The Adventures of Smilin’ Jack was an aviation comic strip that first appeared October 1, 1933 in the Chicago Tribune and ended April 1, 1973.
After a run of 40 years, it was the longest running aviation comic strip. The strip was created by 27-year-old cartoonist and aviation enthusiast Zack Mosley, who had previously worked on the Buck Rogers and Skyroads strips. Mosley was a member of organizations that indicate his avid aviation research for his strip: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Aviation-Space Writers Association, National Cartoonists Society, B.P.O. Elks, Silver Wings Society, OX-5 Club, and the Quiet Birdmen Fraternity for many years. On September 18, 1976, he was inducted into the Civil Air Patrol Auxiliary-USAF Hall of Honor.
Smilin’ Jack was originally Mack Martin, in On the Wing, but Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill Patterson did not like the original title, so on December 31, 1933, the name was changed to Jack Martin, and the strip was retitled The Adventures of Smilin’ Jack after its creator, who had been nicknamed “Smilin’ Zack” by his colleagues. In later years it was simply known as Smilin’ Jack. Zack Mosley’s assistant during the 1940s was Boody Rogers. Smilin’ Jack’s appearance was based on that of notable air racing star Roscoe Turner.
Smilin’ Jack developed an extremely colorful and imaginative band of supporting characters through its lengthy run, including Downwind Jaxon; Fatstuff, a humorous Hawaiian character; hillbilly mechanic Rufus Jimpson; glamorous air hostess Dixie Lee; and eventually Jack Jr., plus various romantic interests, referred to by Mosley as “de-icers”. Villains included The Claw, Toemain the Terrible, The Head and his sister, The Mongoose.
Many supporting characters were drawn with distinctive visual devices. The corpulent Fatstuff had buttons popping off his tight-fitting shirt, never explaining how the buttons magically regenerated from one panel to the next. Mosley sometimes drew a chicken in one corner of the panel, eating buttons as they flew off.
Even more distinctive was Smilin’ Jack’s handsome sidekick and co-pilot Downwind, whose face drove women wild with passion. Downwind’s features remain a mystery; he was invariably drawn with his head in three-quarters rear view so that his face was averted from the reader. This visual device sometimes became contrived, as when a villain stood in front of Downwind aiming a weapon at him: the co-pilot would still be looking back over his shoulder, as if something more interesting was happening behind him.
36 pages/strips Smilin Jack 1936
42 pages/strips Smilin Jack 1941
35 pages/strips Smilin Jack 1943
25 pages/strips Smilin Jack 1947
21 strips 1934
18 strips 1937
12 strips 1938
15 strips 1942
9 strips various