The Hidden S in Phone Booth

Review: DC Showcase Presents Blackhawk The Blackhawk Squadron originated during the time just after World War II. The comic was created by several artists including the immortal Will Eisner (whose character The Spirit is about to have his cinematic moment). The artist Reed Crandall, however is the man most associated with the team's origin. This is appropriate because Crandall's combination of realism (practical and realistic seeming leather flight suits and aircraft, the romanticism in the striking Blackhawk logos, great secret hideout (Blackhawk Island) and idealistic matinee idol looks of the squadron) and romanticism made the Blackhawk squadron immediately memorable. The Blackhawks have never been "A" tier DC superheroes. Never really even close. The group, and the "face" of the group-the rakish leader who is usually known simply as "Blackhawk" (although his name is apparently Bart Hawk)- have been very reliable "B" level DC characters for many years. I am partial to superheroes who wear suits or uniforms like John Constantine, Nick Fury and Enemy Ace. Blackhawk and his squadron fall well within my approval range in this way and, I suspect this level of visual panache is what has helped them endure for so long as supporting characters. They are also unique in that they are the real connection between “war comics” such as Sgt. Rock, The Haunted Tank, Enemy Ace, etc. and traditional superhero comics. War comics had a degree of popularity for a few decades, but at this point they have mostly fallen out of fashion from a peak in the early 70’s when DC published war comic anthologies like Star Spangled War. Recently, DC released Showcase Presents Blackhawks Vol. 1 which chronicles the Blackhawks' 50’s adventures. The artwork is mostly credited to Dick Dillin, one of DC’s more noteworthy artists from the 50’s (well known for his penciling on the original Justice League series) who worked within the house style which was influenced by magazine illustration of the time as well as matinee idols/actors (Blackhawk resembled any number of 50’s movie stars such as Gregory Peck, William Holden or Robert Mitchum). This showcase collection comprises Blackhawk stories from January 1957 to August 1958. These stories feature the usual DC wackiness of that era. Indeed, it is easy to imagine DC creators having Mad Men style three Martini lunches and going back to the (literal) drawing board to dream up these outrageous tales. Among the offerings are "The Mistress of Tigress Island" which concerned a group of female counterparts to the Blackhawks; "The Menace of the Machines" which was a story involving flying saucers (very common kind of DC story of this time); and probably the weirdest story in the book called "The Human Clay Pigeons" which had as a plot point Blackhawk tied to a giant (you guessed it) clay pigeon. If the stories of this time lack the gritty realism of today's approach to comics, well, that just makes them all the more charming. And, the art, mostly by Dick Dillin, is crisp and done with a fine draftsman's hand. The aircraft (a critical part of any Blackhawk story) are also depicted with nice detail. For what it is worth, the black and white format does take away from the impact, but the possibility to re-discover some of these weird old stories makes this a minor issue.