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CSBG Archive

365 Reasons to Love Comics #136

Because the readers demanded it! No, I didn’t intend for this week to be a 90’s-fest, but we may as well finish off the triumvirate, eh? And it was a good series, so here it is. Of course, borrowing from yesterday’s logic, they’d probably call this one “Miracleman done right.”

5/16/07

136. Darkhawk

Darkhawk 2.jpg

I liked Darkhawk. I am not ashamed to say this. But look at him. Shoulder-pad thingies. Claws. Seems very 90’s, eh? But really, it was a good comic. At least, I thought so at the time.

Created by Tom DeFalco, the series was written by Danny Fingeroth, and featured, for quite a while, some spiffy Mike Manley art. The main character, Chris Powell, was a regular guy who found a magical amulet that transformed him into the armored Darkhawk. Later, it was revealed that he simply switched bodies with an armored alien creature who was held in suspended animation on a ship somewhere. Shades of Miracleman, yeah. Anyway, being Darkhawk gave Chris the ability to wage his vendetta on crime.

His powers came from the “see what sticks” approach: grappling claw, wings, energy blasts/shields, etc. My favorite gimmick, however, was his constant helmet-removing to freak out his opponents. Apparently the alien under the armor was so hideous it was damn near repellant. I don’t think the readers every got to see its face, though. Shame. But then, they didn’t have Basil Wolverton to draw it in all its hideous glory, so I suppose that’s for the best.

I can’t say his rogues gallery was the best. He borrowed quite often from Spider-Man’s villains, but then you had wonderfully named baddies like Lodestone, Evilhawk, Overhawk, Portal, and gangster Phillipe Bazin. Yeah, well… it was the 90’s.

Darkhawk 1.jpgDarkhawk 3.jpg

I’m not exactly selling the series here. Hmm…

One could say it was about a son trying to hold his family together while fighting crime. Or you can just go with how Warren Ellis put it: “Magic amulet turns kid into robot.” It’d be the best Japanese TV show ever! (Of course, it’s surely been done multiple times on Japanese television. Shh.) Ellis even said he could write a MAX treatment of the character for laughs. He hasn’t gotten around to it yet, but you never know… I wouldn’t stop him.

Darkhawk is currently appearing in the mini-series “Loners,” as a member of a superhero support group. And, of course, he starred in the same Marvel Team-Up arc from Robert Kirkman I’ve been referencing these past few days.

It was a fun book. I’m not ashamed to say that. A bright spot in 90’s Marvel. But you know me; the sillier a book is, the more I’m bound to like it. I love most of the old “quarter bin series” that I picked up over the years, precisely because they’re just rollickin’ good superhero comics. Darkhawk was never high literature, but even an elitist like myself has to have a few wacky books that he enjoys. Just be glad I haven’t written a column on Ravage 2099 yet.

The series lasted an astonishing 50 issues. I never saw it through to the end, though. Does anyone know how it finished?

(As always, more info is to be had at Le Wiki.)

Coming tomorrow: Something that isn’t a 90’s Marvel superhero comic!

27 Comments

George Blanks

May 16, 2007 at 5:40 pm

You’re not the only who loved Darkhawk. Probably one of the first comics I bought on my own as a kid. Growing up on my older brother’s Spider-Man comics, Darkhawk felt like he was “my” superhero. I mean he was new, and I knew all about him cause I collected the series since #1.

The gimmick I loved was that Chris Powell never knew exactly what the Darkhawk body was capable of, and every other issue he’d discover a new super power.

What I don’t like about the modern incarnations of Darkhawk is that no writer can seem to pin down exactly WHAT he is. Is he a robot? Is he an alien? Is he an alien cyborg? They should just read the one issue of Darkhawk that deals with his origin, but who cares, he’s a throwaway 90’s character right?

I miss the “Lets try all sorts of new stuff” 90s. I think its interesting that revamped comics like Wonderman, Cage, or Silver Sable of that time period (90-93) all pretty much tanked and driffted into nothing-ness but you’ve got some books like Darkhawk and Sleepwalker, whose memories still last.

Then again, there was also Nightwatch and lord knows what else, so maybe I don’t really have a point.

What about Forceworks? Wasn’t that from around this time too?

And I want to see a week of all the 2099 comics!

Are we getting the entry on chromium foil covers tomorrow?

I thought Darkhawk was going to be the Spider-Man of my generation.

Holy hell….I influenced something here? And Ryan Day backed me up, so we get DARKHAWK! Damn…with great power indeed.

I remember reading the first dozen issues or so of this and enjoying it. I don’t have any desire to go back and re-read – I’d like to keep my happy memories – but it was a decent enough superhero story. And he’s not too nineties – he has no pouches on his costume!

I second that nomination for 2099 comics!

Darkhawk was pretty decent, Spider-Man-ish but not in a bad way. It was an interesting touch that he didn’t know what was happening when he transformed or what his powers were. And the eventual reveal (issue 25 if I remember right) lived up to expectations, I thought. But I always felt like his design needed some improvement. His helmet is kinda funny-looking from some angles, and the triangular shoulder pads are just weird.

I just love the whole “Mike Hunt” aspect of saying ‘Darkhawk’ out loud. I remember telling my mom, “I want a Darkhawk!”

“…you want a what?”

Man, who was in charge of covers at Marvel in the 90s? These last few you’ve shown look so cheap and tossed-off. Even the big cross-overs and minis had lame, desktop published, corporate newsletter-looking covers back then. Bland and boring art with tacky logos. Yeesh!

HAHA!!! I just said Darkhawk out loud and got it.

Oh boy!
This is your worst week ever.
I am even beginning to think you have no idea what a good comic is…
Darkhawk was the same concept as Rick Jones/Captain Marvel.
It was just another “dark” superhero with claws.

The 90’s certainly weren’t an era of “Lets try all sort of new stuff”. The Bronze Age was that era.

The 90’s are called the Dark Age for many reasons.
First, because the obvious Darker than ever superheroes.
It was the era of everything was a clone or a mixt of Punisher/Wolverine/Ghost Rider. Spawn was the perfect amalgam with some Spider-Man designs thrown in. Batman broken by Bane) and Superman (killed by Doomsday) were replaced with darker replacements (who knew you could get darker than the dark knight).

The 90’s were just a “Let’s just do more of the same” era. It was a glut of crappy comics with a few rare gems when you looked carefully for them (Sandman, Robinson’s Starman and a few others).

Yay Darkhawk! Like George wrote above, I loved this character in middle school because he was like Spidey, but I was there from the beginning. Maybe that’s not the best logic in hindsight, but I followed this character to the ends of the Marvel Universe.

I re-read some of the series not too long ago, after meeting Danny Fingeroth at a convention, and it holds up better than you’d think. Sure, there’s way too many 90’s cliches (mullets, tenchcoats, awful villains), but the overall ideas are pretty solid. There’s touches/steals of early Spidey, Miracleman, and The Greatest American Hero. His family made for a good supporting cast. They used the Long Island/Queens location well. It even enjoyed a solid final issue.

I’m glad Kirkman and now Loners have brought Chris Powell back. Long live Darkhawk!

I’m sorry, Kirbydotter, but you’re wrong.

It’s not the same concept as Rick Jones/Captain Marvel, Darkhawk wasn’t actually a dark or gritty hero, the *Silver* Age was the “let’s try something new” era (The Bronze Age was mostly “let’s try something slightly different,” aside from what Kirby was doing, obviously), and it’s the “era” we’re currently in that’s “let’s do everything the same.”

Yes, the 90’s was characterized by “shocking events” and “grittization” and “mullets,” but there were plenty of good little books that were ignored in favor of the uproar over the more newsworthy/upsetting stuff. Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, and Terror were never going to win any Eisners, but they were great in their own way.

You must try to be more open-minded. I bet you’d actually love Sleepwalker and Darkhawk, because they’re just like the Bronze Age stuff you’re promoting. It’s fine superhero storytelling.

Never read the Darkhawk series, so my main memory of him is from his appearances in other books I did read back then (ie the Spidey books). Though I will always be a fan because, in that team-up Spidey arc where Spider-Man, Moon Knight, Punisher, Night Thrasher, Nova and Darkhawk were fighting Midnight (former MK sidekick/current main villian) and the Secret Empire, Darkhawk had a line I still remember and occasionally use myself…

First issue of the arc, I think. Midnight is in a police station kicking the crap out of everyone there. Human-form Darkhawk is there, gawking, and says something to the effect of “Man, he’s going through these cops like Tyson went through Spinks!”

Also, if you’re gonna keep this 90’s theme up beyond this week, citizens demand more Thunderstrike and/or Warlock & the Infinity Watch.

Those covers are a bad time, though.

A funny thing about that Spider-man storyline was the title – “Round Robin: the Sidekick’s Revenge.” Which implied that Spidey and his amazing friends were fighting you-know-who-turned-evil, by proxy (Moon Knight being Mervel’s answer to Batman, etc.).

Bill Reed:
“I’m sorry, Kirbydotter, but you’re wrong.

It’s not the same concept as Rick Jones/Captain Marvel, Darkhawk wasn’t actually a dark or gritty hero, the *Silver* Age was the “let’s try something new” era (The Bronze Age was mostly “let’s try something slightly different,” aside from what Kirby was doing, obviously), and it’s the “era” we’re currently in that’s “let’s do everything the same.”

Yes, the 90’s was characterized by “shocking events” and “grittization” and “mullets,” but there were plenty of good little books that were ignored in favor of the uproar over the more newsworthy/upsetting stuff. Darkhawk, Sleepwalker, and Terror were never going to win any Eisners, but they were great in their own way.

You must try to be more open-minded. I bet you’d actually love Sleepwalker and Darkhawk, because they’re just like the Bronze Age stuff you’re promoting. It’s fine superhero storytelling.”

Well Bill. I have to confess that I was never interested in reading Darkhawk. My comparison to the Rick Jones/Captain Marvel thing was because you wrote that Chis Powell’s power was actually to swith place with an alien warrior… Isn’t this what Rick Jones did when he used his bracers (Darkhawk a ring?) to switch place with Captain Marvel an alien (Kree) warrior????

Also, The Silver Age was mainly the second wind of the superhero style of comics. DC rebooted their old Golden Age heroes and Marvel launched a new wave of superheroes. Period. It was a very important era of superhero comics.

The Golden Age and Atomic Age (early 50’s) were the era of variety: birth of the Romance Comics, Horror comics, Crime comics, Westerns, etc. After the Wertham thing and the coming of the comic code most of those genres disappeared. The whole comicbook industry almost went away. Then Julius Schwartz came up with revamping the Flash and other DC superheroes. Marvel’s Silver Age was basically dropping all the monster comics and going into SUperheroes after DC proved they could sell.

Silver Age = Superheroes. Basically.

And I’m not the only one who thinks the Bronze Age was THE “Try Everything” Age. You should read Michael Eury’s (who knows much more about comics than either of us) excellent essay on Bronze Age comics in the lastest Overstreet Comicbook Price Guide (page 392).

The Bronze Age saw the Comic Code giving a little breathing space vs horror themes. Marvel Bronze Age gave us Werewolf By Night, Tomb of Dracula, Monster of Frankenstein, SOn of Satan and numerous other. They tried a few new horror anthology (and the monsters mad a comeback in many reprints title). At DC, editor Joe Orlando used his EC experience to really make HOUSE OF MYSTERY and HOUSE OF SECRETS into true horror comics. They came up with Swamp THing (Marvel followed with Man-Thing).

The Bronze Age gave us the Sword And Sorcery genre in comic books. Conan, Kull, Thongor and Red Sonja at Marvel. WArlord, Starfire, Stalker and Claw at DC.

The Bronze Age us the return of the pulp heroes in comics. Doc Savage at Marvel, Shadow and Avenger (Justice Inc.) at DC.

The Bronze Age gave us the Blaxploitation comics of Black Lightning, Black Goliath, Brother Voodoo, Power Man, etc.

The Bronze Age went into the Kung-Fu craze with Shang-Chi, Richard Dragon, Iron Fist, etc.

War comics at DC went into a total change of attitude with the editorial of Joe Kubert and the “Make War no more” moto.

The Bronze Age was the birth of the graphic novel, the limited series, the many different formats (tabloids, digest, 100-pagers).

The Bronze Age gave us a new wave of artists that didn’t follow the “house style” and experimented in many different styles: Frank Brunner, Frank Miller, Mike Ploog, Michael Golden, MIke Grell, Marshall Rogers, etc.

The Bronze Age was when the comic book became relevant with the new writers like Steve Gerber, Steve Englehart, Denny O’Neil… They were the vietnam war issues the drug issues (with no code on a comic book for the first time since the 50’s in Spidey and in Green Lantern/Green Arrow).

The Bronze Age gave us weird concepts like Plop!, Howard the Duck, Bat Lash, Brother Power the Geek, Jonah Hex, etc… (I could go on)

The bronze Age was when DC put out almost half of dozen different titles with the word “WEIRD” in them. There was Weird war, weird western, weird mystery, weird sword and sorcery, gothic romance…

The Bronze Age saw the death of Gwen Stacy and Green Goblin. And everything changed after that.

Okay, I see where you’re coming from. But considering that the Silver Age was a period of blisteringly insane ideas and the birth of the Marvel Universe, I hope you see what I meant.

And while Chris Powell and Darkhawk are two separate physical entities, Chris’ mind controls them both, unlike Rick and Marv.

Now do Night Thrasher.

Flush it all away

May 17, 2007 at 4:59 pm

Hey, I’ve just realized that sometimes, looking back at old comics and groaning at how shitty they were can be a reason to love comics.

Kind of like watching ’80s movies and ridiculing the sweater-dresses, skinny ties and side-ponytails.

Joe Gualtieri

May 17, 2007 at 11:45 pm

Arguing whether or not Darkhawk is like Rick Jones/Mar-vel is fairly silly. Both are derivitive of the original Captain Marvel. Darkhawk’s closest to Alan Moore’s revamped Miracleman though, since the DH artificially created body is stored in subspace, just like Mike Moran’s artificially created body.

My brother bought this series when we were younger and I really liked the issue where Darkhawk finds himself on the desert island with Venom. But somehow my parents threw out all of them so I’m gonna go hit up ebay and relive the adventure!

It was unfortunate that the Darkhawk series was discontinued. I always considered him one of Marvel’s top super-heroes, rivaling Wolverine, surpassing Spiderman, trouncing Captain America.

Kirbydotter:
“They came up with Swamp THing (Marvel followed with Man-Thing).”

It was the other way around, actually.

Meaning that Swamp Thing was ripping off of Man-Thing.

On topic: Never liked Darkhawk but you what you wrote about him makes him sound a bit more interesting to me (but not much…). But I liked some of your entries. And Terror Inc was an awesome concept in the 90s. Anybody who says differently apparently just doesn’t know much about the character. The recent Marvel MAX Terror Inc book was great.

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