If you weren’t reading comics in the 80s, you might not be familiar with Coyote. He’s one of the transitional characters that appeared during that period: a superhero that doesn’t appear to be such at first glance, originally published by a new company (Eclipse) instead of an old stalwart, and creator-owned by Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers.
The origin story reprinted here originally appeared in Eclipse Monthly in seven parts, although it was written as one long story. That format has been restored, with the now-unnecessary chapter introductions included in the back of the book, a gesture that should please those historically interested or completists.
Also included in Coyote are the two published issues of Scorpio Rose (inks by Tom Palmer) along with a never-finished third issue, printed as rough layouts with writer narration. The reasons for including that here are twofold: both were drawn by Rogers, and later on, Scorpio Rose became a backup feature in the Coyote comic, eventually joining the cast of the main book.
So, what about the story? Coyote is a mystic with magical powers, enhanced senses, and an ability to dance through realities. Practically, that means he can become invisible, move through walls, and change his appearance. As a child, he was orphaned when his parents drove to the desert to watch a nuclear test. A wild were-coyote man found and raised him with the aid of a “psychic vampire” woman.
One night, Coyote kills a ruffian in his desert and follows the dead guy’s partner into the lights of Las Vegas. He finds himself in the headquarters of a secret group run by a nuclear-burned walking skeleton and takes up with Phyllida, a high-ranking cabinet member within the group.
The art is classic comic style and well-crafted, but the colors are somewhat garish to my eyes. The “special effects” sequences, when Coyote travels realities, are design-y and neon-colored. The mysticism makes this feel like Dr. Strange for the 80s, with more explicit sex and nudity to mark it for an older audience.
I never had a feeling of suspense or curiosity while reading the story. It seemed obvious that Coyote was set up as so powerful and fantastic that he didn’t ever risk losing anything, and the conflict, with the shadow government conspiracy and the nuclear threat, was dated. So was the idea that there’s nothing wrong with sleeping with someone just for fun even if you can’t get along with them.
Scorpio Rose is more of the same kind of thing, with an immortal gypsy witch fighting various demons and ex-lovers. With both stories, I found it more interesting to read the writer talking about his intent than it was to read the outcome. I’m glad I got a chance to see a part of comic history I wasn’t around for, though.
After this story, the property moved to Epic. There are plans for four more collections from Image, covering that material.