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HoverboyHistory

"Created...A Hero"
A brief history of Hoverboy compiled by Brad Abraham

Hoverboy 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

Hoverboy’s 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 Stark’s 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. Steele’s 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.


TELEVISION

The post-war years saw a decline in Hoverboy’s popularity; he all but vanished. It wasn’t 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 McCarthy’s 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.


WHAT HAPPENED?

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…


THE DISCOVERY

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 Ecktor’s 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 Chaney’s 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.

 

 

 

 

 


All images copyright Marcus Moore