Take the sky by thunder! (Thu-under!) As You Know
It is so wonderful to plunder! (Plu-under!)
When a village needs a pillage. (Ooh-aaah)
Or my pockets need a fillage. (You know what I'm saying?)
, The Sky Is an Ocean
, so it's only logical that it must have pirates
Following all of the tropes applicable to pirates
except for using aeroplanes (or better yet, airships
, especially cool ones
, or even better: flying boats!
) instead of boats, Sky Pirates (sometimes referred to as "Air Pirates") were fairly popular in the early days of aviation, though they were soon eclipsed by Space Pirates
once aeroplanes became less novel. Nowadays, Sky Pirates are mostly found in the yellowing pages of 1920s and 1930s comics and pulp magazines
, in modern media intended to evoke that era
, and in Steampunk
No Sky Pirate story is truly complete without at least one Airborne Aircraft Carrier
. Huge zeppelins
and giant flying boats are par for the course as well, as are other Magnificent Flying Machines
. The punishment of walking the plank
is especially deadly when it's administered by a sky pirate after a High-Altitude Battle
See also Space Pirate
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Anime & Manga
- Castle in the Sky, of course, has Sky Pirates. They readily kidnap and steal, but actively assist two innocent children.
- Porco Rosso
- Cross Epoch, the official One Piece/Dragon Ball Z crossover one-shot manga, had several sky pirate factions. One led by Vegeta (along with Robin, Trunks, and Usopp), one led by Buggy and Emperor Pilaf (in a ship with an intimidating facade made out of papier mache), and one led by Dr. Gero (only alluded to).
- Elemental Gelade's main character Coud was one at the beginning of the series.
- Last Exile's ship Sylvana is more of a one-ship rebellion than a pirate ship, but it's so cool that it's close enough.
- Galilei Donna involves (fish-themed) airships, so this trope was an inevitability. The main one is named Cicinho, and leads the Black Ganymede Troupe.
- Captain Liliana from Queen's Blade Rebellion.
- In The DCU, the Golden Age Green Lantern had a recurring foe called Sky Pirate who embodied this trope.
- The second Black Condor also fought a foe called Sky Pirate, who was essentially an updated version of the Green Lantern villain.
- The Golden Age Superman also tangled with sky pirates at least once, who used the surprisingly low key method of using fast armed airplanes to force lumbering airliners into landing in a convient field before robbing them on the ground.
- Captain Fate in the Marvel Universe is a Flying Dutchman Space Pirate. He occasionally visits Earth and acts as a Sky Pirate.
- Captain Plunder and his Sky Pirates in Sonic the Comic including the first mate Filch and the cook Simpson the Cat.
- Alexandre LeRoi appears as the main villain of the DC graphic novel Batman: Master of the Future, the sequel to Gotham By Gaslight, as an air pirate who intends to stop Gotham City's 20th Century celebrations, and to keep the looming century's polluting technology from becoming a reality. He keeps a mobile base in a zeppelin-esque airship powered by gas, and controlled by a robot LeRoi calls Antonio.
- The Blackhawks sometimes faced Sky Pirates, and were treated as such themselves, at least early on. In their second story, an English pilot lashes out at Blackhawk: "Why, you're nothing but air pirates and assassins!"
- The villains in the 1984 Marvel/Epic miniseries Crash Ryan.
- Captain Bloodhawke and her crew from The Warlord.
- In Requiem Chevalier Vampire, there's a sky pirate league primarily composed of ghouls.
- A minor Green Arrow foe was Skylark, a sky pirate who operated out of a blimp.
- Seems to be the direction Alex Ross and Dynamite Entertainment are taking the Black Terror within the Project Superpowers universe, complete with a parrot-themed sidekick. Must be that Jolly Roger on his chest...
- In All Star Western #17, Jenny Freedom of the 19th Century Stormwatch clashes with Smokestack Jack; Steam Punk anarchist Mad Scientist based on a Cool Airship.
- In Atomic Robo: The Flying She-Devils of the Pacific, the She-Devils spend much of their time battling sky pirates (and are considered sky pirates themselves by some of their foes).
Films — Animation
- Treasure Planet falls between this and Space Pirates (the look and tropes of the former, the actual technology and planet-to-planet flying of the latter).
- Charles Muntz and his dogs from Up could qualify as this.
- As could the pirates in The Pirate Fairy - aspiring sky pirates, at least.
Films — Live-Action
- Early serials, Buck Rogers in particular.
- Captain Shakespeare of Stardust is a more literal example, captaining a flying boat which is powered by lightning. (However, although they dress and act like pirates, they're never seen attacking other boats — if there are any other flying boats — and seem instead to be smugglers.)
- The Sky Pirates from the Australian movie of the same name.
- The Phantom has Sala and her all-female air pirates.
- The Grimnoir Chronicles has the last piece of a super-weapon protected by Southunder, who preys on Imperium ships in the Pacific ocean from his zeppelin.
- Older Than Radio: Jules Verne's Robur the Conqueror, with his huge mega-helicopter vehicle, is the Ur Example.
- Armageddon 2419 A.D. the book that introduced Anthony "Buck" Rogers to the world.
- Many 1930s pulps, Doc Savage and Operator 5 in particular. (Operator 5 was an early example of the James Bond-style super agent, complete with 1930s era high-tech gadgets.) Doc Savage twice faced Submarine Pirates as well.
- Tom Swift and a whole host of copycat Boy Inventor heroes.
- Prominently featured in The Edge Chronicles - in six out of the ten books in the series, the protagonist is either a sky pirate, a former sky pirate, or a future sky pirate, and of the four short stories in the series, two of the protagonists are sky pirates.
- Airborn by Kenneth Oppel
- The Doctor Who New Adventures novel Sky Pirates! blurred the line between this trope and Space Pirates.
- The Syndicate of Pirates, who use flying machines (not yet invented at the time of writing) and secret rays to terrorise the adventurers of the Klondike Gold Rush at Alaska in George Griffith's The Great Pirate Syndicate (1899).
- Captain Mors, the "Air Pirate", from Der Luftpirat und sein Lenkbares Luftschiff (The Air Pirate and His Steerable Airship); a German dime novel with 165 issues from 1908-1911. Captain Mors is mentioned (by never actual appears) in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic.
- Karl Schroeder's Virga novels are focused on justifying this in a relatively Hard Science Fiction setting.
- The sky pirates in the John Carter of Mars novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- Sky Pirates of Callisto is the sixth novel of Lin Carter's Callisto series, and a homage to Burroughs.
- In the Steam Punk novel Boneshaker by Cherie Priest the theft of an airship (itself recently stolen from the Confederate military) leads to a midair battle between two pirate gangs. Several other books in the Clockwork Century also feature them as protagonists or antagonists.
- Stephen Hunt's The Court of the Air features airships as the main fighting force of one nation, the sole power with access to the Unobtainium necessary to keep them afloat. Better yet, the eponymous Court of the Air is a secret, ultra-elite, Badass organization of magic-wielding One-Man Army types. And their base is a floating fortress that is not only higher into the atmosphere than any airships other than their own can reach, but remains anchored there permanently.
- Inevitably, sky pirates were among the foes fought by Biggles, though lacking the Airborne Aircraft Carriers or Cool Airships. The plots featuring them usually played out more like an armoured car heist, with either mechanical sabotage or some unemployed war veteran in a surplus fighter forcing an aircraft carrying bullion or other valuables to land, with a gang on the ground waiting to loot it. Gangs pulling off an Armed Blag on land and then using aircraft as getaway vehicles might also fall under this trope, however.
- The Alistair Maclean novel Fear Is The Key begins with an aircraft being shot down by a war-surplus fighter plane, in order for The Mafia to get their hands on the precious cargo inside. Unfortunately the plane crashes in an unusually deep marine trench, setting off the events of the main story.
- Mack Maloney's Wingman series, being a modern take on pulp fiction, features sky pirates in the Divided States of America. Since this setting doesn't involve the common conventions of Cool Airships or similar "flying towns" to attack, their activities mainly consist of forcing planes to land for robbery or engaging in air strikes on settlements.
- Abney Park's "Airship Pirates" pretty much embodies this trope.
- The entire band embodies this trope, as their main theme involves them being a band of drunken rogue pirates operating off the airship Ophelia. Although, if the lyrics of Airship Pirates and Post-Apocalypse Punk are anything to go by, they're not particularly good at it.
- This image is further reinforced by the title track from their 2009 album AEther Shanties, which describes the ship as being about one good breeze from collapsing under its own weight, with a crew that's planning mutinies when they're not fighting each other.
- Alestorm are generally Nautical pirate themed, but a few of their songs have an element of Sky Pirates.
"We are Heavy Metal Pirates
We sail across the sky!
In our battleships of Cosmic Steal
With a terror up on high!"
- Buck Rogers, of course. Interesting in that he started out fighting Sky Pirates and ended up fighting Space Pirates, all in the space of about 10 years.
- Sala and her Amazon Brigade Sky Band in The Phantom.
- In Little Nemo in Slumberland the Princess' royal airship is attacked by sky pirates in one issue.
- Barney Baxter In The Air was an aviation strip that ran from 1935 to 1950. Sky pirates were amongst the foes battled by the youthful hero.
- Troll pirates from Earthdawn.
- Crimson Skies, later made into several video games. In an Alternate History setting where the United States of America broke up early in the 30's, and no interstate road or rail network, freight is instead delivered by air cargo services operating massive cargo zeppelins; these are in turn preyed upon by air pirates.
- Indie game Swashbucklers Of The 7 Skies.
- Sky pirates operate out of the Rocky Mountains in Deadlands: Hell on Earth.
- Abney Park recently came out with a Tabletop RPG called Airship Pirates.
- Captain Gyrfalcon from Exalted, who — mainly out of greed and an old grudge — harasses the airships of the Haslanti League, who are the only significant power with a meaningful air force in the entire North. He dresses like a classic pirate, and sports a sidearm (which is actually a small flamethrower, not a gun, but whatever).
- All over the place in Castle Falkenstein. They're most numerous in America, where most of them were Confederate Army airship crews who went rogue after the war.
- Girl Genius with its airship traffic has these. Bangladesh Dupree, for one, was a pirate queen and retains her old style while employed by Klaus.
- One of the radio plays featured Bang's brother and fellow sky pirate Deathwish Dupree, of whom she is heartily ashamed.
- Klaus himself, despite being the closest thing to a unified government, has elements of this due to his might-makes-right sort of rule-at-death-ray-point (with a strong admixture of "don't make me come over there"). "Castle Wulfenbach" is really an enormous airship, which turns out to be convenient because they keep making him come over there.
- Circumstances of the Revenant Braves
- In the Insecticomics Laserbeak and whatever crew she happens to have along at the time are part-time sky pirates. However, this mostly consists of dressing up, hunting treasure, and yelling "arr!" at people.
- The Order of the Stick has Julio Scoundrel, who owns a large Airship, the Mechane, and "admits to nothing, but has it on good authority that there are several attractive young heiresses that are quite shamefully lax in securing their most valuable jewelry."
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja, the Sky Pirates of the O'Houlihan Clan are the ancestral enemies of the McNinja Clan (Y'know, Pirates Vs. Ninja and all that.)
- In The Dreamland Chronicles the pirates from the Nightmare Realm get around in a flying wooden ship.
- Mob Ties has a storyline that starts out with Sky Pirates. Just...look.
- Sky Pirates of Valendor: The name says it all.
- Power Strike II for the Sega Master System has pirates menacing Italian skies in the early 1930s, a premise suspiciously similar to Porco Rosso.
- Chairman Jack: Emerge begins with the protagonist helping the locals to defeat some sky pirates operating out of an airship. Since the world is some land suspended in an endless void, it's not like there can be any sea pirates.
- Sky pirates are confirmed to be in future chapters of Cloudscratcher.
- In April 1917, in the midst of World War One, the Imperial German Zeppelin L23 that was on sea patrol came across an honest-to-goodness wooden sailing ship that was transporting a non-war related cargo. It was the Norwegian schooner Royal, and was a holdover from a different era of shipping. The Captain of the Zeppelin then gave an order said to be unique in aircraft history: "Gentlemen, prepare to board our prize!" Unfortunately, as the boat from the Zeppelin was being lowered, the rough seas caused them to lose their machine gun overboard. So instead, the Zeppelin crew bluffed the schooner into submission with a flare gun. They sailed the schooner all the way back to Germany! These boardings weren't all that unusual, either: Zeppelins sometimes boarded sea vessels to check their papers and cargo holds, but this was the only time they actually pirated a vessel.
- Privateer vessels are essentially private vessels given permission by their government to pirate vessels of other nations, or even conduct naval combat and raids on foreign military vessels. Although extremely obscure, the U.S. Constitution provides for the issuing of Letters of Marque — documents permitting piracy — by Congress. Congress exercised this power during the War of 1812, and while it never actually received a Letter of Marque, operating instead like an armed merchant vessel, the last U.S. vessel to operate as a privateer was the Goodyear blimp named Resolute, which engaged in anti-submarine patrols in 1941 and 1942, armed only with a rifle.
- A group of British RAF veterans and supply workers managed to heist Berlin and various other German cities after the Second World War using Allied Transport planes, including one of the B-29 bombers stationed in Britain with all weapons and bomb-racks removed. Their mode of operation was to fly without any cargo but with counterfeit US army scrips, and buy/rob jewelry and firearms from Germans. Sometimes they would pretend to smuggle Nazi officers out of Germany but hand them over to genuine Allied officers to escape punishment. The whole operation started in 1945 and extended throughout the Berlin airlift.