I've recently caught the TVTropes bug.  One of the things I notices is that Blackhawk didn't have a page yet, so I started one.

I know there are several people here who are much bigger Blackhawk experts than I am, so I figured I'd ask here about questions that occur to me (and if anyone here is also a TVTroper type, feel free to edit the wiki itself, of course.)

A few oddball questions I've been pondering:
  • Olaf:Are there any primary sources that identify him as Norwegian?  I know he's usually (always?) supposed to be Swedish, but I thought he was from Norway until visiting this board.  I've seen a few other web citations that list him as Norwegian, but without references.  I'm wondering whether my mistaken belief was born from an actual in-comics reference, or just flawed logic (i.e., I had assumed ALL the Blackhawks, except the Americans, were from Nazi-occupied nations, which Sweden of course never was.)
  • Long Running Series: The more I think about it, the more Blackhawk's continuous 1941-1968 run surprises me.  Are there any other examples of comics features whose origins and action were closely tied to WWII that survived well into the '50s, let alone beyond?  In retrospect, one wouldn't be terribly surprised to read in the histories of comics something like "Blackhawk, while popular during the war, was, like many military-oriented features, canceled in 1946."  Why wasn't it?  What made Blackhawk survive in what would seem to be a hostile environment in the postwar years?

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I believe the switch from war stories to adventure ones helped. "Miliatary Comics" changed its name to "Modern Comics" to reflect this. There were the personalities of the Blackhawks that made them stand out from the rest, like for example the characters in "Air Fighters". "Boy Commandoes" also survived after the war for a while for similar reasons. Blackhawk sold well enough that DC continued the series after Quality stopped. Plastic Man didn't get that!

Olaf was always Swede and an acrobat. He went against his country's neutrality like Chuck joining before America's involvement in WWII. Strange, there wasn't a major British Blackhawk!

BTW, anyone wanting a great run of "Blackhawk" should get Mark Evanier's & Dan Spiegle's run from the 80s, #251-273, I believe!
Airboy, from Hillman, lasted into 1953, when the publisher stopped publishing comics. He appeared in the anthology title Air Fighters Comics (from v.1 #2, 1942), which became Airboy Comics in 1945.

Wonder Woman was initially closely tied to the war. Her costume positioned her as a patriotic hero (she wore an eagle bustier until late 1981), her origin linked her to the war, the set-up of her strip involved her with the military, and many of her early stories were strongly war-themed. She debuted in All-Star Comics #8 in 1941 (=before Pearl Harbor: Trevor was involved in combating a Nazi ring when he crashed on Paradise Island[1]).

Captain Marvel, Jr.'s origin (in Whiz Comics #25, 1941, another story presumably prepared before Pearl Harbor) tied him to Captain Nazi, and from what I can tell many of his earliest stories were war-themed (as are many of his early Master Comics covers). But he's also a junior version of Captain Marvel, who wasn't initially tied to the war, so I think he's a less-good example. He retained his feature slots (in Master Comics and, from 1942, his own title) into 1953, when Fawcett lost its case to DC. In contrast, Mary lost her feature slots (in Wow Comics and her own title) in the latter 40s.

Crimebuster, from Gleason, debuted in Boy Comics #3, 1942, and survived until the last issue of the title in late 1955 or early 1956 (again, the publisher went out of business). Although his sobriquet positioned him as crimefighter, his origin tied him to the Nazi villain Iron Jaw, and the latter appeared in the majority of stories until #15 in 1944, when he was killed off (but see below). Crimebuster stopped wearing a costume in 1950, and towards the end the Crimebuster name was dropped and the strip became college-themed.

Iron Jaw returned in late 1950 and was heavily used in Crimebuster's feature for a couple of years. After that he appeared in a back-up series with another criminal character called Sniffer, which ran until Boy Comics's second-last issue. Apparently in this he was handled comedically.

Wings Comics, from Fiction House, debuted in 1940 and lasted (according to the GCD) into 1954 (again, the publisher stopped doing comics). Although they appeared before Pearl Harbor, the first issues already had war-themed covers and carried a "fighting aces of war skies" legend above the title logo. A character called Captain Wings debuted in #16, 1941 and appeared regularly in the title until #116 in 1952, and irregularly (if the GCD's entries for the title are complete) thereafter.

(1) The All-Star story describes him as "pursuing a Nazi spy ring". The story in Sensation Comics #1 apparently concerns the same ring, but there it isn't explicitly identiified as Nazi.
Much information about the Blackhawks can be found at Dan Thompson's Unofficial Blackhawk Comics Website.

In his debut appearance Blackhawk was Polish. When his origin was retold in Blackhawk #71 in 1953 he was represented as an American volunteer fighting for the Poles.

Blackhawk started as a quarterly(1) (as did Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) and became a bimonthly in 1948. In 1950 Modern Comics was cancelled, but at the same point Blackhawk went monthly. At this point also the page count, which had been decreased in 1949 for both titles, was increased again. Since Modern Comics had been a monthly and had only carried one Blackhawk story per issue (plus, in its latter issues, a Blackhawk text story), these changes meant Quality was now putting out six fewer Blackhawk-led comics per year but more Blackhawk stories.

Despite the racist element in his depiction, the early, fat Chop-Chop was often portrayed as brave, capable and fierce. His name is connected to his role as the Blackhawk's cook and his proclivity for using his cleaver as a weapon. He also acted as Blackhawk's navigator. In Blackhawk he also appeared in "Chop-Chop" solo stories. In the one tale I've seen from this series (from #37) he's played as a good-natured but not-so-bright comic figure. By the end of the Quality period the racist caricature element had been removed from his portrayal and he'd been slimmed down, but he was still plump. His dialogue in "The Raid on Blackhawk Island!" from #109 - according to Thompson the stories in the first DC issues didn't yet reflect DC's editorial approach - makes me wonder if he was now portrayed as timid. He was finally costumed as a member of the team when the Blackhawks received new red, black and green costumes in #197. In #203 he was given an origin story(2) that portrayed him as a very capable former Chinese resistance fighter, and explained the "Chop-Chop" name as deriving from noises he made when using martial arts. In the 70s revival of the series he was renamed Chopper.

I can think of comparatively few WWII-themed features that were clearly hits. I know "Blackhawk" and "Boy Commandos" were, because they got their own titles. Wonder Woman was certainly a hit, if her feature counts. I'd count Captain America's feature as war-themed, although it also debuted before America formally entered the war.(3) He started off in his own title, but was heavily-imitated and was also cover-featured on other Marvel/Timely titles, so apparently he was a hit too.(4) Post-war Captain America and the Boy Commandos returned to civilian life, and both features continued until 1949.

I can't give you chapter and verse on the emergence of the post-war WWII-story genre. But during the Korean War there were many Korean War-themed comics, and military-themed entertainment remained popular into the 60s. This makes me wonder if the trick for a feature like "Blackhawk" was making it out of the 40s. But I don't know what it might be compared to. Of the other clearly-successful WWII-themed features I've listed the most thoroughly military-adventure-oriented in their premises were "Airboy" and "Boy Commandos",(5) and both of these moved away from military-themed adventure post-war. The Blackhawks, in contrast, may have fought criminals, but retained their military costumes and outlook. In the 50s they often fought Communists, and also had SF adventures. The scenarios often involved them in military-style action.

The best Golden Age Blackhawk stories I've seen have genuinely strong writing and/or art. The 50s Quality stories that I've seen are more like 50s DC stories - solid, but tamer. In the earlier Blackhawk stories I've seen Blackhawk has a virile quality. In the later Quality stories I've seen he's rather a commander who leads from the front.

On a panel at a convention Chuck Cuideria, the feature's initial artist and co-creator, stated that as he remembered it the Blackhawks were patterned after Jack Cole's Death Patrol, which appeared behind them in Military Comics. (Dan Thompson's account of this point is here. Mark Evanier's transcript of the panel begins here.) He also stated, as he had previously, that the Blackhawks' costumes were partly modelled after German uniforms. As I recall, in his chapter on Blackhawk in Steranko's History of the Comics vol. 2 Steranko suggests that Blackhawk had really become a fascist, but I think rather his costume and early "ruthless, icy demeanor" (to quote Steranko speaking of Blackhawk as drawn by Reed Crandall, via Thompson) are parallel to the Golden Age Batman's costume and grim demeanor. Their darkness isn't their infection by the evils they fight, but their response to that evil. To be fair, the early Blackhawk's darkness also expresses his complete hated of his enemy and willingness to use completely ruthless methods to defeat it.(6) The 50s Blackhawk was grim and determined, but not icy and ruthless.

My recollection is DC initially leased the rights to Blackhawk. When it bought out Quality it also continued three other titles, G.I. Combat, Heart Throbs and (briefly) Robin Hood Tales.

Evanier made a mistake in his introduction to the Blackhawk Archive volume (concerning the performance of the Grumman "Skyrocket", which the Blackhawks initially flew) which he corrected here.

(1) It continued the numbering of Uncle Sam Quarterly.
(2) This was a sequel to an origin story for the team from #198.
(3) So did Military Comics, in fact.
(4) Captain America (and Torch and Sub-Mariner) stories also appeared in back-up slots.
(5) I've not seen any of the Captain Wings stories, and don't know how popular the feature was.
(6) In his debut story he didn't just fight Nazis: he terrified them. I don't think this was the case so much later, but I could be wrong.
"Olaf was always Swede and an acrobat."

Ah, but the problem is Olaf wasn't always the team's acrobat. This is only one of the significant discrepancies that occurrred in Blackhawk stories over the decades that kept me from answering suedenim's question about Olaf's nationality straight away. Not even counting the discrepancies between the Quality Blackhawk tales and the ones that occurred after DC took the title over (such as how Chop Chop joined the team), there were notable contradictions that took place strictly during the Silver Age, such as in Blackhawk's origin and in how the team itself was formed.

As to Olaf's specialty as an acrobat, that didn't develop until well into the Silver Age. Here is what I wrote on it for Dan Thompson's site . . . .

In the early days of the team, Stan was described as an acrobat while Olaf was the strongman of the team. Much later, they reversed those rôles.

Blackhawk # 112 (May, 1957): In the first story, "The Doomed Dogfight", both Stanislaus' acrobatic ability and Olaf's position as the team's strongman are highlighted. The third story, "The Eighth Blackhawk", Olaf is once again labelled "the strongman of the team".

I found no other references to either man's specialty until issue # 195. My collection is spotty until # 180, when it is complete; so there were no doubt references which I don't have.

Issue # 195 (Apr., 1964) has "The Return of the Tom Thumb Blackhawk" as the cover story. Integral to the plot is Stan going undercover at a circus---planned by Stan and Blackhawk because Stan's acrobatic ability is excellent to qualify as a circus aerialist.

The next mention of either man's specialty comes in issue # 197 (Jun., 1964)---and here is the first time Stan becomes the strongman. Issue # 197's story, "The War Between the Blackhawks" is the tale in which they switch to their crimson-and-olive costumes, and Stan is referred to and performs as "the team's strongman".

The next issue, # 198 (Jul., 1964)---which features the origin of the Blackhawks (at least one version of it, anyway)---and Olaf is shown performing an acrobatic trick, and refers to himself as "a trained acrobat".

Issue # 203 (Dec., 1964), in the first story, "Operation White Dragon" (the story of how Chop Chop joined the team), Stan squares off against Liu Huang (Chop Chop) and the caption refers to him as "the team's strongman"; while the second story, "Death of the Super-Sub", a Combat Diary tale, makes special mention of both Stan's strength and Olaf's acrobatic ability.

I scanned the next dozen issues or so, and from that point on, there were no changes---Stan was always the strongman; Olaf, the acrobat.

My theory---based upon the fact that Stan's last appearance as an acrobat was in # 195---is that the shifting of writing chores that took place in the next issue causes the reversal of specialties between Olaf and Stan . It is obvious that a new direction was planned for the Blackhawks, as of issue # 196 (May, 1964). This is the first Mr. Cipher story in which the Blackhawks undertake a mission for the United Nations. The writing on this story is more sophisticated, somewhat more realistic, than in the previous issues. This was due to a new writer, Arnold Drake. Since the next issue was the second and final Mr. Cipher/mission for the UN story (also written by Drake), and this is where Stan becomes the strongman for the first time, I am guessing that Drake made the change, either deliberately or inadvertantly making Stan the muscleman of the team. In the next issue, Drake wrote of the origin of the Blackhawks, and in this one, Olaf is established as the acrobat.

Now, every Blackhawk story that I have ever read that mentioned the individual Blackhawks' nationalities insisted that Olaf was Swedish. But I don't go back to the earliest ones, from their Quality days. It's possible that Olaf started out Norweigian and became Swedish, through writer inattention. There is little help on line; most on-line references establish Olaf as being from Sweden, but some---enough to have to consider it---state that he was from Norway. The rub is, were the Olaf-from-Norway writers privy to something in the early stories, or were those just a case of "misinformation begets misinformation"?

Olaf's surname, revealed in Blackhawk # 117 (Oct., 1957), was Bjornson. But researching that didn't offer any hints; I found that "Bjornson" can be a Norweigian or Swedish or Danish surname.

Dan Thompson is far more knowledgable about the early years of the Blackhawks than I am. I forwarded suedenim's question about Olaf's nationality to him to see what he has to say.
Two "Blackhawk" imitations I know of from the war period are "Sky Wolf", which appeared behind Airboy in Air Fighters Comics, and "Golden Eagle" from Contact Comics.

In the 60s a character called Jet Dream, who led a team of flying "stunt-girl counterspies", appeared in back-ups in Gold Key's The Man from U.N.C.L.E. title and one issue of her own comic. The GCD plausibly suggests the feature was inspired by Pussy Galore's Flying Circus from Goldfinger or Emma Peel. I think the long-gone Cheeks the Toy Wonder website compared them to the Blackhawks. As I recall, where the Blackhawks had the rallying cry "Hawkaaa", Jet Dream's crew used "Jet-a-roonie".

Dave Cockrum, who did some covers for the Evanier-Spiegle series, also did a feature called "Sky-Wolf" with Marv Wolfman which appeared in Marvel Fanfare ##16-17 in 1984. Dan Thompson describes this here.

Although the modern Lady Blackhawk is represented as a transplant to modern times from WWII, the original version didn't debut until Blackhawk #133 in 1958. (In the Golden Age an aviatrix who called herself Sugar tried to join the Blackhawks in Military Comics #20: I don't know if she ever returned.)
Thanks everyone, I knew this was the place to come for answers!

The "Olaf's nationality" question is one that particularly gnaws on me for some reason. If you'd asked me five years ago "What country was Olaf from?" I'd have said "Norway, of course." Where I got that idea, I can't figure out. I have all the comics in the Evanier/Spiegle run, and the Chaykin series and books following on that, but only one each from the Silver Age and '70s revival series, and didn't have DC's Blackhawk Archives until fairly recently. I'm re-reading the Evanier/Spiegle books now, and Olaf's clearly identified as Swedish in the first one (and Evanier's not the sort of writer who would likely confuse Sweden and Norway in later books.)

On Jet Dream, I think for once I'm actually the subject matter expert. I think it's clearly a melange of different influences, and not a direct copy of anything, but reading the stories, it seems pretty clear that Blackhawk and Pussy Galore were both influences. Of course, the "Pussy Galore's Flying Circus" concept itself is pretty underdeveloped - we never get much idea of what they were doing before they met Goldfinger, for instance. But it seems highly unlikely that anyone writing a super-spy series in 1966 would not have seen Goldfinger. The "stunt-girl" aspect is new... and pretty odd. They don't seem to really have "secret identities" of any sort, so the theme is something like "Hollywood stunt-girls by day, international high-flying super-spies, er... also by day." (Their battle cry was the immortal Jet-a-Reeno!, incidentally.

It's a pretty fascinating series in a lot of ways, particularly in that all Jet Dream stories except the one issue of their solo title were four pagers. It's amazing to see how much plot could be packed into so little space and have any room for characterization (there ain't much, but there's some), particularly in our modern era of "decompression."
Thompson's site also has information on original Blackhawk stories produced in Mexico, in the "International Publication of the Blackhawks" section. I find this fascinating, mainly because when I like something I want there to be more of it. (This page at a Nick Fury site has information on Mexican Sgt. Fury stories.)

This guy often blogs about Silver Age Blackhawk stories. If you need a reference for any point, just ask. I got the list of Quality titles continued by DC here and should have given the page a credit. When referring to comics with cover dates from early in the year I usually try to give the year they actually appeared in (Lady Blackhawk's debut is cover-dated for Feb. of 1959; according to Mike's Amazing World of DC it actually appeared in December of 1958).
The Mexican comics are fascinating, especially since they seem to be "lost stories." (Some fascinating original cover art from Mexican editions of American comics too, often suggesting a more El Santo-style alternate Marvel Universe.)

Another question: Did the Blackhawks ever face "supernatural" (i.e., mystical, magical, etc.) foes, as opposed to weird creations of Super-Science?

I'm guessing if they ever did, it would've been in the Golden Age, since DC at the time was pretty adamant about every story having a "scientific" explanation, no matter how improbable. And the Evanier/Spiegle and later runs avoided the supernatural. Were there any exceptions?
I've only seen a smattering of the feature's Golden and Silver Age stories, so I can't give you a comprehensive answer. Thompson speaks (here) of four of the first fifteen stories as having supernatural elements, meaning, I believe, the ones from Military Comics #7, #12, #14 and #15. In the one from #15 the witches are only a storytelling device. I've not seen the others, but Thompson has summaries of them. From the GCD it appears a sequel to the story from #12 appeared in #29.

I haven't spotted any full-blooded supernatural horror stories from the pre-Code period, which is not to say there weren't any. The cover story from Blackhawk #20 might be one, but I suspect the living statue in the story turns out to be a fake. (According to Thompson's summary the statue was carved by a foreign sculptor: my guess is he turns out to be behind things.)

From what I can tell DC occasionally did stories with a supernatural element after it took the title over, including the cover stories from #111 (a flying carpet), #134 (a genie), #172 (a prince with magic powers), #182 (a magic ring) and #187 (a portrait painted with magic paint). There are summaries of these stories at Thompson's site and www.dcindexes.com .

I should have mentioned Killer Shark, the Blackhawk foe who came back the most. He was introduced in Blackhawk #50 and used by DC as well as Quality.

Apparently a sympathetic adventuress called Fear or Madame Fear appeared in stories from Modern Comics #49 and Blackhawk #13, #17, #19, #20 and #22. Possibly she made further appearances. Thompson notes that a modern version of the character named Miss Fear appeared in Timothy Truman's Guns of the Dragon mini.


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