Monday, July 10, 2017


Welcome to what I’m considering “Volume Two” of my 136-part series on the comic books that arrived on the newsstands in July 1963. As I’ve explained in previous installments of this series, that month was pivotal to my own comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

I’m thinking in terms of “Volume Two” because the previous columns in this series have been collected in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. The columns that appear in that softcover book were rewritten as needed with bonus material added to the mix. The book is available from Amazon in two formats: Kindle and actual print.

Today we’re looking at DC’s Blackhawk #188, dated September 1963. The cover - pencilled by Dick Dillin with inks by Sheldon Moldoff - illustrates “The Petrified Giant of Blackhawk Island,” one of the two Blackhawk adventures in this issue. Neither story has ever been reprinted in this country nor are they likely to be reprinted any time soon. So we’re dispensing with the usual SPOILER WARNINGS and giving you the details.

The inside front cover of this issue is a full-page advertisement for “the amazing MADE SIMPLE Self-Teaching Encyclopedia.” I wrote about this in a previous “July 1963" installment, which, amazingly,  you can read in July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I would promise that’s the last plug for my new book today, but the odds of that are slim.

The Blackhawks were a hit when they debuted in Military Comics #1 [Quality; August 1941]. Led by the mysterious Blackhawk, they were a team of ace pilots from different countries. They had their own title as well. When Quality got out of the comic-book business, DC bought the Blackhawks and other features and titles.

“Mr. Justice, the Blackhawks' Ally” (11.67 pages) was written by the prolific Dave Wood with Dillin on the pencils and Chuck Cuidera on the inks. After years of fighting the Axis powers during World War II and Communists after World War II, the seven Blackhawks were now little more than crime-fighters who spent much more time on the ground than in the air.

This time around, the Blackhawks are on the trail of the Scavenger Gang, a well-organized criminal organization. Captured members of the gang refuse to talk but Chop-Chop, the not-as-racist-but-still racist sidekick of the Blackhawks, discovers strange green clay at the scene of his team’s first encounter with the Scavengers. Taking a page from Batman’s casebook, Blackhawk recognizes the clay comes from the banks of a river in Emeraldville, fifty miles upstate from where they are.

Hendrickson asks Blackhawk:

Himmel! Vot causes such coloring?

Such dialects were common in Blackhawk tales, especially with such members as Andre, Hendrickson, Olaf and Stanislaus.

Blackhawk responds:

Years ago the waste disposal from a chemical plant dyed clay pit deposits there –- which pinpoints the spot this
[Scavengers] plane came from!

A second team of Blackhawks has already encountered other members of the Scavengers trying to rob a small-town carnival. Confronting the gang, the Blackhawks are assisted by Mr. Justice, a costumed crime fighter who himself looks like a carnival performer.

Hearing of the green clay, local hero Mr. Justice tells Blackhawk the Scavenger hideout can only be in one of two places. The heroes split into two teams.

The first team - led by Mr. Justice - finds a trap and a deserted headquarters. Somehow the crooks knew they were coming and managed to escape with their records and possessions. All the Scavengers left behind was a short-wave radio. The heroes are amazed the bad guys were able to move so fast.

The second team - led by Blackhawk - finds the Scavenger Gang, but are outnumbered and captured. When the first team tries to rescue  them, they are also captured and we discover that Mr. Justice is the secret leader of the criminals. His super-hero role was a cover for his true activities.

That’s when one of the Scavengers notices that there are only six Blackhawks. They are missing one. The math genius is rewarded for his counting skills by being socked in the face by...Mr. Justice?

It’s Chuck, who was suspicious of Mr. Justice as the first team of heroes approached the second headquarters. He slugged Mr. Justice and then discovered the shortwave radio in the costumed man’s car was operating on the same frequency as the shortwave radio set in the deserted hideout. He posed as Mr. Justice to trick the rest of the Scavengers into unlocking the cell where they were keeping the other Blackhawks. The freed heroes punched out the Scavengers just in time to hear Chuck’s exposition and check out the Tootsie Roll  ad that occupied the bottom third of the final page of this rather tepid adventure.

A house ad for Giant Superman Annual #7 and Giant Batman Annual #5 runs after page 8 of the above Blackhawks story. The Superman comic celebrates the silver anniversary (1938-1963) of the Man of Steel. The Batman issue features “The Strange Lives of Batman and Robin.” Eighty pages of vintage thrills in each annual.

“The Archers of Yesteryear” is a one-page text feature that follows the first story. It relates that bow-and-arrow weapons seem to have sprung up independently all over the world, tracing the different styles of the weapons. Of course, it also throws considerable shade on Native Americans:

“Surprisingly enough, the American Indian was not a particularly skilled bowman, despite the fact that the bow and arrow was his chief hunting and fighting weapon.”

The author of the text page is unknown.

The text page is followed by “Little Pete” (2/3 page), a gag strip by master cartoonist Henry Boltinoff. Every time I read one of his strips, I wish DC would publish a big thick collection of them. I like his work more with each passing year.

“The Petrified Giant of Blackhawk Island” (12.67 pages) is also by Wood, Dillin and Cuidera. This cover story is much better than the first story and guest-stars Lady Blackhawk.

Blackhawk Island is shaken by a violent volcanic eruption. From a fissure, the giant Tarn emerges from a suspended animation sleep of a hundred years. He doesn’t attack the Blackhawks. He runs off into the jungle. He builds a giant raft, hews a paddle out of a tree and then starts paddling across the ocean.

Finding a giant war club in the fissure, Blackhawk recognizes it as having designs used by the Taleekans, whose island lies 300 miles south of the Blackhawk base. The heroes split up. Blackhawk, Lady Blackhawk, Andre and Hendrickson fly to the other island. All the others follow Tarn in a submarine.

Surprisingly, Tarn is swimming west and not to his home island. On the island of the Taleekans, the Blackhawks learn the story of this giant warrior.

A century earlier, the Taleekans lived in peace with the Marnos on a different island. Until they were driven off the island by that other tribe and had to relocate to another island. A great Taleekan witch doctor created a brew that would transform one warrior into a giant. Tarn was the chosen warrior.

Tarn was sent to their old island home to drive the Marnos from it. But the giant warrior was caught in the fury of a volcanic eruption and entombed underneath Blackhawk Island. Revived, he’s determined to complete his original mission.

The Taleekans plan to follow Tarn to their old home and join in the battle with the Marnos. The Blackhawks want to prevent that battle. What with having jets, the Blackhawks reach the island first. The Marnos don’t believe them and move to seize the intruders. Which is when Tarn shows up.

Blackhawk and his men distract Tarn. Lady Blackhawk startles Tarn with the reflection of the sun off her hand mirror on account of girl heroes always use girly things to fight both giants and run-of-the-mill menaces.

The Blackhawks from the submarine further distract Tarn by hurling phosphorous grenades. Meanwhile, the Marnos chief and witch doctor have concocted a deadly potion to use against the giant. The smoke fumes from the potion fell Tarn.

The sympathetic Lady Blackhawk, on account of girls are kinder than boys, gives Tarn water. The giant is still dying, but he plans to use what strength he has left to crush the Marnos.

The Taleekans and the Marnos are facing off for battle. Blackhawk and his men try to keep the two sides apart. Uprooting a tree, Tarn is about to use it against the Marnos when Lady Blackhawk beseeches him to choose a better path:

No, No, Tarn! You mustn’t! Listen to me...I am your friend! No good will come of this useless war! You must prevent this battle!

Tarn sees the wisdom of her words: 
You are right, little one! Bloodshed will not solve our tribal problems!

He addresses both tribes:

Heed well the advice of these strangers and end the hatred that exists between peace...together...o-oh!

Tarn collapses. His body falls between the warring tribes. Even in death, he tries to prevent the fighting.

The Taleekans and the Marnos accept the giant’s dying wisdom. There is enough room on the island for both tribes. Just as there was in ancient days.

The Blackhawks get the final words...
It’s rather ironic that the giant who was created to wage war brought everlasting peace to his tribe!

I wasn’t a big Blackhawk fan growing up. It was one of those comic books I would get as an add-on in trades or from the neighborhood barber shop where I would sweep hair for comics. When I was living on a pretty small allowance, I only bought an occasional issue of the title. Usually when Lady Blackhawk was prominently featured on the cover. She was pretty hot, even to a pre-teen.

That’s all for now, my beloved bloggy pals. I know you're eager to head over to Amazon and order  July 1963: A Pivotal Month in the Comic-Book Life of Tony Isabella Volume One. I will be back tomorrow with my G-Fest preview. See you then.

© 2017 Tony Isabella

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