of this is real, or if AIRBOY is just a drug-induced illusion of Robinson or Hinkle.
It’s also interesting the way James and Greg’s cynicism about life contrasts with AIRBOY’s child-like innocence. And seeing him react to the modern world, specifically San Francisco, is funny. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the artwork of Greg Hinkle, he has a style that is a unique mix of realistic and cartoony, which fits the tone of this series exceptionally well. Another thing that fits the tone is the coloring. Most of the series is colored (by Hinkle, I presume, as no “colorist” is credited) in a muted-gray/green, except for AIRBOY himself, who is in bright primary colors. This drives home the difference between the dark and depressing “real world” and AIRBOY who is not from here. Also note: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR CHILDREN It contains full-frontal male nudity, and female breasts.
But if you’re an adult, then I highly recommend this book with a Chacebook rating of FIVE STARS
With the review out of the way, I feel like I know must address a controversy that has arisen. Apparently I started reading this book at just the right time. Last night before I went to bed I was telling a friend on Facebook to read this book, and as I looked online I found an article denouncing the current issue:
So, apparently people are freaking out, trying to get this issue pulled from store shelves (I get all my comics digitally on Comixology anyway) and this was actually a trending topic on Twitter last night. Look, I consider myself quite liberal on issues regarding LGBT rights, but this feels like a complete much ado about nothing. They’re taking this out of context. In this series, James Robinson and Greg Hinkle portray themselves as a couple of amoral alcoholic drug-users. They say and do things that we should find abhorrent. Them using the word “tranny” is the least of their rotten actions. Likewise AIRBOY is written as completely out of touch with the modern era. He can’t understand why grown men are wearing business suits when he sees them outside, of course he’s going to be totally shocked by encountering a man in drag. It’s CONTEXT, people. Get a grip. Sheesh.