“Shut up, Ayres!”

It’s been a while since I reveiwed any pulps that I’ve been reading here, and I’ve read plenty since. I’ve read my first Black Bat, and found him a very cool precursor to both Batman and Daredevil, as well as my first Ki-Gor (what an unwieldy name), and found it more enjoyable than I thought.

I also experienced a character called The Crimson Mask- or at least tried to. I should have heeded the warnings I found online about this guy… his story was like vanilla ice-cream… left in the sun for a day. The Crimson Mask is basically a pharmacist who started crime-fighting to avenge his father’s death. His name comes from… his mask. A simple, Lone Ranger-type red mask that was supposed to instill fear in criminals.

Look Mr. pharmacist/vigilante, if a brightly colored dime-store mask scares criminals, then there’s really no point in you fighting them. Sit back and wait for them to shoot themselves by accident instead while you stock the Preparation-H and the Tinactin.

Anyway, after being burned by that fool, I was in the mood to read some good ol’ aviation stuff, and bought a few reprints of “Dusty Ayres and His Battle Birds”.

The concept is basically what would’ve happened had G-8 or Bill Barnes gotten into a bar fight with Operator 5 in the pages of “Amazing Stories”. And really, if those references are over your head, you really need to Google more pulp stuff right away.

The “Ayres” issue I read was the first one: “Black Lightning” from July of 1934. Basically, the world is in peril at the hands of a mysterious conquerer called “Fire Eyes”. After rallying all of southeast Asia to his cause his forces swept across Europe, downing anything in their path. Next, of course, Fire Eyes and his “Black Invaders” set their sights on the good ol’ U.S. of A.

And so we are introduced to the Dusty Ayres universe, a panic-choked place, (somwhat) eerily prescient of the coming second World War. The titular airman (from an air force “High Speed group”) gets his marching orders at the beginning of the story: Fire Eyes’ invaders are on their way, though their attack strategy is unclear, and America’s military communications are being jammed somehow. It’s up to Ayres and his plane “The Silver Flash” (apparently the fastest fighter plane in the U.S.’s arsenal) to deliver battle plans around the country. However, things get sidetracked and interesting quickly, as the Black Invaders’ #1 air ace The Black Hawk sets his sights on Dusty.

The entire story is frantic, with a lot of flying around at high speeds, orders being barked, and fears of invaders being flung around in a panic. It’s not that bad, really, although it is a bit dated. It doesn’t seem to have that “timeless” quality that a lot of the classic pulps have that let’s them hold up today. There’s a bit of xenophobia here (at one point, there’s a comment about “lax immigration laws” being to blame for foreign spies in the country). There’s also a bit of antiquated aeronautics in there that bug me, too. I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure that no matter how powerful the engine, a biplane like The Silver Flash could not out-maneuver a mono-winged fighter plane like the ones the Black Invaders flew. But maybe that’s just nitpicking.

Also, something that bothered me was the lack of explaination of what was portrayed inside the enemy-base. When Dusty is captured and kept prisoner in a Black base in Canada (damn sneaky Canucks!), he sees rows and rows of radio operators that look very peculiar. Not sure if they’re genetic mutations or what (hopefully not unfortunately exagerated asians), but we’re led to believe they have an interesting story… that we don’t get any of.

Also, on an interesting side note: Dusty gets told to “Shut up!” by at least 4 of his superiors in this story. I don’t think I’ve ever read ANY pulps where the hero gets told to shut up.

Overall, it’s an interesting artifact of pre-WWII pulp lore. Spies, sci-fi, air-action… and mole-men. Good stuff.

Published in: on June 12, 2008 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

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