In the 1960s, there were a number of great superhero or adventure comic books featuring groups. There was the Justice League of America, the Fantastic Four, The X-Men, The Avengers, The Legion of Superheroes, The Doom Patrol, The Teen Titans, Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos, The Mighty Crusaders and others. I enjoyed all of them, but my favorite was Blackhawk.
The Blackhawks first appeared as the lead feature in Military Comics in the the summer of 1941, before the attack on Pearl Harbor started World War II. They soon had their own comic book. The legendary Will Eisner had a hand in their beginnings; he was either editor or creator, depending on who tells the story. “Hawkaaaa” was their battle cry and they usually ended an adventure flying off the bottom panel of the comic-book page while singing a victory song.
If you want to learn much more about the origin of the Blackhawks, here’s a blog by a fellow Maryland WordPress blogger that is well worth your attention:
Here are the first Military Comics and Blackhawk covers; the first Blackhawk comic was #9 because Quality Comics used their U.S. Postal permit from their cancelled Uncle Sam Quarterly:
After WWII ended, Military Comics changed its name to Modern Comics. Here’s the first cover with the new name:
All these were issued by the Quality Comics company and the artwork was just wonderful. It was realistic, gritty and the Blackhawks had great uniforms and equipment. The airplanes alone were enough to draw one’s interest, though the stories were compelling; full of nasty men and women who were all defeated by the Blackhawks. The women were unfailingly attractive; and nearly all of them fell in love with Blackhawk, who was the Polish-born leader of the seven-man team.
Please know that the Quality-era Blackhawks weren’t politically correct if viewed with a 21st-century mindset; one of my buddies on a Lincoln history forum has a great quote worth remembering:
The Past is a foreign country . . . they do things differently there”
— L. P. Hartley
In the panel above, the earnest young lady’s dad, who was making earthquakes and avalanches in South America for the benefit of the commie empire, is going to prison for life, but all she can think of is how cool Blackhawk is! Hawkaaaaaaaaaaa!!!
In 1956, Quality Comics sold the rights to their characters to DC Comics, and DC continued Blackhawk. Here’s the first DC issue:
Note that the comic-book title is singular but the team name is plural. The DC Blackhawk had the same artists and some of the same writers, but instead of fighting Nazis and commies, the Blackhawks were often fighting super villains and monsters. No matter; they were still a great read.
After a couple of years, DC decided to fiddle with the formula and the Blackhawks were clothed in what one commentator has described as uniforms better suiting valet parking attendants:
The stories and art were still okay, but a couple of years later, during a strange comic-book interlude that began with the campy Batman TV show and the James Bond/Man from U.N.C.L.E. fads, the Blackhawks were turned into an embarrassingly inept group of semi-superheroes, with silly names and even sillier costumes. It didn’t last long and to make things worse, some of the big-time DC comics heroes introduced this horrible concept on the front cover!!!
I refuse to show you the new uniforms the Blackhawks wore during this period. They are painful to behold.
After several terrible issues, the decision was made by the DC honchos to cancel the title. At the same time, a talented artist and editor, Dick Giordano, came to DC from the Charlton Comics company. He loved the original Blackhawks and when he took over the comic, he tried for two issues to bring back the original concept, including the black leather uniforms. It was too little too late. Blackhawk was cancelled in 1968.
DC has had a few revivals of Blackhawk since then but they never seemed to catch on, for whatever reason.
So why am I telling you all this?
Because for several years I have had an idea for a great Blackhawks revival! It would be composed of a group of young black men and women, and I think the concept would be interesting and fun. I’ve given this a lot of thought and may well put it all down on paper one day and send it off to DC Comics.