The Dutchman examines papers over Japanese objections.

THE FLYING DUTCHMAN

Medium: Comic books
Published by: Hillman Periodicals
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Unknown writer and Bob Fujitani (artist)
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Like his contemporary, The Bald Eagle, The Flying Dutchman invites suspicion that he started as less a character, than a name, taken from a familiar phrase that could be construed as the monicker of an aviation hero. Starting from there, a character …

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… was built to order, so the name could be used for a series in Air Fighters Comics, a comic book title that Hillman Periodicals had a lot of success with during World War II.

Air Fighters had started before America's involvement in the war, but didn't have much success then. In fact, it (as well as the air fighters introduced in it) lasted only one issue. It was a year later, when a second issue was published, introducing a whole slate of new characters, that the success started. Those new characters, aside from Baldy and the Dutchman, were The Black Angel, The Iron Ace Sky Wolf and, cover-featured and in the lead position, Airboy. All began in Air Fighters Comics #2, dated November, 1942.

As suggested by the name, The Flying Dutchman was a resident of The Netherlands, who flew an airplane; and as suggested by the theme of the comic book, his flying was done in the cause of opposing the forces of Nazi Germany. He had a good revenge motive for devoting his life to the cause, on a freelance basis — they'd wiped out his family from the air before the series began. But once he'd gotten his revenge on the particular Germans who did it, he started fighting the war on other fronts, as well.

The Dutchman kept his birth name a secret, not just from the other characters but also from the readers. Other than a hint, in his opening story, that his first name might have been Jan, nobody had any idea who he was. Not that it made much difference, because he didn't maintain a secret identity so he could come and go among the general populace with nobody suspecting who he really was. No, The Flying Dutchman was the only identity he had, and fighting the Axis powers was just about all he did.

That pretty much defined the character. He was a Dutchman who fought from the air, on the American side, during World War II. But he did have one little flourish that made him stand out from other World War II air fighters. Following a battle, as he flew off, victorious, he dropped a number of white roses, according to how many enemies he'd downed in the fight.

The Flying Dutchman's first artist was Bob Fujitani, whose other credits range from MLJ's The Hangman to Gold Key's Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom. Some later stories were drawn by Tony DiPreta (Little Wise Guys). As is the case with so many 1940s characters, from beginning to end, his writer is unknown.

He never was featured on a cover. But in the back pages he did last a little past the end of the war and consequent retitling of Air Fighters Comics as Airboy. He was last seen in Airboy #28 (Vol 3 #5, June 1946). Unlike Valkyrie, The Heap and other Hillman properties, when Eclipse Comics (Zot!, Crossfire), revived Airboy in 1986, The Flying Dutchman didn't come along for the ride.

— DDM

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Text ©2008 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Hillman Periodicals.