TITLE: Blackhawk Issue #1
YEAR: March 1989
COMPANY: DC Comics
Writer: Martin Pasko
Artist: Rick Burchett
Inker: John Dell
Letterer: Steve Hayne
Colorist: Tom Ziuko
Associate Editor: Brian Augustyn
Editor: Mike Gold
Back in 1941, for “Military Comics” from Quality Comics, Chuck Cuidera, Bob Powell and Will Eisner would create “Blackhawk”, a mysterious man who leads a small team of World War II-era ace pilots known as the Blackhawks.
And “Blackhawk” is in good company as having a title of a series along with “Superman”, “Batman” and “Wonder Woman” to have ongoing series from the 1940s through the 1960s.
As Quality Comics released its final issue #107 in 1956, DC Comics picked up the series and they chose to keep the comic running uninterrupted. The comic would be canceled in 1969 after Blackhawks went through a transition of having superhero alter egos and then going back to their traditional style.
By the ’70s, the series returned with issue #244 as part of the DC Explosion but was casualty with issue #250 as part of the DC Implosion.
DC Comics brought it back once again in 1982 continuing the numbering of its previous issues and in 1984, the issue was canceled once again with issue #273.
In 1988, a three-issue mini-series by Howard Chaykin re-imagined the team once again in World War II with a more mature storyline and focused on Blackhawk and Lady Blackhawk. The stories of Blackhawk would continue when Action Comics became a weekly and re-titled “Action Comics Weekly” which would lead to a 16-issue run from 1989-1990.
This is a re-imagined team with American Bart Hawk no longer Blackhawk but now the leader is Janos Prohaska from Poland. Danish Olaf Friedriksen and Chinese American Weng Chan (Chop-Chop) return but now we have Andre Blanc-Dumont from France, Carlos “Chuck” Sirianni an Italian American, Dutch Ritter Hendricksen, Stanislaus Drozdowski from Poland and American Natalie Reed (Lady Blackhawk).
And my blog post for the day will be about issue #1 of that 16-issue run.
The comic is set in the late ’40s, during a time where America was hunting down anyone connected to Communism and the “Red Scare” was alive and well.
The story begins with Natalie Reed (Lady Blackhawk) is now a comic book writer for Imperial Comics Group and living in Reynosa, Mexico where she can survive on $50, trying to create a World War II story. (Note: For those who didn’t know, Natalie’s parents were members of the American Communist Party and she followed her parents ideology).
We then see a story which transpired four months ago, Natalie appears to have left her baby Jimmy with her sister Ruthie and her husband who are having financial problems.
Her husband Ralph has had enough and said that if Natalie doesn’t get her kid, he wants legal custody and they’ll have to put Jimmy up for adoption.
Meanwhile we see Blackhawk, Janos Prohaska and Constance Parabont driving home and literally the two are discussing sharing an evening together. Constance is shy about having sex after being shot and wounded and having a scar makes her feel ugly (she was shot in “Action Comics Weekly” issue #632) but Jan tells her he doesn’t mind because he has plenty of scars himself.
We then see Natalie writing a story about the Blackhawk Squadron and her editors discussing why they have a communist working for them. The editor wants to give her a job to help her make ends meet but when one of the comic book inkers overhears them talking, he decides to report that Imperial Comics has a communist working for them.
And now, Imperial Comics has been put on the list of communist sympathizers by the House Organ of the American Patriots’ Vigil” and now the editors must testify at the House Un-American Activities Committee on communist Infiltration in the Comic Book business.
Blackhawk receives a letter from Natalie saying that she needs to make a living, so she has turned to writing and hopes the team doesn’t mind if she exploits their experiences for her comic book. And Blackhawk is not too thrilled about Natalie’s career.
Meanwhile, we find out that the inker of Imperial Comics was talking to a wealthy man named Mr. Spelvin (who is pretending to be an aide on the phone), who is in actually Congressman Dixon (Protecting America’s Moral Integrity) Millburn. He is suspicious of one of the ladies that left his home (the lady was hired to spy of what was going on inside of Mr. Spelvin’s home and to take photos) and she gets in a car. The congressman then tells his aide to stop whoever is driving the car and do whatever it takes.
Overall, it was an interesting story to see things not taking place during war or seeing the team in action. And to see how Natalie’s life has changed so much, now as a comic book writer and now the comic book company in trouble for hiring a person who is a communist.
Most of the action featured are from Natalie’s depictions of the team for her comic book and yes, the racially insensitive characterization of Chop-Chop is depicted in Natalie’s comic.
But I have to say that it was great to have a Blackhawk comic book series, albeit re-imagined for those wanting a non-super-hero story. But the goal of Chaykin for this series is to showcase team dynamics around an espionage story.
Of course, DC Comics had to make changes in “The New 52”, making the group to an elite covert military unit taking on hi-tech criminals and in “Rebirth”, “Dark Nights: Metal” issue #1, the group is now an anti-apocalyptic team trying to prevent the Dark Multiverse from destroying Earth-0.
While the Blackhawks still continue, for a new generation of readers, the comic book has gone through so many changes since the 1940’s and while the changes were extreme in some cases, at least DC Comics manages to keep the name alive in some sort of way.
For me, classic World War II Blackhawks is how I’ll forever remember the squad.