A brief history of Hoverboy compiled by Brad Abraham
was one of the lesser Pulp characters of the 1930s. Not as iconic as The
Shadow, not as mysterious as The Phantom; Hoverboy existed
exclusively in the second string hero ghetto. The joint creation of Chicago
advertising executives Bob Stark and C.L. Nutt; what they had hoped would
be a smash hit akin to Tarzan or Doc Savage, remained only
a minor success, proving to be most popular in the Midwest and Arkansas.
THE WAR YEARS
Hoverboys first breakthrough into mainstream culture
came with the attack on Pearl Harbor. While comic book heroes such as
Superman and Captain America took the fight to the enemy,
Hoverboy remained on the home front, routing subversives, smashing trade
unions and keeping Japanese Americans in their assigned internment camps.
This stay at home policy was due to Starks irritable
bowel syndrome and a reportedly disturbing psyche report on Nutt, marking
both 4-F. Hoverboy became something of a cult oddity, even starring in
a 12 part Live-Action Serial infamous for the death of actor Todd (Hoverboy)
Steele while executing a dangerous stunt. Steeles death required
an obvious stunt double to take over the part for the last 5 episodes;
the resulting Hoverboy in G-Men vs. Warlords of Neptune remains
a lost classic.
The post-war years saw a decline in Hoverboys popularity;
he all but vanished. It wasnt until 1949 that a joint venture of
Macys and General Dynamics (both clients of the ever resourceful ad-man
Stark) resulted in the theatrical short Hoverboy Destroys Christmas.
It was this capitalist-minded cartoon that caught the attention of Senator
Joseph McCarthys House Un-American Activities Committee. With the
Communist threat about to engulf the Western World, the HUAC was looking
for a character to reach the hearts and minds of young Americans. Enter
radical right-winger Nutt, who, unbeknownst to Stark, authorized the use
of Hoverboy in a series of animated television adventures for the newly
created Vigilance Pictures. This led to a two-decade rift and a series
of legal battles that led to some 137 incarnations of Hoverboy in print,
television and radio from 1951 to 1967.
The changing political climate of the late 1960s would seem to spell doom
for Hoverboy, but it was the fallout over diverted royalties of the Hoverboy
character that led to the bankruptcy of creators Stark and Nutt. In 1971,
a destitute Stark committed suicide shortly after the IRS sell-off of
his estate for failure to pay back taxes. As for Nutt, the octogenarian
gained entry into the Vigilance Pictures offices, destroying all of the
original Hoverboy animation negatives in a conflagration that took his
own life. Hoverboy was forever lost
As it happened, enterprising Roland, Oklahoma TV programmer (and Hoverboy
fan) John Ecktor had a set of pirated copies made of the Hoverboy animated
series from the original telecine. In 1998, shortly after Ecktors
passing, his son Ian discovered these original episodes. Turns out
dad was kind of an obsessive nut about old film and TV. I mean, he had
telecines of all three Patrick Troughton seasons of Dr Who, reels
of Lon Chaneys London after Midnight, lots of great stuff.
Unfortunately they all pretty much deteriorated the instant I picked them
up, but remarkably the Hoverboy materials were salvageable.