Comicbook: Buck Danny

Buck Danny is a French-Belgian comic book series created by Jean-Michel Charlier and Victor Hubinon (both also the creators of Barbe Rouge, and Charlier the creator of Blueberry). The title character is a pilot in the US Air Force (when he isn't assigned to the US Navy); he has two sidekicks, Jerry Tumbler and Sonny Tuckson.

Together they first get to fight the Japanese in WW2, first as regular fighter pilots, and then as part of General Chennault's Flying Tigers in China. They go their separate ways after the end of the war but quickly reunite and become civilian pilots for a shady Middle Eastern company. They decide to re-enlist in the Air Force, become test pilots for the new generations of jet aircraft, and in 1950 are sent on the Korean front.

After The Korean War, they have various adventures from Alaska to Malaysia, and earn a recurring Arch-Enemy, the spy-for-hire Lady X. In the 1960s and early 1970s, rather than being deployed in The Vietnam War, they fly on the Blue Angels acrobatic team and fight a drug cartel in South-East Asia.

The series is notable for its realistic depiction of aircraft, even as the stories themselves are pure fiction.

Contains examples of:

  • Ace Pilot: All three characters, and others beside.
    • The Ace: Buck is a better pilot, soldier, leader, etc. than any other character in the series.
  • An Aesop: In "Le Pilote au masque de cuir". Racism is bad, mmkay?
  • Airstrike Impossible: In "Tigres Volants contre pirates".
  • Amazon Brigade: The Soviet acrobatics team is all-female. Naturally, Sonny is the first to find out and is soundly told off for expressing surprise at the idea.
  • Armchair Military: In one story, one of the pilots starts thinking Danny is getting into this mindset. In response, he starts pulling the most insane, death-defying stunts he can think of before dragging the (by now grovelling) pilot into a hangar where they can continue their explanation via punching. A very short while after, no one has any problem with Danny.
  • Banana Republic: "Alerte Atomique" and "L'escadrille de la mort" take place in a fictional Latin American country where insurgents and government forces are fighting it out. And in "Alerte à Cap Kennedy", the villains are from the fictional Caribbean country of Managua.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service
  • Berserk Button: Sonny is extremely sensitive to being called ginger-haired.
  • Big Eater: Sonny.
  • Bling of War: Played with in "Alerte en Malaisie": Sonny is tricked into wearing a ridiculously over-the-top uniform, believing it's the official gear for air force officers in the country they're being sent to.
  • Blondes Are Evil: Lady X is a blonde. Later on, however, she dyes her hair black.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: In "Patrouille à l'Aube", Buck, Tumbler and Sonny use a WW2-vintage Avenger plane found in a scrapyard in order to locate the wreck of a submarine.
  • Butt Monkey: Sonny.
  • Buzz Job: In one episode set during the Korean War, a South Korean pilot does this upside down in full view of senior officers before landing safely but walking drunkenly, to the concern of his friends in the American squadron. It turns out the North Koreans are holding his family hostage, and have threatened to kill them if he doesn't obey their orders. He pulled the stunt so as to be barred from flying, but the spies figure out his plan and force him to betray the Americans. As usual for the series, it ends with Redemption Equals Death.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Sonny sometimes acts like one.
  • Celibate Hero: Neither Buck Danny nor Tumbler has a romantic life. Sonny does, but his tastes in women are hopelessly self-defeating.
    • Tumbler is shown to have a girlfriend though (he keeps a picture of her to prank Sonny).
  • Chew Toy: Sonny.
  • Colonel Badass: Buck Danny, once he makes it as colonel.
  • Comic-Book Time: The characters join the US Air Force in 1941, and as of the 1990s were still young enough to be fighter pilots. The suspension of disbelief is all the harder as the characters get to meet US presidents Kennedy and later Reagan, without having aged in the meantime. The only thing that changes is the characters' ranks (and even then, they won't go higher than Colonel).
  • Coming In Hot: Happens about a dozen times throughout the series.
  • Cross Over: In one episode, the characters meet Tanguy and Laverdure, who are themselves the leading characters of a different series, also written by J-M. Charlier (and where Buck Danny also appears in an episode - the characters reference this).
  • Dark Action Girl: Lady X.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tumbler.
  • Dirty Communists: Those make repeated appearances in the adventures taking place in The Fifties, starting with "Pilotes d'essai". Later on, the series dropped overt ideological references for its villains.
  • Dodge by Braking: A Soviet pilot in a Mig-29 pulls the stunt against both Buck Danny and Sonny Tuckson—twice—in "Les Agresseurs".
  • Don't Explain the Joke: On seeing Sonny show up on deck with five fishing rods, two boxes full of bait and a fisherman's hat, this exchange occurs between Buck and Tumbler:
    Is he going fishing, do you think?
    No, he's going fishing!
    Huh! I could've sworn he was going fishing.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Buck does it once, to escape by jet from a hostile Banana Republic. Sonny does it on two occasions.
  • Eagle Land: Played completely straight.
    • Though as the series progressed, some Type 2s began to show up, like a Klansman pilot from Alabama.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Due to the series' age. The first issue showed Danny's mother and his younger brother, neither of which have been seen since.
  • Ejection Seat: This blog calculates that, by the 51th installment, Buck and Tumbler have ejected ten times each, and Sonny eight times. Including the times they didn't eject, they scrapped a total of 51 planes worth about 480 million dollars.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: While the characters are assigned to a secret base in Alaska, Sonny spots what he thinks is a group of trespassers. When soldiers are sent to arrest them, they turn out to be penguins. Out of spite for being called out on his stupid mistake, Sonny adopts the one they bring back.
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Lady X being a villainess, she uses a cigarette holder.
  • Everything Is Bigger In Texas: Except Sonny. He's always boasting about how he was the champion of such-and-such in various bizarrely-named small towns.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: an enemy pilot in neutral territory challenges Buck to an acrobatics duel: each must copy the preceding set of stunts and add one himself (the pilot had sabotaged Buck's jet so it would crash from the stress). Having figured out the plot, Buck accepts on one condition... that they exchange planes. The pilot, strangely enough, forfeits then and there.
  • Holiday in Cambodia: The Asian countries where the characters go are typically war-torn or, at best, lawless.
  • Hollywood Atlas: Sonny seems to have read it very thoroughly, every new country visited is an occasion for him to display Global Ignorance.
  • Hollywood Mirage: Tumbler has one while stranded in the Arabian desert (though at that point it was bordering on hallucinations caused by thirst). Sonny has a somewhat more realistic one while in an Air Force base in the southwestern US, when he spots what he believes to be a natural lake in the distance, which turns out to be reflected sky.
  • Honey Trap: Sonny always falls for them.
  • Interservice Rivalry: One story memorably has Buck (who's in the Navy) adamantly refuse to let the Air Force's acrobatics team take their place at an air show due to a pilot being unable to fly.
  • Island Base: One of Lady X's bases is inside a volcano on a remote island in the Pacific. There are even smoke generators to fool the odd observer into thinking the volcano is still active. This actually works against them: Buck sees the smoke, and is ordered to get some pictures to send to the seismologists. When he goes closer, he realizes it's a decoy.
  • The Klutz: Sonny is particularly prone to klutzy behavior when off-duty (and even on non-combat duty as well).
  • The Korean War: Depicted in a two-album story arc, "Ciel de Corée" and "Avions sans pilotes".
  • Let X Be the Unknown: Lady X
  • The Load: Sonny would zigzag between this and The Millstone if he weren't a very good fighter pilot. On the ground, however, he causes more trouble than he solves.
  • The Mafia: The Mob turns out to have a massive drug-smuggling operation in South-East Asia.
  • The Mole: A recurring trope. Every third adventure features an infiltrated spy whom the heroes must root out.
  • Mook-Face Turn: While stranded behind the DMZ in North Korea, Buck Danny talks a female soldier into helping him escape and defect to the South.
  • Nice Hat: the captain of the aircraft carrier has one that never leaves his head.
  • No One Could Survive That: Lady X should have died several times over but she always manages to come back in a later adventure.
  • Parachute in a Tree
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Sonny, sometimes inappropriately so.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Several stories have one character on the squadron be blackmailed into giving up information (usually by threatening his family). The truth always comes out in the end, but the pilot never makes it back (and Buck, Tumbler and Sonny never reveal this to the pilot's family).
  • La Résistance: The characters get to fight alongside Chinese partisans against the Japanese.
  • Robotic Reveal: a variation, when Buck discovers that the mysterious Ace Pilot codenamed "Ivan" are actually remote-controlled missiles (this was in the Korean war).
  • Rummage Sale Reject: Sonny's taste in fashion produces some eye-wateringly hideous outfits.
  • The Shangri-La: "Top Secret" and "Mission dans la vallée perdue" take place in a remote Tibetan valley where a rocket scientist is being held prisoner by a Buddhist sect.
  • Schematized Prop: The early albums frequently featured schematics and technical data of the aircraft depicted in the stories.
  • Shown Their Work: The authors started out as pilots for the Belgian company Sabena and made sure to get the technical stuff right.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Happens in "Tigres Volants".
  • Weapon of Mass Destruction: The plot of "Alerte Atomique" involves retrieving a nuke that has accidentally fallen into the hands of Latin American insurgents.
  • Western Terrorists: A coalition of far-left terrorists, the International Federation of Armed Revolutionary Groups, plans to drop a nuke on Cancun during a summit involving world leaders.
  • Wronski Feint: In "Alerte à Cap Kennedy", Sonny evades interceptors from a hostile Banana Republic by diving into a narrow canyon and causing the pursuers to collide with each other.