In golden age comics and newspaper strips in the U.S., pilots were a real adventure fiction sub-genre. Smilin' Jack, Sky King, Airboy, etc. Space travel wasn't yet feasible and Scuba gear was only just invented during WWII. Boys (and girls, presumably) looking for a realistic environment for adventure fantasies to play out, to give them that much more plausibility, would have seen airplanes in magazines, movies and newsreels. They were real but just new and unfamiliar enough to free the imagination. I think that's why you don't see space heroes now as much as you did from the mid-50's to mid-70's (at least here in the states). Space technology has been demystified since then. The fantasy aspects of "Star Wars", for instance, have dwarfed the experience of actually travelling through space in those movies. If you tried to show a kid today a movie like "Marooned", they'd fall asleep half way through it. I can't imagine what they'd think of a comic strip devoted to the "sheer excitement" of flying in an airplane.
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