Saturday, 4 July 2009

" a giant unbreakable plastic net!" Blackhawk, No. 189, October 1963

This copy of the DC comic Blackhawk, salvaged from an Oxfam shop in Reading, clip-cornered, and with '6d' scrawled in biro across it, has been through the wars a bit. As had the Blackhawk characters by this stage: October 1963. They had started off decades previously as WWII 'Air Ace' fighter pilots of different nations, but by the 1960s the kiddies weren't interested in that sort of thing any more. As we know from one of my previous posts, the flower children were more interested in reading about wacky teens, skin-head wigs and feeding lollipops to little monkeys.

So, what were the editors to do with Blackhawk? The answer was obvious. Keep the good bits - the fetching leather gear, and the national stereotypes (a useful aid - along with hair colour and moustaches - in differentiating between a large cast of virtually identical airmen in matching outfits) and get rid of the bad bits - like all those pointless, boring aeroplanes (whose crazy idea was it to have those?) - leaving the team do what they were best suited for: sci-fi crime investigation.
But if they were going to do a revamp, why couldn't the little guy with the Mr Spock haircut (prominent on the cover, but with no "lines" inside) have a leather suit like his pals?

Meanwhile, though the Blackhawks had been grounded, The Super Cavemen of 15,000 B.C. had taken to the skies. Any discussion of the plot would of course be both tedious and fruitless: this comic was sold entirely on this cover concept. Why do you think I bought it? But I must say that the story inside is a weighty, ambitious piece, about the theft of futuristic devices, which have been dispersed by villainous aliens into ancient times, in three "chapters". Indeed, so weighty was it that I fell asleep on two consecutive evenings before I had reached Chapter 3, The War With Super Weapons. I usually only do that with 1960s Superman stories - particularly those that feature guff about the bottle city of Kandor, tedious Kryptonians with names ending in "-El", or "Imaginary Stories" (gosh, you mean they're not real? zzzz), or Nightwing and Flamebird, whoever the hell they are. Or anything at all featuring The Legion of Super Heroes.

Though I love 'em, and this issue of Blackhawk is actually pretty good fun (if you stick with it and can remain conscious long enough to reach the end) it reminded me that DC Comics were the absolute masters of po-faced tedious pseudo-scientific snore-content, and it was at its height in the early to mid 1960s. God, some of their stuff was dull. Anyway, here we get a glimpse at ze cavemen's camp (and ze camp Blackhawks, non?) as our heroes are imprisoned in "unbreakable" plastic.

But, Himmel, did I mention the fact that the team also visit ancient Rome? Well, they do, and here the 'national phrases' are a useful aid in distinguishing your Olafs from your Andres. But, Himmel? Eh?

And where did they get those togas, I don't hear you ask? Well, they might have built the Colloseum, but you can bet your bottom US dollar that a trusty American Zippo lighter will turn those Romans straight into bewildered red-skins...

Do they find all the "super devices"? That would be telling, py yiminy! I wouldn't dream of spoiling the ending. But though he is surrounded by "ultra-modern" gadetry throughout, and has a quick go on the jet-powered skis to wrap everything up, poor old Blackhawk, trapped somewhere on Mid-Sixties DC Earth, can't for the life of him seem to find his aeroplane.

But, Himmel, you will find zis comic in THE HOUSE OF COBWEBS.

1 comment:

  1. Heheh, I knew immediately the issue you were referring to when you mentioned the cavemen on jet-skis. One of the things I noted about this issue and others like it is that the dialog on the cover doesn't add anything to what we can already see. Indeed, it almost seems to be placed there so that particularly slow kids can understand what's happening. I remember a Wonder Woman tale about the same time, where the dialogue from WW was, "Great Hera! A dinosaur in a department store!"

    BTW, that story may be weak on plotting and dialogue, but the art is pretty nice. Dillin and Cuidera made an excellent team.

    I have added you to my blogroll at Silver Age Comics and will try to remember to point your blog out on my next roundup post.