Blackhawk #243 (1968)

Blackhawk was created in 1940 by the team of Chuck Cuidera and the great Will Eisner. Many of the ’40s adventures of the Blackhawks were great, but, as often happens, the series lost its way over time. By the mid-’60s what had once been a standout action series became yet another bland DC comic of the period. Worse yet was the run where the Blackhawks became super-heroes – perhaps the low point of the entire Silver Age. The series was up for cancellation when editor Dick Giordano took it over, and he decided to return the team to its roots.
 
The Blackhawks were created as a sort of paramilitary group of aviators who flew impossible missions to free oppressed people from the Nazi reign of terror. As World War II faded further and further into the background, however, this setting became less relevant to readers. By the 1950s and ’60s, Blackhawk had become yet another comic where heroes fought giant gorillas and time-lost dinosaurs. Even worse, as sales were falling, the editors decided to turn the ‘hawks into "the Junk-yard Heroes," an absurd take on the characters that was the ultimate insult to long-time fans.
 
In 1968, longtime editor George Kashdan left DC, and editor Dick Giordano arrived from Charlton comics, where he had revitalized their moribund comics line. Giordano was assigned a slate of seven titles, including Blackhawk. However, Giordano was also told that the Junk Heap Heroes approach was an abject failure and the comic would be cancelled in two issues. Giordano decided to bring back the Blackhawk that he remembered from his youth. Blackhawk 242 and 243 aren’t great comics, but put into the context in which they were created, these are wonderful comic books.
 
The story is by longtime scripter Bob Haney, perhaps best known for his long run on the Batman team-up series The Brave and the Bold. Haney was well known for his dense plots, and this issue is no exception. Readers learn that Blackhawk has a niece who needs to be liberated from the evil man who holds her prisoner. Nicely, we see each Blackhawk help out at a different stage of her rescue. Each one gets his moment in the sun, except for Lady Blackhawk, who stays behind to make coffee. (Really!) It’s a neat little high-adventure comic story that is quite charming.
 
Pat Boyette supplies the artwork. Boyette for some reason has never been extremely popular, perhaps because of his sometimes awkward line work. To my eyes, however, Boyette is a poor man’s Alex Toth, using a clean and precise line in a minimalist way to convey a depth of character. I love the way he draws the characters, and especially love the way he draws the cover to this issue.
 
It’s too bad this was a false start, because this was a fine comic book for its day. Giordano really brought new energy to DC, and Blackhawk was one of the places where that energy was obvious.
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