By: Michael E. Marotta (Mike Echo Mike)
E-mail Address: email@example.com
For 40 years, from October 2, 1933, to April 1, 1973, Zack Mosely's Smilin'
Jack Martin flew from the comics of the CTNYN syndicate. At first a Sunday
feature, Smilin' Jack became a daily strip in 1936, mixing two-fisted
adventure with aviation groundschool. Jack was a realistic character
because Mosely was really a pilot.
In 1930, after two years of art school, and two years laboring around
Chicago, Zack Mosley found work on the "Buck Rogers" team and then
transferred to drawing "Skyroads." Skyroads was "amateurish and pretty
fantastic" in Mosley's words. "I didn't write it. I just drew it," he said.
The aviation in the strip was "wild-haired and impossible" but it piqued his
interest. In the summer of 1932, Mosley took a flying lesson at Chicago
Municipal Airport. In 1933, Mosley launched Smilin' Jack.
Mosley passed his PPL checkride and by 1949 had logged 2500 hours in single
engine planes, the Beech 18, and PBY flying boat, among others. At the same
time, Smilin' Jack piloted all of the modern planes of the 1930s and fought
in both theaters of World War II. After the war, he continued up the ladder
into jet transports. He was married, divorced, and remarried. He filed for
bankruptcy. In short, he had a real-life life.
Zack Mosley was born in Oklahoma in 1906, a year before statehood. So it is
no surprise that Mosley's value system is that of the frontier West. You
will find sexism, racism, and jingoism in the panels of Smilin' Jack. You
will also find loyalty, courage, intelligence, and fairness.
In late 1940 and early 1941, Jack gets married to heiress Joy Beaverduck,
who is also a pilot. She has purchased her own specially built racing
plane, intending to set a speed record between New York and Rio de Janeiro.
Jack says she'll never get a type certificate and she replies that an
X-certificate will be easy to get. Jack test flies the plane and condemns
it. Attempting to be the man of the house, he forbids her to fly it.
Joy: You conceited males think you are so superior to women, but you're not
stopping me from flying my racer!!
Jack: I'm sorry, Joy, but I must forbid it -- it's too hot for a girl!
Joy: Girls can fly just as good as men any day!
Jack: Some girls, perhaps -- It's all a matter of experiece -- It's true I
flew it, but I've had thousands of hours -- you've only had a few hundred!
Instinctively the protective and dominant male, Jack nonetheless admits to
the fact Joy presents: given experience, women fly as well as men. For all
of that, the argument goes nowhere and Jack walks out of the house mad. He
visits his pal Downwind who tells him he is being a jackass and advises him
to apologize to Joy. "But that would be giving in -- I've gotta teach her
who's head of the family..." Downwind is not sold. "It's just as much your
place to make the first move to make up as it is hers."
Too late. Joy takes off to set a record. She flies into bad weather over
the Caribbean. She makes all the mistakes of a VFR pilot caught in IMC: she
attempts to fly by feel; she doubts the instruments; she fixates on one
condition, ignoring other problems; she misinterprets the instruments.
The circumstances are all the more bitter for Jack. This was their first
argument in eleven weeks of marriage. Their honeymoon had been postponed
twice. The first time, Downwind was thought lost or dead when he failed to
close his flight plan. Jack flew off to find him, tracing the river valleys
that he knew Downwind would opt for in bad weather. The second time, Joy's
father just has to take his legal advisors to Nashville and bad weather has
grounded the airlines. Furthermore, Mr. Beaverduck's corporate Lockheed
Electra is getting a 100-hour. So, Jack stuffs them all into his single
engine. They ice up. Jack descends to warmer air. He reads the charts and
the weather and makes it through the mountains. What a guy!
A picture is worth 1000 words and every day for 40 years, Mosely delivered
three to five panels. The virtues and faults of the cultural context are
not unusual for the time. (In 50 years Dilbert and Cathy will be blamed for
quite a lot that we do not see now.) Be that as it may, in Smilin' Jack,
Zack Mosely ran a good groundschool. Mosely loved air shows and he plugged
them in his strip. As an AOPA member, he also used the strip to lobby
Congress on behalf of general aviation.
Among the places that sell Smilin' Jack reprints are Ken Pierce Books and
Clark Classic Comics, Inc. Ken Pierce is online at <http://www.kenpiercebooks.com>
and clicking on <http://web.wt.net/~clarkcom >takes you to Dave Clark.
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