[ENGLISH] This month: Airboy. Since the inception of The Golden Age of comics in 1938, many heroes, and many villains, have splashed their battles across artistic pages, have endured their struggles in those same pages and have intrigued a readership which has loved their adventures for 72 years. This column celebrates such characters by taking a look each month at one of them. Some you will know and some are more obscure, but all hold a significant place in comics, for the world of stories in any medium is about the characters who populate it. The spectacular citizens of the universe who inhabit the comic book nation might be brave or sinister, bold or fearful, but all are characters who we can never forget. So, The Golden Age becomes the Silver Age, The Silver becomes The Bronze and so on, until today and until tomorrow. . . in The Endless Age of comics, and the beings who live inside them.
Airboy in Action!
One of the most unique characters in the early years of comicdom was Airboy. 1940’S comic books held plenty of flying heroes within their pages and you can find some of the ones I have covered in earlier articles such as Spy Smasher, Captain Midnight and Black Venus but Airboy really is one of a kind both in his dealings with his enemies, his love life and most of all the absolute brutality in which he exacts vengeance on those he cares about.
He first appeared in Air Fighters Comics from 1942 to 1945, followed by Airboy Comics with his own title until 1953 in an even longer run. It is somewhat unclear who created him but the artists who worked on it included such greats as Dan Barry and the legendary Carmine Infantino. Other artists involved over the years were Bernard Sachs, Dan Zolnerowich, John Belfi, Arthur Peddy, M. del Bourgo, John Guinta, Bill Quackenbush, Fred Kida and Tony DiPreta..
For the 11 years of its run under these titles it was published by Hillman. The publisher brought a character who was acquainted with a monk named Padre Martier who dwelled at a monastery in Capistrano, California. The associations with the more famous Zorro are there (The original title of The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley was The Curse of Capistrano in its originally published serialized form.) The association ends there, however, as the padre wishes to be the hero of the story and borrows money from an evil man named Sessler to build an experimental airplane, one of his own design. The plane is of a bat-wing design (we all know that association) and Davy Nelson, a youth and a friend, helps the padre with his plans. Sessler rigs the airplane to crash with Padre Martier flying it so that he can gain control of the monastery land. After that he converts the holy building and ground to a casino, and flagrantly is criminal in all his activities as he rakes in his money.
The bat-wing plane, which the padre and Davy had nicknamed “Birdie” was damaged greatly but Nelson repairs it for one express purpose, to exact revenge on Sessler. He does so by strafing and bombing the casino. He does this in his new costume which shows him as Airboy, his secret identity unknown.
This type of vengeance is reminisce of early 1940’s comics which did sometimes have heroes killing their enemies. It made sense to publish this kind of material because it was a period when the Allied Nations were at war with an enemy it was trying to kill to stop its spread. This was bound to carry over into comics. Airboy, after his vengeful raid was conveniently drawn into World War 2 by the publisher by having a Japanese pilot named Hirote go to America to extract the secret bat-wing plans for Japan. Airboy defeats him and becomes a direct enemy of the Axis powers..
Perhaps the most unique thing about Airboy was his love life. A Nazi enemy named Valkyrie, beautiful and deadly and young, she is the leader of Hitler’s special unit known as the Air Maiden Squadron (a nicely-fitting creation to be a counterpart to Airboy’s presence). Her heart outweighs her head where Airboy is concerned and she falls in love with Davy Nelson rather than completing her mission to kill him. In time even her head turns away from her loyalty to the Reich and she ends up helping Airboy do everything he can to destroy Hitler’s threat.
As a pair they went on through the comics pages over the years and faced a number of challenges. One of the coolest was a villain names Misery, an undead-like creature in a cloak who imprisoned flyers again and again in his creepy “airtomb.” Scores of pilots were buried there and he wanted them too. Drawn by Fred Kida and Dan Barry, the issue was beautiful for its visuals.
So much has passed since Airboy and Valkyrie soared in their stories. The Atomic Age, The Space Race, The Cold War and more. . . we may wonder why such old stories matter anymore. Are they outdated now, only good for nostalgic looks back? Remembering them is a part of their appeal to be sure but there’s more to such stories. They reflect the feeling of a nation and a world at the time they are released. They are pieces of history, of politics, of beliefs, archaeological finds of the highest importance because in them we find ourselves.
The types of heroes we look up to see loom different, with different names and different stories, but they only go where Airboy already once flew, and showed everyone how it’s done.
James Parducci (www.jparducci.blogspot.com) is the creator of the comic series Nighthunter. He has been published in multiple periodicals and runs his own freelance writing business in San Diego.