July 20, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #156: The Blackhawks

A group of aerial World War II heroes have had some strange moments.

War comics used to be a thriving genre for the comic book industry.  Seeing heroic men (and the occasional woman) fighting back what was usually the Axis powers of World War II sold pretty well, and a few of those heroes, like Sergeant Rock, may not have worn spandex or capes, but they did wear regular uniforms and they did hang around for a while.

One group who hasn’t been seen for a while, at least in the original incarnation, is the Blackhawks.

So, who were the Blackhawks?  Well, their leader was a guy mostly referred to as Blackhawk, and they flew fighter planes in World War II to combat the Nazis.  Their membership was international, made up of various Allied nations, though who came from where is sometimes in dispute.

As such, Blackhawk was sometimes in old stories Polish and sometimes American.  The creators eventually settled on Polish and gave him the name Bart Hawk for ages and then Janos Prohaska.  His second in command is Stanislaus is Polish but could pass for American.  Then there was Chuck, who came from Brooklyn or Texas depending on the writer’s mood.  The oldest member was probably Hendrickson, who is generally said to be Dutch.  Andre was a stereotypical Frenchman with a habit of flirting.  Olaf was a big Swedish man.  And then there was…Chop-Chop, a character originally depicted as the ugliest Chinese stereotype imaginable.  Chop-Chop would later be renamed Chopper and Weng Chan at various points, gradually looking less like an embarrassing cartoon character and more like an actual human being.

Oh, and as an added bonus, the team might have been co-created by comic legend Will Eisner for Quality Comics, though Eisner himself tended to downplay his involvement in favor of the men who put more time into the stories than he did.

Now, when Quality went under, DC bought the rights to many of their characters, including the Blackhawks, and therein lies some interesting changes.  Though at first they continued their piloting activities, they became costumed superheroes in the 60s and something like mercenaries working off their secret base on Blackhawk Island in the 70s.  After the Crisis on Infinite Earths, DC retconned them back to World War II and that’s more or less where most of them stayed.

Someone thought this was a good idea.

Then came the New 52, and DC rebooted the team…sort of.  DC tried to use their old war titles in the modern era of superheroes, and the new Blackhawks were a paramilitary team that had a couple names but basically none of the old characters, with the added confusion that the guy codenamed “the Irishman” was Ukrainian.

So, there seems to have always been some Blackhawks, including a number of minor ones from other countries that didn’t last long.  But wait, you may have noticed some of the images I used featured a woman.  Who was that?

Well, Lady Blackhawk was the lone female member of the team.  There were a couple, the most prominent being one Zinda Blake.  Zinda got more notice than most because she actually lasted the longest.  After the Crisis established the Blackhawks as World War II era heroes, there was little possibility they could still do their thing in the modern era, but then because of some screwiness with the timestream, Zinda found herself in the present day without aging much.  She became the pilot for the Birds of Prey superteam like some sort of distaff DC Captain America, only more inclined to throw back a few and flirt.

So, while there may have been some Blackhawks off and on for ages, it seems the only one to really last was the one woman on the team.