In 1941, Hillman Publications brought out the first issue of Air Fighters, a comic book devoted to military aviators. It did not succeed, and more than a year passed before they tried again. Air Fighters #2 featured several popular strips, including one, Airboy, which was eventually to take over the book. Collectively, the characters featured in these strips were known as the Airfighters, even though they rarely, if ever, met one another. The retitled Airboy folded in 1953, but Airboy and his companion strips, especially the Heap, were well-remembered. In 1986, Eclipse Comics acquired the rights to the Airfighters characters and to the Hillman collection of art and stories, and created a revival series. I have named the world of the Airfighters "Earth-42" because the Airfighters premiered in the second issue of Air Fighters, published in 1942. In 1998, Todd McFarlane acquired the rights to the Airfighters, but the third series he planned has not yet appeared. Key # An event from a published Hillman comic. & An event from a published Eclipse comic. @ An event from the real world that might be significant to the Airfighters universe. % An event from some other fictional source which might be significant to the Airfighters universe. ? An event hypothesized by this writer. At an unknown time in the past, or possibly in a realm outside time ================================= # The being known as Misery is born, and becomes ruler of an other- dimensional realm with connections to Earth-42. At some point, Misery becomes fascinated with aviators and aircraft; he begins collecting the spirits (sometimes the bodies) of fliers, and even of people who simply died in plane crashes, and builds an immense necromantic airplane called the Airtomb. Ca. 30,000 B.C.E. ================================= # Zzed is born and begins his life of lonely immortality. Ca. 800 C.E. ================================= # An ancestor of the La Farge family wears iron armor of unusual design as he fights in the service of Charlemagne. He becomes known as the Iron Ace. 1485 ================================= @ Leonardo da Vinci designs an ornithopter, declaring that he will "take no model other than the bat" for a flying machine. Early 1500s ================================= @ Spain plants colonies in Central America. Early 1500s ================================= ? Colony of Bogantilla founded. 1562 ================================= @ Benvenuto Cellini writes in his Memoirs that he escaped from prison in an ornithopter he built in his cell. Most historians agree that he actually bribed his guards, but on Earth-42, who knows? 1704 ================================= @ Robert Pocock writes an essay speculating on the possibility of human flight with the help of kites. On Earth-Prime, he did no more than speculate, but perhaps he did more on Earth-42. 1783 ================================= @ Montgolfier Brothers fly in a balloon. 1789 ================================= # The Marquis Francois Martier d'Orleans turns to his family retainer, Jean, and asks him to look after his wife, son, and daughter, and to look after the Martier family treasure. Henri Cotillion incites a mob to attack the Martiers to get the treasure, but though the Marquis dies, Cotillion does not get the treasure. (Note: Airboy's costume is based on a ceremonial uniform the Marquis wore.) (Airboy Comics #11) 1821 ================================= @ Civil war in Spain leads Spanish colonies in the New World to declare independence. 1821 ================================= ? Bogantilla presumably becomes independent of Spain. 1824 ================================= @ U.S. Congress declines Costa Rica's petition to join the Union. 1862 ================================= @ U.S. Army Balloon Corps founded, becoming the U.S.'s first "air force". 1869 ================================= @ Frederick Marriott flies an unmanned model of an "avitor", an aircraft that uses a lighter-than-air gasbag combined with a wing surface and a motor-driven propellor to lift a heavier-than-air craft. 1897-8 ================================= @ During the "Great Airship Panic", there are dozens of sightings of large flying machines. People report close encounters with their crews, who are variously described as American inventors, Chinese and even extraterrestrials. 1903 ================================= @ Samuel P. Langley of the Smithsonian Institute tests his aeroplane, which crashes disastrously. The New York Times urges the military and industry to abandon further aviation research since it is now obvious that "Man will not fly for another thousand years". 1903 ================================= @ The Wright Brothers successfully fly an aeroplane at Kitty Hawk, N.C. 1914-1918 ================================= @ Airplanes are used in the First World War, at first simply serving as spotters for artillery, but rapidly evolving into fighters and bombers. Military pilots become popular heroes on both side: names like Rickenbacker, von Richthofen and Immelman will be remembered for generations. 1914 ================================= @ Anthony Fokker, Dutch aviator and inventor of synchronized machine-gun fire, becomes known as the Flying Dutchman. 1915 ================================= & El Lobo Alado, father of Skywolf, is active in Mexico, flying a fighter plane against rebels and bandits. 1917 ================================= # Baron von Emmelman shot down over the Pripyat Marshes of Poland. 1918 ================================= % In the world of Kim Newman's Anno Dracula, vampires play a large and public role in the First World War. Most pilots on both sides are vampires; almost every noted pilot of history and fiction is mentioned in Newman's The Bloody Red Baron, including the von Richthofen brothers, Allard and von Emmelmann (whose vampiric form is described as being "heaplike"). Towards the end of the war, rapid advances in the enhancement of vampiric powers enable vampire pilots to actually become living aircraft. Von Emmelmann becomes a ragged, mossy living plane. It is also worth noting that the Heap of Earth-42 does feed on blood, usually that of animals. 1920 ================================= In India, a group of British soldiers is cut off from supporting forces by Gurkha rebels. Their leaders, Colonel Vickers and Captain Randoph Nelson, dispatch one of their members, O'Bannion, to get help using a hidden pass. But O'Bannion betrays his comrades to the rebels. Captain Nelson's son is left behind in India, but moves to the U.S. (Airboy Comics #12) 1925 ================================= @ In France, the world's first jet airplane catches fire on its first test, and is never rebuilt. Ca. 1930 ================================= ? Davy Nelson, Jr. (Airboy I) is born. 1932 ================================= % "Murder" Legendre creates zombies in Haiti and commits many evil acts before being brought to justice, as detailed in the film White Zombie. 1938 ================================= % U.S. marine lieutenants Tom Grayson and Frank Corby are part of a force known as the Fighting Devil Dogs, who protect the tropical locals from rebels and outlaws. In their most famous case, they defeat the black-clad scientist known as the Lightning who creates artifical thunderbolts, as detailed in The Fighting Devil Dogs movie serial. 1939 ================================= @ Germany invades Poland; Second World War begins. % First episode of Wild Cards, a squat, homely orphan named Robert Tomlin saves a prototype jet airplane from being stolen by Nazi agents and uses it to avenge the death of its creator. Wearing a costume similar to Airboy's, he flies as Jetboy from the earliest days of the Second World War until near its end. 1941 ================================= @ Japan attacks U.S. and British holdings in Pacific. U.S. enters Second World War. @ First issue of Air Fighters Comics. It will be nearly a year until the next issue, and none of the characters appearing in #1 will appear in later issues: # Barry Haynes becomes the Black Commander. # The Black Sheep Squadron have adventures. # Jack Dale has adventures as a flying cadet. # Crash Davis has adventures as a Navy ace. # Mach Duff has adventures as a test pilot. # The Mosquito, a border patrol pilot named for his small stature and stinging vengeance, has adventures. # Tex Trainor has adventures as a test pilot. # The Conqueror and the Crusader separately don patriotic costumes and go into battle against the Axis, in Victory Comics #1. 1942 ================================= @ Second issue of Air Fighters Comics, featuring the debut of Airboy, Skywolf, the Iron Ace and Black Angel. # Davy Nelson, Jr., becomes Airboy I. # Airboy's first major dogfight, against the Japanese ace Saburo Hirota (misspelled "Hirote" in early reports). Hirota apparently dies. # Lawrence Wolfe and three other misfits form the Skywolf Squadron. # An unnamed Dutch pilot becomes the Flying Dutchman. # Sylvia Manners becomes Black Angel. # Ronald Britain, R.A.F., dons the ancient La Farge armor and becomes the Iron Ace. # Jack Gatling becomes the Bald Eagle. # A young boy named David, accompanied by a mobile statue at his command, becomes the Boy King, in Clue Comics #1. # Tom Woods becomes Micro Face, in Clue Comics #1. # Terry Gardner becomes Twilight, in Clue Comics #1. # Nightmare & Sleepy have first public case as crime fighters, in Clue Comics #1. % On Earth-1, Albert Hollerer becomes the Heap. % On the parallel world Earth-AE1, Airboy has a near-exact double known as Skyboy, who joins Scarlet Streak (Silver Streak), Holy Terror (Black Terror), Captain Combat (Captain Battle) and others in opposing the agents of the Crimson Claw (the Claw), including Walkure (Valkyrie) and Uriah Heap (the Heap). Earth-AE1 is definitely not Earth-42, but it is possible that doppelgangers of these characters and others do exist on Earth-42. In 1990, Airboy II meets a Black Terror, but he is from a world which is neither Earth-42 nor Earth-AE1. 1943 ================================= # Airboy meets Valkyrie. # Transformed (some say by an unusual biological reaction, some say by the machinations of Aphrodite and Ares, some say by the living spirit of the Earth itself) into a mossy, muck-encrusted mockery of humanity, what was once Baron von Emmelman shambles forth from the swamps as the Heap. 1944 ================================= & A replacement Airmaidens squadron, including a fraudulent Valkyrie, commit atrocities in Russia. 1945 ================================= @ In Germany, the first successful jet airplane flies. & Flying Dutchman inadvertently strafes a column of refugees, killing hundreds of innocents. Broken, he eventually surrenders himself willingly to Misery. @ Second World War ends. @ Air Fighters renamed Airboy. @ Last Black Angel strip in Air Fighters. & Hirota, Airboy's first "kill", found alive on Saipan. He eventually becomes a close friend and employee of Airboy I and mentor to Airboy II. 1946 ================================= @ Chuck Yeager becomes the first to break the sound barrier. # Airboy converts Birdy into a jet. @ Last Flying Dutchman strip in Airboy. & Valkyrie is abducted by Misery and placed in suspended animation, a living prisoner of the Airtomb. % On an alternate possible Earth, Jetboy dies trying to prevent the release of the deadly Wild Card virus. Earth is changed forever. 1947 ================================= @ Last Skywolf strip in Airboy. @ Last Iron Ace strip in Airboy. 1948 ================================= # Airboy fights a race of intelligent rats. 1949 ================================= & Victor Torrey, and his girlfriend Laura, encounter a flying saucer from the planet Mercury which has made a forced desert landing; the dying pilot turns his spaceship over to the aviator. @ Fawcett Publishing Co. prints first and only issue of Vic Torry and His Flying Saucer. The story and characters eventually become property of Eclipse Comics. 1953 ================================= @ Airboy ceases publication. @ The story "Outer Sanctum" appears in Mad, parodying not only the radio show "Inner Sanctum" but also Mad's sister publication Tales From the Crypt, and featuring a monster known as "Heap". This story, reprinted for decades in The Mad Reader, is the only exposure a generation of readers gets to the Heap. Post-1953 ================================= & The Heap, after wandering the Earth for a decade, finds peace among beings like himself, and remains for many years, unseen by humanity. 1957 ================================= @ Sputnik 1, first artifical satellite, launched by Soviet Union. 1959-69 ================================= ? Davy Nelson marries Penny King. 1961 ================================= @ Yuri Gagarin becomes first man in space. 1964 ================================= @ Phyllis Schlafly calls the atomic bomb "a wonderful gift bestowed upon this nation by a wise God." Misery blushes at the compliment. 1967 ================================= % ________ becomes the Heap in the universe of Skywald Comics. Ca. 1969 ================================= ? David Nelson III (Airboy II) born. 1969 ================================= @ Apollo 11 lander Eagle lands on the Moon. 1972 ================================= @ Apollo Project abruptly cancelled. @ Jim Steranko publishes Volume Two of his never-completed History of Comics, with an article on Airboy, the Heap and other Hillman characters. This writer, then just a little psycho, is imprinted on the Hillman characters, even though he will not see an actual Hillman comic for another 12 years. 1978 ================================= % On an alternate possible Earth, former commercial pilot Harold Hedd makes a marijuana-smuggling flight in an old Lancaster bomber that becomes the stuff of doper legend. 1984 ================================= % On Earth-1, Swamp Thing visits the Parliament of Trees, meets beings like himself, including one who physically resembles the Heap, but is identified as "Albrecht Hollerer", a German aviator killed in 1943. 1986 ================================= & The Heap returns to the human world, seeking out Airboy. Davy Nelson, Jr., killed by agents of Misery. Davy Nelson III becomes Airboy II. Skywolf comes out of retirement. Valkyrie rescued from the Airtomb. The dictator Orista overthrown in Bogantilla. % On Earth-AEPrime, where the heroes of Earth-AE1 (including "Skyboy") are fictional characters, a teenaged comics fan travels to Earth-AE1 of the year 1942 and becomes that world's greaest hero, Alter Ego. He meets Skyboy. 1987 ================================= % Airboy and Mr. Monster takes place in a shack where the artist who created Airboy lives [that would be Charles Biro on Earth-Real, although the graphic depiction of the artist does not much resemble Biro]. He is being tormented by evil characters he once drew. Mr. Monster (whom the guy apparently never drew) shows up to bolster his spirit and rally the artist's good creations against the evil ones. (notation by Ivan Schablotski) This story may take place on Earth-AEPrime. 1980's ================================= & Airboy II kills the Earth-42 doppelgangers of Harold Hedd and his cousin Elmo. & Airboy II learns that his father's body and spirit are held by Misery. & Airboy II vanishes into an unknown other dimension, leaving a horrified Valkyrie and Hirota to wonder what has become of him. @ Airboy ceases publication, leaving readers with an unresolved cliffhanger. 1994 ================================= @ Eclipse Comics dissolves. 1998 ================================= @ Eclipse Comics characters, including the Airfighters, are bought by Todd McFarlane. Publicity pics are released of a reconfigured Airboy, with Birdie now a motorcycle (leaving one to wonder why the character hasn't been renamed StreetBoy).
Timeline by Anton Psychopoulos, Ph.D.