Sep 12, 2011

It Came From Comics: Happy Hooligans

Welcome to another installment of It Came From Comics, a new series of indefinite length exploring everyday terms that were popularized by comics. Click here for the archive!

So here's something I learned recently. The 119th Wing of the US Air Force, an Air National Guard unit based in North Dakota, is affectionately called "The Happy Hooligans."

Photo cropped from here

Now, for those of you who may know your comics history, you might think this one is obvious. Clearly, these guys are named after Happy Hooligan, Frederick Burr Oper's newspaper comic character from the early 1900s, who was a lovable and optimistic Irish hobo who always ran into bad luck and misunderstandings with the law. Art Spiegelman used him to great effect in IN THE SHADOW OF NO TOWERS.

From here

But that's not where the name came from! According to the official website, Brigadier General Duane S. Larson, the North Dakota Air National Guard's 178th Fighter Squadron commander in the mid-1950s, was affectionately called "Pappy," and his men, because of their antics, were called "The Hooligans." This was then changed to "Happy and his Hooligans," which was then shortened, in around 1958, to "Happy Hooligans."

But why was it changed from "Pappy" to "Happy"? Because supposedly, General Larson had a resemblance to Happy Easter, a character from Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon!

That's awesome!

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