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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.

3/1/07

60. Blackhawks

Blackhawk 2.jpg

“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.

Blackhawk 1.jpg

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.

Blackhawk 5.jpg

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.

Blackhawk 3.jpg

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!

Linkalicious:
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
Toonopedia: Blackhawk
Check out the Comic Treadmill’s January, February, and March archives from 2005 for Blackhawk review goodness.

18 Comments

Nothing to say; I’m just impressed we went a full 24 hours between posts. We’re slipping!

The Blackhawks also appeared in the Justice League TV show, in a WWII time travel issue that also featured Steve Trevor, Vandal Savage and, most rockingly of all, Sgt. Rock and Easy Company.

“Issue”… er, I meant episode.

Octi-apes.

Nuff said.

Weird mummy insects are far more scary than regular mummy insects.

Andrew Collins

March 2, 2007 at 12:56 am

Two things stick out to me about that cover for Blackhawk #7, besides the nice rendering of Blackhawk himself.

1. “Special Double Sized Issue!” Does anybody remember when they used to do these? Do any books ever get double-sized issues anymore, especially on a non-anniversary/non interval-of-25 issue?

2. That said Double-Sized issue was $2.50! That’s considered cheap by today’s standards, but that was pretty pricey for 1989/90…

In my experience, comics which claim to be “double sized” often have 37 pages – which isn’t exactly double when the norm is 22 pages

I don’t know … Erik Larsen tends to run 100-pagers of SAVAGE DRAGON on weird numbers like 108.

But he charges like nine bucs for ‘em.

And what in the world was Chop Chop supposed to be? I get that he was meant to be a caricatured Asian, but he looks kinda like Rufus, the naked mole rat from KIM POSSIBLE. Only, y’know, not nekkid and all.

The Blackhawks: They may dress like fascists, but they’re here to save your freedom. Hawka-a-a!

I salute you.

Don’t forget, we still have Lady Blackhawk in Birds of Prey!

I’d love to see some new stories about the “old” Blackhawks, in large part because I think there’s a great “origin story” for Zinda waiting to be told.

The Silver Age Zinda was a Silver Age creation, in the postwar Blackhawks. I think she just sorta turned up, without much backstory. Her current version pretty clearly came to our time from WWII. There’s gotta be a great story in there. For a young woman to take up flying in the ’30s and ’40s, that was unusual in itself, but one who has both the flying chops and moxie to shoehorn herself into the most elite flying squadron of her day, that’s something else!

You briefly mention their superhero phase, but you didn’t show a picture of the poor guy named something like “The Listener” who had a costume covered with ears. That’s hilarious!

Ha. It *is* hilarious. I also dig Chop Chop as “Dr. Hands.”

So I linked it. You can now click on “superhero phase.” Bam!

The Mad Monkey

March 2, 2007 at 11:53 am

Dig the funky lingo of Blackhawkeroo.
If you’re not “IN”, you’re “OUT”.

A new era, indeed.
Thank you, Bob Haney.

Perhaps Dr. Hands and I Ching should compare notes.

Imagine if the Blackhawks fought the impossible weapons from World War II. That flying tank is but one example. Blackhawks vs. steampunk technology. Blackhawks vs. invasion from the future. Blackhawks vs. their evil alternate dimension selves from World War II. Blackhawks in The Final Countdown situation.

DC really, really, REALLY needs to reprint the Evanier-Spiegle run in a trade paperback or two. If you’re reading this, do yourself a favor and track their run down in the back issue bins. Great, great stuff.

Matt Liparota

March 2, 2007 at 5:28 pm

The Leaper is the best superhero name ever.

Especially since his real name is Olaf. Does it get much better than that?

-M

Well, his name could be Batroc…

The Kirbydotter

March 10, 2007 at 4:22 pm

Weird, I just finished reading the first 12 issues of Mark Evanier and Dan Speigle run on Blackhawk…

It was a nice run set in WWII as it should be.
Spiegle gave them a classic look and the many guest artist (in back up solo stories about individual members) that included the John Severin, Howard Chaykin, Alex Toth, only makes this series a must read! You can usually get them pretty cheap on Ebay althought they don’t come up very often in complete run sets.

The post-war Blackhawks of Howard Chaykin revamping mini-series was also very interesting, very political and showed well research stories set in the Red Scare of the Maccarthysm era of the 50′s. Pasko did some of his best work on this series.

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