I was struck by how many smaller publishers were exhibiting at San Diego Comic-Con. Maybe “smaller” is the wrong word. It diminishes the efforts and passion that’s behind all these efforts. Maybe I should instead call them up-and-coming publishers.
And I’m drawing a line between this idea – the hopes and dreams of small publishers – and the fascinating book I’m reading, Double Ace by Robert Coram. It’s the story of one of the most celebrated World War II pilots, Robert Lee Scott, Jr. He was a war hero who shot down an astounding number of enemy pilots during WWII.
Comic fans used to love aviation heroes. There were titles like Wings, Flying Aces and Air Fighters. There were heroes like Airboy, Blackhawk, Flying Jenny, Black Venus ( a couple of them, in fact) and Sky Wolf.
Guys of a certain age, like me, graduated from the TV steam punk of the Wild, Wild, West to Baa Baa Black Sheep, a (mostly) fictionalized TV series about another real life war pilot, Pappy Boyington.
But for kids in 1943, war heroes, and pilots in particular, were a big deal. And part of it was because of Robert Lee Scott, Jr.
When he was sent stateside in 1942 after a spectacular aviation career, Scott was frustrated to be “taken out of the game” early. The top brass had decided, for many reasons, that they wanted Scott stateside, ostensibly to teach new pilots and inspire the home front. But as a rugged individual who always was good at telling tall tales, Scott had another plan.
He struck a deal with Simon & Schuster to write a book about his adventures. Due to timing constraints, he didn’t really write it. Instead, he “talked it”. Specifically, he used a dictaphone to record his adventures, which were then transcribed by a typist.
The book, “written” in just 3 days, went on to become a national bestseller, and a movie, called God Is My Co-Pilot.
There’s a story in the book where Scott was on a radio show with other authors, including Ernest Hemingway. Scott started to apologize to Hemingway explaining he wasn’t really an author. Hemingway didn’t see it that way. “Stop apologizing for writing a best-seller”, Hemingway admonished Scott.
And this is where it gets back to the many up-and-coming publishers I saw in San Diego.
There’s no need to pooh-pooh their efforts. There’s no need to diminish the hopes and dreams that go into any comic creation. I like the folks who don’t get wrapped up in the fact that they are not an established big name (yet) and are just excited to get their stories and comics out there. Watching creative endeavors grow and blossom is the entrepreneurial magic of comics.
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As I’ve just learned about Scott, I was happy to hear that the Wallace Wood Estate is putting together a collection of Wood war comics titled Wally Wood: Dare-Devil Aces edited by the Estate’s Director J. David Spurlock. The foreword is written by Wood’s long-time associate, GI Joe writer Larry Hama.
Wood Estate’s Director, J. David Spurlock said, “Just as Wood’s famous EC sci-fi story My World was auto-biographical, Wood preferred doing war comics that connect to his own WWII experience as a paratrooper. So, most of his war stories feature fighter pilots and/or paratroopers. Some were fiction based loosely on historic events and some were very historical and featured specific people.” Spurlock went on to say, “Wood had a particular fondness for General Claire Chennault’s Flying Tigers including Robert Lee Scott, Jr.”
In addition to the regular book, there is a deluxe, limited-edition hardcover which comes in a special bronze metallic slipcase and features a 16-page Bonus Art Folio of previously unpublished Wood war drawings. Both the regular and deluxe editions feature Fighting Tigers cover art.
Dare-Devil Aces is being released as part of the WALLY WOOD WAR & PEACE promotion along with the charming Wally Wood Christmas Book. (Though the war book won’t be released until around Christmas, the little Christmas Book will be out sooner, so people can get it in time for stocking stuffers.)
One other geek culture connection that stretches it a bit – even for me – one of my favorite comics cover painters, Bob Larkin, painted the cover to Devil in the Slot – a paperback adventure of Pappy Boyington and his Black Sheep.