PULP COVER FRIDAY PRESENTS AIRPLANES! AND WEREWOLVES!
Here’s a genre I don’t believe we’ve even touched on before: the pulps dedicated to aviation.
There were a ton of them. A lot more than I ever suspected before I started researching this column. Most have “Air,” “Aces,” or “Flying” in their titles. The earliest one I’ve been able to find is AIR STORIES, which published 58 issues from 1927 to 1939, but the one I’m going to focus on this time around is G-8 AND HIS BATTLE ACES, which was created and written by Robert J. Hogan. It lasted for 110 issues from 10-33 to 6-44.
This ‘zine could also easily be classified as a Hero Pulp. G-8 (we never learn his true name) is an American spy/aviator/master of disguise (as all heroes were at that time) stationed in France during WW I. He had a girlfriend, a nurse who aided his squadron, whose name we also never learn, leaving me to wonder how he addressed her. “Hey, nursey!” “You there!” Which must have led to some great romantic scenes.
Naturally, G-8 also has sidekicks. There’s his alliteratively named British butler Battle, and his wing-men, the short Nippy Weston who also happened to be a magician (an excellent skill for a fighter pilot to have) and the extra-large sized Bull Martin, a former All-American halfback. Apparently, these two were also the Ham and Monk of the skies, for they are said to constantly bicker, which does pad the old word count.
But it’s the villains that make it seem as if this series might be up my alley: the Steel Mask, Herr Grun, Baron von Todschmecker [Okay. I had to look this up. “Tod” means “death” of course. But schmecker? Well, the Urban Dictionary gives several possibilities. Schmecker means heroin addict. Schmeck means junk or crap. Then there’s the near cognate, schmeckel, which is Yiddish for small penis. Is Hogan pulling our schmeckels here, or what? I’ll leave it for to decide which meaning is most appropriate.], the Vampire Hag, the Man in Armor (who piloted his bi-plane in full metal plate), and Herr Doktor Wormer, not to mention various werewolves, zombies, animated skeletons, and unfrozen ancient Vikings.
Also the titles. The first issue, The Bat Staffel, provided an excellent template for future titles. Remove “Bat” and add, variously, Vampire, Invisible, Spider, Blizzard, Gorilla, Sword, and Headless. When you weary of staffel, there’s always “Patrol,” as in The Patrol of the Dead, or, of the: Iron Scourge, Iron Hand, Cloud Crusher, Mad, Murder Masters, Purple Clan, Phantom, and, finally, to the End of the World. You get the idea.
This assortment of covers just scratches the surface of the wonder of G-8. More next week.