Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Golden Bookshelf:

The Blackhawk Archives

A Pole, a Frenchman, a Swede and a Nazi-dissident. Add in equal parts intrigue, danger, and romance, and what do you get? Delve into this Golden Age Archive to find out!

The Blackhawks were a team of fighter-jet pilots during World War II whose members represented countries vanquished or threatened by Nazi Germany. Blackhawk, the dashing leader, was Polish; his ranks included a Frenchman, a Swede, a dissident anti-Nazi German, and a Chinese cook (originally intended as comic relief, and therefore an unfortunate ethnic stereotype). From their base on Blackhawk Island, they conducted marauding missions behind enemy lines, often embroiling the mysterious Blackhawk himself in danger, romance and intrigue.

Blackhawk was created for Quality Comics by Will Eisner, who wrote the first few stories for an artist in his studio, Chuck Cuidera, to draw. The strip anchored Military Comics (later Modern Comics) starting in 1941, but proved popular enough to spawn a quarterly solo title by 1943. After Eisner left, Dick French and Bill Woolfolk took over the scripting, and the masterful draftsman Reed Crandall arrived to give the series its classic look starting with issue #11. Initially heavily influenced by Milton Caniff’s Terry and the Pirates, Blackhawk soon developed its own personality and remains one of the best-remembered strips of the Golden Age, despite a rather dramatic decline in the 50s and 60s. Retro-adventure films like Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow owe quite a bit to Blackhawk.

Because the classic early Blackhawk stories were published by Quality and only later acquired by DC, they have rarely if ever been reprinted and are not well-known beyond the circle of Golden Age fans. The characters make occasional cameos in present-day DC continuity, and Blackhawk was the subject of a controversial “update” by Howard Chaykin in the early 1990s. Still, it is interesting that DC devoted a volume of its deluxe Archive Editions to bring this wonderful series to the bookshelves of current-day readers. Here’s hoping for a Volume 2 someday.

The Blackhawk Archives Vol. 1

DC Comics

Publication Year: 2001

Editors: Forward by Mark Evanier

Story and Art: Will Eisner, Chuck Cuidera, Dick French, Bill Woolfolk, Reed Crandall.

240 p. color, hardcover, $49.95

Rob Salkowitz is a Seattle-based writer and authority on all manner of aging newsprint. You can e-mail your comments and queries to Rob at Use "ComicBase" as the subject line.

The Golden Bookshelf Archives