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Hawkaaa! We are the Blackhawks!
Hawkaaa! Follow the Blackhawks!
—The Song of the Blackhawks
A war/military adventure feature from Quality Comics, and later, after Quality went out of business, DC Comics. The series first appeared in Military Comics #1 (August, 1941), created by Will Eisner, Chuck Cuidera, and Bob Powell. The Blackhawk Squadron was an international team made up mostly of aviators from nations occupied by the Axis in World War II. They continued appearing in Military Comics until issue #102 (October, 1950). They also had their own eponymous magazine, starting in 1944. Which survived Quality itself. The series was published continuously between 1941 and 1968, with revivals published in 1976-1977 and 1982-1984 (a highly-regarded run by Mark Evanier and Dan Spiegle.)
The Blackhawk Squadron that existed between 1941 and 1983 consisted primarily of:
- Blackhawk (aka, sometimes, Bart Hawk - Polish, American, or Polish-American)
- André Blanc Dumont (France)
- Olaf Bjornson (Sweden... or possibly Norway)
- Chuck Wilson (USA, specifically Texas... or possibly Brookyln)
- Hans Hendrickson (Netherlands)
- Stanislaus (Poland)
- Chop-Chop (aka Liu Huang or Wu Cheng, China)
- Zinda "Lady Blackhawk" Blake (USA)
In a 1988 miniseries, Howard Chaykin introduced an updated, somewhat revisionist and "reimagined," version of the team, which carried over into a subsequent ongoing series running from 1989-1990 (plus a 1992 one-shot.) While the miniseries took place during World War II, the ongoing series took place in the early years of the Cold War. Blackhawks from this continuity included:
- Janos "Blackhawk" Prohaska (Poland)
- Stanislaus Drozdowski (Poland)
- André Blanc-Dumont (France)
- Olaf Friedriksen (Denmark)
- Carlo "Chuck" Sirianni (Italian-American)
- Ritter Hendricksen (Netherlands)
- Weng "Chop-Chop" Chan (China)
- Natalie "the other Lady Blackhawk" Reed (USA)
- Grover Baines (USA)
- Quan Chee Keng (Malaysia)
- Paco Herrera (Mexico)
For a while, the Chaykin Blackhawks seemed to be the "official" version in DC Comics continuity, but since the 1990s, the continuity status has become unclear, with the 1941-1983 versions seeming to predominate, but characters and concepts from the Chaykin version also being used at various times, in various stories.
One element from the 1989-1992 series that has been used in several DC series is Blackhawk Express (or Blackhawk, Inc. - a corporation handling air freight and/or mercenary activities that was established by members of the original Blackhawk Squadron. The time-tossed Zinda "Lady Blackhawk" Blake owns 1/8 of this corporation. Today, Zinda (who did not appear in the "Chaykin continuity") is the only member of the team appearing regularly (and its last surviving member), in the Birds of Prey series.
An index of Blackhawk appearances outside the regular Blackhawk comic book (through 2001) appears here.
Blackhawk was a very popular series in its day, and inspired several adaptations, including a short-lived 1950 Radio Drama, a 1952 movie serial starring Kirk Alyn (who also, incidentally, played Superman in serials), and a 1982 prose novel. The Blackhawks have also appeared in several episodes of the Justice League animated series and the Justice League: The New Frontier movie.
In 2011, DC relaunched Blackhawks as part of the New 52, this time featuring a modern incarnation of the group — "an elite force of military specialists equipped with the latest in cutting-edge hardware and vehicles", under United Nations authority. Headquartered out of "The Eyrie", a secluded mountaintop base, their hangar is packed with dozens of state-of-the-art aircraft for various situations. These Blackhawks (who appear unrelated to any previous incarnation) include:
- Andrew "Blackhawk" Lincoln
- Lady Blackhawk
- The Irishman
The 2011 series was canceled after eight issues.
- Ace Pilot: All of them.
- Action Girl: Both versions of Lady Blackhawk, of course, but there have been other recurring Action Girls over the years, including Miss Fear and (in the 1982 series) Domino. Kunoichi and the "new" Lady Blackhawk provided examples in the 2011 series.
- Adolf Hitler: The ultimate Big Bad, of course. Hitler actually shows up in person in a number of Blackhawk stories.
- Affectionate Parody: Whitedove from National Lampoon Comics #1 puts a pacifist spin on the Blackhawk premise.
- Badass Crew.
- Badass Grandpa: Andrew Lincoln
- The Baroness: Domino
- Brainwashed and Crazy: Lady Blackhawk was brainwashed by Killer Shark into becoming the villainous Queen Killer Shark in the Silver Age.
- Can't Bathe Without a Weapon: Blackhawk did this during his run in Action Comics Weekly; pulling a gun from beneath the suds when ambushed in his hotel room and riffing on the "never bring a knife to a gunfight" line from The Untouchables.
- Catch Phrase: The Blackhawk battle cry, "Hawkaaaaaaa!"
- Olaf: "Yumpin' Yiminy!"
- Chop-Chop had several, almost all embarrassing. Most dropped by the '60s, thank goodness:
- In the earliest, most horribly stereotyped version of the character: "I been double-clossed!"
- 1940's/1950's Chop-Chop: "Oh wobbly woes!"
- Character Focus: "Detached Service Diary," a series of solo stories that appeared in the 1982-1984 revival.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: The early stories in the 1940s featured three squadron members named Zeg (Polish), Boris (Russian) and Baker (English). They all vanished without trace after their initial appearances.
- Continuity Snarl: A fairly low-key snarl by comics standards (mainly because Blackhawk hasn't been a regular feature since 1990, and the characters and concepts used infrequently in the wider DC Universe.) Nevertheless, a snarl it is, with confusion as to exactly what elements of Blackhawk's long history remain in continuity.
- Not a new development, as can be seen by simply asking "What is the lead character's name and nationality?"
- Zinda Blake presents a particularly interesting continuity problem. She first appeared in 1959, long after World War II (and the series was not a Period Piece in those days). But Zinda was pulled to the present (during the events of Zero Hour) specifically from World War II. This suggests she would have a different origin from the 1959 character, though it's a story yet to be told.
- Cool Plane: The Blackhawks had several, most notably the XF5F-1 Skyrocket, which provided the visual model for the Blackhawks' planes until they were replaced by jets around 1949. The Skyrocket stands out with its unusual design and Blackhawk paint scheme, and remains the iconic aircraft of choice for any Blackhawk story set in the '40s.
- Crisis Crossover: The Blackhawks tend not to feature much in these big events, but there are exceptions:
- Cut Lex Luthor a Check: In the Evanier/Spiegle run, American scientist Professor Merson worked for the Nazis, creating various super-weapons like the War Wheel. The Blackhawks captured Merson several times, but he would usually be freed somehow and return to the Nazis... until Winston Churchill cut him a bigger check to work for the Allies.
- Daddy's Little Villain: Sybil Mayhew, daughter of Death Mayhew, who follows in her father's footsteps after his death.
- Darker and Edgier: Chaykin's miniseries.
- Distaff Counterpart: Zinda.
- Dragon Lady: Miss Fear
- Eagle Squadron: To some extent. Many of the Blackhawks were, in fact, citizens of countries at war with the Axis powers, or occupied by them.
- Chuck fits the trope most exactly, as an American who joined the RAF before becoming a Blackhawk.
- Everyone Looks Sexier If French: André fits all the "French ladies' man" stereotypes.
- Evil Counterpart: Death Mayhew was this to Blackhawk.
- Expository Theme Tune: Despite appearing in a non-audio medium, the Blackhawks gained their own theme tune, complete with sheet music, in a 1942 comic. A modern recording of "The Song of the Blackhawks" can be heard here.
- When the Blackhawks appeared on Justice League ("The Savage Time"), the producers couldn't afford the rights to "The Song of the Blackhawks." Composer Lolita Ritmanis recorded a new "Blackhawk Theme" for the show, however, and the new music was written to fit the lyrics from "The Song of the Blackhawks." The scene with music-only backing appears as an Easter Egg on the Justice League Season One DVD, so feel free to sing along!
- Expy: The Blackhawks inspired many Expies over the years, but were themselves Expies of a slightly earlier Quality Comics feature, The Death Patrol. The Death Patrol was a group of American criminals who escaped to Europe to fight the Nazis. Mostly Played for Laughs, it inspired the creation of Blackhawk as a similar (but played straight) feature.
- Eyepatch of Power: Both the Natalie Reed and 2011 series incarnations of Lady Blackhawk.
- Fiery Redhead: Chuck.
- Fish Out of Temporal Water: Zinda, transported from World War II to the 21st Century.
- Frozen in Time: Averted in the original run. Blackhawk wasn't a "period piece," but a modern military adventure feature that just happened to start during World War II. Unlike the vast majority of such series, Blackhawk was popular enough to last into the postwar era, and the setting advanced with them.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: All of the Blackhawks, though it's not always entirely clear that they're wearing leather. They wore cloth jackets in the 1952 movie serial.
- Improbable Piloting Skills: The Blackhawks exhibited just about every type of improbable flying, but unlimited fuel and range was particularly common. Typically, the Blackhawks are depicted as able to reach any location in Europe (and sometimes outside Europe) and return to Blackhawk Island with little trouble - even when the location is deep within Axis territory, like Czechoslovakia in 1940.
- Island Base: Blackhawk Island (specific location unknown and shifting) is the base for the squadron and repository of various captured secret weapons and souvenirs.
- Jerkass: Chaykin's version of Blackhawk himself, in the miniseries.
- Lost Episode: The entire 16-episode run of the 1950 Blackhawk Radio Drama appears to be lost, with no extant recordings.
- Mini-Dress of Power: Zinda's is very powerful indeed.
- Monowheel Mayhem: The War Wheel was a signature adversary for the Blackhawks.
- The Multiverse: According to writer Mark Evanier in the letter columns, his 1982-1984 series was the first to take place on Earth-1. All previous Blackhawk stories took place on Earth-2 or Earth-X (though Evanier declined to take on the job of figuring out the Earth-2/Earth-X division.)
- Named After Somebody Famous: Depending on your definition of "famous," anyway. Howard Chaykin named his version of Blackhawk after Janos Prohaska, a stuntman who worked on various TV shows including Star Trek: The Original Series.
- Never Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight: see Can't Bathe Without a Weapon, above.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Death Mayhew from the Chaykin mini-series was very obviously modeled on Errol Flynn, and specifically on the idea (unsubstantiated in Real Life) that Flynn was secretly a Nazi sympathizer.
- The Psycho Rangers: The White Lions, led by Death Mayhew, were the Nazi counterpart to the Blackhawks.
- Punch Clock Villain: Professor Merson, who designs wonder weapons for the Nazis, but only because they pay him well.
- Putting on the Reich: Original Blackhawk artist Chuck Cuidera stated that he "swiped [the Blackhawk uniform] from the Nazis... their boots and pants, and the top part I designed myself."
- She's Back: Lady Blackhawk joins the Birds of Prey:
We're a non-profit unauthorized group that's willing to risk our lives to do some good in the world. Does that sound like anyone you know?
- Sky Pirate: The Blackhawks sometimes faced Sky Pirates, and were treated as such themselves, at least early on. In their second story, an English pilot lashes out at Blackhawk: "Why, you're nothing but air pirates and assassins!"
- Skunk Stripe: Domino, a recurring Femme Fatale from the Evanier/Spiegle run, had black hair with a prominent white streak.
- Stupid Jetpack Hitler: The Blackhawks regularly faced the bizarre fruits of Nazi Science - most famously, the War Wheels.
- Super Prototype: The Blackhawks' main WWII plane, the XF5F Skyrocket, never made it past the prototype stage in Real Life.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Regular adversaries of the Blackhawks, both in World War II and beyond.
- Tontine: The Blackhawk Squadron had a tontine in the form of a bottle, which was drunk by Lady Blackhawk, the last surviving Blackhawk, in a toast to the fallen.
- Trick Arrow: Used by the Shaft, a crossbow-wielding villain with his own castle.
- You Cloned Hitler: Hitler appeared to have returned in a 1957 story, but it turned out to be just a ruse by a crook impersonating Hitler to swindle a Nazi sympathizer out of $25 million in gold.