This is the start of a new feature. Don't let the name fool you, there won't be one of these each week, but I will put them up from time to time.
G-8 and his BATTLE ACES
Starting before the turn of the century, Argosy Magazine and Adventure Magazine led the way in popular fiction. Novels and short stories of all kinds filled pages of innumerable magazines on the racks. Then, in April, 1931 'The Shadow' hit. Followed by 'Doc Savage' in March of 1933. The era of the "Character Pulps" was underway and 'G-8 and his Battle Aces' joined the fray in October of 1933. There were many pulps, but 'G-8' remains one of the most popular after lasting 110 monthly issues.
G-8 was created in the years following the success of The Shadow and Doc Savage by writer Robert J. Hogan. There were 110 issues of "G-8 and his Battle Aces" published beginning in Oct. 1933. Hogan, a former pilot wrote all the G-8 novels and most if not all of the back-up stories. In addition, all of the covers were painted by Frederick Blakeslee. That is an unprecedented run.
G-8 is an American spy and flying ace during the Great War. His adventures mainly see him fighting the Germans under Kaiser Wilhelm II. He is a master spy; America's greatest and hated by the Germans for successful mission after mission. However - they have never seen his real face. He is fluent in German and with the help of his man-servant named Battle, a master of disguise. He is also a flying ace; one of the worlds greatest pilots. As far as we know, G-8 is his real name, we learn no other.
The G-8 adventures pit the man with no name against the Kaiser's most bizarre creations of super-science and the supernatural. G-8 fought a menagerie of bizarre villains: Herr Grun, an ape man; Man in Armor, a pilot in full armor plate that lead an army of corpses; Gorilla men led by Dr. Schlemmer; Herr Feuer, a firebug. There were also monsters like vampires, werewolves, and zombies. That list sounds like it could be an issue of Hellboy or a list of scenarios for Tannhäuser, AE WWII, or Shadows of the Third Reich.
I have read issues of the Shadow and more than half the issues of Doc Savage. For some reason I was never aware of G-8. Well that has changed. I will be putting the G-8 stories into my reading rotation.
The Bat Staffel - G-8 and his Battle Aces issue #1, Oct. 1933
staffel - Noun - German for 'squadron'
This premiere issue begins with G-8 already a master spy and the German's worst enemy. The story opens with a disguised G-8 intentionally getting captured in a bid to get to Herr Doktor Krueger, one of G-8s recurring villains. He is a mad scientist that creates a series of horrifying schemes to bring victory to Germany. This issue involves giant bats spraying a deadly gas over France. The gas dissolves its victim into a pile of dust. Krueger boasts to G-8 that an army of giant bats will breathe their deadly 'bat's breath' over all of France.
G-8 escapes Krueger's clutches and returns to his airfield with a new mission - to find Krueger's giant bat cave and stop the attack. G-8 recruits a pair of pilots that helped out when he was escaping Krueger's castle. He selects them to join his secret squadron.
The flying aces are Bull Martin and Nippy Weston, two Americans that stick with the master spy through the run of the series. Nippy is a short analytical pilot that dreams of being the next great stage magician. His plane is #13, showing that he believes you make your own luck and superstition shouldn't rule your life. Bull Martin is a former College All Star half-back. He is a big man and a fierce fighter. He fears no man, but he can be taken in by superstition. His Spad is #7 for good luck.
The story is a great mix of spy intrigue behind enemy lines, dogfights, shootouts, fist fights, and a ton of action. I quite enjoyed the story and am interested in reading more. The flying scenes are very well written; exciting and well described. The writer, Robert J. Hogan, makes it easy to keep track of the different planes and who is where in the battle. Not an easy task and he succeeds admirably. Additionally, G-8 and his men are distinct characters and their interplay is fun to read.
The mixture of war action and weird menace is very appealing to me and feels like a precursor to Hellboy, Tannhäuser, and the current crop of Weird War II games and fiction.
Needless to say, G-8 and his Battle Aces prevail, but not before Doktor Krueger escapes. There are 109 more stories and from what I've read, they only get weirder from here. Since much of this first novel sets up the series I am looking forward to a bit more story in subsequent issues.
Where can you find the G-8 novels? Vintage New Media has been re-publishing the run of pulp novels. They have selected issues available as PDFs. That is how I obtained this story. Some of the books were reprinted as paperbacks in the 1960's, but beware - there are different printings of #1 and and one of them is not the first issue.
I would like to thank Bill Mann for some information and for compiling his awesome G-8 and his Battle Aces Cover Gallery. Bill also publishes a line of Air War pulp reprints under his Age of Aces Books imprint.
© 2008 W. Peter Miller