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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 first stories were written in 1947 and disregarding several hiatus in the 1980's and 90's new albums have been forthcoming ever since. The current count is 58 albums published over 84 years plus 8 more albums of a spin-off series. Another remarkable fact of the series is that it survived the death of the original draughtsman as well as of the original scenarist. Currently the series is written by Frédéric Zumbiehl and drawn by Gil formosa, the third writer and fifth draughtsman so far.

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.

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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 this they are somehow transfered to the U.S.Navy where they continue to serve ever since and continue to have adventures against the backdrop of the problems of that time: the cold war, the space race, international terrorism and drug running, the fall of the Soviet Union and lately the wars in Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan,

The series is notable for its realistic depiction of aircraft, even as the stories themselves are pure fiction. although for a comic it features very little actual violence, it is definitely dark and violent in tone and several supporting characters die pretty violent deaths.

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As was standard at the Franco-Belgian comic industry the stories were first published at a rate of one page a week in the parent company's weekly magazine. (In buck Danny's case, they were published in [[Magazine/Spirou Spirou/Robbedoes]] by the publishing house Dupuis). After the series had run its course, the story was published as softcover album and later possibly bundled with several other albums in a hardcover anthology. As the standard for an album was 40 pages in one year, stories that ran longer were split into several albums forming one story arch. 12 stories are spread out over 2 albums each, 4 more over three.


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.
  • Action Girl:
    • Susan Holmes from the World War Two story arcs is every inch as resourceful, intrepid and capable of ruining the bad guys' plans as any of the main trio.
    • Muriel Hawthorne from the "oil gangsters" story arc is even more of one, being a trained MI-5 agent who's a crack shot with a handgun.
    • Lady X is probably the series' ur-example, though more in the Dark Action Girl vein: one of the greatest pilots in the world, as well as a world class spy-for-hire and criminal mastermind.
    • Cindy McPherson. As discussed below, her stories often veer her into Faux Action Girl territory, but she's still an F-18 pilot.
  • An Aesop:
    • In "Le Pilote au masque de cuir". Racism is bad, mmkay?
    • Followed by "drugs are bad, mmkay?" in the next story arc.
  • 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.
  • Art Evolution: The first few books are drawn in a far less detailed style, especially for the characters.
  • Banana Republic:
    • "Alerte Atomique" and "L'escadrille de la mort" take place in the fictional Central American country of Mantegua, where insurgents and government forces are engaged in a civil war.
    • In "Alerte à Cap Kennedy", the villains are from the fictional Caribbean country of Inagua, a dictatorship ruled by a crazed nationalist.
    • "Mission Apocalypse" takes them to the fictional Central American country of Managua, a fragile democracy whose senior officers are plotting to overthrow their leader. When we revisit it again a decade later in "Zone Interdite" and "Tonnerre Sur La Cordillère," those senior officers are now running the country, and fighting a war against a guerrilla movement, while The Cartel is playing both sides.
  • Bedouin Rescue Service: Occurs during their adventures as civilians in the Middle East.
  • Been There, Shaped History: Occasionally;
    • Buck and his comrades are responsible for bringing the plans for the upcoming offensive into Burma to the Allied forces in China.
    • Fifty years later, they also strike the first blow against the Serbian forces surrounding Sarajevo (albeit as part of an unofficial force).
    • More commonly, Danny would simply be a participant in real world events, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor or the Battle of Midway.
  • 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.
  • Boring, but Practical: after losing two F-14s and their nuclear payload to a terrorist group and determining that it's hiding out somewhere in the Caribbean, Buck and Sonny request time off to go search for them. Their method? Renting a seaplane and methodically going over every Caribbean island big enough to be hiding F-14 fighters. It takes them a week to locate them on a key in the Exuma islands.
  • 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.
    • Also the standard weapons of the Ruthless Modern Pirates from the Borneo/opium story arc. Most of their arsenal is made up of weapons abandoned by the Japanese during World War Two. They remain very adequate for the pirates' needs, as proven when a submarine surfaces and hijacks a civilian cargo ship.
    • In "The Pact," Danny and Tuckson need to intercept terrorist aircraft headed for the United States, regular channels have been compromised, and the nearest military base is the Boneyard in Arizonanote . They talk the base commander into lending them a couple of aircraft, but the only ones available are a Phantom (a Vietnam War era fighter) and a Warthog (still in service, but first introduced in the 1970s). This turns into a moment of awesome when the Phantom is nevertheless able to bring down an F-35, the most modern fighter jet in the U.S. arsenal.
  • Butt-Monkey: Sonny. Expect him to fail spectacularly whenever he brags about his abilities, either because he was obviously exaggerating by a large margin or due to some perfectly timed stroke of bad luck.
  • 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.
  • Call-Back: The villains in the "Specter" story arc are Japanese nationalists aligned with the Kokuryu-Kai, a.k.a. the Black Dragon Society. This is the same Black Dragon Society that featured prominently as antagonists in the original World War Two era comics (where they effectively functioned as an arm of Japanese intelligence), making this their first appearance in sixty years.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Sonny sometimes acts like one.
  • Celibate Hero:
    • Averted with Tumbler, though it never has much impact on the plot (he's shown to have a girlfriend at one point, but only because he uses a picture of her as part of a prank on Sonny).
    • Averted hard with Sonny, but his tastes in women are hopelessly self-defeating.
    • Played straight with Buck for almost the entire series, other than some Foe Romance Subtext between him and Lady X. However, the Vostok story arc finally sees him develop an interest in a woman, Russian scientist Natalya Shemyova. Too bad she's soon revealed to be a traitor, though she does eventually turn on her employers.
  • Chew Toy: Sonny.
  • Chromosome Casting: Enforced for most of the series, but averted in the earlier and later novels. The first few books will feature at least one female protagonist (an intrepid nurse, an MI-5 agent, an Arabian princess), who like her male counterparts is allowed to move the plot forward and given her share of moments of awesome. Beginning in the mid-fifties, however, such characters largely disappear from the series: for the next forty years, the only significant female character is Lady X, the Arch-Enemy. The nineties finally began to reverse this, with Cindy McPherson, a female F-18 pilot who sometimes accompanies the heroes.
  • Colonel Badass: Buck Danny, once he makes it as colonel.
  • Cool Plane: Comes with the premise. Since the comics have been in print since the late 1940s, the heroes have cycled through generation after generation of Cool Planes, from World War Two era Mustangs to modern-day F-22s and F-35s. Very occasionally, the plane will be fictional, but the vast majority are real.
  • Comic-Book Time: The characters join the US Air Force in 1941, and as of the 2020s 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.
  • Continuity Snarl: Mostly averted: for most of the series, each book takes place in the present day, though the characters never age due to Comic-Book Time. Starting in the 2010s, Zumbiehl introduced a "Buck Danny Classic" serial whose adventures took place in the early Cold War years. Its relationship with previous books is left vague - the Korean War duology, for example, brings back a character not seen since the original World War Two stories, but also offers a different story of how Buck, Tumb, and Sonny were sent to Korea.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: one of the more common types of villains. Oil barons trying to take over the postwar market, aircraft constructors trying to cheat the government or eliminate their competition, shady business cartels propping up third world dictators, arms dealers playing both sides of a war.
  • Crossover:
    • 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).
    • In the same episode, they also meet Dan Cooper, the main character of a similar series that ran in the rival newspaper "Tintin."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Sonny has shades of this. One minute he's acting as The Ditz or even The Load, the next he's single-handedly stopping the bad guys plans all by himself. In fact, a good indicator of how Sonny is going to shine during a story is how much he screws up at the beginning: if he embarrasses himself in front of the entire crew of the carrier, accidentally punches the admiral out, or falls for a Honey Trap, chances are he will have achieved some impressive feat by the end.
  • Dark Action Girl: Lady X.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tumbler.
  • Declining Promotion: Averted. None of the three main characters are ever seen to refuse a promotion, and they receive several of them in the comic's first couple of decades. After a while, they simply stop being offered, because being promoted would mean they'd no longer be able to serve as fighter pilots. In-universe, no explanation has ever been given, and it's become a running joke that after this or that mission, maybe Buck will finally be able to get that generalship.
  • Dirty Communists: Those make repeated appearances in the adventures taking place in The '50s, 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". Truth in Television, as Pugachev's Cobra is an actual maneuver made famous by Russian fighter pilots.
  • 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.
  • Double Agent: a spectacularly successful version with Jerry Tumbler in the World War Two stories. First he helps to identify the Japanese agent among the Flying Tigers by pretending to be a disgruntled pilot ripe for recruitment. Then, he starts feeding him false information, until the mole introduces him to the entire local Japanese network. Then, he replaces the mole altogether (after his arrest), and spends the rest of the story arc misleading his Japanese spymasters while picking up as much information as he can from them for the Allies. The Japanese are duped almost to the very end.
  • 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.
    • The very first pages of the series also had them narrated by Buck. This is dropped rather quickly.
  • 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. One of the few unrealistic aspect of the series, which is usually very well documented, is that ejection is never considered as dangerous in itself, and absolutely no one suffers any bad effect from one (except when they can't parachute to safety).
  • The Empire: the Empire of Japan in the World War Two era stories is this all the way. Militant and expansionist, brutally repressive towards the occupied Chinese population, and violating every aspect of the Geneva Convention as a matter of course. They're the Obviously Evil variety of empire pretty much all the time, but occasionally cross over into pure Kick the Dog territory with no possible justification, most notably when a Japanese commander pretends to allow an aircraft to evacuate a large number of children from the city he's besieging, but really intends to shoot it down. (Not because he believed it was a trick; he's proud to say that he thinks that much more "little Chinese" among the dead is a good thing).
  • Empty Quiver: Twice. The first time, the nuke is lost in Central America and a rebel general finds it and plans to use it. The second time, it's actually stolen by a terrorist movement.
  • Enemy Mine: It takes fifty years, but the heroes finally team up with Lady X in the "Vostok" story arc to prevent her former employers from risking the extinction of the human race.
  • Evil Pays Better: Lady X, the heroes' rival and an international mercenary spy, is a former USAF test pilot who defected after seeing there is way more profit to be made by breaking the law.
  • 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.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: Except Sonny. He's always boasting about how he was the champion of such-and-such in various bizarrely-named small towns.
  • Explosive Cigar: Happened as a Chekhov's Gun in a story where Sonny gave Buck one of these before a mission, which Buck decided to smoke once the mission was over. He ended up being captured, and the bad guy guarding him decided to steal his cigar and smoke it in front of him. The explosion gave Buck the distraction needed to overpower him.
  • Faux Action Girl: She may be one of the United States Navy's first fighter pilots and quite talented in the role, but Cindy McPherson in the more recent stories spends more time being captured, blackmailed, and otherwise in need of rescue than in her plane.
  • Fictional Country: one of the most common settings in the comic.
    • After two volumes set in the Korean War, the authors were warned that their series would be banned in France (not their country, but still their biggest market) if it didn't stop referencing contemporary "political" issues. As a result, inventing entire countries to get around this restriction became commonplace. As of now, we've had three Banana Republics (Mantegua, Inagua, and Managua), two Quracs (Basran, the Oulai sheikdom), and two Wutais (Vien Tan and North Sarawak).
    • Played with in "Mission Vers La Vallée Perdue." The adventure takes place in Tibet, which is a real location, and its portrayal as ruled by a Buddhist sect whose spiritual leader, the Dalai-Lama, is chosen as a child and has older clerics rule in his name until he comes of age, is broadly accurate. However, the book was released in 1966, by which point Tibet had long since been conquered by the Chinese and its Buddhist rulers overthrown.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Danny, Tumbler and Tuckson, in that they all met while serving together in World War Two, but especially Danny and Tumbler. Tumb, a veteran of the Flying Tigers, initially resented the fact that Danny, who'd just transferred from the Navy, was promoted to command of a squadron he wanted for himself. This fades when Danny nearly dies rescuing him from Japanese troops after a crash in the jungle.
  • Friendly Enemy: occasionally. The most memorable one is Soviet Air Force officer and Fake Defector Colonel Ouchinsky, as mentally acknowledged by Buck after shooting him down.
  • Foil: Slim Holden was introduced to be this towards the heroes. While Buck is The Paragon and Tumb and Sonny mostly follow his lead, Slim is impulsive, hotheaded, disgruntled at having been passed over for promotion, often insurbordinate, racist against blacks, and implied to be a heavy drinker. He's still largely one of the good guys, but his character flaws frequently have him butting heads with the main heroes, providing much of the drama in several adventures.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode: Most of Buck Danny's adventures involve him being on a mission for the U.S. Navy or Air Force. The exception is the "oil gangsters" story arc, where he, Tumb, and Sonny, demobilized at the end of World War Two, accept a job as cargo pilots in the Middle East and find themselves caught up in a story of crime and conspiracy involving arms dealing, drug trafficking, oil politics, and palace plots. (The next story arc returns them to military service).
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Lady X being a villainess, she uses a cigarette holder.
  • Gratuitous English: frequently. Amusingly, the expressions used are often British rather than American (i.e. any expression including the word "bloody"), British English being what most Europeans have had the most exposure to.
    • In an interesting variation, the characters also use the Imperial System in all of their conversations (even when not on a plane), with a footnote providing the conversion to metric.
  • Grand Theft Prototype: Mostly averted or downplayed. The foreign spies the heroes are up against usually aren't trying to steal the prototypes themselves, which would be very difficult, but rather to obtain information about them so that they can duplicate their technology or prepare countermeasures against them. In a pinch, destroying a prototype is also an option, and at least in one case, discrediting its inventor in the hope that this will make him ripe for recruitment by the other side. It does occur a couple times, though:
    • In the aptly-named "Un Prototype A Disparu," Lady X's espionage organization successfully steals the prototype of a new U.S. Navy fighter that can take off and land vertically. The heroes aren't able to get it back, but they do destroy it.
    • A rare heroic example in the "Specter" story arc: the heroes must steal the titular prototypes from their secret island base in Japan, in order to prove that these aircraft are responsible for inflaming tensions between the U.S. and Chinese navies.
  • Hammer and Sickle Removed for Your Protection: Enforced for most of the Cold War era. Several of the story arcs are transparently lifted from real life events such as The Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, or the civil wars in various Central American nations. However, the stories are set in fictional countries, the villains' ideologies are either unnamed or nonexistent, and faceless Nebulous Evil Organizations are invented to replace their Soviet backers.
  • Heroes Fight Barehanded: an aerial version of this in "Zone Interdite." Buck, with Tumb and Sonny onboard, is escaping an enemy airbase in a Cessna with no weapons, while pursued by a fully armed MiG-23. Buck manages to draw it in by flying close to the ground in a mountainous region, avoiding both of its missiles and then its cannon, until, while trying to line up the much slower Cessna, the MiG pilot falls below the minimum required airspeed and crashes into a canyon wall.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: the three main characters. Originally, they serve together in the Pacific, then are de-mobilized at the end of the war and go their separate ways. However, faced with the same problems (a lack of civilian skills in an unfriendly job market) while living in the same city, they eventually move back together and never leave each other again, first accepting a job with a new airline company and eventually going back to the Air Force together.
  • Hired Guns:
    • Very common villains, especially mooks. Lady X is the most memorable version, a spy and pilot who will work for anybody if the price is right. Even without her, however, the villains' air forces are usually manned by mercenaries. The Private Military Contractors type is the most common, but Former Regime Personnel will also appear from time to time, including several Imperial Japanese veterans and two pilots from the former Shah of Iran's air force. At times, the heroes will also pose as hired guns when infiltrating a villain's organization.
    • The heroes also become this in the "Return of the Flying Tigers" story arc, where they're officially retired from the U.S. Navy and volunteer to fly in the air force of the U.S.-aligned king of Vien Tan, who's facing a revolution supported by mercenary pilots flying modern war planes. The entire thing is an under-the-table agreement between the U.S. government and its Vietnannese allies. However, as far as international law's concerned, the heroes are now mercenaries with the same status as their enemies.
  • 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.
  • Honor Before Reason: Sonny has an advanced degree in this, especially when it's a matter of backing a buddy up even if it means violating orders and even if the situation he's heading into is obviously a trap. (Danny and Tumbler can go to extraordinary lengths for a friend too, and will also disobey orders as a last resort. They just don't let the "honor" override the "reason").
  • 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.
  • Joker Immunity: Lady X has gone up against the heroes ten times at last count, and frequently ends up losing in ways that would clearly have killed off any normal person. As the arch-villain of the series, however, it's more or less guaranteed that she'll always return.
  • 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".
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Buck's chin is the squarest appearing in the comic. Tumbler's is less pronounced, but still here.
  • Let X Be the Unknown: Lady X
  • Living Legend: Buck. There are many examples, but probably the best one comes towards the beginning of "Tonnerre Sur La Cordillère." Buck is fleeing for his life on a stolen F-18, with enemy fighters in hot pursuit. He has no way of positively identifying himself for his aircraft carrier, and the officers on the bridge are hesitant to intervene in a fight between foreign fighters without confirmation that one of their own is involved. This lasts until Buck is seen evading the first enemy volley, at which point the admiral comments "do you know a lot of pilots who can evade two Sidewinder missiles in a row? That's Buck!" and orders his fighters into combat.
  • 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.
    • ... most of the time. However, there were a couple of times when he was shot down, presumed dead, and instead managed to not only hold his own but obtain information about the enemy that turns out to be crucial to defeating them. Sonny may be accident-prone and socially awkward in civilian life, but in a war zone, he's still someone you want at your side.
  • 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. This allows the writers to run through various permutations of the trope: some of the moles are driven by greed, some by ideology, and some are being coerced. And then there's Tumb in the original World War Two stories, who pretends to be this but is in fact a Double Agent feeding false information to the Japanese.
  • 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.
  • Nebulous Criminal Conspiracy: The Circle sits at the center of one. They've formed alliances with Japanese ultranationalists, environmentalist radicals, and corrupt members of several governments, not to mention Lady X's mercenary organization. They'll work with anyone if there's a profit in it.
  • Nebulous Evil Organization:
    • A few appear in the 1950s and 1960s stories as Mysterious Backers for the main villains. However, they're always in the background and we never learn anything about them, or follow up on them in later stories. They serve largely as plot devices meant to explain how the enemy dictator or warlord of the story was able to obtain modern fighter jets or other advanced technology and qualified personnel, since the French comics code's ban on excessively "political" material prevented the writers from identifying the Soviet Union as a supplier.
    • Zumbiehl's "Specter" and "Vostok" story arcs give us the Circle, a shadowy organization made up of a number of wealthy and influential people who cause and profit from major crises such as wars or pandemics. While two of their major plots have been undone, the organization itself remains at large and its leaders unknown.
  • Nice Hat: the captain of the aircraft carrier has one that never leaves his head.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Largely averted. Most of the leaders shown are either real people (several U.S. Presidents and, in the early stories, a few admirals and generals), or entirely fictional and not inspired by any real person (villainous dictators or insurgents, Danny's various commanding officers). A very rare exception is Professor Von Brantz, a German professor who's the world's leading rocket scientist and that the heroes are charged with saving and bringing to the U.S. in the hopes of helping its space program (in other words, a transparent expy of Werner Von Braun).
    • Occasionally invoked for aircraft, of all things. During one of their phases as test pilots, the heroes are meant to be testing out two prototypes to determine which one the Navy will buy in bulk. While the aircraft are referred to as the fictional "X-12" and "X-13" and given fictional attributes, no effort is made by the artist to make them look like anything but an F-4 Phantom and an A-5 Vigilante, respectively.
  • No One Could Survive That!:
    • Lady X should have died several times over but she always manages to come back in a later adventure.
    • It's been known to happen to Buck, Tumb, or Sonny as well, who at various times are assumed to be dead only to turn out to have improbably survived.
  • Offscreen Villain Dark Matter: offscreen for twenty years or so, at least. When we first meet Lady X, she's running a highly proficient private intelligence agency, but after seeing her defeated again and again, it's hard not to wonder why anyone still hires her and how she continues to fund herself. "Ghost Queen" finally reveals that she's the right-hand person of the most powerful pirate lord in the South China Seas, who's as powerful as he is in large part thanks to Lady X's wartime connections in the Imperial Japanese Navy and all the weapons, money, and intelligence she was able to gain access to at the end of the war.
  • Overly Long Name: The (supposedly Portuguese) Jacinto Gomez y Sereno y Bolivar y Talacayud. Naturally, Sonny can't remember any of them.
  • Parachute in a Tree
  • Plausible Deniability: Buck, Tumb, and Sonny are regularly assigned to work undercover in positions where they will be disavowed by Washington if they're caught.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: Sonny, sometimes inappropriately so.
  • Polar Bears and Penguins: (see Everything is better with Penguins above) 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... in Alaska.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Lady X has worked for absolutely anybody that was willing to pay her, including foreign powers, the Mafia, drug cartels, nefarious business conglomerates, and various terrorists and dictators. However, even she turns on her employers in the Circle when they plan to release a virus in order to profit from selling the cure, despite the fact that the virus is extremely lethal, poorly understood, quickly mutating, and likely to kill most or all of the planet's population before it can be effectively countered.
  • Qurac:
    • The Oulai sheikdom from the "oil gangsters" story arc is as close to an Arabian Nights version as possible, a traditional society run by a hereditary ruler who refuses to allow its oil resources to be developed for fear of foreign companies turning his country into the Middle Eastern version of a Banana Republic.
    • Basran from "Cobra Noir" is a type 3. Largely based on Iran, it's an islamist regime closely allied with and supplied by the Russians. It also regularly clashes with the U.S, which allows the Russians to test their own technology against its American counterparts without getting directly involved.
  • 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.
  • Ripped from the Headlines:
    • Particularly common in the early stories (where the adventures were set during World War Two, Arab oil conflicts, the Korean War) and in later ones (the Yugoslav wars, Central American drug wars, the war in Afghanistan). In between the two, the authors took a long hiatus from real-life conflicts, including the Cold War itself, to avoid being censored. On a less political note, however, the stories always followed the evolution of real life aerospace technology very closely, such as the development of jet technology, the early space program, the SR-71, stealth technology, etc.
    • Averted in the "Vostok" storyline. The story revolves around a plot to release the most deadly virus since the Spanish Flu into the world. The first novel in the story arc was actually published in 2018, two years before the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, the latter instantly made it Harsher in Hindsight.
  • 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).
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Princess Myriam El-Maahdi of the Oulai tribe. She's not an Action Girl, but she participates in her father's council meetings planning the defense of the sheikdom, and proves to have hidden depths as a mechanic when she helps Buck, Tumb, and Sonny to get an abandoned British airfield and its fighters up and running again.
  • 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.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: All three main characters, especially Buck, for whom attempted bribery is something of a Berserk Button.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The common trait running through most of the villains. Whether they're traitors, gangsters, mercenaries, or unscrupulous businessmen, they're people who assume that either their wealth, or the pursuit of said wealth, places them above common morality, legality, or loyalty.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Buck, Tumb, and most of all, Sonny, though they're not the only ones.
    • Discussed in one of the early story arcs, in which Buck is called as a character witness at the court-martial of a pilot who disobeyed orders to answer a distress call from a downed plane (which he failed to save, losing much of his crew in the process). Buck admits to the court that in the past, he's done similar things as a last resort: the only reason he never ended up court-martialed is that he was lucky enough to have it work out.
    • Deconstructed in the Vien Tan story arc. With two of their pilots about to be executed by enemy rebels, and an apparently foolproof plan to save them suggested by a sympathizer in the enemy fortress, most of Buck's pilots are fully prepared to mutiny if Danny doesn't approve the plan. It turns out that the sympathizer was The Mole and the entire execution was bait meant to provoke exactly this response.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: With a side order of Dug Too Deep: a Russian scientific team in Antarctica eventually digs so deep that it uncovers a virus that's been frozen and buried for hundreds of millions of years, and is more virulent than any in recorded history. Not surprisingly, nefarious parties are soon at work trying to weaponize the virus for their own purposes.
  • Shown Their Work: The authors started out as pilots for the Belgian company Sabena and made sure to get the technical stuff right.
  • The Syndicate: in many, many flavors (the authors often used apolitical villains to avoid irritating French censors). Lady X is introduced running one, a private intelligence organization that will spy on anyone for anyone. A few Nebulous Evil Organizations appear in the Cold War years, though usually in the background as the silent partners of the story's main villains. Later, more grounded versions would appear, including The Mafia (running a massive opium plantation in Borneo), The Cartel (supporting guerrillas, corrupting governments, and plotting takeovers in Central America), and Ruthless Modern Pirates in the South China Seas (with an element of The Remnant, as these pirates have absorbed a massive arsenal of abandoned Imperial Japanese weapons as well as taking in some of their surviving war criminals).
  • Technology Marches On: An early album had the enemy's near-scifi secret weapon revealed to be... a heat-seeking missile.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: "The Pact" forces Danny, Tumbler, and Tuckson to work with Lady X after she turns on her employers in the Circle. Making matters worse is that she and Danny are flying the same plane together and constantly contesting each other's judgment.
  • Those Wacky Nazis:
    • Completely averted. Danny encounters a one-off villain who's a former U-boat commander trying to recover the Nazi Gold he was entrusted with at the end of the war: however, he displays none of the cliches associated with this trope (other than a monocle) and his ideology and past service to Hitler are never brought up. If anything, Danny is more offended by the fact that he's gone rogue and is trying to recover the gold for himself: "it's not your gold, it's your country's. They trusted you with it."
    • Generally speaking, the series prefers to use the Imperial Japanese in roles where most similar franchises would use Nazis. Not only are they the antagonists of the World War Two era stories, but escaped Japanese war criminals appear periodically in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, often working in major criminal organizations or otherwise as The Dragon for the villain of the story. And when the "Specter" story arc finally gives us a story of extreme-right World War Two revanchists looking to restore fascism to their country, those revanchists are Japanese.
  • Token Good Teammate: a couple of times.
    • Ronny, a pilot cashiered from the U.S. Navy despite Danny's support, who falls in with a group of mercenaries who hijacked a gold shipment traveling over the Arctic. His friendship with Danny leads him to provide information that allows his teammates to be taken down.
    • Juan, a member of the International Federation of Armed Revolutionary Groups. While his IFARG comrades hatch a plan to steal two nuclear weapons and use them on an upcoming summit in Cancun, he is outraged by the thought of all "the Indians, the poor," and the other innocents who will be murdered along with their targets. It's partly thanks to him that Buck and Sonny unravel the plot.
    • Natalya Shemyova, an environmentalist radical who works with the Circle to release a deadly virus in order to remake the world order. She finally bails on them when they plan to release the virus despite evidence that it's far more dangerous than they'd at first thought and that they haven't found a reliable cure for it yet.
  • Trapped Behind Enemy Lines: Happens in "Tigres Volants".
    • And, more briefly, to Sonny in the Vien Tan story arc, and to Buck in the Mantegua story arc, and to Tumbler in the Serbia story arc... Occupational hazard with those three.
  • Tropical Island Adventure: The trio have adventures in the Caribbean, Oceania and Southeast Asia.
  • Villain Decay: well, yeah. Lady X has faced off against the protagonists eight times to date, and has yet to win a single round.
  • War for Fun and Profit: A few times.
    • In "Alerte A Cap Kennedy", the villain is a Caribbean dictator trying to provoke a war between the United States and the Soviet Union, in the hopes of freeing South America from both Russian and American imperialism (and leaving it free for him to take over).
    • In the "Specter" story arc, the villains are Japanese nationalist radicals using the titular stealth aircraft to incite a war between the United States and China, removing the two greatest powers in the Pacific from the equation and paving the way for the rise of a newly rearmed Japan.
    • One of the villains of the Mantegua story arc, Guenther, is an arms dealer in a neighboring country who sells weapons to both rebel and government forces. Danny, Tumbler, and Tuckson pose as disaffected mercenary pilots to find employment in his organization, and then in the rebel ranks they're trying to infiltrate.
    • Inverted in the "Nuclear Alert" story arc. The nuclear weapons stolen by the IFARG terrorists are not meant to incite a larger war - they're just an extremely crude murder weapon, meant to wipe out all the major Western leaders at the Cancun conference no matter how well protected and isolated they are. However, Juan, the Only Sane Man in the movement, points out that they risk invoking this trope by accident: if the Americans mistake the bomb for a Soviet attack, their retaliation will start World War Three and, in all likelihood, the end of the human race. Unfortunately, nobody listens.
  • We Are Everywhere:
    • The Black Dragon Society in World War Two successfully recruits multiple moles in the Flying Tigers base (though this turns against them when the Tigers begin to identify them and feed them false information), and is shown to have members throughout China and Indochina. Justified by the fact that it's shown in this case as a society encouraging a pan-Asian anti-colonialism rather than purely Japanese nationalism.
    • The crisis in the "Vostok" story arc alerts the American, French, and Russian navies alike; the Circle turns out to have moles in all three. It's bad enough that the heroes end up doing much of the work to prevent their final terrorist attack alone, rather than risk alerting them by operating through channels.
    • Deconstructed in the "Oil Gangsters" story arc early in the series. The villains are an oil company bent on overthrowing the ruler of the Oulai Sheikhdom and replacing him with someone who'll open its oil reserves to them. As such, they're wealthy and powerful enough to corrupt multiple highly placed people. This bites them in the ass, however, when the two highest ranking people they've corrupted discover that they've each been promised the Sheikh's throne. This quickly degenerates into a battle between their armies that leaves them both dead.
  • 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.
  • Wutai:
    • Vien Tan. An undeveloped but resource-rich nation in Southeast Asia, ruled by a U.S. friendly king, whose nephew starts a revolution against him with the backing of nefarious foreigners.
    • North Sarawak. An opium-rich sultanate in Borneo, whose ruler cultivates massive poppy fields for the benefit of The Mafia, and maintains excellent relations with the region's pirates.


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