Eagle comic soars… in Albania?

Did you know that Eagle as a comic title was revived in the last ten years? Although not the Eagle you might remember, and not in the UK, of course, and not in English, but out of Albania.

The modern “Šćiponja” (Eagle) was the creation of Gani Sunduri, the president of the Kosovo Comic Book Artists Association “Xhennet Comics”.

“Šćiponja” (Eagle), the creation of Gani Sunduri

Šćiponja, described as the first Albanian superhero, made his debut in 2012, his origins influenced by American characters like Flash Gordon and the Phantom. Gani Sunduri described his hero as a champion for good, battling against the evil of the modern world, including corruption and injustice.

Dressed in a tight red leotard, with a mask over his eyes and a black double-headed eagle with an Albanian flag on his chest, Šćiponja fights against injustice and protects the weak from the strong.

Sunduri, a lifelong comic fan, who grew up reading the adventures of Yugoslavian hero, Zagor, and the Phantom, decided to create his own hero back in 2009. (Reprints of many British comic heroes were also once very popular in the region).

“Lee Falk’s Phantom served as the basis for Šćiponja,” he told the news site, Blic, in 2012. “I changed the colour of his costume and placed an eagle symbol on his chest, because ‘šćiponja’ in Albanian means “eagle” .

Šćiponja is one of several superheroes published in the former Balkan states, some previously used as propaganda tools during recent wars, but Gani was insistent his superhero had no political message, and was aggrieved that some thought he harked back to the political superheroes of the a Yugoslavian era.

“My comic has nothing to do with politics and is not directed against members of other nationalities in Kosovo or anywhere else, and especially not against Serbs, as some think,” he explained.

“I didn’t have to search for a long time for the evil that Šćiponja will fight against, since almost half of the world lives under corrupt leadership and crime is flourishing everywhere. The theme of the first comic, as well as its sequel, is the fight against drug dealers.”

Sadly, there’s no indication I can find of how many adventures Šćiponja has had to date, but if anyone has further information, I’ll happily update this feature.

The character also some similarity in look to Marvel US superhero the Phantom Eagle, who first appeared in Marvel Super-Heroes #16, back in 1968. Created by Gary Friedrich, and Herb Trimpe, he was a member of the Freedom Five, and crossed paths with Ghost Rider in the 1970s.

It should be noted that, unfortunately, reaction to the character’s debut from potential readers seemed decidedly mixed, some supportive, some regarding the hero as an imitation of his inspiration, Zagor and Phantom, some feeling creating an Albanian superhero was westernisation of the country gone too far.

The Shoqata e Strip artistëve Kosovar (Association of Kosovar Strip Artists), “Xhennetcomics” is the only strip and cartoon association in Kosovo. The association has organised a series of annual Festivals, published strip magazines and run various activities in the field of ninth art.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Eastern European superheroes, academic Kateryna Shymkevych, who lives and works in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, wrote an article last year, “Comics as an instrument of propaganda in the Yugoslav wars”, which has been published on more than one site; it’s here, with illustrations, on mil.in.ua, a news site reporting Ukraine’s resistance to military aggression by the Russian Federation.

Do note, this secure sites “checks your browser” before admission; if that sounds concerning, and you’d like to read the original article (without imagery) with a “normal” cookie permissions, go here and select the middle option on the pop up to clear it. The article is published in English on both sites.

Kateryna Shymkevych is a PhD in Historical Sciences and Associated Professor (Docent) in the Zaporizhzhia Institute of Economics and Informational Technologies, Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine. She’s written extensively about politics and society in the Balkan states and beyond for several years.

With thanks to Tymbus Robins for the link and Todd Geischt, for the Phantom Eagle pointer

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