Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Classics - Blackhawk #172

   I've always been a fan of the original Blackhawk comic book, which I enjoyed so much as a kid.

   This issue is cover dated May 1962, so it was right at the beginning of my comics-reading career - but I have to admit, this is not a series that has aged well.

   One of the reasons is because it adheres so rigidly to its format. Each issue contained three stories, each one 8 or 9 pages long.

   Each story features some kind of bad guy / menace / opponent - none of them particularly memorable and, with only a couple of exceptions over the run of the series, each villain was never seen again. In this issue, we have the Gas Master (which is pretty funny to my older-but-still-juvenile sense of humor), the Jackal and the pirate Black Patch.

   In each story the team confronts the bad guy, faces an unexpected setback, then another, and then they manage to overcome adversity and defeat their opponent.

   The reason the comic enjoyed long-term success (and made me a fan) is because the formula works - it allows for a vast variety of challenges and gives the heroes plenty of opportunities to show off their skills.

   It also works because the team itself is a good-hearted, dedicated bunch of friends, each with different abilities and personalities, and it's fun to see them outwit their opponents.

   It doesn't hurt that the art is excellent, provided by an uncredited Dick Dillin.  Despite the fact that the members of the team all dress identically in black leather flight suits (aside from Blackhawk's logo), they're all easily identified, separate characters - not many artists in the business today could manage that.

   I'll return to this series for a future "classic" review, because it occurs to me that this comic could not be made today - and even in the '60s it was undergoing a change (if very slowly). It's loaded with stereotypical representations of men from different countries, so they each had their own particular way of talking - something that's almost extinct in our modern, politically correct era of character depictions.

   More on that next time. As for this issue, for all its faults and its lack of compelling villains, it's still fun to see the team launch into action. (Say, how do they recover those jets after they all bail out?)

Grade: B+




Anonymous said...

Chuck, on this D-Day, it's good to remember men of different nationalities and even heavily accented speech(!) coming together and heroically fighting side by side to battle a common enemy. BLACKHAWK represented this theme well for many years after WW2 had ended. Today? Not real and gritty enough for readers, who prefer the more obvious kind of super-heroes to men in uniform.

Sam Kujava

Chuck said...

Excellent point, Sam - I couldn't agree more!