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Comic Book / Buck Danny

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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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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 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: 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Chromosome Casting: Female characters are very rare in the series, at least in the books written by Charlier. The first books do feature an intrepid female nurse and a MI-6 female agent, but soon the only women are either wives (or widows...) of pilots, Sonny's various doomed attempts at finding a fiancée, or enemy spies. And of course Lady X.
  • Colonel Badass: Buck Danny, once he makes it as colonel.
  • Cool Plane: Comes with the premise.
  • 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.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: one of the more common types of villains. Oil barons trying to take over the postwar Arab oil 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).
    • Also 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.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Evil Pays Better: Lady X, the heroes' rival and 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.
  • Faux Action Girl: She may be one of the United States Navy's first fighter pilots and quite talented in the role, but Cindy Mc Pherson 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), one Qurac (the Oulai sheikdom), and two Wutais (Vien Tan and North Sarawak).
  • 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 colonel and Fake Defector Colonel Ouchinsky, as mentally acknowledged by Buck after shooting him down.
  • 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.
  • 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 (lack of civilian skills and 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, one after another? 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Something Completely Different: 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 involved in a crime/conspiracy story involving arms dealing, drug trafficking, oil politics, and palace plots. (The next story arc returns them to military service).
  • 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.
  • Those Wacky Nazis: surprisingly, 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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