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Smith, Scorchy. Scorchy Smith was created by John Terry and appeared in the comic strip “Scorchy Smith” (1930-1961). “Scorchy Smith” was one of the greatest of all adventure comic strips from 1933 to 1936, when Milton Caniff (Dickie Dare, Terry Lee) wrote it and the incomparable Noel Sickles drew it.

“Scorchy” Smith is a handsome, lanky aviator modeled on Charles Lindbergh. Smith is an airman for hire, always ready to fly anything anywhere, whether it is important witnesses to a trial (despite the heated opposition of the gangsters the witness was going to testify against) or supplies to relieve flooded or besieged areas. On occasion Smith even runs guns. Initially he only flies for money or love of adventure, but as time goes by his sentimental and heroic side comes to the fore, and he began taking on missions because they are the right thing to do, rather than because he is getting paid to do them.

Few of Smith’s enemies are particularly interesting, but his friends and allies are. Smith’s best friend is “Heinie Himmelstoss.” During World War One Himmelstoss is an air ace for Germany and is Smith’s archenemy, but after the war Himmelstoss has a change of heart and becomes Smith’s best friend. (Himmelstoss was a German stereotype, from the anti-German slur “Heinie” to a monocle and mangled, heavily-accented English, but he was generally treated well by the writers and artists of Scorchy Smith). For a short time Smith’s lover is the blonde adventuress Mickey Lafarge, but she eventually falls in love with Himmelstoss and marries him.

* I'm including "Scorchy Smith" in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because during the Caniff/Sickles run it was exceptionally well-written and well-drawn and was hella fun to read. Caniff and Sickles were two of the most talented men to write or draw comic strips during the Golden Age, and in their hands "Scorchy Smith" rivaled "Terry and the Pirates" (see Terry Lee) and "Flash Gordon" for excellence. Its act of redeeming Himmelstoss was highly unusual (for 1930s comic strips) and morally welcome. Highly recommended. 

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