Hop Harrigan is a really wonderful serial, the story of a teenage orphan, his farm stolen and physically beaten by his guardian, who “flies” away in a world war one era plane rusting in the garage. He flies into an airshow, and gains the attention of test pilot Prop Wash, and his mechanic Ikky Tinker. Prop takes the boy in to give him flying lessons, but considers him a natural. We find out the boys last name is Harrigan, but Prop tells him to forget whatever his first name was, it’s now Hop. Cause it rhymes with Prop? Does he dream of putting on the Prop and Hop Air Extravaganza?
In the second issue Hop gets his pilot’s license, but stows away on a test flight. Prop passes out during the flight, and Hop lands the plane safely. In issue 4 Hop flies out solo to save Prop, after his mail flight crashed in the mountains during a storm.
With issue 5 the serial takes a turn. On his first solo night flight, Hop lands to warn a house of an approaching forest fire. There is a crazed maniac in the house, but he doesn’t take the story over, instead Hop rescues another boy from the maniac and take him out, then the two rescue others from the burning house before flying to safety. The boy, Jerry, turns out to be a girl, Geraldine.
In issue 6 Geraldine’s father meets Hop, hears of his background, and hires him to give his daughter flying lessons. Geraldine insists on bringing her two large dogs into the plane during her lesson, then freezes during the landing. Hop hits her with a fire extinguisher to get her hands off the wheel, and the dogs start attacking the boy. He avoids crashing into buildings, but does ram the plane into a telephone pole. Still, Geraldine’s parents are fine with it all, and in fact the father invites Hop on a fishing trip. When a dam breaks and her father and Hop are in danger, Geraldine flies in solo to rescue them.
Dad is so impressed, he allows the two of them to fly north together, where Hop can meet up again with Prop and Ikky. They do, but get involved in taking down smugglers. Hop leaves, flying north with Geraldine, but seems not to miss leaving Prop and Ikky.
In the arctic they wind up aiding a ship frozen in the ice. There is a sick man aboard who needs to be flown to a hospital. Geraldine wants to impress Hop, so she volunteers to look after the sick man, then gives him dangerous medicine. There is a french poet (and likely a bad guy) aboard, and she starts flirting with him, to make Hop jealous. Hop is pissed when he catches them, and sees that she has made the patient worse.
Hop flies away, taking the man to hospital, as Geraldine is left crying on the tarmac. I could have read maybe the next chapter or two to see the resolution. Im sure the poet is behind the man’s injury – he recognized the medicine Geraldine used, then danced with her to avoid having her watch the patient. That’s my guess.
I really like this series, so far it is staying much closer to reality than most of the serials. Still lots of action and adventure, but grounded solidly in a genuinely likeable young hero, and an interesting and varied supporting cast. Only the first 9 stories are being covered in this era, but I’m far more impressed with them than with most earlier serials by this point.
Hop Harrigan continues in the Early Golden Age
Hop Harrigan: All-American 1 – 9 (Apr – Dec 39)