Balladeer’s Blog continues its examination of the neglected Pulp Hero G-8. This marks the beginning of a story-by- story look at the adventures of this World War One American fighter pilot who – along with his two wingmen the Battle Aces – took on various supernatural and super- scientific menaces thrown at the Allied Powers by the Central Powers of Germany, Austria- Hungary and the Ottoman Muslim Turks.
G-8 was created by Robert J Hogan in 1933 when World War One was still being called simply the World War or the Great War. Over the next eleven years Hogan wrote 110 stories featuring the adventures of G-8, the street-smart pug Nippy Weston and the brawny giant Bull Martin. Our hero – whose real name was never revealed – served as an aerial commando and spy as well as a sort of Indiana Jones/ Brisco County Junior figure against his archenemy Doktor Krueger and a host of other mad scientists, aliens and monsters that the Central Powers had up their sleeve.
The regular cast was rounded out by Battle, G-8’s British manservant and by our hero’s girlfriend R-1: an American nurse/ spy whose real name, like G-8’s was never revealed. G-8’s war-time pulp adventures were a clear influence on the Timely Comics (later Marvel Comics) character Captain America.
1. THE BAT STAFFEL (Oct 1933) – This debut adventure of G-8 and his Battle Aces (Bull Martin and Nippy Weston) featured their very first clash with Germany’s brilliant mad scientist Doktor Krueger (Freddy’s ancestor no doubt). During one of their aerial commando raids on a Top Secret German installation our heroes discover that Doktor Krueger has harnessed the power of an entire flock of gigantic plane-sized bats who breathe a deadly gas that kills human beings upon exposure, shriveling them up until they are nothing but powder.
G-8 and the Battle Aces escape to warn the Allies what they will soon be up against and are sent back on a daring, desperate mission to nip this bizarre menace in the bud before the giant bats and their “halitosis of death” can turn the tide of the war. Ultimately G-8 and his wingmen wind up inside an enormous cavern which houses the flock of gigantic bats. In a showdown with Doktor Krueger they learn that the bats are really just gigantic android creations of the good doctor, who also developed the deadly gas that the constructs “breathe”.
Krueger built these flying monstrosities in the form of bats to exploit the fearful appearance of the nocturnal creatures (Are you listening, Batman?). In the end G-8 and the Battle Aces destroy the cavern facility and assume Doktor Krueger is dead, little realizing he will be their most frequent adversary.
2. PURPLE ACES (Nov 1933) – No, not the Purple Aces who are the sports teams of the University of Evansville. In this action- packed tale missing Allied pilots start showing up after being presumed dead or captured. The airmen are returning with their faces distorted and purple- colored plus the clearly- brainwashed pilots always come back flying suicide missions against their own side!
G-8, Nippy and Bull follow the trail of this nefarious Central Powers plot to alter the minds of captive pilots and turn them into weapons against their own, decades before The Manchurian Candidate. Playing cards with a purple ace of spades even play a part in another story element that anticipates that later espionage novel. This adventure features exciting aerial and man-to- man combat in a German castle, a remote swamp and an eerie graveyard that is more than it seems.
It turns out a professor named Zwantag has created a purple substance that could brainwash human beings but Zwantag’s superior – the man overseeing this inhuman operation that uses Allied POW’s as guinea pigs is none other than … Doktor Krueger himself! Needlesss to say G-8 and his Battle Aces emerge triumphant against this new scientific threat and an entire squadron of brain-washed suicide pilots.
3. ACE OF THE WHITE DEATH (Dec 1933) – This story begins with a mission so dangerous that G-8 flies into enemy territory alone. After the obligatory dogfights our hero lands at a remote location for his rendezvous with a French spy. The spy informs G-8 that the Central Powers have jointly created a white gas that can appear to just be exhaust fumes from their fighter planes and bombers but which is really poisonous. The gas will dissipate and descend to Earth, blanketing areas and killing Allied pilots and soldiers who breathe it in.
Before he can return to the Allied lines our hero is captured by this story’s villain – Herr Konig, Chief of German Intelligence. Eventually the Battle Aces are sent in to try to save G-8 in an exciting tale featuring escapes from firing squads, desperate journeys on foot through No Man’s Land, chases through subterranean mines and much more. Throw in an epic Ju-Jitsu fight for good measure.
Herr Konig makes a nice change of pace from the mad scientist villains of the first two G-8 stories. He’s a master strategist who tries to play his adversaries – including our heroes – like pieces on a chessboard. Konig’s layers upon layers of deception would do Robert Ludlum proud.
I WILL BE EXAMINING MORE G-8 STORIES NEXT TIME!
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