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Hop Harrigan (Early Golden Age)

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)

Hop Harrigan

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)

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