the Wanderling

For me, as a kid, comic books were big in my life. Although I saved and collected a number of them on and off over the years, in the end, the vast majority of them simply just disappeared, were given away, lost, or forgotten. However, among that vast majority, at least two impacted my life and me personally in major ways and a third in an important but somewhat more minor way.

One such major impactor was True Comics, No. 58 with a cover date of March, 1947. Inside was a story titled 500 Years Too Soon the title referring to the famous Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo Da Vinci and his attempt to build and fly a human powered air-worthy craft back in 1490 AD. Although I may have heard of Da Vinci in some fashion or manner prior to reading the comic book, as I am able to recall, it was my first major introduction to:


True Comics did not have one central character in a continuing series they focused all their stories around say like Buck Rogers or Captain Midnight, but was instead, a compilation of individual stories, purportedly true such as the one on Da Vinci, done in comic book format. Because of such seldom if ever did I read or come into contact with True Comics on a regular basis.

Of the super hero genre, such as Captain Marvel, Superman, Batman, and their ilk, there was a super hero that for me, fell into a similar category as True Comics, I just didn't come in contact with his stories on a regular basis. He was written and drawn as a man of lightning powers called Blue Bolt. I vaguely knew of Blue Bolt but in my early comic book reading years he didn't fall into my particular camp of interest. My interest in him, of which at least 100 issues were published over a decade of time starting in 1940, really didn't take off until after coming across a single specific issue and a single specific story found in BLUE BOLT No. 6, January, 1944. That single issue held a certain personal significance for me because inside it had a story in comic book form covering the World War II event in the quotes below, an event that was brought to my attention through the comic book by the father of one of the pilots that actually participated in the event:

"On Sunday, April 18, 1943 the U.S. Army Air Force's 57th Fighter Group stationed at El Djem, Tunisia in North Africa, on a routine mission over Cape Bon had 46 P-40 Warhawks in the air along with 18 British Spitfires flying top cover. Low on fuel and basically returning to base they came across a 100 plane flotilla of German JU-52 troop transport planes flying just above sea level over the Mediterranean, escorted by 50 Messerschmitt fighters. Catching the Germans completely off guard, while the Spitfires drew off the Messerschmitts and kept them busy, the P-40s split into pairs diving on the enemy planes tearing the transports to shreds, with an overall kill count of 77 enemy aircraft destroyed."

The comic book version of the above event as found in BLUE BOLT No. 6, January, 1944 and shown to me by the father of one of the pilots can be found in its entirety by going to the following link:


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As far as comic books are concerned, both True Comics, No. 58 and BLUE BOLT No. 6 had a major impact on my everyday early childhood. But, as mentioned above previously, there was a third important comic book character that influenced me as well in a somewhat more minor but longer term way. She was a heroine billed as the "Queen of the Sagebrush Frontier" going by the name of Firehair.

Although I knew of and followed most of the movie western heroes such as Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Durango Kid and Lash LaRue, in the comic book realm my interest in western heroes ran sort of thin with most of my interests leaning, instead, toward the likes of the Spirit and Captain Midnight. Firehair more-or-less came into my life through subterfuge. While there is a lot of truth to the fact that almost every male of my era and of my age knew who Sheena, Queen of the Jungle was, more so for attributes other than her jungle survival skills, Firehair, seemingly equally endowed with similar attributes, albeit sagebrush oriented rather than jungle oriented, was somewhat different --- at least for me --- as was how I initially came across her and the rise of her impact on my life.[1]

When I was in the fifth grade or so I was living on a ranch owned by my Stepmother in the Mojave Desert. Down the road on the next closest ranch lived a much older boy than me that collected every cowboy western comic book he could get his hands on. He had hundreds of them neatly stacked in brand new turned-up orange crates made into shelves in his room, each book in pristine condition and always kept in order by title and chronological by month, date, and number. I used to go to his place whenever I got a chance sitting around all day hanging out and reading them.

During that period, one of the comic books he collected centered around a female western hero who, according to the storyline, had been found near death and saved by Native Americans. She was then adopted into the Dakota Tribe who gave her the name Firehair because of her red hair. Both my mother and her sister had beautiful long red hair. In that they were so close together age-wise and looked so much alike almost everybody mistook them for twins. Although I do not remember much about my mother I remember my aunt very well, and because of their look alikeness I always felt I had a good idea of what my mother looked like. As a young boy I always held a certain affinity towards the Firehair character because I liked to believe my mother, with her red hair and all, would have been like her, maybe even, since I never went to her funeral, found by Indians and saved.[2]

My easy going son-of-the-ranch-owner days ended out of nowhere one day when my stepmother decided to sell the ranch and she and my dad headed off to Old Mexico and South America for a couple of years. During that period my brothers and I were parsed out in the care of others. My older brother went to live with my grandmother and my younger brother went to live with a couple of which the woman of the couple was somehow known to my stepmother. My Uncle, who had basically had charge of me since I was eight years old was going back to Santa Fe and not able to take me with him. After some around the clock fancy negotiating he was able to convince the couple that took my younger brother to take me as well, a living situation that just never quite worked out too great for me, at least not at the level as I viewed it.

While my stepmother and dad were gone their marriage deteriorated to such a point they divorced. Somewhere along the way I had heard they were back and that my stepmother, or ex-stepmother by then as the case may be, had bought a new ranch in the Mojave. I saved a few bucks, bought a Greyhound ticket, and the first chance I got I ran away in an attempt to find her. I arrived in the high desert too late in the day to go looking for her so I went to the only place I could think of, the ranch of the kid with the comic books hoping for a place to crash for the night.

The mother and father put a few blankets and a pillow on the floor in his room creating a nice little space for me. I immediately went about reading comic books while he went about digging out one specific comic he insisted on me reading. He said the first time he saw it he thought of me specifically and always wished he could share the comic with me because of a story I told him once he never forgot, a story about a flying machine I built based on a Leonardo Da Vinci design that I actually flew.

The book was issue #4 from the DC comic publishing group dated March-April 1951 called Tomahawk with a cover story titled The Flying Frontiersman, a story in which the main character, a Daniel Boone type frontiersman named Tomahawk, in 1771, uses a flying machine based on a Da Vinci design to battle a renegade Native American bent on stirring up a war between the Indians and settlers.


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Interestingly enough, another Native American that reigned large in my life, starting sometime a few years before the above, that is, just about the same time Firehair showed up and I learned about the P-40 Goose Shoot, was a college educated American Indian of Cherokee descent and fighter pilot named Tommy Tomahawk. He was the leader of a sort of misfit --- or at least unconventional --- group of Native American pilots that flew P-40 Tomahawks painted with Flying Tiger like markings going up against the Japanese in the Pacific theater and southeast Asia during World War II. See:

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As to the subject of donations, for those of you who may be interested in doing so as it applies to the gratefulness of my works, I invariably suggest any funds be directed toward THE WOUNDED WARRIOR PROJECT and/or THE AMERICAN RED CROSS.

Footnote [1]

The quoted paragraph so referenced is a kind of modification of the following quote below that can be found in any number of my pages scattered throughout the internet. The original paragraph showed up first and most prominently in the Roy Rogers and Andy Devine page linked below. It lists all kinds of cowboys, superheroes, et al, in one form or the other, that have had some sort of a connection or impact in my life, be it major or minor, positive or negative. For those who may be so interested, those connections and how they relate back to me, can be found by going to the linked list immediately following the paragraph:

"Like so many young boys growing up during my era I loved cowboy-western movies and the actors that showed up in them. As well, right up there with westerns were Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movies, especially Tarzan and the Huntress, Warner Brothers cartoons, Leonardo Da Vinci, astronomy, the cosmos, rockets to the Moon and Mars, Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, along with a myriad superheroes, especially the 'mortal' type such as the Spirit and Captain Midnight. But still it remained, the cowboy western movie stars and heroes such as the Durango Kid, Lash LaRue, Gene Autry, and Roy Rogers, their horses Champion and Trigger, and their sidekicks Smiley Burnette, Gabby Hayes, and Andy Devine were the ones that in the end interacted in my life in real life."


Footnote [2]

My dad was always reading pulp western and science fiction magazines and in the process came across a story one day that located way out in the middle of the desert wasteland near Lovelock, Nevada, there existed an ancient cave that had at onetime within it's cavern depths the skeletal remains of giant humans, red haired humans of a huge size, eight or ten foot tall or more. He said the women would have been twice as tall as my mother at 4 foot 11 inches who also had red hair. Me, the near to graduating and deeply educated super-bright intellectual powerhouse high school senior that I was, after hearing the story, like someone driven to see the world's largest ball of yarn, decided I couldn't live quietly the rest of my life if I didn't go see the caves and its contents for myself. So, with no real clue as to what I was doing, off I went.