WINGS COMICS: The Dream of Flight
by Ansel Newcombe-Beill
If there is a single overarching popularity in the superpowers of our favorite comic book heroes and heroines it is the ability to fly or somehow defy gravity. Many of the most popular golden age franchises are those that tap into the poluar desire to fly. However, there is a tremendous difference between the ability to fly from exposure to earth's yellow sun and flying through inherent talent or apparent mechanical genius (i.e. enemy ace or the rocketeer), with the former being far more popular than the latter. Despite this obvious difference, a few golden age comic franchises were still able to capitalize on the often overlooked niche of aviation enthusiasts within the comic book community.
One of the better examples for this argument is Wings Comics, published by fiction house in the 1940's and based off of the original Wings magazine from the 1920's. Originally aimed at aviation enthusiasts, the Wings franchise was privy to a number of vast changes during its 15 years of publication. What first began as a comic that glorified the adventures of barnstormers and arial acrobats, with a plethora of fictional characters that drew on the of exploits of more popular characters such as Blackhawk and Captain Midnight, eventually transformed into a franchise that focused on real-life aeronautic heroes and history. As a result, Wings showed a great deal of versatility in the aviation comic genre.
There a few features that helped to distinguish Wings from its peers during a time when it was criticized for drawing too heavily on the influences of Captiain Midnight and Blackhawk. Perhaps foremost is the artistic talent of Bob Lubbers, who later worked on the legendary Action Comics. Lubbers also distinguished himself with his work on Rangers and Fight Comics franchises. This unique talent employed by Fiction House fostered the other key difference of Wings Comics from its peers; the fierce loyalty and enthusiasm of its readers. Despite Wings relatively modest commercial success, its audience of loyal fans enamored with the thrill and concept of modern aviation kept the franchise alive over the course of 15 years.
Even though Cliff Secord and the Rocketeer are the same guy, how is it that the one without the jetpack gets all the ladies? The answer: because Secord learned how to fly, and the Rocketeer simply inherited it. After more than 70 years, Wings Comics remains a key franchise in many golden age collections for the very same reason; that its heroes were true aviators who shared such a great deal in common with their enthusiatic readers. The limited commercial success contrasted against its amazing lifespan has proved that it is deserving of the attention of any aviation enthusiast or collector of classic golden age books.