A Tribute to the of

Hawk-a-a-a! It’s the 75th anniversary (by publication date) of the Blackhawks! Military Comics #1 was the place and the creators were Chuck Cuidera, Bob Powell and Will Eisner. Like other Quality Comics, they were scooped up by DC and also like other Quality offerings, DC seemed to struggle at times with how to handle the team. I’ll grant you a paramilitary group of combat aviators probably made much more sense back in 1941, but somehow Sgt. Rock, The Haunted Tank and their ilk managed to mosey along without too much tampering or difficulty. It’s tough to pinpoint just what the trouble was, but even in the early 60s, they seemed to be a little out of their wheelhouse.

We’ll check out a sample from my limited selection of Blackhawk titles. It’s issue #179 from December of 1962 with a cover by Dick Dillin and Sheldon Moldoff with Dillin also doing interior pencils, inked by Chuck Cuidera and editing by Jack Schiff. The Grand Comics Database is uncertain, but story #1 of the 3-story anthology is questioningly attributed to Dave Wood and is called “The Invisible Dr. Dumar!

Things get started in the lab of Dr. Alex Dumar. He has invited the Blackhawk team to witness his electronic light beam device, which can transport objects between two booths. Sounds a lot like the plot to The Fly or maybe a precursor to the Star Trek transporter. At any rate, he shows how easy it is to beam a vase between the booths and then decides to try two parakeets, but then fate steps in and Dumar stubmles into the booth, simultaneously activating it. The beam seems to go nuts as bilious clouds of smoke emerge from the booth. After it clears, the team cannot find the good doctor and conclude he must have wandered off, so they go on a search that proves fruitless.

After two hours and no luck, they respond to a police call for help and board their chopper to lend their assistance. They soon arrive at a rooftop where escaped convicts are flashing a giant display flashlight at them and firing weapons. We then see an outline of a human figure dropping from the helicopter and then clocking one of the convicts. Since he can no longer control the beam, the blinded Blackhawks are able to land and finish mopping up, but before they can do much, two of the other thugs are seemingly tossing their weapons away, but we, the readers, can see the outline again going into action with fisticuffs.

Soon the Blackhawks are learning that there was more than meets the eye with regard to the capture of the escapees and they further find out that the authorities’ search for Dumar has yielded nothing. So, it’s off to Blackhawk Island in the Pacific to regroup and move forward on finding their missing friend.

Upon arrival at their base, they are surprised to see a figure emerging from a cockpit. It’s Dumar and he explains he’s putting fire extinguisher foam on himself to regain visibility. He says that the lab accident caused him and his clothing to be invisible and asks for other garb.

In the Blackhawk’s conference room, a freshly bandaged and clothed Dumar explains that he didn’t reveal himself because he didn’t wish to be a distraction and further believed the condition would be temporary. He also took advantage and allied himself with them, using his newfound ability to travel on beams of light. The rest of the story is that he’s come up with a theory to use his light traveling skill to return to normal, but his invisibility seems to be messing with his mind, resulting in memory lapses and seizures. He asks his friends to imprison him while he’s in this volatile condition, but before they can comply, he abruptly goes berserk, accusing them of being with the Mole Gang and throwing punches before dashing out and peeling off the bandages.

The invisible man makes a mad dash for the Blackhawk Museum and is soon piloting the War Wheel from the trophy room. Maneuvering off the compound, the team is given a respite, but now they have to figure out how to deal with this development. Blackhawk instructs his team to gather equipment that will monitor sound and spray painting gear. Before they can go into action, however, Alex douses them with water from the tower and congratulates himself on dealing with “Madden.”

After their soaking, one of the team members remarks that the mist from the water is forming a rainbow, which triggers a thought for Blackhawk: “Light…Rainbow Colors! Of course—that’s how the vase materialized in the booth! And that’s what Alex must have been thinking of to return himself to normal!

A bold new plan is conceived with Blackhawk issuing instructions to make radio contact with space fair officials on the coast and to retrieve captured Falcon gang costumes from storage. Soon the disguised team is taking off in their aircraft and Alex Dumas, under the continuing delusion that he is a Blackhawk, boards a spare jet and pursues them.

They lead the scientist to the space fair and parachute down to it where the police and fair officials are standing by. Soon Dumas follows the “Falcon Gang” and glides down a searchlight to intercept them. As he travels down the beam, though, it is repositioned to catch the artificially created rainbow from a massive prism on display. Once Alex reaches the end of the beam, he is successfully transformed back into his normal status, though he states that he has no memory of what had transpired prior.

That wraps up this little adventure, if a bit implausibly. I just couldn’t bring myself to review the cover story. It looked a little too much like a ripoff of Gulliver’s Travels.

As you can see, the Blackhawks were dealing with a lot of science fiction sorts of stories, at least during this era and as time went by, it only got worse. I’m still trying to forget the infamous “Junk-Heap Heroes” timeframe [#228 January, 1967] when they were redone in an awful superhero vein.

Frankly, one of the few times I heard a Blackhawk reference that really made me smile was when I was listening to the audio version of Kingdom Come when a Blackhawk aviator was called upon to deliver the payload that wiped out the majority of the rogue metahumans toward the story’s climax.

While this isn’t a sterling example of Blackhawk, they’re still a great team with a great legacy and one can only hope that one day, some publisher will actually figure out what to do with them to help restore some of that legacy. Meanwhile, this story gets a 4 on the rating scale for mediocrity and being a bit misguided.

All the same, happy 75th Blackhawk! Keep ‘em flying!

Mid-August will be the next update here, dear readers, so consider yourselves invited to check out what’s next in the spotlight and perhaps you have an idea of your own. If so, don’t be shy. Just fire off an e-mail to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

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