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Airwolf

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Airwolf was devised by Donald P. Bellisario, and concerned a prototype supersonic attack helicopter. Stolen by its developer Dr. Moffett and flown to Libya, Airwolf is retrieved by one of its test pilots, the reclusive Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent) and his close friend Dominic Santini (Ernest Borgnine). Both have been recruited by Michael Coldsmith Briggs III (Codename: Archangel) who works for 'The Firm', a covert branch of the CIA who commissioned the helicopter. But Hawke has his own agenda, and hides Airwolf, flying on secret missions for Archangel in return for information on his brother Saint-John, 'Missing-In-Action' in Vietnam. But both the conventional allied and foreign forces are keen to get their hands on the helicopter which, as introductions on early episodes state, was 'too dangerous to remain in unenlightened hands'.

The first short season of Airwolf', airing in 1984, was an interesting format with unconventional characters. Hawke was a brooding, almost anti-hero, and while Archangel and his glamorous girl-pilot assistants usually wore white, their motives could be dubious. However, the CBS network in America disliked the darker elements, wanting the show more 'family-friendly', and for the second season Hawke was softened and a female lead introduced in Caitlin O'Shannessy (Jean Bruce Scott), a Highway Patrolwoman who joins Santini Air, becoming a backup pilot for Airwolf itself.

This 'softening' continued into the third season, by which time 'Look-In' caught up for a tie-in strip in the autumn of 1986. There was a broad hint the publication had the rights for a while before, with an Airwolf text story sandwiched between perennial favourites The A Team and Knight Rider in the 'Look-In TV Action Holiday Special' a few months earlier.

Lookin airimages

Airwolf artwork

As a result, the strip lacked the edge of the earlier episodes, or even 'Look-In's own gripping style that had made stories 'must-reads' through the 1970s and early 1980s. Two of the three colour strips, drawn by the excellent husband and wife team of Gordon And Maureen Gray, were very 'kiddie-centric', and their superb likenesses of the central characters enlivened the somewhat dull scripts. While the second and longest tale, concerning a reporter nearly blowing the helicopter's cover, is much more in the flavour of early episodes, it fails to quite cut it and one senses a slight unease with the Gray's handling of the central helicopter itself. The final black and white strip was drawn by Barrie Mitchell, taking a brief break from The A Team.

When the series was cancelled after the end of the third season, the USA Network revived the format of Airwolf for a fourth year to bump the number of episodes for syndication. This was produced on a low budget, and with none of the original characters. Hawke's brother Saint John was played by Barry Van Dyke ('Dillon' in the similarly bastardised 'Galactica 1980' - you'd have thought he would have learned a lesson there!), accompanied by Michele Scarabelli as Santini's niece Jo, who inherits her uncle's company after his death. Thankfully the 'Look-In' strip came to an end before this could be considered as a continuation.

As such, Airwolf was the last of the true adventure strips featured in 'Look-In', and marked the end of an era for the title.

(Article by Shaqui Le Vesconte)


Airwolf Chronology

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