Hop Harrigan was a hugely popular character in the the 1940s. From his series in All-American he spun out into a daily newspaper strip, a radio show and even a movie serial. The ease with which the series adapted to World War 2 undoubtedly worked in its favour, but by and large the series continued its hallmark of serializing relatively realistic adventures of the young hero.
I will admit I was wrong about Maurice, the French poet, who had nothing to do with the illness the man suffered, but continued to be a romantic rival for Hop for a few more issues, though we see that Geraldine has no genuine interest in Maurice aside from using him to make Hop jealous.
Hop becomes a celebrated hero after test flying Prop Wash’s new long range plane, rescuing Chinese threatened by floodwaters. He is given a parade in New York City, and Prop capitalizes on the publicity, as he, Ikky and Hop open the All-American Aviation Company. But the news also brings back Hop’s former guardian, whose name we learn in Crass. Crass heads to court to regain custody of Hop, but Ikky finds evidence that Crass stole the money from the sale of Hop’s lands, and forged the will of Hop’s father, on which his custody was based. Ikky brings Miss Snapp, Hop’s old school teacher, to give evidence, and Miss Snapp decides to stick around after, being retired. At first she cooks and cleans and generally mothers the three men, but after getting a reward for stopping a bank robbery, she invests in the company and becomes its treasurer.
Hop and Ikky do a barnstorming tour of the US, selling planes along the way. They manage to run out of planes, selling the one they are flying, just as they encounter payroll robbers who have taken Geraldine and her father captive. A couple of issues play this out, with a useless sheriff who dreams of being a Hollywood cowboy.
In issue 25 Prop and Ikky are approached by the Secret Service to become air pirates, taking out spies who are not in US territory. Hop is kept out of the loop, they feel he is too young to take part in such dangerous activities, but he finds out and follows them. Hop puts on an elaborate headgear, and wears a costume with glider wings attached, calling himself Guardian Angel. For four issues he saves Prop and Ikky and defeats the spies without anyone figuring out who he is. He reveals his identity at the end of the story in issue 28, and in issue 29 Ikky tries the flying costume out. Unfortunately, Miss Snapp has made friends with a local archaeologist, Professor Twink, who terrifies her with stories of pterodactyls, and that night a dazed and confused Miss Snapp destroys the costume, thinking it the prehistoric bird.
A comedic romance between Miss Snapp and Professor Twink builds over the next few issues, and we also learn that Ikky is really His Grace Tutankhamen Anastasius Augustora Ichabod Tinker, his family holding a barony. Ikky hates his name and background, and is much more interested in the new tank he is devising. In issue 32 Ikky gains the new nickname Tank, likely because the radio series was getting started and “Ikky” sounds terrible as a name.
Geraldine returns briefly in the story in World’s Finest 4, a one-off that largely consists of numerous girls getting jealous over Hop, and cat-fighting.
Tank, now that he has a better name, also falls for a young blonde physician, Doctor Bradley, as he and Hop escort a medical team to Alaska. Tank’s compass goes awry, and he is forced to land in an inuit village. He is happy to spend some time with the doctor, but at her request heads out to find some way to communicate where they are, dealing with blizzards and polar bears. He manages to find Hop, who has been looking for him, but upon returning catches Dr. Bradley in the arms of another man.
At this point it seems like the series is degenerating a bit into soap opera, but the next issue, All-American 38, was the first one written after the attack on Pearl Harbour, and Hop decides to join the army air force. He is accepted, but Tank gets rejected. As he enrols for training, he runs into Geraldine and her new boyfriend, Cecil Giltedge, who has also enlisted. “Sure-Bet” Booker, a former reporter, is their roommate, and knowing Hop’s background makes a bet with Giltedge about who will fly solo first. He also volunteers to help Hop with math, his weakest area in the training, but finesses the whole situation so that Giltedge must tutor Hop, who makes his solo flight first, so Booker gets the money to take Geraldine out on a date.
The next few issues deal with the training of air cadets, and displays a remarkable amount of detail. If the stories were not so well written, one would think this whole series had become a training manual. Much of the cast is relegated to the sidelines, reading Hop’s letters as he recounts the stories.
Giltedge is determined to be too tall to fly fighter planes, and is sent to train as a bombardier, while Hop gets two new roomies, a former farmer named Spud, and a Brit whose family died in a German air raid, Limey. Hop does his best to help both of them, but while Limey succeeds, Spud is dismayed that he has no skill at flying, until Hop convinces him to become an aircraft mechanic, which he excels at.
With issue 41 Hop graduates and heads to Randolph Field, described as the “West Point of the Air.” An actual building is replicated in one panel, so I believe this must have been a well-known place at the time. Hop now is training with goof-ball Billiken, and they are known as “dodos.” Hop is put through the wringer by Captain Knuckduster, but only because they expect great things from him. Hop heads out on furlough, and winds up having to save Tank’s life. He had been sent to deliver plans to San Antonio, but had fallen for a pretty nazi spy girl. Hop fears severe disciplinary action when he is late returning to the base, but his reputation and connexions precede him, and instead he gets commended.
Hop wants to be a pursuit flyer, but his skill in formation flying keeps him from that goal, so he enrolls in artillery training to improve his marksmanship. See, I knew none of how this kind of stuff happened. There is even fascinating story detailing the challenges of formation flying. At any rate, in issue 45 Hop graduates from Randolph Field as an Air Lieutenant, but to his dismay is made a junior flight instructor, rather than being sent to the front.
With issue 46 we and Hop learn that the situation is not as bad as he feared. Captain Knuckleduster has brought in Tank, who is now an airforce mechanic, and Prop, who is now a major. Prop is to design new planes, Tank will build them and Hop will test fly them. Even Geraldine returns, now a mechanic as well (though we also discover she is the Governor’s daughter, which comes somewhat out of the blue).
For a few issues they work on a small one-man glider-fighter, L’il David, taking it on tests until launching it as part of an assault on a Japanese destroyer in the Aleutians. It works well, though eventually gets shot down. This has the incredibly unfortunate consequence of introducing Hippity, in All-American 49, a mute boy, who I think is autistic, as he just stares pathologically at people, but nevertheless becomes Hop’s sidekick for the next few stories.
Hiipity saves Hop a few times, and even forms a band of ‘para-rompers and paratots” out of children from a refugee camp, communicating with them through morse code.
But as Hop’s series in Comic Cavalcade begins, the series takes a slight shift into more front line combat stories, and Hippity gets lieft behind, Tank becoming Hop’s partner in the air.
In his last three stories from this era Hop is stationed in India. The two All-American stories are very much in the Tintin genre, with a dastardly villain, Naja Hana, the Cobra, working with the Japanese and making incredible escapes, by the climbing rope trick and disappearing into a basket. The Comic Cavalcade story, on the other hand, is a far more serious war story, pitting Hop against a Japanese plane, the Bloody Dragon, which looks like a giant green dragon that spits fire as it flies.
Hop Harrigan continues in the Late Golden Age
Hop Harrigan: All-American 10 – 59 (Jan 40 – July 44)
World’s Finest Comics 4 (Winter 41)
Comic Cavalcade 3 – 7 (Summer 43 – Summer 44)