DC Comics History: Blackhawk (1955 - 1959: Dawn of the Silver Age)
By Deejay Dayton
February 16, 2017 - 07:47
Blackhawk is such an important entry in this column, for a variety of reasons. It is being inserted according to the time the series debuted, but it was not originally a DC book. Blackhawk was published by Quality Comics for more than a decade, only beginning publication as a DC book in 1957. That is why it had not appeared in any earlier periods in this column.
But to my great dismay, I do not have my scans of Blackhawk accessible. I might have lost them completely, I’m not sure. So I must discuss this series without being able to show more than the covers. My apologies. If and when I find my Blackhawk scans, I will re-write this entire entry, and do it properly.
But this is the way I will be treating the other Quality characters. And Fawcett characters. And Charlton characters. Only when they start being published by DC will they enter the line-up of titles for a given period, and in the first entry I will look back on their earlier histories.
Blackhawk debuted in Military Comics 1, in August of 1942, in a story one might call ripped from the headlines. Blackhawk himself is the only survivor of a Nazi bombing campaign in Poland that wiped out his family, and he leads a squadron of pilots in tracking down and killing the Nazi commander behind the raid.
It would take a year or so for the team’s line-up to stabilize. At first the other members of the Blackhawks were unnamed entities, but by the end of 1942 Andre, Hendrickson, Olaf, Chuck and Stanislaus were his flying squad, with Chop-Chop as their cook, serving as comic relief in a time when outrageous racial stereotyping was considered humourous.
Blackhawk proved popular enough to gain his own book. It did not start with issue 1 though, but with issue 9. The first eight issues of the book belonged to Uncle Sam. The Blackhawk title would continue on into the DC years, while the series from Military Comics, which changed title to Modern Comics with issue 44 in November 1945, came to an end with issue 102 in October 1950.
After the war ended the team continued to fight on, and were given a bit of a different origin. Blackhawk himself was no longer Polish, but an American who was fighting with the Polish army, alongside Stanislaus. The pair join the Frenchman Andre, Swedish Olaf, and German concentration camp escapee Hendrickson, as well as another American, Chuck, and they buy their own planes, and set up their own island base of operations, Blackhawk Island. Chop-Chop slowly moved from butcher knife wielding cook to pilot, becoming increasingly white over the years.
In this time, the Blackhawks would gain two recurring “villains.” One was an actual person, Killer Shark, while the other was a fairly unique weapon, the War Wheel.
Killer Shark made his debut in Blackhawk 50 (Feb. 52), a pirate leader with teeth filed into points and a plane made to look like a shark. He would face the Blackhawks five times during their Quality run.
The War Wheel showed up a couple of issues later, in Blackhawk 56 (Sept. 52). The weapon, which would much later be given a Nazi origin, was in fact a Cold War entity in its debut. The War Wheel would appear only occasionally in action, but would be seen more often on Blackhawk Island.
In 1957 DC took over Quality Comics books, cancelling most of them. Blackhawk was one of the few to continue uninterrupted, with 108 being the first under the DC Imprint.
The first few issues had covers that continued the visual style of the Quality series, before taking on the look of other DC books, beginning with issue 111. There were no significant changes in the team’s line-up at first. Many of the stories during this period dealt with leftover Nazis trying to raise the Fourth Reich, though as time went on the team would increasingly face more standard villains, as well as having science fiction style adventures, taking them to other planets.
The one immediate addition to the team under DC was the inclusion of Blackie the Hawk, a bird sidekick for the team, who will appear in all their issues during this era. Blackie made his debut in the first DC issue, 108, in the same story that featured Killer Shark’s DC debut.
In that story, Killer Shark has a submarine shaped like a whale, which he uses to capture the team members after they get shot down. Blackie proves his use to the Blackhawks, helping them get control of the whale ship, although Killer Shark gets away.
Killer Shark appears in four more Blackhawk stories during these years, 123, 128, 130 and 139, as well as being the one villain that is constantly shown in stories that recap the team’s exploits.
The War Wheel gets used in issue 109, one of many weapons kept on Blackhawk Island that get activated by a mysterious foe, the Question Mark. The Question Mark turns out to Blackhawk himself, testing the other members of the team to determine which would be the most qualified to replace him as leader, should anything happen. The story cops out, though, with Blackhawk stating that every member of the team is good enough.
A number of other recurring villains get introduced during these years, though none would appear more than twice at this time. The first of these is the Jailer. Blackhawk 113 introduces the character, whose real name is Gaol, and who comes from a long line of jail builders. When he believes that his designs are being ridiculed and rejected, he turns to crime, taking on the identity of the Jailer and capturing Andre, Olaf, and then Blackhawk himself, before discovering that it was a different man who was being laughed at. But by this point the Jailer had a taste for the bad side, and returned in issue 131, capturing wanted men and stealing their ill gotten gains. The Jailer would return to face the Blackhawks again in the next period.
The Mole made two appearances taking on the Blackhawks, in issues 114 and 125. The designer of a giant digging machine, the Mole’s first outing sees him attempt to rob Fort Knox by burrowing underneath it. His second and final outing is even less of a success, as his new atomic weapon winds up endowing Blackhawk with super powers, enabling him to easily defeat the villain.
You could tell this series had passed its prime by the cover of Blackhawk 135, which introduced the Hoopster. The villain is also a performer, the Great Hoopla, who pretends that his special hoops have been stolen and are being used for crime. It takes the Blackhawks a shamefully long time to figure out that Hoopla is the Hoopster. As lame as this guy is, he would return in the next period to face the team again.
More importantly, King Condor makes his debut in Blackhawk 142. King Condor is sort of the aerial equivalent of King Shark, with bird themed weaponry. Blackie gets to play a major role in this tale. The bird gets captured by King Condor, but is able to use a radio to contact the team and let them know his, and the villain’s, location. King Condor returns in the next period.
But the most important addition to the book during these years is Lady Blackhawk. Just given the name Zinda, Lady Blackhawk makes her debut in Blackhawk 133. Olaf gets captured by a villain called the Scavenger, and the team heads to Africa to find him. Along the way they meet Zinda, who wants to become the first female Blackhawk. She does help the other men find Olaf and defeat the Scavenger, but also gives away their location at one point, screaming when she sees a mouse. It’s a terrible moment, considering how impressive she is otherwise.
Lady Blackhawk proved popular enough to make a return in issue 140, and has an even more impressive outing. The Scavenger is also back, his second and last story, and is out for revenge, capturing the Blackhawks and imprisoning them on his own island. Lady Blackhawk goes into action to rescue them. She decoys Scavenger by sending her plane to the island by remote control, while swimming there herself. While the Scavenger shoots down the plane, Zinda finds and frees the Blackhawks.
Lady Blackhawk makes one further appearance before the end of this era, in issue 143, aiding them in preventing the invasion of a small European country.
Blackhawk continues in the next period, 1960 – 1964: the Silver Age.
Blackhawk: Blackhawk 108 – 144 (Jan 57 – Jan 60)
Next up – Green Arrow!
Last Updated: May 19, 2020 - 12:25
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