American devotees of “geek culture” have this strange, intense fascination with Nazi “super science”. I don’t mention this at all critically – I’m right there with you. The very first comic book I owned had a now-legendary example right on the splash page:
The War Wheel, right there on the very first page of my very first comic book! So if I still get a kick out of fictional WWII German “wonder weapons”, I think I can be excused for it.
But I rather suspect I’m not alone here; Nazi super science is even part of an Internet meme, displayed on a dozen web sites:
Last year’s Captain America movie was packed to the gills with Nazi super science. Cosmic cubes, flying wings, ray guns, laser cannons, even a 24 cylinder rocket-powered Dusenberg. How can anyone not love this stuff?
I’m not going to try to analyze the fascination my fellow Americans have with Nazi flying saucers, robots, War Wheels, and so on. I think it has to do with the fact that the Nazi German regime was arguably the most evil the world has ever known and many people believe (at least on some unconscious level), as my Native American ancestors did, that the measure of a man is the quality of his enemies. I’m not smart enough to dope it all out. All I know is that if you don’t think giant Nazi robots are cool, it’s time to turn in your geek card.
I remember trying to explain this to a pal of mine a few years ago. Four of us in my regular Heroclix group were reading Dynamite Entertainment’s Project: Superpowers books, and we were trying to get some of the “Marvel zombies” in our group to give the series a try. The first issue of the Masquerade spin-off book had just been published, and I remember describing it to one of my gaming friends (as always, click on the pic for a larger view of the page):
GIANT NAZI ROBOT!!!! Right there, on the freakin’ splash page! It took me right back to when I was four years old and saw the War Wheel on the splash page of Blackhawk #200!
So I was telling my buddy about this book: “Look, on the ‘cool scale’ of 1 through 10, any comic book featuring a giant Nazi robot rates an automatic 8, no matter what the rest of the story is like.” I spotted a couple of the other players nodding in agreement.
Man, we LOVE this stuff. Heroclix hasn’t given us any Nazi robots to play with yet, so our group has a house rule that M-11′s can be used as generic Nazi robots. And the first time I thought about using the Red Skull as the leader of a team of Gorilla City Warriors (Nazi mind-controlled gorillas with guns, anyone?), I geeked so hard I broke a window.
Anybody who’s watched C.O.D.E. Guardian (you’ll find a link in the sidebar of this blog) absolutely gets it. It’s the reason why Iron Sky is one of this year’s most hotly anticipated movies in geek circles. Heck, even this little beauty has just started getting lots of attention:
Check it out – a student group makes a great little film like this as a class project, but all that Hollywood can manage as a (crappy) concept is a movie based on the Battleship boardgame. What’s next – Candyland? (“You pulled a blue card! You must DIE! Mu-wah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!”)
But I digress. My simple point is this: we loves us some giant Nazi robots. We do.
So I recently began to wonder – what was the first-ever appearance of a giant Nazi robot in a comic book? And then, completely by accident, I stumbled across Captain Aero Comics #1. With a cover date of December 1941, the book was on the racks six to eight weeks before Pearl Harbor, which means that it was written and drawn in late summer 1941 (most likely). It’s an amazing book, chock full of Nazi-smashing action, months before America’s entry into the war. Check out the cover!
“Thumbs up” indeed!
But on its inside pages, when I began to read the debut adventure of a new character named Flag-Man, my head corkscrewed around like Linda Blair’s, right before the top of my head blew off and stuck to the ceiling. You’ll see why in a couple of pages.
I’ll admit, the feature is horribly drawn – the worst anatomy this side of Liefeld. But the story! Oh, trés cool, mes amis!
Here, with minimal interruption by yours truly, The Big Blog o’Fun is proud and truly thrilled to present, in all of its devastatingly cool glory, the debut appearance of Flag-Man, two months before Pearl Harbor, in the pages of Captain Aero Comics #1!
NO WAY!!!! GIANT NAZI ROBOTS!!!!!! In a 1941 comic book!!!!!
When I was a kid, my best friend’s family had a cocker spaniel named Ginger. You couldn’t pet Ginger, because she’d get so excited that her tail would start going around like a propeller and she’d pee right on the floor.
When I saw page two of this story, I knew exactly how Ginger’d always felt. I didn’t actually pee, but I’ll admit that it was pretty touch-and-go there for a minute.
He has a super car!!! FLAG-MAN HAS A SUPER CAR!!!
Feel faint…must lie down…
Flag-Man is kicking Nazi ass – literally! That’s a great panel and I’m not ashamed to say that I laughed out loud the first time I saw Fritz getting the boot in the backside.
Rusty is spanking the ratzis with a board with a nail sticking through it. Dare I ask whether the nail is (ahem) rusty?
This story can’t possibly get any better…
Oops — I spoke too soon. Rusty starts beating the Nazis with a pipe, plus we learn that Flag-Man’s battle cry is “WAAAA-HOOO!”
If I’d been a kid in 1941, this book would have been one of my prize possessions. Seriously!
As any good player of Hideouts & Hoodlums will tell you, always let the villain finish his monologue before you sock him.
The selfless act, the moment of panic, the release of the dramatic tension, and the satisfying conclusion. Sweet.
What a cool story! And the best part is that it features giant Nazi robots attacking the United States, published months before America entered World War II.
If that’s not the coolest thing you’ll see today, I’ll eat my hat – unsalted, too.
Have fun! — Steve
Copyright 2012, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.