Today is Veteran’s Day, a holiday which evolved from Armistice Day. Originally intended to recognize veterans of World War I, the holiday’s purpose was changed after World War Two to honor veterans of all United States wars. This is not the same thing as Memorial Day, which is intended to remember those who have died in American wars. Over the years the two have become not only conflated but nearly reversed in the minds of many citizens. Memorial Day was intended as a day of sombre remembrance. With the rise in the 1950’s of “consumer culture”, Memorial Day devolved into a happy, albeit unofficial (as well as astronomically incorrect), “first day of summer” rather than a day to remember the fallen. Veterans Day (somewhat unconsciously) in the minds of many became a conflated military holiday for recognizing the living and memorializing the dead.

Today’s story was published three years after November 11 became a legal government holiday (and was then still known as Armistice Day). The early issues of Quality’s Military Comics are among my favorites from comics’ Golden Age. In addition to featuring the first appearance of Blackhawk, Military Comics was also the home of Miss America, Loops and Banks, Death Patrol (which I’ve been meaning to feature in this blog for several years now), and the subject of today’s post: the miracle machine known as The Blue Tracer.

Although intended as a war series, The Blue Tracer has some science fiction trappings. Early science fiction tended toward technological subjects: the works of Jules Verne often featured fantastic conveyances as a plot driver, while H.G. Wells’ novels often concentrated on the effects of technology on human relationships. Science fiction tales from the classic pulp era (from the 1920’s into the 1930’s) often also used technology to propel their plots; rocket ships and devastating weapons (both alien and terrestrial in origin) were featured on the lurid covers of magazines which graced newsstand racks. The adventures of boy inventor Tom Swift were still widely read in the early 1940’s; the novels featured many strange and wonderful mechanical marvels.

The Blue Tracer falls squarely into the “fantastic technology” genre. Fighting as part of a British outfit in Africa, a wounded American engineer with the help of a garrulous Aussie “kit-bashes” a miracle craft which combines the attributes of a plane, a tank, and a submarine. With its “million horsepower engine” and retractable wings, The Blue Tracer can outrun, outfly, and outfight anything that the Axis powers can throw at it.

Although ridiculous and impossible, The Blue Tracer tales have a peculiar charm and are great fun to read. While the phrase “a product of its time” conjures primarily negative connotations these days, that phrase is entirely appropriate when used to describe The Blue Tracer in a positive sense — the stories have the optimistic “can-do” spirit which was emblematic of the time in which they were published, and which is almost entirely absent from modern day comics.

The Blue Tracer is a great favorite of mine and I had the pleasure of “statting out” the main characters and writing a synopsis of The Blue Tracer’s origin (as well as for many of the other Quality Comics characters) for a Hideouts and Hoodlums roleplaying game supplement, which provided me with an excellent excuse to go back and re-read the first years’ worth of Wild Bill Dunn’s and Boomerang Jones’ hair-raising adventures in The Blue Tracer. Trust me, I’ve had far worse jobs.

So for this year’s Veteran’s Day observance I decided to present a fun, rip-roaring adventure which is impossible to take at all seriously. Here’s to our Veterans – I hope you derive as much enjoyment from reading the first adventure of The Blue Tracer as I have.

Military Comics #1, 1941

Military Comics #1, August 1941

Military Comics #1, August 1941

Military Comics #1, August 1941

Military Comics #1, August 1941

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2015, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.