The Hidden S in Phone Booth

Dark Horse Comics has recently released Volume 1 and Volume 2 collecting the very early comic adventures of the Buddhist superhero called The Green Lama. Within these volumes there is buried an interesting aviation comic titled Rick Masters. Within the narrative of the comic, Masters is a former WWII ace who was discharged from the army having been labled by the military as an “invalid” (the term the comic uses). Masters, a predictably capable and resourceful aviator re-invents himself as a kind of mercenary/adventurer/aviator who teams up with his Native American cohort/partner Twin Eagles (AKA “Mike”), an ace mechanic and a first rate aviator in his own right.

Masters was created by Walter Gardern (with workmanlike art by Ira Turner) and was a dashing creation seemingly inspired by stars of the silver screen during the 30’s/40’s such as Errol Flynn. Masters' adventures started out as pretty much standard issue stuff dealing with saboteurs, ssmugglers, gangsters and the like. Eventually though they moved into a slightly more sci-fi realm, traveling back in time and testing out early versions of "flying squirrel suits." In this way, the strip was apparently influenced by some of the scientifically advanced pulp fiction stuff like Doc Savage and G-8 and his Flying Aces that were forerunners of traditional comics.

There is a sense that the comic was popular at the time but it's mostly an obscure title today (it appears that the character was in the public domain for many years until recently). There is little about it on the internet; there isn't even a Wikipedia entry about this character. Despite this, there is a sense that the Masters adventures may have influenced globetrotting superhero types like The Challengers of the Unknown, Rip Hunter (a time traveler like Masters) and even The Fantastic Four.

In some ways this series was well ahead of it's time in the depiction not only of aviation technology but also in its portrayal of race relations. Native American Mike was portrayed as Masters' partner and equal. In the 1940's this was a big deal and is still a striking dynamic even today.

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