Mister no

A rebel soul

A rebel soul

He leaves New York City, his hometown, to chase his dream of freedom. After joining the "Flying Tigers", he learns the horrors of war. Finally, he chooses to live in Manaus, Amazonas... Year by year, all the events that marked Jerry Drake’s restless life.

JERRY DRAKE’S FIRST “PUBLIC” EMERGENCE DATES BACK TO 1936: OUR ANTIHERO TO-BE IS AROUND 14, AT THE TIME, AND LIVES IN NEW YORK CITY with his father, Jerome Sr., a professor; we don’t know anything about his mother. Jerry has an aunt, Martha, his father’s sister, and an uncle, Joe Wallace, a rude policeman that will turn out to be a crooked cop.

Young Jerry (art by Bruzzo).

His relatives are entrusted with Jerry’s custody, when his father leaves to fight in the Spanish Civil War, in 1937, after joining the International Brigades. In those years, Our hero will take his training in the streets of the Big Apple, being "mentored” by Frankie "Messacantata” [Sung Mass] Nigro, a mafia don, "Train" Kowalsky, a fighter in an illegal boxing ring, and his manager, Strother. When he comes back from Spain, Jerry’s father is indicted for the murder of Logan Sinclair, a journalist and a friend of the Drake family. Jerome Sr. allows justice to put him in jail, refusing to explain what happened to the jury or his son. The relationship between the two Drakes utterly breaks up, and they will be at odds for 20 years; until the time when Jerome Sr. is released from prison and finally tells his son the whole truth about Sinclair, connected to the dirty story of a huge amount of gold stolen during the Spanish War.

FOLLOWING THESE EVENTS, JERRY CHOOSES TO LEAVE NEW YORK CITY. It’s 1938. He takes a train going West: his first stop is near Des Moines, Iowa. The trip goes on to California, when we find him, on September 17, 1940, when – with the look of the young hobo, carrying a bag on his shoulder – Jerry comes to the small Caniff Field airport, near San Francisco, looking for a job. Here, the young man meets Bat Barlington, who will teach him how to fly an airplane, and will also be his “teacher of adventure”. In March-September 1941, both Jerry and Bat join the "Flying Tigers'', the volunteer corps of American pilots who fight in the Far East alongside the Chinese, against the Japanese invaders; they move to Birmania and China, where they live a long string of engrossing situations.

A scene of the episode "Le Tigri Volanti".

After many twists and turns, Jerry Drake is nicknamed “Mister No” by one of his adversaries, the ruthless Saiko, for the stubborn pride that the pilot shows in refusing to obey the arrogant orders of the Japanese; Jerry then saves the Chinese “Generalissimo” Chiang Kai-shek from a Japanese assassination attempt; he’s accused of being a “deserter” by the U.S. Army, since he didn’t answer their call-up notice, and is forced to join the U.S.A.F.

MISTER NO IS ASSIGNED TO THE 59TH WING, AT THE QUIET SAN MANUEL BASE IN THE PHILIPPINES. On December 7 of the same year, 1941, the Japanese attack against the U.S. base of Pearl Harbor marks the “official” beginning of the war for the Americans. Lieutenant pilot Drake engages in many air battles in the Lingayen Gulf, distinguishing himself for his skills and bravery. But Mister No doesn’t like discipline all that much: after a fight with another officer, he’s discharged from the Air Force for disciplinary reasons and forced to join the Infantry. Attached to the 31st Division, 3rd Battalion, C Company, between January and March 1942, Private Drake is a part of the Bataan retreat, that will prove to be particularly difficult for him. Caught by the Japanese, he’s deported in a labor camp in Birmania as a POW. He remains there from April to July of 1942. After managing to escape from the camp, he gets back there a few weeks later at the head of a sabotaging commando. In recognition of his brave deed, Mister No is just sent back to his old Company, where he finds his comrades: Phil Mulligan, Alan Chambers and Steve Mallory. They fight together at Guadalcanal, in September 1942, and on the Pacific islands in the following months. At the end of 1943, Jerry Drake is sent to Italy from the Pacific, after he have been present to the ritual suicide of a group of Japanese, preventing one of them from killing himself. Exactly for this reason, in the future, Ishikawa – that’s the name of the Japanese survivor – will bring a lot of troubles to Jerry, disrupting his life in Manaus and forcing him to a duel to the death in New York City.

MISTER NO’S FIRST VENTURE ON THE EUROPEAN FRONT IS ON BOARD OF THE “RIGOLETTO”, AN AIRPLANE THAT TAKES HIM TO CAMPANIA, ITALY. The plane begins a fight with German enemy aircrafts; after the pilot’s death, Mister No manages to make the plane land at the Naples airport. On January 20, 1944, foot soldier Drake finds himself in the battle of Fiume Rapido, in Campania, along with his brothers-in-arms of the 36ª Division, 141° Regiment.

Mister No, travelling with a gang of "Hell's Angels" bikers.

On June 5, he’s one of the troops that liberate Rome. In the same summer, he’s assigned to Northern Lazio, at the service of Captain Stafford; Jerry fights against a mysterious "Etruscan Demon", that will turn out to be a Nazi spy.

In late 1944, he’s transferred to Ardenne, where he will live his last war adventure: he will receive a stomach wound in a gunfight with the Germans. Repatriated at the beginning of 1945, we find him in the Atlantic City General Hospital. After being released, Mister No crosses the States, from Atlantic City to Albuquerque, New Mexico: here (in the Apache reservation, precisely) he will stay until the death of Monty, a Native friend of his who was wounded during the war. To keep his promise to Monty, Jerry leaves for Mexico, where he will disperse his friend’s ashes from high up on a holy mountain. In 1947, he’s back to California, where he joins a group of bikers, the "Hell's Angels"...

AFTER THAT STORY, THERE’S A BIG “GAP” IN OUR CHARACTER’S BIOGRAPHY. WE MEET HIM AGAIN IN SEPTEMBER 1948, IN ITALY, between Positano and Capri; he’s travelling with an FBI agent, Steve Mallory, an ex-comrade of his from the times of Guadalcanal. Fall of 1949: Mister No is back in the U.S. and lives in Greenwich Village, NYC.

The meeting with a spaceman who fell
into the jungle (art by Fabio Civitelli).

He clashes with the "New Barbarians", a gang of bikers led by the shady Jackie. Following his friend Phil Mulligan’s advice, Jerry moves to Aspen, Colorado, where he works as a Ranger with Alan Chambers, the third of his closest former comrades. Spring of 1950: back in New York, Mister No settles the score with Jackie and his boss, Masulli. After these unpleasant events, Our Hero chooses again to leave the Big Apple and go West. During a stop in an Arizona ranch, he lives a strange adventure with Indians, cowboys and animatronic “dinosaurs”—maybe giant B.S., or an “imaginary” tale. At the end of his journey, he possibly reaches San Francisco, joining the first Beatnik groups. Then, he goes back East and, in the Nevada desert, meets an unlucky veteran, Jonathan Eden, who became a robber. It’s Jonathan, on the verge of death, the first who tells Jerry about Brazil...

MISTER NO, THEN, IS A “RELUCTANT” HERO, A MAN WHO CAME BACK TO THE U.S. AFTER THE END OF WWII BUT NEVER MANAGED TO FIND HIS PLACE IN THE AMERICAN SOCIETY. That’s why he went to Amazonas, to live life on his own way: the place that somebody calls "Civilization’s last outpost" maybe is the only place where a free spirit like Jerry can find his home.

Mister No with his inseparable friend, Esse-Esse.

Even though he’d like to lead a quiet life, minding his own business, apparently troubles come looking for him every time. His departure for South America happened during the mid-1950s, from New York City, where we find the "Coen & Brother" travel agency that sold Mister No a ticket to Brazil. We know that he bought his Piper in Belém, and met Esse-Esse in São Luis do Maranhao; Jerry then went with his friend to Manaus, where he settled at the beginning of 1951, after a brief training as a guide to the Amazon jungle, thanks to the help of a Russian WWII vet, Boris Zarkoff, a.k.a. "Zar", who dies in the forest, while Jerry’s holding him, after he had been hit by an arrow of the Arara Indians; above all, we know that Mister No is a bravely upright man, who’s always ready to side with the weak, while never being a braggart. Often, Mister No is apparently involved in the most dangerous situations by circumstances beyond his control, but we’re allowed to have the suspicion that he’s just looking for troubles, following his unselfish and rebellious nature. His habit of saying “No” to the things he doesn’t like – “No” to the Japanese military officer who’s questioning him to worm the secrets of the “Flying Tigers” out of him; “No” to the obtuse discipline enforced by the military hierarchy and to the insane violence of all wars; “No” to the strong who bully the weak, in every place of the world – is his main trait and the leit-motif in most of his adventures.

MISTER NO’S “NOW” IS SET IN THE LATE-1950s, BETWEEN MANAUS AND SOUTH AMERICA (with a long interval, when he travelled troughout Africa). At the end of the decade, Jerry Drake goes back to NYC, chasing the Japanese boss, Ishikawa, who had some of his friends killed.

Mister No flying on his Piper (art by Roberto Diso).

After defeating this dangerous adversary, he stops for some time in the big city, where he finds some old friends and meets new ones: Harvey Fenner, the Irish bartender; a music manager, Max Culver; Phil Mulligan, P.I.; and his old friends, Patricia & Delia.

His new NYC adventures form a chapter of its own in our pilot’s saga, with a distinctive harsher tone and a more melancholy atmosphere. Mister No finds himself in some "hard-boiled" tales, meeting historical characters like the writer, Jack Kerouac and the FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover; he faces the situation of the juvenile gangs and is involved in Mafia wars and CIA intrigues. Still talking about the adventures set in the Big Apple, we’d like to highlight an odd fact: along with the “official” Jerry Drake, there is also an “imaginary” Jerry Drake. It’s the private eye that is the main character of a crime novel series written by a "real" detective, Phil Mulligan, who took his inspiration from his friend, Mister No. A fiction inside a fiction, "Jerry Drake, P.I.”’s novels recall, in a hard-boiled style, the glamorously over-the-top world of the old pulp-magazines.

Finally, Mister No is also the hero of two digressions “in the future”, that are set nowadays, more or less: in the first of these stories, he meets the Detective of the Impossible, Martin Mystère, and they live together an adventure that looks just like a 1950s sci-fi movie. In the other episode, Jerry, along with a sprightly EsseEsse, celebrates 2000’s New Year’s Day in his beloved Manaus.