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American Eagle (Marvel Comics) in his modern outfit

American Eagle

(Jason Strongbow)


Power Level:
Game system: DC Heroes Role-Playing Game

Context

The American Eagle is a Marvel Comics’ attempt at developing a Native American super-hero (Navajo, specifically). He first appeared in 1981, and remains a minor (perhaps even obscure) character.

The character has been through several stages as writers worked through the mass of clichés about Native Americans. In fact this profile should be reorganised as a three-parter in a mystical future where we have the time, to emphasise this (and make for shorter reads).

By the 2000s he had become a charismatic, if grumpy, tough guy who made a high-profile appearance that revitalized interest in the American Eagle.


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Background

  • Real Name: Jason Strongbow.
  • Marital Status: Single.
  • Known Relatives: Ward (brother, deceased), unnamed father (deceased), Jimmy Littlehawk (cousin).
  • Group Affiliation: Navajo Nation.
  • Base Of Operations: Navajo Reservation, Arizona (near Phoenix).
  • Height: 6’2” Weight: 230lbs.
  • Eyes: Brown Hair: Black
  • Note: Strongbow’s size and mass have been increased over official values, since he’s consistently drawn taller than the official 6’.


Powers and Abilities

American Eagle possess superhuman strength – enough to uproot an entire tree in one swift movement. His speed and endurance, and his sensory organs, have been likewise reinforced.

He’s an excellent fighter, able to anticipate his enemies’s movement (in DC Heroes RPG terms, a superior Initiative. He has proved to be more than a match even for such superb hand-to-hand combatants as Ka Zar or Bullseye, and could catch blades thrown at him by Bullseye with apparent ease.

He’s also an excellent tactician. This is visible when he prepares for a fight, or when he takes charge of a group of combatants… or when he just improvises.

Being a comic book American Indian, he’s of course also a superlative tracker (and his Ultra-Vision even allows him to track at night) and has the almost-as-mandatory highly developed sense of intuition.


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Crossbow

Strongbow carries a powerful light crossbow, likely adapted to his superhuman strength. Traditionally his crossbow was loaded with blunt, lollipop-shaped bolts. By 2007 an unclear proportion of his bolts had become normal bolts with sharp, armour-piercing heads.

Those bolts can trail a swingline. In his early appearances he could somehow shoot a new line while hanging from the previous one, thus swinging around like Spider-Man when needed. The American Eagle also demonstrated an ability to rope thugs up with a line trailed by a bolt, though this chiefly seems useful against mooks. He has devised his costumes and gadgets himself.

Only the strong

Although he is officially listed as being able to lift 15 tons, he has consistently displayed far greater strength than that. He could arm-wrestle the Thing for a bit, pound Venom (McGargan) into the pavement, tear apart a War Machine armour with his bare hands or jam large pieces of jagged metal into massive, super-durable alien armour plating.

Against normal people, though, he will normally pull his punches. In DC Heroes terms he’ll use an EV of 05 or so.

On the durability side, his enhanced muscles allow him to endure superhuman impacts. However, he has proved vulnerable to rifle-caliber bullets and the bite of a velociraptor, and could be very briefly blinded by gunpowder blown into his eyes.

Strongbow knows that despite his strength he’s not invulnerable. Thus, he favours mobility and intelligence in combat rather than standing there and slugging it out.

Other assets

American Eagle’s senses are so keen he could apparently sense psychic powers at one point. He then let his intuition guide him toward the likely location of a psychic serial killer.

In DC Heroes RPG terms, we assume that he can Detect psychic powers at close range, and can perform a sort of Tracking of psychic emanations, sensing trace amounts in his immediate vicinity. He can thus find psychics well beyond the Range of his Detect, as long as there are traces for him to sense and follow.

Strongbow prefers to live in a house he seems to have built himself on impoverished tribal land. However, he has shown an ability to throw money around when needed (chartering planes to the pole, or hiring a dozen bounty hunters). He likely lives well below his nominal Wealth score and keeps saving for emergencies.

Likewise, he doesn’t really need his Hero Points  during most adventures, being a shark in a small pond. This helps explain why he had so many HPs for a minor character.

When the American Eagle gets angry, he thus can be amazingly effective. Even though he’d prefer to have a clever plan and solid tactics, even though he’d rather avoid pointless violence, he can fight it out like nobody’s business using his HPs reserves.


History

Jason Strongbow’s life echoes an old Navajo myth, at least on Marvel Earth.

This myth tells of an old chief who died, leaving behind two sons. They and their supporters were unable to decide who should be the next chief. With his dying breath, the old man sent both of his sons to a cave in the mountains for a vision quest, hoping for advice that would solve the succession issue.

A great chief spirit appeared, but even he could not tell which of the brothers would be the most worthy to rule. Eventually, he decided on a trial by combat, magically turning them into titans who struggled against each other. This mythical struggle is credited with many of the natural features in the tribe’s ancestral homeland.

Eventually one brother won, and both were returned to their normal size – but retained superhuman strength.

The victorious brother led his people against a much stronger invader. With his leadership and strength the Navajo nation won. After they were saved the young chief disappeared in smoke, to join the spirit who had given him his strength.

Two brothers

In the early 1980s, the descendants of the legendary tribe went through a very similar situation. Mining contractors came to their land and a dispute arose about the mining rights. However, two brothers, direct descendants of the two mythical brothers, were then fighting over whom would be the tribal representative – Jason or Ward Strongbow.

Jason accused Ward of having struck a deal with the miners, which Ward hotly denied. While the tribe was taking sides and failed to legally act, the miners started damaging Navajo land.

Jason took the issue to court and obtained a delaying order of one month. But the tempers were getting out of hand, and during the break, a protest in front of a mine went ugly. Panicking, a company watchman shot a protester. Acting quickly to prevent a riot, Jason told his supporters to stay out while he would personally handle the watchman.

The shooter fled and the Navajo chased him underground. Deep in the mines, Jason stumbled on weird technological installations – and his brother Ward, who was indeed working for the mining company. The siblings argued and started brawling, with a burning torch being dropped and starting a fire.

Deeper underground

The machines started burning and exploding, exposing the brothers to a very rare isotope of uranium. The chief of the miners, Ulysses Klaw, came running to see what was happening. He knocked the brothers out with a sonic attack. This combination of rare radiation and sonic energy are what are believed to have given the Strongbows their powers.

Their plot exposed and their mine on fire, Klaw and his men left Arizona to finish procuring elsewhere the rare ores they needed. They took Ward with them, and left Jason to die in the flames.

Glowing and now endowed with a superhuman physique, Jason Strongbow spoke to his followers in a somewhat dazed state. He announced that the plunderers were gone for now but that he would pursue them to prevent further depredations. He then walked away, and an eagle disturbed by the explosion started flying around the scene, which some took as an omen.

By the next day, one of the protesters contacted a famous member of a neighbouring tribe – Wyatt Wingfoot, a friend of the Strongbows.

Wingfoot’s investigation revealed that Strongbow had chartered a plane to the Savage Land . The Navajo intended to parachute in there to attack the new mining project set up by Klaw. Now needing a supersonic plane and some superhuman muscle, Wingfoot contacted his friend the Thing, and the two men were soon en route.

Into the Savage Land

Meanwhile, in the Savage Land, the inevitable misunderstanding led to a clash between Strongbow and Ka-Zar, lord of the jungle. But they soon allied. Joined by the Thing and Wyatt, they tracked down Klaw and his men. They thus found Ward, now an enforcer for Klaw. Ward, having the same powers as his brother, grabbed a nearby dinosaur bone and brother again fought brother.

During the melee, one of Klaw’s men (the same watchman who had already killed a protester in Arizona) tried to shoot Jason. But they only succeeded in killing Ward. As the American Eagle advanced toward them to have his revenge, the watchman and his buddies fled but were killed by a dinosaur stampede.

Jason brought Ward’s body back to Arizona for its last rites. He then became the representative of his tribe. Strongbow governed for years, apparently limiting his super-heroic activities to Navajo lands. It is possible that he also held a position within the government of the Navajo Nation.

He appeared briefly in some of those “super-heroes across a world in crisis” shots. That included the Contest of Champions (though he was not part of the combatants, he was part of the assembled host), the Presidential pardon of the Hulk and the final battle between Earth and the Dire Wraiths.

It is likely in this general time frame that the American Eagle earned the enmity of megalomaniac billionaire John Marshall. This happened when Strongbow foiled a deal involving the sale of American Indian land.

Beyond the res

The American Eagle (sans feathers) later appeared in Washington, D.C.. He was apparently there to help a reporter friend, Jonna Cargill. Cargill (no relation) was investigating “the movement”, a Black Power movement in Washington.

Strongbow helped Cargill publicly reveal that the leader of the movement was in fact the superhuman villain the Peace Monger, and they defeated him.

After a casino robbery turned lethal, American Eagle (now sporting a long Mohawk haircut and a new, blue costume) decided to help the tribal police. The murderer, one Jimmy Littlehawk, was a cousin of his, and Strongbow felt responsible. He went to New York City, where Jimmy’s mother had a grocery store, and liaised with the NYPD, who accepted him as an observer.

The arrest in front of the grocery broke bad. The trigger-happy Jimmy and his confederates shooting one of the cops dead. This forced the American Eagle to intervene. Strongbow punched out the two accomplices but Jimmy fled into his mother’s shop, taking an hostage.

He was nearly shot by his own mother when she learned about the death of the cop, but the surviving NYPD man saved Jimmy’s life and American Eagle took his cousin down.

More cases during the 1990s

Dissatisfied with the sterile tension between American Indian political movements and a hostile FBI, the American Eagle offered his collaboration with the Bureau. He went hunting for a reputedly psychic serial killer. Strongbow’s hope was to acquire allies within the Bureau who could rise above the dismal track record of the organisation toward Native Americans.

The American Eagle found his prey. Jason overcame the mind control power of the murderer by uttering his ancestral warcry, reminding himself of who he was for long enough to regain his free will and knock the killer out.

When he was seen next, Strongbow had again left Navajo land due to a sense of obligation toward old res roots. Mrs. St. Clair, who had grown up on the same res as Strongbow before marrying a White man, asked the American Eagle to help retrieve her son Tommy.

With the help of a private detective, Strongbow found Tommy. The runaway youth convinced them to also rescue his friends, who were held in a sweatshop run by a man nicknamed the Sinner.

Meanwhile, American Eagle foe John Marshall was assembling the first two companies of his private army in the Middle East. Marshall then decided to take his vengeance. He fabricated a story about hostages and hired Strongbow through an intermediary to rescue them.

The American Eagle escaped the trap and was chased by Marshall and his army… right into a trap Strongbow had arranged with Interpol agents, bounty hunters and the local military. Jason had known all along that it was a setup.

Civil War

Years later, during the Civil War, the ruggedly independent Strongbow grew uneasy over the authoritarian new order shaping the modern American superhuman scene.

After an incident with a Navajo loser who had stolen an old suit of Cobalt Man armour (and destroyed the blue costume Strongbow had been using in the 1990s), Strongbow was asked to go to Phoenix and deal with a problem there. The city was caught in a feud between zealous vigilante the Steel Spider and a small-time criminal gang lead by one Andy Bear. The fighting threatened to harm bystanders.

American Eagle on his bike in the desert

Strongbow was firmly talking some sense into Steel Spider when the “Osborn”s Bastards” version of the Thunderbolts (Moonstone, Songbird, Penance, Radioactive Man, Swordsman, Venom) came to arrest the unregistered vigilante.

Deciding that he liked jackbooted thugs even less than irresponsible, overzealous vigilantes, the American Eagle sided with Steel Spider against the Thunderbolts. Minutes later they were joined by Shadowoman, another unregistered hero in Phoenix.

The three unregistered heroes held their own very well against the unsavoury Thunderbolts. Strongbow in particular proved to be an amazingly tough opponent. As the hostilities started he pinned Moonstone’s arm to the fast-flying aircraft behind her with a crossbow bolt, resulting in serious damage to her forearm.

Taken out of the fight, Moonstone furiously ordered her support team to get Bullseye out of his restrains. They were to send him after Strongbow to cripple him in return.

A needless battle in Phoenix

Strongbow was blasted off a roof by Songbird, but safely landed in the street. He came to the rescue of Shadowoman before Venom would kill her, battering the monster and ramming its head into the pavement.

The American Eagle and Shadowoman fought their way out of the confrontation, and decided to go their separate ways. However, Bullseye then ambushed the American Eagle. He threw a blade at him from behind, but Strongbow easily caught it, turned around and decided to beat the living hell out of the psychotic killer so he would be unable to kill anyone again for a long while.

He completely overpowered the dreaded hitman. However, at this very moment, Moonstone learned that Bullseye had killed the two soldiers who had been handling him. She ordered the booby traps implanted into Bullseye’s body to be triggered. This happened right when Strongbow punched Bullseye to shatter his jaw and give him a concussion.

With the assassin being unable to react to the punch due to the sudden surge in his body, the Eagle’s blow actually broke his neck. Bullseye was left in a critical state as a complete paraplegic.

Since Bullseye’s presence out of supermax was illegal and covert, and since the American Eagle was res-based, the Federal government did not press charges against him. Furthermore he was apparently found exempt of US registration laws due to his tribal status. The Osborn regime circumvented this later problem by declaring Strongbow to be a so-called “enemy combatant”.

Most recent appearances

In 2009, Strongbow arrested a fleeing Cottonmouth who had stumbled on res land, after curtly telling the pursuing Desert Stars (the Initiative’s Arizona team) to see themselves off Navajo land.

Shortly after that, James Rhodes (aka War Machine) became a major public enemy when he clashed with HAMMER, the successor organisation to S.H.I.E.L.D.. Rhodes’s mother Roberta had been living on Navajo land for years, and Strongbow assumed trouble might spill her way. (Apparently, Strongbow is a friend of Rhodes, presumably via Rhodes’s mum).

He was soon proved very much right, and destroyed a BIA probe he found on tribal land heading for Mrs. Rhodes’s place. As he was having tea with Mrs. Rhodes and discussing her son, Rhodes and his support crew arrived.

Despite Strongbow’s wish to avoid violence, the situation escalated. Rhodes knew the tribal rep wouldn’t back down, and couldn’t afford to fight him, so he had to distract him. Strongbow easily stopped the pit crew and “War Machine”. The American Eagle then discovered that the armour was worn by one of Rhodes’s allies, and that Rhodes had flown away.

Rhodes used the distraction to raid a nearby US military base where Ultimo’s head was being studied. In his view, probing that alien artefact was sure to result in a disaster. Strongbow rode in to support him and rescue US soldiers about to be killed by the Ultimo head, curtly rejecting offers by Norman Osborn.

The American Eagle’s help proved invaluable. He cleverly helped dislodge Ultimo’s eyeball and kept the rest of the head busy. This allowed Rhodes to absorb and assimilate the Ultimo tech to bring it under control.


Description

The uniforms are in chronological order – his original costume with the large feathers (which he later called the “YMCA costume” in a reference to the famous Village People  tune) on top, and the much more recent costume with the G-Force style helmet at the bottom.


Personality

There are essentially three eras of characterisation for the American Eagle, which are not really tied together :

Comic-book 1980s Indian

This version of Mr. Strongbow is an isolationist. He’s very wary of the White Man and their ways and only expecting treachery for them. He actually calls White folks “White One”.

He exalts a romanticised, generic American Indian culture a la Dances With Wolves . This comess complete with the usual New Age-ish talk about Mother Earth, not letting nature be defiled and those sort of things.

He’s a traditionalist. He prefers to have res life be untouched by problems from the outside world since things are hard enough as is. He’s also a natural leader, and prefers to be the one in charge so he can be sure that problems are handled correctly.

In this era Jason is also quite sententious, trying to do the Noble And Wise Indian Great Chief thing, though his delivery sounds good.

Though the Indianisms were a product of the times, one could always blame youth. It is possible that Jason Strongbow was about 18-20 at that time. After all, his references to his first costume as the “YMCA costume” do show a certain amount of amused embarrassment about what he did in his youth.

1990s tribal action hero

The American Eagle was a generic super-hero while he was operating in Washington, D.C.. He was essentially a more serious Spider-Man. Things then veer toward the Iron Age  genre and the Eagle is depicted as a serious, almost brooding adventurer who largely operates as a generic gritty cinematic  action hero.

One theme remains through both these sub-eras, though – his great pride about his cultural heritage, which becomes the central theme of the character. That was accompanied from time to time by declarations about rising above hatred between cultures and working toward a common understanding.

Though this characterisation was also a product of the times, one could always continue to blame youth. For instance by assuming that Strongbow was about 22-24 at that point.

2000s curmudgeonly badass

As revisited by Warren Ellis in Thunderbolts, Strongbow appears to be in his late 30s to early 40s. He’s a badass and a tough guy, but not in a flamboyant vein. He has a realistic, down-to-earth fashion to his toughness. He’s a hard man from the res, proud of his roots (as a rural type, as an Arizona native, as a Navajo leader and as an American) and standing tall.

He’s chiefly concerned about preventing loss of life and helping his constituency through rough spots. He dislike grandstanding, ideologues and troublemakers. He has, in particular, no problem in using whatever amount of violence (and HPs) he needs when it comes to stopping killers or opposing those who would diminish civil liberties.

In some ways, the American Eagle is, appropriately enough, a shining example of some traditional American virtues. Strongbow is ruggedly individualistic yet actively caring about his neighbours, gruff but very much involved in the community, proud of what he is and where he is from but open-minded, ready to stand up to any tyrant with defiant courage and a natural born fighter’s skill and innovative tactics.

The fact than a Navajo man so perfectly embodies the idealised virtues of the Frontier is a tad ironic.

Strongbow is a born leader of men. On the other hand his respect for each person’s freedom makes him loathe to actually take charge, or to do the job of the Navajo police. His considerable charisma and problem-solving ability often mean that he’s petitioned by his people to deal with some trouble, which he seems to always reluctantly agree to do.

Although he’s bear-like and would rather do something sensible and constructive (like representing his people, managing the tribal budget, helping build a new house, helping educate the kids, feeding the dogs or having a cold brew), he can always be convinced to go out there and get things done if lives are at stake.

He might even have the traditional heart-of-gold-under-the-gruff-down-to-earth-exterior-and-Navajo-honour thing.


Quotes

1980s

“If it is madness to strike down evil, White one — then let madness crush you into the earth you have defiled !”

“Land is land, all part of the same Earth which knows none of man’s false boundaries.”

“I am Jason Strongbow, now known as the American Eagle. I accept your offer of help and friendship… and extend to you mine.”

“If it is what a man does which determines his worth… then what you have done, my brother, earns you nothing but a position of dishonour and disgrace ! Above the clouds, our father must be hanging his head in shame ! And for that, I cannot allow you to continue the path of evil !”

1990s

“I put aside my feelings about the FBI for personal reasons.”

2000s

(After discussing the Civil War with a friend over beers) “What am I thinking, Steve ?” (pause) “I’m thinking about shoving their registration right up their backsides.”

“*Me*, talk to [the Steel Spider] ? No, wait. I get it. The super-hero thing. You think we’re all in a club.”

(After having been reluctantly convinced to intervene in a difficult matter) “…” (long pause) “Get me a beer.”

“Hey, back up. You’ve got a New York City accent and I was born ten miles from here. So you do not want to sound too entitled right now. I didn’t call jack on you. I’m here to talk to you man-to-man and deal with the fact that you’ve been putting people in the hospital and now they want to turn downtown into a free-fire zone.”

Venom (threatening Shadowoman): “I can kill you and no one’s gonna care less !”
American Eagle (coming out of nowhere) “Yeah ?” (Clobbers Venom) “YEAH ?” (Hammers Venom’s face into the ground)

“I’ve read all about you, Bullseye. Killing regular people, fighting unpowered operators like Daredevil. Pick your targets carefully, don’t you ? Like some schoolyard jerk, looking for the little kids to kick around. You spineless little bag of crap.[…] So let’s see what you’ve got. You might do okay with those New York City boys. But you and me are in Phoenix, Arizona. So you take a swing at a real American and see what happens.”

“’fraid not. You folks ain’t got no juridiction out here. You’re on Indian land. Now get the Hell out of it.” (long beat) “And tell Tony Stark he can kiss my ass.”

“No. You’re not getting any of [your demands]. Here’s what’s gonna happen instead. I’m gonna take my fist and punch you in your big, stupid mouth. And there ain’t a damn thing you can do about it.”


DC Universe History

He’s obviously a descendant of Old West adventurer Strongbow. Small world, heh ?


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American Eagle

Dex: 09 Str: 14 Bod: 06 Motivation: Justice
Int: 07 Wil: 05 Min: 05 Occupation: Tribal Leader
Inf: 07 Aur: 06 Spi: 05 Resources {or Wealth}: 005
Init: 030 HP: 060

Powers:
Analytical smell/tracking scent: 07, Detect (Psychic powers): 02, Extended hearing: 07,Enhanced initiative: 03, Running: 06, Skin armour: 04, Telescopic vision: 04, Ultra-vision: 07

Bonuses and Limitations:
Skin Armour only vs. blunt attacks and unarmed blows (-1).

Skills:
Acrobatics (Athletics, Climbing): 07, Animal Handling (Horses): 05, Gadgetry (Bowyer): 05, Martial artist: 10, Military science (Danger sense, tracking, camouflage): 07, Vehicles (Land): 06, Weaponry (Crossbow)*: 09

Bonuses and Limitations:

  • Military science (Tracking) can be Combined with Detect to track psychic emanations (GM’s call). This specific use of this Skill is Powered, and Contingent upon Detect.
  • Martial Artist is Contingent on DEX — but even if he’s depowered Jason retain 05 APs in this Skill.

Advantages:
Expertise (Navajo lore, DIY work, Desert Survival), Iron Nerves, Language (Navajo), Leadership, Lightning Reflexes, Misc.: As a tribal representative, Strongbow has a quite specific legal status and may not been subjected to certain American regulations and enforcement policies (5 pts).

Connections:
Navajo tribals (High), Navajo Tribal Police (High), Wyatt Wingfoot (Low), Jonna Cargill (a reporter in Wash. D.C. – Low), James Rhodes (Low).

Drawbacks:
Authority Figure, MIA toward protecting the earth and the traditions, Public ID.

Equipment:

  • Special Crossbow [BODY 04, Projectile weapon: 06, Snare: 06, Ammo: 01, R#2, Bonus: Snare has the Swingline Bonus. The American Eagle carries 25 bolts for the crossbow, and each can trail a line.].
  • When he has to drive around Arizona, Strongbow prefers his big Harley with an US flag motif over the fuel tank. It seems to be a late 2000s Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 Custom.
  • A cell phone (which works both on Navajo lands and in the rest of the US).

Design notes

Martial Artist is the DCH 3rd edition version.

By Sébastien Andrivet.

Source of Character: Marvel Universe.

Helper(s): Sampson Pete, plus rpg.net’s Tangency for identifying the exact kind of Harley (CosmicCowboy, OldKentuckyShark, Cailet, Last Knight, celebdae’s dad).

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