|Real Name||Robert Tomlin|
|Citizenship||Citizen of the United States, deceased|
|Event Participant||World War II|
|Base of Operations||New York|
|Affiliations||Bonham's Flying Service, Royal Canadian Air Force, US Army Air Force|
|First Appearance||Wild Cards|
|Final Appearance||Wild Cards|
Jetboy was the world's greatest pilot and a great American hero of World War II. He was the first man to pilot a jet plane, the legendary JB-1 experimental aeroplane. He heroically sacrificed his life trying to stop the release of the wild card virus in 1946. He failed, but his death marked the beginning of the age of the wild card and turned him into a legend. Jetboy is in many ways a tragic figure, a battle-scarred veteran of only 19 years of age by the time he died. He is the subject of countless movies and books. The JFK Airport in the Wild Cards universe is named the Tomlin International Airport instead.
Robert Tomlin was born circa 1926, and was raised in an orphanage. He had always been obsessed with aeroplanes and flying. In 1939, when he was only 12-years old, Bobby escaped the orphanage to go work at Bonham's Flying Service, in New Jersey. There Bobby met Professor Silverberg, a brilliant but eccentric aeronautical scientist that would become his mentor, and Linc Traynor, a mechanic that would become his best friend. When Silverberg built the JB-1, the first ever jet plane, Bobby was the first man to pilot it. But soon afterwards, Nazi spies came after Silverberg and the plane. The Nazis ended up killing Professor Silverberg, and Robert used the JB-1 to gun them down, avenging the death of his mentor.
At that time, the US still hadn't entered World War II. So Bobby fled to Canada and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force, unofficially. He was only 13-years old. Bobby went to England and fought in the Battle of Britain, later he fought the Japanese alongside the Flying Tigers, and came back to England when America finally entered the war in 1941. Always piloting his distinctive jet plane, Bobby became worldwide famous and was nicknamed Jetboy by an awestruck press. He was by far the greatest ace of the war, shooting down about 500 enemy planes and 50 ships. There was even a comic book, Jetboy Comics, narrating fictionalized versions of his adventures. At the height of his popularity, the comic was selling half a million copies a month.
When the war ended, Jetboy had trouble adjusting to civilian life. The only thing he knew was flying, and Bobby felt like the world had no place for him when he had no more aerial battles to fight. He was only 19-years old, but already felt like life had passed him by. Belinda, his longtime childhood crush, had moved on with her life. He was a lonely man whose only friend was Linc Traynor, and his only escape was going to the movies. In August of 1946, Bobby settled down and started to write his memoirs.
This period of peace was brief. In September 15 of 1946, Jetboy came out of retirement for his greatest and latest flight. The criminal mastermind Dr. Tod, a one-time enemy of Jetboy during the war, had managed to acquire the container with the alien wild card virus. Tod threatened to release the deadly virus over a major city if the government refused to pay 20 million dollars. The government refused to pay, and in September 15, Tod and a few of his henchmen attacked New York City in a dirigible. Jetboy and Dr. Tod engaged in a spectacular aerial battle. At the climax of the battle, the dirigible exploded with Jetboy and Tod aboard, killing them both. Jetboy's last words were overheard by the only survivor of the battle, Smooth Eddy, one of Dr. Tod's thugs,: "I can't die yet. I haven't seen the Jolson Story"
Jetboy's famous last words of a movie he still hadn't seen became a symbol for unfulfilled dreams. Jetboy was dead, but he had passed into legend. His sacrifice heralded the beginning of the wild card age, when superhumans and monsters inhabited among ordinary humans.
A monument was built in Jetboy's homage overlooking the Hudson River, covering the area where the pieces of his plane had fallen. Jetboy's Tomb, it's a major tourist attraction in New York City. Many books and movies were produced about Jetboy's life. Among them is Godot Is My Co-Pilot, a novel by Daniel Deck, and two versions of Thirty Minutes Over Broadway, a movie dramatizing Jetboy's final adventure.
Jetboy had no superhuman powers, but he was the world's most talented pilot. His skill with aeroplanes was innate; he never took flying lessons, he simply always knew how to fly. In aerial battle he was deadly, with impressive reflexes and aim. In addition to his piloting skills, Jetboy was a competent mechanic and navigator. His knowledge of aviation history was also remarkable.
Bobby Tomlin was a short, chunky man of unremarkable appearance. He had curly mousy brown hair and hazel eyes. People almost never recognized him on the street. When he was active as Jetboy he wore a patriotic outfit consisting of red pants, white shirt, and a blue helmet.
Jetboy's defining trait was his love of aeroplanes and flying. It gave direction to his life, making him what he was. Jetboy only felt truly alive when he was flying on some dangerous mission. He had the bravery of the true hero. Despite his youth and lack of formal schooling, Jetboy was intelligent, resourceful, even cynical at times. This cynicism could quickly devolve into bitterness when he was in a bad mood. Such was often the case when he faced difficulty in adapting to civilian life. When he came back from the war, Jetboy felt like life had passed him by and that he had no place in the postwar society. He was basically a lonely man. He pathetically tried to adapt to peace time by watching movies, sometimes watching six or eight movies a day. Jetboy seemed to be inexperienced with women, and probably died a virgin.
I'm don't even think I'm needed. What can I do now? Fight crime? I can see strafing gateway cars full of bank robbers. That would be a real fair fight.
Now was different. It was like wartime again. He had a vector. He had a target. He had a mission.
"I can't die yet. I haven't seen the Jolson story."
- Jetboy is a homage to Airboy, an aviator hero in a comic book series published by Hillman Periodics. Howard Waldrop is a fan of the character.
- Jetboy's last words were in fact a reference to the 1948 Three Stooges film Squareheads of the Round Table, in which Larry says "I can't die! I haven't seen The Jolson Story!"
- Even though he appears in only one story, Jetboy is a very iconic figure in the Wild Cards pantheon of characters.
- The Wild Cards universe is a place where even major heroes can die. Jetboy dying so early in the series is a way the creators found to make this fact clear from the get go.
- Jetboy's story is retold in the comic book series published by Marvel Comics under the Epic imprint. His character sheet is included in the Wild Cards RPG published by Green Ronin. Curiously, he had no character sheet in GURPS Wild Cards, the first Wild Cards RPG.
Selected Reading Edit
- Wild Cards Volume I: Wild Cards - "Thirty Minutes Over Broadway!" (Jetboy's life and heroic death, his one and only story in the Wild Cards series)