Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Blackhawks – Junk Heap Heroes

The Blackhawks – the original all-flying, all-fighting, Axis-busting airborne international aces of World War 2 – not only had one of the most iconic costumes in comics history, they had two.

The original Blackhawk ensemble was a slick blue-black and all-leather affair, emblazoned with the screaming hawk logo across the tum-tum, and cut a stylish figure – although its dark palette, jodhpur and car always looked a little, er, Reich-y to me. IF Y’CAN’T BEAT ‘EM, I guess. Their second look was a casual affair in Christmas colors, a red and black blouse and green pants and black boots which, again, let’s be honest, was still a little bit Reich-y, but let’s judge the fellas on the work they did and not the work clothes they wore.

Still, in 1967, in the wake of the wild revival of superhero-mania caused by the success of the Batman tee-vee show and the spy-craze still simmering from all sorts of James Bond and Mans from UNCLEs and such, the Blackhawks got a complete makeover marbled through with phony-baloney secret agent nonsense. From issues numbered 221 through 241 of their own long-running comic, the flyers were put on a sort of life-or-death reality show by a secret organization with the world’s dumbest acronym, judged by a celebrity panel of Silver Age super-types whose fashion sense I guess we have to accept as infallible even though at least one of them dressing up like a rubber ferret.

Sidelined by the governmental espionage agency GEORGE – an acronym which stands for The Group for the Extermination of Organizations for Revenge, Greed and Evil – and its primary agent, Mr.Delta, the Man With A Piece of A-4 Paper Instead Of A Face, the Blackhawks have to prove that they’re suited to handle the threats of the Jet Age. This mostly involves facing off against a robot who beats them up while telling them what big phoneys they are. In fact, over the three-issue arc during which the Blackhawks adopt their new costumes and identities, the recurring theme is “Who’s Lamer Than The Blackhawks? No one!” For a comic with their own name on the cover, they’re sure taking a real licking in the reputation department.

Here’s a quick rundown of the Blackhawks’ new costumes, identities and what GEORGE said was wrong with them:

  • Blackhawk himself gets off pretty easy, as he’s allowed to keep his snazzy red-and-green casual costume and doesn’t have any particular flaws pointed out except the gentle barbs of Mr.Delta. “Blackhawk, more like BLECCH-Hawk,” he said, in my imagination. In fact, the chief Blackhawk gets promoted to the position of head tormentor of his fellow teammates, gaining the privilege of using a giant robot scorpion to slap his old pals while he yells abuse at them from a tower. It’s like high school all over again. Blackhawk ends up being renamed “The Big Eye” and flies around in a tremendous airship shaped like a two-headed black eagle which, again, a little Reich-y.
  • Andre, the team’s French lothario and winner of the Thinnest Mustache in Occupied France award four years running is revealed to be a straight-up gynophobe (which I guess explains his catchphrase, “Mizandry iz real, mon amis!”) and is thereby punished by being dressed up like a priapism tied up with bandoliers made of tool belts, and forced to operate under the name “Msieu Machine”, the team’s Dwayne Schneider.
  • Hendrickson, the team’s Dutch Uncle, who is older than the guy God’s dad knew in the neighborhood when he was growing up who had a bunch of Civil War memorabilia in the house, it turns out that his biggest issue is that his accent is really thick. I guess points to the non-ageist, non-ableist mindset that suggested a fat old man might not be the world’s best field agent, but whatever the case, Hendy is decked out in a purple constable’s costume that might’ve been stolen from McDonaldland’s wardrobe department and redubbed Weapons Master.
  • Olaf, the team’s Swedish idiot, is revealed to be a Swedish idiot, and I’m not kidding; he’s repeatedly referred to as “You big, dumb Swede” throughout his trials. I wasn’t even aware this current of anti-Swedish sentiment ran so strong through the comics community, but here we are. Criticized for relying overmuch on his corny acrobatic skills, Olaf is given a spare Michelin Man costume which gives him even acrobattier skills. Another success for science and the anti-crime juggernaut known as Leaper.
  • All-American Chuck, the team’s former demolitions expert, is relegated to communications – this is the kind of demotion which typically follows an inadvertent yet deliberate explosion at an orphanage -  and now called The Listener. Even worse than that name is his costume – loose fitting pajamas daubed with cartoon ears – or I hope they’re cartoons. They might be real ears, he might be wearing the ear suit.
  • Stan, Polish strongman, doesn’t even GET an assessment or a new identity, he has to go out and get one for himself, beating the shit out of a weirdo crimelord named The Emperor and stealing his flying suit of gold armor. For the record, Stan’s problem is that he’s a murderous klepto, although instead of using that as his superheroic alias he goes for Golden Ceturion.
  • Lastly, there’s Chop-Chop, the team’s one-time ethnic grotesque, a former buck-toothed stereotype who chittered pidgin English and ran around looking like a bronze teapot with parentheses for eyes. He’s been normally proportioned for a few years by the time the rebranding comes along, although he’s still quick to belt out something in over-formal English about celestial ancestors or saving face, the usual, etc. Still, pleasingly, when he gets his new costume, it’s merely a nice tuxedo and, uh, beryllium-encased hands which can smash through anything. That’s gonna make pissing a chore, although it’s not much worse than his muppet-y new codename, Dr Hands, and all of this is because Chop was only an expert in Judo which is apparently, scientifically speaking, not as good as karate. Don’t yell at me, tell your sensei to take it up with the Blackhawks’ robot coach.

The newly rechristened and recast Blackhawks spend three issues justifying the big change in their direction and then the remainder of a year facing off against a criminal super-group which unashamedly includes among its roster such ex parte fictional terror groups as THRUSH and SPECTRE, as well as DC’s own OGRE taking time off from bothering Aquaman. Twelve brief issues of this Bob Haney-scripted nonsense is all the new Blackhawks can take before it’s time to re-don the old black-and-blues amid the smoking crater where GEORGE headquarters once stood, thanks to a smash-happy foe of the old Nazi variety, Black Mask.

Whether they like it or not!


neofishboy said...

I have scoured the internet and it would appear that, sadly, nobody makes shirts, pants or pajamas covered in ears. Somebody makes a t-shirt with one big ear on it, but that's just stupid.

BillyWitchDoctor said...

There was a truly godawful World's Finest story in which Superman "dies" and Lex Luthor sells his organs to criminals for transplants; the super-crooks stuffed their spectacularly nonathletic figures into colorful spandex with their individual "gift" pictured on their chests.

The elderly goober who got super-hearing had a huge ear emblazoned on his yellow tights, but even that wasn't the worst; that honor goes to the fat guy in a green-and-orange get-up who got Superman's lungs and bore a tornado on his moobs. (SPOILER) His prize for worst costume? Death, when the organs turn out to belong to an android and were meant to fail. Seriously, Superman and Batman stand around discussing the scheme while the guy dies.



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