It wasn’t the first aviation comic strip – Tailspin Tommy (1928), Skyroads (1929, which had Zack Mosley art assist), Scorchy Smith (1930), and Brick Bradford (earlier in 1933) all beat Smilin’ Jack into newspapers – though it was the longest lasting and last of those to come out of The Adventurous Decade (Brick Bradford having exchanged airplanes for the more fantastical Time Top early on.)
In the beginning it wasn’t even Jack Martin, it was Mack Martin.
Creator Zack Mosley, himself a student pilot in 1932, presented the humorous adventures of Mack Martin and friends getting their wings in a Sunday only comic strip beginning October 1, 1933 (above).
With no explanation at the end of 1933 Mack Martin became Jack Martin and On The Wing became Smilin’ Jack.
On June 15, 1936 a daily version of the comic strip was added and Zack Mosley’s Smilin’ Jack became the most popular and widely distributed aviation adventure strip.
The Experimental Aircraft Association gives a very brief history of Smilin’ Jack.
The Smilin’ Jack comic strip was written by Zack Mosley and was most likely the longest running aviation-themed comic strip, since it ran in newspapers for 40 years, from 1933 to 1973 … The Smilin’ Jack feature was retired on April 1, 1973, and Mosley retired to Stuart, Florida, but maintained close affiliations with a number of aviation and pilot organizations.
From 50 years ago are the last eight days of the comic:
P.S. Zack Mosley’s daughter, Jill, lives in Florida and maintains a nice website in tribute to her father’s artwork and career at www.smilinjackart.com.