Saturday, December 3, 2011

Blackhawk: The 1970s

George Evans redesigned the Blackhawk uniform for a new decade, primarily adding the color red, and the zip-front jacket (frequently worn unzipped—sexy '70s style; from Blackhawk #244 (1976). Art by George Evans.
The 1976 regeneration of Blackhawk was written by Steve Skeates for most of its run, and was edited by Gerry Conway, with assists and story editing by Jack C. Harris. George Evans was the sole artist on the first tale, then he became the finisher over Ric Estrada's art.

DC chose to keep this team's true origins (and continuity) a bit mysterious. No doubt the property posed a similar problem to any of DC's other long-running features: how do you explain the true age of these characters if they were active in the 1940s? In 1976, DC's answer was that the Blackhawk team began in the 1950s (1957 if one mirrors the start of their DC career). The 1970s Blackhawks could not have been from Earth-X (which was overtaken by Hitler), and the 1980s revival was later defined as the Earth-One team.

The Earth-One Justice League appeared in the 1960s Blackhawk, which would place them on Earth-One as well. That was probably the logic at the time, but later Mark Evanier's Blackhawk was explicitly defined as the Earth-One team. Another anomaly was Roy Thomas' use of the characters in All-Star Squadron, where they were on Earth-Two during World War II.
You didn't realize Blackhawk continuity was such a mess, did you? But if one isolates Blackhawk's DC adventures from 1957-1977, they fit easily into Silver Age Earth-One continuity. There are reasons for this in the narrative below.

In the letters column of Blackhawk #244, Jack C. Harris penned a classified memo of sorts which "speculated" about the Blackhawks' origins:

"It is believed that in their youth, the Blackhawks fought the forces of Hitler throughout the world. Others speculate that the group first banded together in the fifties to battle a growing number of costumed villains and foes.
"There was even talk of them saving the entire planet from invasion from another world! (ref??) Much of this is believed to have been the ravings of the victims of mass hysteria, but some historians are not so sure.
"During the changing sixties there was a story that this mighty team had donned costumes and become super-heroes in the 'camp' craze of the troubled times. This remains unconfirmed and is thought today to be mere fiction.
"In 1968 the team known as the Blackhawks faded from the public eye. Inquiries into the disappearance led only to dead ends and blank walls.
"A joint statement issued by the Justice League of America and the U.S. Government read, simply 'No Comment.' The Blackhawks were gone. The questions were unanswered.
Then, in early September of this year, reports began to trickle in on a new group calling themselves the Blackhawks. Extensive investigations into this team's activities have determined that it is not a new team, but the original seven, who have seemingly survived whatever mission they departed on those seven years ago.
"It is also clear that these seven have retained the same positions in rank and duties as when they last appeared in public."
It went on to list them, adding, "No longer subsidized by the U.S. Government or by the private fortunes of its members, the Blackhawks are now supported by mercenary feeds collected for their deeds."
  1. Blackhawk, alias Bart Hawk aka Mr. Cunningham, the silent head of Cunningham Aircraft, one of the largest aircraft corporations in the world. He commands a working knowledge of many branches of science with specialties in aviation and aerodynamics.
  2. Stanislaus: Known to be a citizen of Poland, Stanislaus is the financial wizard of Cunningham Aircraft, the suspected front of the Blackhawk operation.
  3. Hendrickson: Of Dutch descent, it is believed that Hendrickson spent much of his childhood in Germany. [NOTE: This marries his Quality-era Holland vs. Germany citizencship.] He is the oldest of the group and speculation leads to the belief that his current duty is sentinel of the secret base of the team, Blackhawk Island, location: unknown!
  4. Chuck: An American citizen, Chuck is the communications expert and scientist of the team, applying almost the sum total of his knowledge to operations for Cunningham and the Blackhawk project.
  5. Chopper (formerly Chop-Chop). Former citizen of mainland China. Chopper is master of Martial arts, but shows more aptitude in being the most skilled flier of the team, save for Blackhawk himself.
  6. Andre: A mechanics expert, Andre is one of the three Blackhawks who operate outside the United States. It is known that his base is in France, the nation of his birth, but at this time there is no information as to the European mission.
  7. Olaf is also a European operative, with a cover job as a ski instructor at a Cunningham -owned resort. Of Swedish background, the massive man is the youngest of the Blackhawk team. (Blackhawk #244)
Lasting only seven issues, the 1976 revival managed to reintroduce classic Blackhawk foes and plot devices and invent some new ones. Skeates set up a whole lot of characterization and potential for the Blackhawks but had to leave many plot threads unresolved. The series opened with the squad rushing into battle against the forces of Anton Vibrax.


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  1. It's not such a big hassle. First off, it's entirely possible for there to be virtual duplicate Blackhawk teams on Earths 1, 2, X, and Quality. (On Earth-Q, the Blackhawks won World War II.) The Earth-2 Blackhawks started out in WWII and then, like many other "Quality" heroes, moved to Earth-X and subsequently died in combat. The Earth-1 Blackhawks also started in World War II, as shown in many adventures, and probably retired after their brief 70's run, in which Chuck died. Chaykin's Blackhawks belong to the New Earth DC. Not confusing when you get things sorted out.

  2. Thanks, Lou! I will revise my verbiage in the Blackhawk profiles. This clarification makes sense. ... Not confusing to US anyway :^|