In the 1930s and ’40s the newspaper comic pages were filled with the exploits of daring aviators. Although fictitious, these characters became role models for kids interested in flying.
Most of the heroes were men with flashy nicknames who flew technologically advanced aircraft with skill and daring — and always, always got the girl.
One character, Scorchy Smith, a clean-cut American, was asked to create an air force for a fictional South American country that was experiencing a revolution. The opposition’s air force was lead by a gangster named Knucks Maddox.
Smilin’ Jack was another popular strip. Jack spent much of his time thwarting racketeers and attempts to kill him, and dealing with what was known as his “wimmin” troubles because Jack’s existence was plagued with curvaceous women who were in love with him, out to get him, or both.
Other adventure stories appeared as novels. These featured pilots who were part-time reporters or police officers and used their flying skills to battle gangsters. These stories were often read under the covers by flashlight by young men who, within a few years, would join the armed forces as pilots.