THE BALD EAGLEMedium: Comic books
Published by: Hillman Periodicals
First Appeared: 1942
Creators: Unknown writer and Harry Sahle (artist)
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In 1941, Hillman Periodicals (The Heap, The Boy King) introduced a comic book full of air fighters, called Air Fighters Comics. It promptly went down in flames and all the air fighters were scrapped, but the company tried again a year later with a whole
slate of new ones. Among Sky Wolf, Airboy and the other colorful characters introduced in Air Fighters Comics #2 (November, 1942), the least colorful, possessing neither a flamboyant costume nor a secret identity, was The Bald Eagle. All he had going for him was a goofy name, and an airplane with an equally goofy name, The Flying Coffin.
Baldy didn't even have an origin story, unless you count an observation on the part of a bystander in his first story, that he'd lost his hair flying through fire to rescue someone. That, plus the fact that he was part Indian, making animal monickers appropriate back then, is how he got the nickname. His real name was Jack Gatling. His credentials as a comic book hero, which also came out in dialog, included being the best stunt flier in America, and the fact that he himslf designed The Flying Coffin, which only he was gutsy enough to fly.
Jack worked as head instructor and chief troubleshooter at an unnamed Marine airfield near an unnamed California city, until circumstances made him a war hero. The Japs had, without attracting attention, constructed an underground air and submarine base in that state, and had located some advanced weaponry there, including a paralyzing ray that could knock aircraft right out of the sky. Jack followed a sortie there after they'd dumped paratroopers in a death-like trance onto the streets of that city, as part of an attempt to infiltrate the local morgue, and single-handedly put the whole operation out of business. Thereafter, his animus was directed mostly toward the Japanese, but he didn't mind occasionally flying halfway around the world to sock it to the Germans.
The writer who put together this improbable sequence of events is, like the ones who introduced The Iron Ace, The Flying Dutchman and The Black Angel in other parts of the Air Fighters #2 back pages, unknown. But the artist part of the creative team was Harry Sahle, whose credits range from The Black Widow to Candy. Sahle continued to do most of Baldy's stories, but frequently skipped issues. Others who handled the character include Bob Fujitani (The Hangman), Bill Fracchio (The Blue Beetle) and Fred Kida (The Two-Gun Kid).
The contents of Air Fighters Comics remained stable for a couple of years. But with its March, 1944 issue wartime paper shortages forced it to shrink from 68 to 52 pages, and something had to go. The Bald Eagle was chosen to be the first of the title's initial line-up to bite the dust. The only time he was ever seen again was when Eclipse Enterprises (Zot!, The Liberty Project) published black and white facsimile editions of the first few issues of Air Fighters.