American Ace

First Appearance: Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 (1939).
Golden Age Appearances: Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1, Marvel Mystery Comics #2-3, The Arrow #2 (see below).
Modern Appearances: None.
Dates Active: 1939-?

Perry Webb, an American pilot & mining engineer, flies to the small European country of Attania just as it is being bombed by the neighboring country of Castile d'Or. In his fighter plane Webb helps save an Attanian woman but then gets shot down by planes from the Castile d'Or. He heals up and then resolves to fight for the Attanians. The stories end there, leaving us with some dangling plots. The Ace has no powers, but is good with his fists, and is a decent pilot. (That's him at the right, just after he's arrived in Attania and before he's started fighting for the Attanians. There weren't any good pictures of Webb, in his plane, in action.)

Interestingly, however, the saga of the American Ace continues elsewhere. In Centaur Publications' The Arrow #2, dated November 1940, one "Lieutenant Lank" continues the battle against Castile d'Or on behalf of the "Attainians." Lank looks like Perry Webb, the American Ace, and dresses like him, but his overcoat is red and his scarf green--a simple color inversion from Webb's outfit. Lank's plane looks like Webb's plane. And the action in The Arrow #2 takes place in media res, so that it's clear that the story is continued from somewhere else. At the story's end Lieutenant Lank has bombed the soldiers of Castile d'Or and forced them to retreat, and the narrator says that "now the Attainian people have a chance to win their war," implicitly ending the story (which I know you've all been wondering about).

"Lieutenant Lank" is credited by Paul J. Lauretta, a penciller who among other things assisted Siegel & Shuster on Superman. Lauretta also wrote the American Ace strips, which first appeared in Motion Picture Funnies Weekly #1 along with Submariner. I assume that the "Lieutenant Lank" strip in The Arrow was held in inventory by Lauretta and freelanced by him to Centaur, putting a new name and slightly different coloring scheme on the lead character. This makes the American Ace/Lieutenant Lank one of the very earliest cross-company crossovers.

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