Based on the short fiction of Todd Downing from the late 1980s, Airship Daedalus is a loving homage to the classic pulp adventure serials of the 1920s-1940s. Set in an age of invention and discovery just slightly alternate to our own history, it is chock full of action, mystery, romance and intrigue.
Join “Captain Stratosphere” Jack McGraw as he takes to the skies in the experimental airship Daedalus with her crackerjack crew: Dorothy “Doc” Starr, Edward “Duke” Willis, Carl “Rivets” Holloway and Charlie “Deadeye” Dalton. Plot a course for Roaring Twenties globetrotting discovery and two-fisted adventure, as Jack and the crew battle Maria Blutig of the Luftpanzer, encounter sky pirates and voodoo, and take on the sinister occult forces of the evil Aleister Crowley himself!
AIRSHIP DAEDALUS is a fantastic throwback to the days of high-action pulp fiction and weekly comic strips filled with intriguing plots, sharp heroes, and mysterious villains. Every installment is like lying down on your stomach in a warm sunbeam slanting across your living room floor with the full-color Sunday funnies stretched out in front of you. If you like your post-war adventure mixed with retro super science and a strong dash of occult-tainted villainy, you’ll find yourself right at home here.”– Matt Forbeck
Author of the Amortals, Carpathia,
& Magic: The Gathering comics
What is Airship Daedalus?
A better question might be to ask what it isn’t. So far, it’s a retro comic on the web and in print, a tabletop roleplaying game line, two radio adventure series, a short fiction anthology, and four novels (and counting). There are more radio episodes in the works, as well as more comics and products in the game line, and ultimately an effort to bring the setting to life on film or television. Airship Daedalus is the flagship storyline in the retro pulp world of AEGIS Tales. While the characters in Daedalus engage in high-level epic adventure that shapes the world around them, the greater setting of AEGIS Tales includes a wide array of pulp subgenres and solo characters. From street level vigilantes like the Gunshade and Scarlet Wraith to paranormal investigators Jim Holland and Mandy Hart, to private detectives like Danny Long and Jean Gordon, the playboy mage-for-hire Oscar Morgan, and the globetrotting adventures of Ellen Starr (the daughter of Daedalus captain Jack McGraw and Doc Starr, all grown up in the pre-WW2 era).
Is it steampunk?
Although the AEGIS/Daedalus setting includes the earlier influences of science fiction and pulp adventure authors like Jules Verne and his ilk (and the ever-present dirigibles, gears and goggles), it’s more appropriately described as retro pulp, a throwback to the classic adventure, science fiction and horror fiction and comics of the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s. It shares far more with Flash Gordon, Jungle Jim, Indiana Jones and The Rocketeer than it does with steam tech or Victoriana in general. We sometimes describe the steampunk genre as being the romantic past of retro pulp. More recent terms for retro pulp properties include dieselpunk, decopunk, and neo-noir. It is thoroughly retro-futurist in tone, gritty and action-oriented.
What was the genesis of the setting/characters?
Beginning first as a selection of short stories by author Todd Downing in the late 1980s, Airship Daedalus became an unpublished game design in 1988, kicked around and tested among his college game group (the same group that helped test the fantasy setting that eventually became Arrowflight). Downing kept tinkering with the setting and characters in more short stories, and pitching the property during his time in the electronic games industry. During a discussion with comic book artist Brian Beardsley at Emerald City Comicon, the two decided to collaborate on an Airship Daedalus comic series, done in a very retro style and in landscape orientation like the classic newspaper comics pages. Influences ranged from the vintage comic art of Alex Raymond and Lee Falk to the retro pulp stylings of Dave Stevens and Francesco Francavilla.
The comic began to codify more of the background history and politics of the setting, introducing the core characters of “Captain Stratosphere” Jack McGraw, Dorothy “Doc” Starr, Carl “Rivets” Holloway, Edward “Duke” Willis and Charlie “Deadeye” Dalton. The strip launched in 2010 and ran until late 2011, on a weekly and twice-weekly release schedule, written by Todd Downing and drawn by Brian Beardsley (with colors and lettering by Downing as well). The comics are hosted here – hit the COMICS button from the main menu.
In 2011, Downing adapted the four existing comic chapters (three of which had been released in comic form) into a radio serial format, complete with a fictional sponsor and vintage static and crackle. The cast included Matt Shimkus, Angela DiMarco, Conner Marx, Caerley Hill, Brian Lewis, Scott C. Brown, David S. Hogan, Luke Amundson, Dan Heinrich and Trish Loyd. The radio episodes can be streamed via the RADIO button on the main menu.
With the release of the AEGIS Tales radio adventures in 2015 and the Airship Daedalus RPG in 2016, the setting has opened up to include many other characters and storylines. 2016 also saw the release of Assassins of the Lost Kingdom, the first official Airship Daedalus novel, by E.J. Blaine. Downing then began to author other novels in the series, including the prequel/origin tale A Shield Against the Darkness, then the novelization of The Golden City and its follow-up, Legend of the Savage Isle. The Arctic Menace will be #5 in the novel series. Downing has plans to develop the Ellen Starr character through a series of pre-WW2 adventures as well.
Volume 1 of the AEGIS Tales retro-pulp anthology was released in 2018, and included ten short stories by eight different authors (including Downing, superhero author Trish Heinrich, Cyberpunk RPG co-creator Colin Fisk, RPG designer James Stubbs, and historical fiction author R.L. Pace).
What is different about the AEGIS/Daedalus timeline in relation to our own?
Generally speaking, magic and the supernatural are presented as real, inter-dimensional incursion is imminent, the cutting edge of experimental technology exists as entirely practical, and the tropes of pulp adventure are cranked up to eleven. This is not a story about antiheroes; the good guys are very good and the bad guys will stop at nothing to reach their diabolical goals of amassing power and wealth. Specifically, the United States and British Commonwealth nations as presented in the setting are more benign versions of our own, the power players idealized versions of their real counterparts. Three social elements diverge from our own domestic history: better treatment of Native Americans, lack of a Jim Crow South following the Civil War, and a generally more progressive attitude toward women following their massive contribution to the Great War. Although racism and prejudice exist in this setting, it is not systemic to the degree experienced in our own history.
Aside from the odd alternate wrinkle here and there for dramatic purposes, the major historical touchstones remain unaltered as the backdrop for the story in question, and real events may be presented as the byproduct of story threads in the setting.
AEGIS/Daedalus product checklist!
This is a list of all existing titles and merchandise available for the property. It will be periodically updated as needed.
- DSV### Airship Daedalus limited edition character trading cards with DIY cipher wheel (out-of-print)
- DSV600 Airship Daedalus volume I (limited edition small format trade paperback, softcover, out-of-print)
- DSV610 Airship Daedalus volume I (regular edition trade paperback, softcover)
- MBCD101 Airship Daedalus Radio Adventures volume 1 (CD & MP3 download)
- MBCD102 Airship Daedalus Radio Adventures volume 2 (CD & MP3 download)
- DSV1200 Airship Daedalus Retro Pulp Roleplaying (hardcover, softcover & PDF download)
- DSV1201 AEGIS Field Manual – for Airship Daedalus RPG (softcover & PDF download)
- DSV1202 Airship Daedalus – Automaton (free PDF download)
- DMCD101 AEGIS Tales Radio Adventures volume 1:”The Gunshade”/”The Scarlet Wraith” (CD & MP3 download)
- DMCD102 AEGIS Tales Radio Adventures volume 2: “The Holland Agency”/”Curse of the Jade Demon” (CD & MP3 download)
- DMCD103 AEGIS Tales Radio Adventures volume 3: “Airship Daedalus – The Golden City” episodes 1 & 2 (CD & MP3 download)
- DMCD104 AEGIS Tales Radio Adventures volume 4: “Airship Daedalus – The Golden City” episodes 3 & 4 (CD & MP3 download)
- DSV1207 Airship Daedalus: A Shield Against the Darkness (novel, softcover, e-book download & audiobook)
- DSV1203 Airship Daedalus: Assassins of the Lost Kingdom (novel, softcover, e-book download & audiobook)
- DSV1208 Airship Daedalus: The Golden City (novel, softcover & e-book download)
- DSV1210 Airship Daedalus: Legend of the Savage Isle (novel, softcover & e-book download)
- DSV1209 AEGIS Tales: A Retro-Pulp Anthology (anthology, softcover & e-book download)
- DSV### Airship Daedalus 11×17 poster
- DSV### Airship Daedalus 13×19 gondola blueprint & spec-sheet poster
- DSV### AEGIS emblem T-shirt
- DSV### AEGIS canvas tote
- DSV### Daedalus III T-shirt