The Thirteenth Hour Podcast #307 and Like a Hood Ornament #34: The Rocketeer’s Sidearm
Today, we’re taking a short break from toys and looking at the Rocketeer cartoon to discuss the Rocketeer’s sidearm, which we touched on last week at bit when looking at the clip in the 1991 film where he acquires a Mauser C96 pistol.
I always thought it was odd Cliff is often shown (in both movie stills and the original Dave Stevens comics) holding a gun despite holding one for less than a page in the comic and for only a few minutes in the film.
In this page of the original Rocketeer saga, what is shown is the Mauser select fire M172. You can tell by the 20 round extended magazine and the selector switch on the left hand side.
On this sketch done prior to inking and colors, you can see that the original idea was to draw something more akin to the older, more established Mauser C96 (usually chambered for the 7.63 mm x 25 round coming in an internal 10 round box magazine) – the one shown in the 1991 film and in most of the drawings that Dave Stevens did.
Regardless of which version of the pistol was intended, this episode touches on some history and aspects of handing and usage and what might Cliff might have had to think about had he used the Mauser pistol he is associated with more.
For background, I read about the pistol in question in this book (plus a number of other videos you can find on Youtube).
This picture shows the stripper clip method of loading – the main way the C96 would have been loaded since there was no detachable magazine, though on the M172, the bullets could have been loaded one at a time in the magazines also.
The Mauser pistols came with hollowed out wooden holsters that could serve as shoulder stocks as well as protecting the gun from damage or foul weather. The airsoft version I’m using below also a similar (but plastic) stock.
I’m using a gas blowback airsoft version of the select fire Mauser M712 (the one pictured in the original comic) made by the Taiwanese company WE. While the Rocketeer is often shown next to an American flag, you might think more Americana would have gone into the character design. But I think Dave Stevens intentionally picked something distinctive looking that fits with the aesthetics of the costume. The fact that Cliff does not “buy American” (so to speak) and use something like a Colt Peacemaker or a 1911 fits with the character in many ways, who is a compilation of a bunch of archetypes from the mid to late 1800s (the cavalry style leather jacket, jodhpurs, and riding boots) to the 1930s (the GeeBee and the art deco styling of the rocketpack and helmet). The intricate, well machined Mauser pistol falls solidly in between, a Victorian, already somewhat overengineered and steampunkish design by the late 1930s that was nonetheless still widely used not only by the Germans but by many other countries as well, especially China, where it even had its own nickname (盒子砲, literally “box gun,” named after the distinctive box magazine). Interestingly the Mauser M712 was apparently quite popular there pre-WW2, as an arms embargo prevented rifles and machine guns from being imported (apparently pistols that could become carbines with fully auto capacity was an adequate workaround).
There is a video segment to this podcast which can be found here:
There are now Thirteenth Hour toys! If you’d like to pick up one of these glow in the dark figures for yourself, feel free to email me or go to the Etsy store I set up (https://www.etsy.com/shop/ThirteenthHourStudio) and get them there.
If the past few months have got you needing a break, you may want to chill out to this 80s synth throwback track for a upcoming LP with the accompanying music video:
Empty Hands, the synth EP soundtrack to the novella, Empty Hands, is now out for streaming on Bandcamp.
Stay tuned. Follow along on Spotify! There is also a growing extended Thirteenth Hour playlist on Spotify with a growing number of retro 80s songs.
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