Cinema, music, painting and literature. Flight has always been a topic of interest across all art forms due to the appeal of going beyond the physical limits of humankind, the possibility of exploring unknown worlds and the sheer complexity of machines that challenge gravity, just like superheroes.

For the same reasons, flying, in all its different shapes and forms, has always been a protagonist in the world of comics, where everything’s possible; even a pilot dog.

In the early 1900s, Little Nemo in Slumberland by Windsor McCay (initially translated in Italy as Bubi nel Paese del dormiveglia and then simply known as Little Nemo) was dreaming about fantastic worlds and exciting adventures on an aeroplane from his small bed, before waking up and falling out of bed, as per usual.

In 1929 in the USA, in the midst of the economic crisis, Mickey Mouse featured in a cartoon exalting Charles Lindbergh’s extraordinary venture. Lindbergh was an aviator from Detroit who in 1927 became the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean from New York to Paris, alone and with no stopovers.

In 1933, The Mail Pilot, drawn by Floyd Gottfredson, written by Ted Osborne and painted by Ted Thwaites, enshrined the figure of the hero pilot, an idol and role model for all children. In this strip, Mickey Mouse plays a mail pilot and appears alongside two new characters for the first time: Captain Doberman and Gloomy the Mechanic.

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Even the biggest fans of Tex Willer, an Italian character created by Gianluigi Bonelli and illustrator Aurelio Galleppini, could never imagine the Texan ranger and gunman to be unbeatable in the air. But actually, during a city fair, Tex chases a gang of thieves on the run on a hot air balloon faithfully accompanied by his friend Kit Carson.

In 1972, it became the turn of the Italian comic Aquila, created by illustrator and screenwriter Albert Weinberg, who was already famous in France for his pilot and astronaut Dan Cooper. Weinberg, renowned in the world of comics for his storylines about aerospace technology, created a fearless Norwegian pilot named Singh, whose mother was Indian. Known by his nickname Aquila, Singh improvised as an astronaut and, of course, bumped into a UFO.

Let’s jet off to 1993, when the Italian Air Force commissioned Hugo Pratt, creator of the fascinating Corto Maltese, to write the In un cielo lontano comics, published by Petruzzi. The comic takes place in Rodi, during the days just before Italy joined the Second World War and the story is about the pilot brothers Luca and Pietro Bronzi, love rivals and friends with Royal Air Force Captain Melrose, who becomes the enemy when conflict breaks out.

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