365 Reasons to Love Comics #60
Let’s finish off the rest of this week with “rejects” from Black History Month. What do I mean by that? You’ll see.
First up, a really fun group that was popular in its heyday but dropped off the map. As always, it deserves a comeback. I love this concept, as it’s rife with weird and wild ideas that only the glories of the Golden and Silver Ages could bring us.
“Hawka-a-a-a!” That was their catchphrase. Seriously. And they had it years before Queen ever sung “Flash! Aaah-ahh!” Hah.
Blackhawk is a concept that’s gone through multiple iterations through a few different titles and a couple different companies. Originally created for the Quality Comics publication Military Comics (later Modern Comics) by Will Eisner (well, in a supervisorly role, sorta) along with Charles Cuidera and Bob Powell, the concept generated numerous runs and revivals from folks like Reed Crandall, Dick Dillin, Howard Chaykin, and that brilliant madman, Bob Haney.
The original team was a group of “ace pilots” from all across the globe: Blackhawk (Bart Hawk– yeah, and he was supposed to be Polish), Andre, Olaf, Stanislau, Chuck, and old fogey Hendrickson. Their “sidekick” was Chop Chop, who, as you can see on some of the following covers, started off as a racist caricature until that was “fixed” decades later, turning him into a normal Asian guy. Also, there was Zinda, a.k.a. Lady Blackhawk. Mascots included Blackie the hawk and Bravo the chimp.
This series spawned a radio series and a movie serial starring Kirk Alyn of Superman fame.
They fought Nazis, and, um, more Nazis, and then some Nazis, as well as a host of colorful villains. A lot of the covers were gorgeous, though, despite the presence of Chop Chop. Covers like this one or this one, for instance. I really suggest going to The Grand Comics Database and searching through the archive of Military Comics, Modern Comics, and Blackhawk covers. They’re beautiful. Just ignore Chop Chop. These were different and more racist times.
After Quality folded, National/DC began publishing the Blackhawk series. Even though the original concept was tied to World War II so closely, DC began to take liberties with where Blackhawk stories could go. They had the weird monster phase, the superhero phase, the retro war comics phase, etc. They went from fighting Nazis to strange machines and vehicles to creatures from outer space.
They ended up cancelled, as they’d drifted too far from what they once were and readers stopped caring. DC didn’t give up hope, though. A revival came about in the 70′s from a mix of creators. It combined the WWII pilot action with more superhero-y stuff… and folded shortly after. Then, in the early 80′s, the beloved Mark Evanier/Dan Spiegle WWII-set run appeared. It eventually ended, and then Howard Chaykin took over with a mini-series reimagining which later spawned a serial in Action Comics Weekly and an ongoing written by guys like Marty Pasko and Doug Moench and drawn by Rick Burchett.
The Blackhawks dropped off the map after that, though. Yeah, there was a slight “modern” revamp appearance in Our Worlds at War or something, but no one noticed. I say it’s time for another revival: one modern, but retro.
Blackhawk should be Sky Captain on paper! Hell, it was that for a long time. Let’s bring it back to its roots. Keep Blackhawk as an organization from WWII that’s lasted until the modern day– maybe have an elderly Chop Chop as figurehead/commander– and tell the stories of their descendants and replacements. Let’s have high-tech super-aircraft disguised as WWII-era technology. Let’s bring back Enemy Ace. Let’s have crazy midair dogfights and frightening machinery and robots. Let’s have a high-flying adventure series that reads like an old movie serial and features classic sci-fi and retro futurism.
Blackhawk used to be a title where you could find brilliantly bizarre things like whirling dervishes, one-man helicopters, flying tanks, steel colossi, octi-apes, and human starfish. I’d love to see something like that again. Maybe Michael Lark or someone could draw it in a bit of a throwback newsreel style. It would fail in this market, but it would fail spectacularly.
Of course, if it’s just Lady Blackhawk you crave, you can read Birds of Prey every month!
The Blackhawks: They may dress like fascists, but they’re here to save your freedom. Hawka-a-a!
The Blackhawk Comics Homepage may not have been updated in a while, but it is the premiere source of Blackhawk info on the web– they’ve got everything!
The Blackhawk Wiki, because we all love Wikis
Check out the Comic Treadmill’s January, February, and March archives from 2005 for Blackhawk review goodness.