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Part One
Marvelous, Fantastic Origins

The Man behind the Iron Mask:
The story of "Iron Man"
by Dennis E. Power


Of Planes and Rockets

The story of the development of the Iron Man suit has many twists and turns. Although the following history may seem these tangential to the story of development of the rocket suit, it is one I think that needs telling. David Nelson created a very important component of the Iron Man suit, although he was never credited as such. Here then is his story.

David Nelson had first come to fame in 1942 as a fourteen year old boy pilot fighting against the Axis powers in a unique plane. His adventures were portrayed in the pages of Airfighters Magazine, starting with issue 2.

David Nelson’s history as related by Airfighter’s Magazine was that he was an orphaned boy living in the Capistrano Monastery in Napa Valley California. In the earliest tales he was simply an orphan boy named David Nelson yet according to the later stories his father had been an aviator and areonautical engineer of some note also named David Nelson. The elder David Nelson was the son of Randolph Nelson of the British Army. Randolph Nelson and his men had been wiped out in India killed by rebel Gurkhas and betrayed by an Irish mercenary named O'Bannion. [1]

David Nelson jr's best friend at the Monastery was Brother Martier who shared his passion for flight. Martier had a dream to make a plane which flew like the bats flew. Later issues of the comic would also give Martier a convoluted history.

Martier was the descendent of the Marquis Francois Martier de l'Orleans. According to the comics during the French revolution Martier wore a costume to symbolize his family's honor, a red tunic with a golden V studded with buttons on the chest with blue pants, red boots, golden gloves and a golden cape. Although Martier was discovered by an agent of the Revolution Henri Cotillion, his family escaped, presumably taking with them the costume which Brother Martier had in his possession.

Brother Martier came up with a radical airplane design which he believed would revolutionize the aeronautical industry. Since the United States was on the brink of war he thought that they should try and build a working model of the plane prior to showing it to the United States Army Air Corps. To get the money for this project Brother Martier took out a loan from a man named Kress Sessler using a fourth of the estate of the monastery as collateral. With some of the monks and young David Nelson's aid, Brother Martier was able to build a test model of the bat winged plane. He tested the plane and flew it successfully. Kress Sessler saw the test and was in a rage that the Monk has been able to build the plane. Brother Martier had arranged for a demonstration to prove that he had successfully designed and built the plane. Some hoods with French accents attempted to steal the plane the day after the test but Brother Martier and David Nelson drove them off. Sessler sabotaged the plane so that when Brother Martier attempted to test fly it the engine stalled, slamming the plane and Brother Martier into the ground. Sessler evicted the monks and turned the old monastery into a casino. Davy rebuilt the plane when he was finished he donned the costume that had been passed down through the generations of the Martier family (which had not aged and fit young David Nelson perfectly) and used the bat winged plane with the flapping wings to bomb the monastery and kill Sessler. [2]

Examining the origin stories of Airboy many questions are raised. How did Brother Martier, a cloistered monk know enough about modern aeronautics to build a radically, advanced plane? How did the costume survive intact from the French Revolution and fit a ten year old David Nelson to a T? Did the plane truly have flapping bat wings? How did David Nelson fix the plane by himself. Where did the fourteen year old boy get his hand on the bombs with which to destroy the casino?

The answer to the first question is simple enough, Martier was not always a monk. He had attended engineering school with David Nelson under a different name than Martier. He and David had kept in touch after finishing their schooling, Even David Nelson was surprised when Martier suddenly realized that he had another calling and took monastic orders. When David Nelson came to visit Brother Martier in late 1931 with a large problem, Brother Martier was able to provide a partial solution. David Nelson's problem was that he had fallen in love with a young woman. Her parents objected to their union and so they had eloped and secretly wed. The young woman was the daughter of wealthy aviation entrepreneur Wade Taggart who wished to use her as barter to acquire some lucrative financial holdings.[3] Some men had tried to kill David Nelson and the baby. Rather than subject the baby to danger Margaret Nelson had disappeared. David needed to find her but did not wish to endanger the child. Brother Martier agreed to take care of the child of his old friend.

There was more to Brother Francis Martier's background than even the creators of the Airboy comics knew about. It is true that Francis’ family had roots which went back to before the French Revolution. After he had graduated from engineering school with high honors, he contacted by his Uncle long thought to be dead. His Uncle, using the name Marko was very much alive and not any older than when Martier had known him.

Francois’ Uncle had informed Martier that the time for him to take his place among the family was at hand. He revealed that the family was part of a world wide organization dedicated to bringing peace, prosperity and social order to the entire globe. They had gained access to science and technology far beyond than that existing currently. This science was from an ante-diluvian civilization which may have had extra-terrestrial roots. Some members of the family believed that it was from Atlantis or Lemuria, others were not certain. Members of the organization received blood transfusions from older members that would halt their aging process at about forty and allow them to age slowly and gain a thousand years of life. There was another group who also had access to this hidden knowledge and longevity but they used these gifts for evil ends.

Because of his inventive genius Francois was given access to the ancient writings which were used as the basis for their technological advances. Unfortunately they did not have any actual working technology from the ancient times and so had to emulate what they could with existing technology. A book that had been misfiled in the family’s library shook Francois’ world. He learned that his family was not at all what he had been told. They were descended from Andrea Vitellia, Count of Monteleone, who was also leader of a criminal organization, the Camorra and was known under the nome de guerre of Bel Demonio (Beautiful Demon). Andrea Vitelli was also connected with and possibly founded the religious order of the Frères de la Merci (Brotherhood of Mercy), a dark and mysterious sect, particularly present in the Kingdom of Naples, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica. It was the Brothers of Mercy who later educated and trained Joseph Balsamo, the Count Cagliostro, at their convent of Caltagirone in Sicily. In addition to Bel Demonio, they were descended from "Fra Diavolo", a man named, or at least using the alias of, Michele Pezza or Pozzo or Bozzo. He was reportedly hung by General Hugo (Victor Hugo's father) in Naples in 1806. Fra Diavolo was the title worn by the leader of the Brothers of Mercy. Féval equates Fra Diavolo with Bel Demonio and, according to him, he is also known as il Padre d'Ogni, the All-Father (Godfather). Bozzo as Fra Diavolo was the leader of the Bastia crime family of the Bozzo-Corona in Corsica. [4]

Francois discovered that his family had been among the conspirators that had first brought about the French Revolution let it get out of hand and then had aided Napoleon’s meteoric rise. Napoleon it seems had been part of the extended family. However after gaining power, Napoleon refused to acknowledge the efforts of his relatives and they worked to bring about his fall. Bozzo-Cornona had also led an organization called the Black Coats, Les Habits Noirs which had cells throughout Europe. They were used to create instability in various regions through a combination of crime, terror and political action. His Uncle who called himself Marko was the leader of an England based Black Coat organization. Marko had become rather renowned in England for wreaking havoc with inventions beyond those of conventional science. He had been opposed by famed detective Dixon Hawke, among others.[5]

Francois’ was a very religious man and was horrified by what he had uncovered. He was also frightened because he knew that he could not fight them, to do so would amount to nothing for the power of the family was vast and their minions were Legion. Yet he swore never to aid them and fight them as best as he could. Francois felt that he had to atone for his small part in the evils of his family. Using part of his inheritance he bought property in California and gave it to an order of Monks. Once they were established he joined them, leaving behind his family name of Matarese far behind. He kept in contact with his friend David Nelson, merely telling him that he had changed his name as part of joining the monastery rather than burden him with the knowledge of the evil Matarese clan.[6]

When David Nelson left his infant son with the Monastery, Brother Frances Martier understood that it would only be for a few months. Yet David Nelson never returned and David Nelson grew into an adolescent boy in the care of the monks of the Capistrano monastery. When David was ten years old he began discussing his ideas for a plane that flew like a bird with Brother Martier. Martier told him to try and work out a mechanical design. He was astounded when young David came up with a unique pivoting wing design that allowed the wings to move just about in any direction along a circular path. The plane Birdie might have remained only a child’s fancy if David Nelson sr. had not received a gift from an old friend. A crate arrived at the Capistrano Monastery for David Nelson. Inside was the shell of a Curtiss JN-4H biplane, only the main portion of the fuselage with a damaged nose remained of the plane. The landing gear and wings and part of the tail were missing.

The plane had been the property of Henry Stover, a pilot associate of David Nelson. Stover had apparently died in a crack-up when a tornado in South Dakota had suddenly arisen as he was visiting the farm where his mother had grown up.[7] Stover’s body was never found but his wrecked plane was recovered, as per his instructions due to his death or sudden disappearance, his plane was delivered to David Nelson sr. Having been given the gift of an airplane even it were only part of one, Brother Martier began to work with young David Nelson to make his air plane design a reality. The revenues from the Winery had waned during the first years after Prohibition had ended so to get extra money, Brother Martier borrowed a sum of money from a wealthy businessman named Sessler on the condition that if Martier could not pay back the loan, Sessler would get possession of 1/4th of the Monastery’s land.  Martier used technical knowledge that he had retained from the Matarese families archives. This was based on the ancient technologies that the Matarese family had some access. It took all of the money that Martier borrowed from Sessler to rebuild the plane into the design that he and young David Nelson had created.

The newly rebuilt plane had bat-like wings that could pivot almost 180 degrees. Although the plane had a propeller the plane was not truly propeller driven. The actual motive force was cleverly hidden in the wings. The plane’s wing structures consisted of a specially treated fabric tightly stretched over a frame of connected tubes which resembled a bat’s wing structure, giving the plane’s wings the appearance of batwings. The tubular frame was made of the hardest and most lightweight metals that Brother Martier could devise. Yet the tubular structure of the wings was not merely hollow, it was a series of tiny reaction engines using air induction and heat exhaust to make the vertical tips of the plane’s bat wings into small but exceedingly powerful jets. Brother Martier had problems with the timing sequence of the small jet engines and the cumulative thrust was not as powerful has he originally theorized. Yet the more he worked on the plane and prayed to God, the problems began to miraculously evaporate. Although the plane worked fine on ground tests, the final trial would the flight test. Brother Martier invited Kress Sessler to witness the test flight.

Brother Martier was worried that people would try to steal the airplane to gain knowledge of its radical design. Shortly after Brother Martier voiced these fears to young David Nelson, he and Brother Martier encountered three men breaking into the storage shed doubling as the plane’s hanger. The three men spoke with French accents and David Nelson believed that they were agents of Vichy France. Brother Martier was not so certain.

David Nelson and Brother Martier took to sleeping in the Hangar. However on the night before the trial flight, one of Kress Sessler’s men crept into the Hangar without waking Nelson or Brother Martier and poured sugar into the gas tank. Brother Martier had a hard time starting the engine, as if the plane did not want to go up in the air. Yet after Brother Martier beseeched God to allow him to fly for the sake of the monastery, the plane started up and flew at a normal speed but then at ever increasing speed. The pivoting wings gave the plane a great deal of mobility and maneuverability. To the people on the ground the planes wings seemed to flap like those of a bird or a bat. Abruptly the engine seized up and the plane fell from the sky. Once the thrust to the wing jets had been cut off the wings had been locked in place and Brother Martier could not glide to safety. The plane crashed and Brother Martier was killed in the plane crash. The loan was defaulted upon and Kress Sessler built a casino on part of the monastery’s wine fields. After burying Brother Martier, young David Nelson began to repair the plane. In doing so he discovered that the gas tank had been filled with sugar and realized that Sessler had sabotaged the flight.

David Nelson used the last remaining resources of Brother Martier’s shop to repair the bat winged plane. As Davy repaired the damage, he discovered how very special the plane truly was. The plane sensed that Davy Nelson would be more accepting of its origins Brother Martier had been since David, although a teenager still had some of the innocence and credulity that most adults lack.  Davy Nelson became aware that the plane was alive and possessed a consciousness. Although the plane could not directly communicate with David Nelson to the extent of holding a conversation with him, David was able to get mental impressions of images that allowed him to piece together the plane’s story.

Once upon a time a pilot named Hank Stover flying a Curtiss JN-4H biplane had accidentally entered the land of Oz.  In a way it was a homecoming since Hank Stover’s mother was the woman upon which the character Dorothy in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz had been based. Stover found the land of Oz to be much different than that depicted by Lyman Frank Baum, the newspaper man who had interviewed Dorothy Gale shortly after her return to Earth. Hank Stover had joined forces with Glinda the Good to prevent an oligarchy of rich and powerful men from using the United States Armed forces to conquer Oz. During the course of this Stover discovered that his plane had become a sentient living being, much like the animals and a few other seemingly inanimate objects in Oz such as the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman. The plane like the Scarecrow was possessed by the same type of energy beings that possessed the animals of Oz. In addition to being sentient the plane could talk and also control its functions. Stover had married one of the Quadlings named Lamblo. However she had died as a result of internecine war caused by a Red Witch in 1936. Stover had returned to the United States with his special plane Jenny. The plane discovered that as a result of the differences in the continuum of Earth and Oz that its ability to speak and some of its intelligence was impaired. It could only communicate with Stover through great effort. Stover had returned to barnstorming and participating in aviation races upon his return to Earth. He also became a stunt pilot in the films and a test pilot for various aviation companies, it was in the latter capacity that the met David Nelson. Nelson was working for Cord Aviation as an engineer. The two men became fast friends.

On the fifth anniversary of his return to Earth, Stover took Jenny to the house where his mother had grown up. As Stover and Jenny were flying away from the old house a tornado had appeared out of nowhere. Stover and Jenny had been caught in the wind funnel; Stover was ripped right out of the cockpit. Jenny had her wings ripped off and plummeted to the Earth. Stover’s body was never found. As per his instructions his shattered plane had been sent to David Nelson, whose last known address was the Capistrano Monastery.

Once the plane had been repaired and slightly improved, David Nelson took vengeance upon Kress Sessler. Airfighters Vol 1. No. 2 shows David Nelson dropping bombs on the casino that Kress Sessler had built on the Monastery property. However David Nelson was unlikely to have had access to actual government munition bombs at this time so what he dropped were either home made bombs of some variety or more likely, drums of gasoline which he then ignited with flares or Molotov cocktails. In any event the casino caught on fire and was soon fully engulfed in flames. Kress Sessler ran into the casino to save his money and perished as a result. In the comics David Nelson was shortly thereafter pursuing a one man war against the Japanese. The comics compressed several months into a couple of panels and glossed over a few facts.

David Nelson was a wanted fugitive for his destruction of the casino and the resultant death of Kress Sessler, although his name was unknown. Rather than endanger the monks at the Capistrano Monastery David Nelson took up residence in a small city in California and began earning his living as a mail pilot, stunt pilot and by competing in air races. David’s natural piloting skill augmented by the self aware plane’s ability to move its “body” parts and the tiny jets built into the plane gave Nelson a great advantage and he consistently won most races in which he competed. He was tagged with the nickname Airboy.

It was through the air races that Nelson first became acquainted with Howard Hughes. Upon seeing the plane Hughes wished to buy it. Nelson refused to sell despite all monetary offers. Hughes was not one to be denied anything and so found out what he could about “Airboy” to find leverage to force him to sell the plane or have it taken away from him.

It was through David Nelsons various professions that he became acquainted with Lawrence Wolf who also had a varied career as a pilot. Lawrence Wolf was also a mercenary called Skywolf whose father had also been a mercenary The Flying Wolf.  Skywolf discovered that Hughes was using private detectives to uncover “Airboy’s” past. Airboy joined Skywolf and his loose collection of mercenary pilots.

For various reasons Skywolf was not allowed to join the United States Army Air Force, so he became part of a loose collection of mercenary pilots from various countries who temporarily forwent monetary gain to help out the Allied Forces in their aviation war against the Axis powers. These mercenaries were Jack Gatling, the Bald Eagle, Link Trainor, the Flying Fool, and the man known as the Flying Dutchman. The mercenaries were also joined in this effort by costumed vigilantes with an expertise in aviation. These were the Black Angel and the Iron Ace. Skywolf had joined forces with two Englishman and a Pole. One Englishman Cocky Roche was a Cockney whose criminal record had kept him out of the Royal Air Force, the other was a retired Judge whose age had prevented his entry into the Royal Air Force. The last member of Skywolf’s team was the Turtle, a Polish officer whose tongue had been cut out by the Nazis. It was through the Turtle that Skywolf and his allies received much of their funding and war materiel, through the Turtle’s cousin, the man known as Blackhawk, leader of the famed private air force the Blackhawks.

Skywolf and his three companions had four unique planes that used a design created by Wolf and refined by Blackhawk and David Nelson. Each of the planes could contract their wings and fly under rocket power for a few moments, giving Skywolf and his companions the advantage of a smaller, speedier target in which to mow down the opposing air forces. [8]

In his first year of fighting against the Axis powers, David Nelson encountered two enemies who would become his closest friend and the love of his life. In one of those infrequent occurrences of mutual respect and honor between Japan and the United States during the Second World War, Airboy was challenged to a single combat dogfight by Japan’s premier ace Saburo Hirota. Due to Nelson’s superlative flying ability augmented by Birdie’s aid, Hirota was shot down, apparently dead.[9]

Nelson encountered Lisellotte von Schellendorf, who under the code-name Valkyrie was the leader of the famed Air maidens. An orphan, Lisellotte had been thoroughly indoctrinated as a member of the Hitlerjugend girls division, Bund Deutscher Maedchen as an ardent Nazi. However she was unconventional in the sense she chaffed at the program dedicated to producing happy house wives and mothers. Her particular idol was Hannah Reitsch, the famed aviatrix.

The Nazi’s government had capitalized on the popularity of Hanna Reitsch by creating the Air Maidens lead by a woman named Valkyrie. Hanna Reitsch was such an ardent Nazi that she often flew tested dangerous and unsafe aviation devices, doubting the feasibility of the aircraft but believing that if there was a chance that the aircraft would eventually aid the Reich, then her sacrifice would have been worthwhile. It was not generally known that the first Valkyrie of the Air Maidens was in fact Hanna Reitsch, her association with the Air Maidens was kept secret under the insistence of Josef Goebbels, in case the Air Maidens turned out to be a liability rather than an asset to the Reich.

Hitler insisted that the Air Maidens first mission be one that would strike a dagger into the heart of America. This was actually in retaliation for a covert action on the part of the United States.

On  November 9, 1940 at the behest of British Intelligence, President Roosevelt sent Batman, the Flash, and Green Lantern on a mission to Scotland to investigate rumors of a planned Nazi invasion of Great Britain. Rather than draw attention to themselves by going in costume, they probably used civilian dress. Despite these precautions, the three heroes were “captured” by Major Helmut Streicher. As shown in the Lethal Luthors: Henry King, Green Lantern’s device took a great toll on his body and The Flash’s use of the accelerator drug also had its limits so it is possible that they were captured by the Nazis. However it is more likely that they allowed themselves to be captured to learn more of the Nazi’s invasion plans.

According to the DC Special 29 (September, 1977)  Batman and company were taken to Berlin where Hitler nearly executed them with the Spear of Destiny, the spear which according to legend had pierced the side of Jesus on the Cross and so had gained mystical powers. However they were rescued by the arrival of Dr. Fate and Hourman before this could occur. While indeed Hitler did possess the Spear of Destiny, at least one of the artifacts known as The Spear of Destiny as proven in The Spear of Destiny by Trevor Ravenscroft [10] However what actual mystical power this object truly possessed is unknown. That Hitler would have tried to use it to kill a trio of American spies is perhaps overstating the case and mere comic book hyperbole. It is unlikely that Hitler knew that they were costumed vigilantes. Batman, the Flash and Green Lantern were interrogated thoroughly in their false identities but refused to talk and so were slated for execution. They escaped from custody and discovered that the plans to invade England were not Hitler’s primary plans. The invasion of England was effectively a bluff operation and that resources would be diverted to the east in preparation for the invasion of the Soviet Union.

The three American spies escaped custody and with the aid of two more American operatives left Germany. One of these operatives may indeed have been Rex Tyler. Tyler had a career as costumed vigilante named The Clock[11]  prior to having discovered the drug he called Miraculo. Tyler was also involved with the United States Secret Service in a loose capacity and so had prior experience in intelligence work.

To negate any information that the three American spies might have discovered about the Invasion of England bluff, Hitler ordered the efforts to break Britain to be increased and also ordered a direct strike on the United States. A Luftwaffe bomber was sent to bomb New York and then Washington D.C., along with this Valkyrie and the Air Maidens were sent to kill the President of the United States and as many high officials as they could manage. Flying across the Atlantic with a full compliment of bombs was beyond even the flight range of the best planes that Germany had at that time so the planes were launched from an aircraft carrier off of Canada.

Superman spotted and destroyed the bomber as it flew into New York City space. The plane that flew towards Washington DC was a transport plane disguised as a United States Airliner. Near their target, Valkyire and her Air Maidens exited the planes in experimental gliders and flew towards the White House. Most of the Air Maidens were shot down as they flew over the White House Lawn. Three of them made it close to the house but Valkyrie flew her glider onto a balcony and was able to enter the White House. As fortune would have it she landed near the President’s office. Roosevelt was engaged in giving the costumed vigilante known as the Atom a special award for having broken up a group of bundist saboteurs. Valkyrie used her electric spear to get past the Secret Service and headed straight for Roosevelt, casting the electrical spear directly at him. The mystery man known as the Atom jumped in front of the spear and took the electrical charge. Valkyrie was cut down by Secret Service as she fled. She was not killed however but severely wounded. Officially she died in the hospital as a result of her wounds, however she was spirited away by sympathetic bundists, her replacement being a near look alike who had been given bullet wounds identical to Valkyrie’s. Valkyrie was placed aboard a U-boat and returned to Germany. Although Hanna Reitsch was Hitler’s favorite pilot, her failure to kill Roosevelt had caused him to lessen in his eyes. He removed from command of the Air Maidens and allowed her to continue flying missions that were nearly suicidal. Her injuries sustained in the assassination attempt on President Roosevelt were officially stated to be from one of her less successful flights.

Reitsch was later instrumental in helping to form Project Reichenberg. The project was the brain-child of Hanna Reitsch and of the redoubtable adventurer SS-Haupsturmfuhrer Otto Skorzeny. Earlier, Reitsch had promoted a scheme for the recruitment of a cadre of suicide pilots willing to sacrifice their lives in defense of the Fatherland by crashing their aircraft onto important targets. Reitsch spent much of the later portion of the war on the Eastern front.

Hitler had a new squadron of Air Maidens created and hand picked Lisellotte von Schellendorf as the new Valkyrie. As seen by those men he picked as his closest aides, Hitler was not a very good judge of character. Lisellotte was indeed a firebrand young woman who fervently believed in the Fuhrer and the German Reich but she also had a strong inner morality, sense of justice and sense of right and wrong that not even the most stringent indoctrination could remove.

She was fourteen years old in 1941, the same age as Airboy, although she had matured faster and so looked a few years older. Despite their antagonism, there was an undeniable attraction between Airboy and Valkyrie when they encountered each other in person. Despite her devotion to the Fuhrer and to the Reich Valkyrie was not so blinded by ideology that she refused to accept the evidence of the inherent evil of the Nazi regime when Airboy showed it to her. Valkyrie eventually turned her back on the Reich and began to fly as part of the loose federation of pilots who flew with Airboy and Skywolf. Hitler had Anna Mahlmann one of the other Airmaidens assume the name of Valkyrie In this capacity she led a terror bombing on the village of Lubov in February of 1944.

One of the more renowned acquaintances of David Nelson was a former WWI German ace named Baron von Emmelmann. The Baron had been shot down over Poland's Wausau Swamp. Through some unknown agency, the Baron’s dying body slowly merged with the swamp vegetation to form the simple minded creature known as the Heap. When he rose in 1942, the Heap did not truly join forces with anyone but reacted to situations around him for its own survival. Yet it often also responded to some residue of humanity and honor that remained in its consciousness and so would attack anyone it believed was persecuting the weak or helpless. The Heap gained sustenance through the blood of animals, yet would also drain the blood from humans that attacked it. How much of Heap’s original persona lay buried in the muck and mire of its body is unknown, although there might have been enough to be constantly horrified at the state in which it was trapped. If so then the origin of The Heap might be traced back to the worst of Airboy’s enemies. The worst of Airboy’s enemies was not Hitler, Mussolini Tojo or any of the various Axis based murderous psychopaths or freaks that Airboy and his allies often encountered but rather a being who could rightly be called a demon. Airboy’s worst enemy was Misery.

It is not known if Misery was an actual demon spawned from the nether regions or hell dimensions or if he were a member of one of the races that comprise the Omni such as the Q, Elder Gods, Arisians, Douwd or Organians, or if he was derived from a species some other species such as spawned the being known as Redjac. Whatever the case, Misery had great if limited powers and seemed to feed on the emotions of misery and despair. He manipulated people and governments into situations such as war, famine and social decay so that he could better feed on the misery that these generated. As dessert, he had a special vessel called the Air Tomb, which was a mold covered carrier plane whose interior had more dimensional space than could be accounted for from the exterior. Also time did not pass inside the Airtomb. Inside the Airtomb were Misery’s collection of pilots. These seemed to be of three different types. There were aviators whose souls were plucked from their dying bodies and given substance in the Airtomb. Aviators who had been removed from the physical plane at the second of their death and so suffered eternally. And finally there were people pulled out of the physical plane of existence by Misery and kept in state of suspended animation.

Misery may have used some of his power to create the Heap. For some reason Misery was unable to pluck the living soul out of Baron von Emmelman’s dying body and so had used his power to fuse the Baron’s soul into the muck and mire surrounding the body. Emmelman’s despair and misery at his new state may have given Misery much satisfaction.

Airboy and his friends fought Misery by thwarting his various schemes and aiding in defeating the fascist powers. Yet Misery had the ultimate revenge.

Through their great skill and sheer luck, almost all of Airboy and Sky Wolf’s companions came through the war alive, sound of mind and body.The Flying Dutchman disappeared at the close of the war.

Since David Nelson and Lisellotte von Schellendorf were of age in 1946. Nelson planned to ask Lisellotte to marry him at the 1946 New Years’ Eve celebration at the Astoria Hotel. Airboy and the Air Fighters had pledged to attend each year. However Misery chose that particular night to implement one of his schemes to bring more pain and misery into the world. He flew his Airtomb over New York City and released a squadron of planes and pilots that he had acquired. The attack was led by the recently deceased Hermann Goering. As Skywolf and the other Air Fighters engaged Goering and the other planes, Airboy and Valkyrie attacked the Airtomb in Birdie. The Airtomb’s nose opened like a crocodile’s mouth and swallowed Birdie. Once inside the Airtomb, Airboy and Valkyrie decided to confront Misery personally. They freed the Heap from imprisonment. Upon confronting Misery, Airboy and Valkyrie were set upon by hordes of dead pilots. With Heap’s aid they fought against Misery and his legions of the dead. The Air Fighters destroyed all of the planes released by the Airtomb. Misery had left Goering and the Flying Dutchman to pilot the Airtomb while he confronted David Nelson. The Air Fighters destroyed the cockpit and sent Goering and the Flying Dutchman back to Eternity. Assaulted on all sides, Misery could not maintain the assault and the integrity of his vessel. As he used his power to restore the Airtomb, Airboy and Valkyrie made their way back to Birdie. As they were about to board, Misery grabbed Valkyrie and told Nelson he was going to keep her. He opened a hole in his ship and caused Birdie and Nelson to drop from 6000 feet. Nelson was hard pressed, even with Birdie’s assistance to get the plane out of a killer dive. Through great effort he managed a crash landing in a pond in Allendale, New Jersey. Nelson would write in his diary, “My heart died that day. And my hope. And all my love.”

Grieving, David Nelson returned to the Capistrano Monastery where had grown up. Only a couple of the monks remained, most of the others had left for other monasteries or had died. David Nelson went through Brother Francois Martier’s belongings and discovered Martier’s journal in which he had revealed much of the truth about his family. According to Martier’s journal the French accented people who had tried to steal Birdie were not members of the Vichy government per se but members of Martier’s family, the Matarese.[12] Brother Martier’s journal also revealed a source of a family treasure of the Matarese as well as volumes of ancient scientific lore that was far beyond that of the modern age.

David Nelson traveled to Paris to see if he could discover this hidden source of wealth. He found the treasure but had to fight and kill a member of the Cotillion family, who had been watching David Nelson on the off chance that he would lead them to the place where Francois Matarese had stashed the treasure.

David Nelson used the jewels to modernize the vineyards and hired help for the remaining monks. He also created Nelson Aviation to help further the science of Aviation as Brother Martier would have wished.

As Nelson built up his aviation business he also donned the Airboy identity a few times to fight against various menaces. One of these was a group of intelligent rats who planned to wipe out mankind and become the dominant species on Earth.[13]

Another foe that David Nelson fought twice was called Zzed, an immortal man who wished to destroy the Earth, believing that he might die as well. This Zzed may have been another of Misery’s experiments or he was an anomaly among Immortals. Like many Immortals Zzed did not have his immortality turned on until he suffered physical death. Unfortunately for Zzed, this occurred when he was in his late nineties, so Zzed was fated to spend enternity as an old man. Unlike the Highlander Immortals or many of the other types of Immortals, removing Zzed’s head did not kill him. Zzed grew to believe, and he may have been correct, that his life was attuned to the life of the planet and as long as the Earth existed so would he. To find eternal rest, he had to destroy the Earth.

Although during the war Howard Hughes had been busy and so had not continued his efforts to acquire the famed plane of Airboy, he did not forget about the fabulous plane. Besides during going after Airboy in during the war when Airboy was such a hero would have be a publicity nightmare for Hughes and his companies. However after the war Airboy exploits became less and less renown, although he managed to get into the news several times, he was looked at with suspicion because he did not participate in the Korean Conflict but rather seemed to spend all of his time looking for a former Nazi. More fuel was added to the fire when Saburo Hirota, Airboy’s first kill was found alive in the jungles of Saipan. Airboy showed up to help ease him into the post-war era. Hirota was repatriated to Japan but discovered that his family had perished in Hiroshima. Hirota felt uncomfortable in Occupied Japan and so returned with Airboy to the United States. Hirota took a job with Nelson Aviation as a pilot.

Howard Hughes was a supporter of the anti-communist crusade of Joseph McCarthy. Both men realized that in addition to ridding the United States of the communist menace, the wave of anti-communism hysteria could be used as a means of social and political control, and as a way to rid yourself of some enemies without taking a direct hand in their destruction. Hughes began to hint to McCarthy that perhaps Airboy was a Red.

As part of his investigation of Reds in the State Department and in the United States Army Joseph McCarthy also began to investigate Airboy and his companions. It was not hard to dig up some dirt. In 1948 one of Airboy’s companions, Link Thorne, the Flying Fool was captured and convicted by a Nationalist Chinese court of supplying arms to the Red Chinese. Thorne had actually been carrying medical supplies and food to the family of his fiancée Wing Ding. Link’s friends, Skywolf, Cocky, Turtle, the Judge and Riot O’Hara could not get the United States to get Thorne freed and so mounted a rescue mission of their own. In rescuing Link Thorne and Wing Ding, Skywolf and his companions were set upon by a combined force of National Chinese and United States Airforce planes. Skywolf and his three companions were shot down but only Skywolf survived. When Link Thorne returned to the United States he was branded a communist sympathizer, about the only job he could get was a pilot for Lenore Wolfe’s crop dusting company. Skywolf was not branded with the red tag because of his service in Korea. However McCarthy made things hot for Airboy and Hughes was after the government to confiscate Birdie before Airboy could give it to the Russians.

While on a flight through a storm, Birdie was struck by lightning. After this David Nelson no longer felt the bond that he had with Birdie, its animating force seemed to have fled or been expelled from the plane. Saddened by this loss, David Nelson placed Birdie in a secluded location and gave up the Airboy identity. David Nelson began to devote himself exclusively to Nelson Aviation, although by this time Hughes Aircraft and Cord Aviation dominated the market. David Nelson bought the monastery from the monks and converted it into a mansion. He kept the vineyards running as a side business. Nelson Aviation became renowned for its small efficient jet engines and began winning contracts from civilian airliners and from the military.

Howard Hughes began to suspect that David Nelson was Airboy but could not prove anything. He exerted various types of pressure on Nelson to divulge the location of Birdie and to help with his rocket man project.  Nelson adamantly refused to buckle into Hughes demands.

Hughes convinced one of Nelson’s test pilots, Ronald Britain to test one of the new models of the Rocketman suits for twice his salary at Nelson. Britain jumped at the chance. The test ended in catastrophe. Ronald Britain was left a man barely alive, most of his body was shattered. Howard Hughes contacted David Nelson and offered to use the resources of Hughes Tool and Hughes Aircraft to save Britain’s life but the cost of the using experimental techniques would be monumental, Hughes could only go ahead with this if he could prove to his Board of Directors that the cost would be offset by viable other sources of revenue, such as Nelson Aviation’s Research and Development might provide.

To save Ronald Britain’s life David Nelson agreed to a deal with Hughes. He would later learn that Hughes did not answer to a Board of Directors, that Hughes used Britain’s accident as emotional leverage against Nelson.

Hughes used contacts with the government, specifically with the so called super soldier projects dealing with the fields that would come to be known as cybernetics and bionics to rebuild Britain’s shattered body. However the damage was too extensive and it became a race to save Britain’s brain with the hope of somehow recreating legendary brain transplantation techniques. Ronald Britain’s brain was kept alive in a tank that was given over to David Nelson’s custody. Nelson eventually connected the brain to a crude robotic body. Nelson learned that Britain had gone insane from sensory deprivation and would go on destructive rages. David Nelson installed a device in the robot body that allowed him to cease its functions if Ronald Britain went off on one of his tantrums. Eventually Britain calmed down but would under go periodic episodes of madness, however he insisted on being kept in isolation.

David Nelson honored his agreement with Hughes and began working with Jeff King and other scientists from the Rocket-Man project. Nelson’s contribution was in converting jet propulsion system comprised of many small jets that Brother Martier had devised for Birdie to be utilized by the Rocket-Man suit. An intricate system of micro jets was integrated into the body of the armor suit that comprised the rocket-man suit. Which the jet exhausts were open or closed determined the direction from which thrust came and so determined the direction of the suit. The real trick was in making all of the micro jet covers synchronized and operate smoothly in a manner determined by the operator. This took several years. While David Nelson worked with Jeff King, he became acquainted with Jeff King’s daughter Penny King who was a renowned pilot of her own. Their relationship grew into a romance and eventually to marriage in 1964. Although David Nelson did not love Penny King with the passion that he had loved Valkyrie, he did love her very much.

It was Penny King that convinced David that he should not attempt to make his company on par with Hughes Aircraft or Cord Aviation and not get caught up in a rat race by competing with them for military contracts rather he should concentrate on small commercial lines and to keep the company solvent and fiscally sound to diversify Nelson manufacturing by adding a variety of other manufacturing lines such as buses, snow mobiles and train cars.

Shortly after their marriage David Nelson became plagued by nightmares about Valkyrie and Misery. These intensified after Penny Nelson became pregnant. David Nelson refused to credit these nightmares as anything other than residual guilt over marrying Penny instead of Valkyrie.

After Penny King gave birth to David Nelson III, David Nelson began to have dreams about harm coming to his wife and child. He asked Saburo Hirota to become their personal bodyguards. Yet not even Hirota could save Penny King from crashing as she flew her personal plane. Her engine suddenly failed as she circled the vineyard.

David Nelson finally accepted the reality of the visions that he received. He learned that Valkyrie had not jilted him in 1946, that Misery had kidnapped her and placed her in suspended animation in the Airtomb, he could make her suffer through eternity unless Nelson did as he was bid, further more Misery could take Nelson’s son at any time and add him to his collection, should Nelson balk at his instructions.

David Nelson attempted several times to rescue Valkyrie from Misery’s Airtomb. Misery prevented Nelson from achieving his goal but enjoyed the despair that each attempt caused in Nelson. David Nelson converted most of Nelson Aviation to producing munitions and military vehicles for various oppressive governments or revolutionary groups as Misery dictated. As Misery directed Nelson hired former Nazis to run much of his company.

David Nelson would hear from time to time of the exploits of the man wearing the Iron Man suit, knowing and wonder how it felt to fly under your own power, free of worry, stress and constant agony of guilt and sorrow that Misery placed upon him. David Nelson grew increasingly distant from his son, wishing to shield him from Misery’s influence as much as possible and also because being with Davy made David Nelson’s guilt and self-revulsion for serving Misery all the more intense. David Nelson allayed this guilt somewhat by helping his own man of iron, Ronald Britain. Ronald and David Nelson developed ever increasingly sophisticated body forms for Britain’s braincase.

Saburo Hirota became surrogate father as well as David’s bodyguard and teacher. David Nelson ultimately lost his life when one of his Misery directed clients double crossed him and make an assault on the Nelson mansion. David Nelson died defending his son from the assault. David Nelson III was of age but barely when his father died. He assumed control of Nelson Aviation and began to undo all of Misery’s work. This brought him into direct conflict with Misery. David Nelson III rescued Valkyrie from Misery and brought many of the Air Fighers out of retirement or inspired another generation of Air Fighters. Although their relationship began  troubled and confusing she eventually fell in love with David Nelson III.

Eventually they would attempt to rescue David Nelson, the original Airboy from Misery’s Airtomb, joined by the Heap they were able to free the original Nelson’s soul from the clutches of Misery.  



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[1] Mougin, Lou, “The Airboy Archives, Airboy Vol. 1, No. 1, Eclipse Comics July 1986

[2] IBID

[3] Wade Taggart is probably best known for his depiction in the Tailspin Tommy serial . Wade Taggart was a rival airline owner who did his best to put Three Point Airline out of business.

[4] For more information on the Matarese family and their connection to the Black Coats please examine the articles located at the The French Wold Newton Universe,

[5] Dixon Hawke and Marko both appeared in the Dixon Hawke Library series which was written by various authors beginning in 1912 and continuing until 2000. Dixon Hawke was a detective in the Sexton Blake or Sherlock Holmes mold. Marko was a mad scientist who turned up to plague Hawke every so often.

[6] The insidious conspiracy of the Matarese family was revealed in two novels by Robert Ludlum, The Matarese Circle (1979) and The Matarese Countdown (1997)

[7] As described in  Farmer, Philip Jose, A Barnstormer in Oz Henry Stover was the son of Lincoln Stover of Oyster Bay, New York and Dorothy Gale of Aberdeen, South Dakota.  In May of 1890 Dorothy Gale was eight years old, the house she was living in was swept up by a tornado. The tornado picked up the house and by chance happened to hit a weak spot in the dimensional walls and the house fell into the one of the Oz dimensions. This particular Oz was a pocket universe designed by the Ancients as a part recreational facility and research laboratory as described in the article Ozdyssey.  Lyman Frank Baum had based The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, his first Oz novel upon an interview with the lost little girl Dorothy Gale. Baum was somewhat surprised that Miss Gale’s tales of Oz had some surprising correspondences with the land that existed in his dreams. However when Miss Gale later stated that she was delirious during the period she was supposedly in Oz, Baum began to believe that Miss Gale and he shared the ability to see this wonderful world of fairy through the medium of sleep. Baum’s dreams of Oz began to include adventures of a girl very much like the Dorothy Gale he had met, only this Dorothy Gale was from Kansas rather than  South Dakota and the Oz that she visited was very different from that first described by Dorothy Gale. It is likely that Baum was seeing the adventures of an extra-dimensional Dorothy Gale who visited an Oz more like the books that Baum would write.

[8] The comic book depiction of Skywolf and the Wolf Pack’s semi-planes in which two planes could join together as one larger plane or separate at will was based on deliberate misinformation about the capabilities of the Wolf Pack’s planes.

[9] Hirota would survive and be stranded on Saipan island and would be repatriated several years after the war. He would discover that his family had perished in the atomic devastation of Hiroshima. 

[10] (Ravenscroft, Trevor The Spear of Destiny Neville Spearman, London, 1974)

[11] The Clock who first appeared in 1936 and whose exploits were published in Funny Pages #6, Nov., 1936 is one of the instances in which the published background of the hero was entirely made up by the writers of the comic book. That the Clock was really Brian O’Brien, a crusading District Attorney was entirely fictional.

[12] This differs from the story told in the Airboy comics. In that version Brother Martier’s journal contained a story that dated back to the French Revolution and told of the conflict between Martier’s family and a family named Cotillion. Airboy noticed a similarity between one of the French thugs who had attacked Brother Martier and Nelson in 1941 and a portrait of Henri Cotillion.

[13] These rats may have been the culmination of inbreeding between a group of rats affected by the Wold Newton meteorite in 1795 and which. like some of the canines and horses affected by meterorite,  became sentient as a result.