By C.J. Bunce
As recently as August 2011, 40 years after a man hijacked a flight from Portland to Seattle, the legendary D.B. Cooper was the subject of a new lead in the FBI’s investigation of America’s only unsolved hijacking. An Oklahoma woman came forward suggesting that when she was eight years old her uncle revealed amassing the stolen fortune in the days after Cooper took $200,000 and a parachute and vanished over the Pacific Northwest on the November 24, 1971. In 1980 $6,000 of the bills washed ashore, found by a kid playing at a beach.
So did D.B. Cooper survive?
Writer/artist Brian Churilla suggests in his new mini-series from Oni Press that maybe there was something more sinister going on in the fall of 1971, and that D.B. Cooper was a trained assassin turned rogue agent of the CIA. Why the skyjacking? Cooper went on the run and the publicity was an effort to enlist the public to flush out and track down Cooper.
You bet! But that’s the stuff of good comic book action. In issue #1 of The Secret History of D.B. Cooper, Churilla goes off in even more bizarre directions, showing that Cooper also was a bit of a dream traveler like Dennis Quaid’s character in the 1984 cult sci-fi classic Dreamscape. And just like in Dreamscape, the government enlisted Cooper to murder targets in their sleep, stumbling through a frenzied dream world in the process.
Unlike Dreamscape, Churilla takes off in a surreal direction like something you might find in the pages of Animal Man, where reality is blurred with otherworldly elements, with Cooper using the resources of a one-armed teddy bear sidekick. Yes, that’s right, a one-eared teddy bear. With a sword even.
The above description might have the more mainstream audiences running for cover, but for those that like a good alternate history mixed with X-Files overtones, this series may be up your alley. A good introductory story, issue #1 suggests this independent publisher mini-series could get a foothold with readers of the big comic publishing houses. And it’s plain fun.
First, Animal Man is big right now, and the over the top, supernatural imagery of The Secret History should attract readers of that popular DC Comics series.
Second, Churilla picked a great hook using D.B. Cooper as his hero. In more than 40 years he is still thought of not like every other airplane hijacker of all time, but is constantly referred to as “an American folk hero,” achieving something of a mythic status like Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde. The FBI has investigated over 1,000 suspects over the years, documented several deathbed confessions, a movie, The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper starring Treat Williams, and several non-fiction books. Yet, Cooper has hardly been used as the subject of a good, creative retelling.
Third, a buddy cop story where one buddy is a teddy bear. ‘Nuff said.
Fourth, like the popular NBC TV series Grimm, The Secret History takes place in the great Pacific Northwest, home of the X-Files and Twin Peaks, prime real estate for a creepy and cool supernatural detective story.
Finally, Churilla’s art and colors has a very Mike Mignola quality and the writing also reads like a Hellboy story from Mignola.
One alternate cover version is available, drawn by Batwoman writer/artist J.H. Williams III.