Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Number 1635: Boys in Blue: Blackhawks

This is the second entry of our theme week, Boys in Blue, featuring heroes with either blue in their name or wearing a blue costume. Blackhawk doesn’t fit as far as the name goes, but he and his gang dressed in blue with matching caps. (In Military Comics #1, which introduced the character, Blackhawk wore a solid black uniform. In my opinion it made him look even more like a Nazi than the later one. C'est la guerre.)

This story features the Blackhawks of the dark days of World War II, when pulling out a machine gun and mowing down the enemy was just part of the job. You can tell these guys are tough when Hendrickson pipes up with “Ve spit upon you!” to the firing squad about to execute them. much worse could the situation get at that point, anyway? Needless to say they survived.

The story, from Military Comics #21 (1943) also features some interesting caricatures of Hitler and Herman Göring. The nice artwork is credited by Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr to Al Bryant and P. Palais, by the Grand Comics Database to Reed Crandall.

Our friend Darci has forwarded some information based on the confusion over the credits for the artwork on this story. Roger Hill, who has recently completed a book  on Reed Crandall (upcoming from IDW) says, “I . . . own a page of original art from this story. I consider it to be pure Crandall. The pencils are definitely all Crandall, and maybe, just maybe, someone else helped on the inking. But I doubt it.”

Thanks, Darci, and thanks, Roger.

This story also features the hideously caricatured Chop Chop. Recently I watched some classic Warner Bros cartoons on DVD, and was struck by their disclaimer on racial and ethnic portrayals that at one time were acceptable and now are not. Here is a capture of that disclaimer, which says so well what I want to say about characters like Chop Chop. I agree with the last line, “...presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as saying these prejudices never existed.”


M. Bouffant said...

The Blackhawks would've been dead twice if not for Chop Chop. In this story he seems like the only one in the group w/ any smarts.

Pappy said...

M. Bouffant, maybe I should come up with a saying for when heroes in comics act dumb. Something like, “The comic book hero is no smarter than the guy who wrote the story.” Something like that, anyway. I’ll work on it.

Daniel [] said...

Really extraordinary optics to that monocle. Very few prescription lens are suitable for starting fires, as in 12:6. And what was the light-source in 15:1?

The art looks almost like something that Wallace Wood would have done for Mad about a decade later, if Kurtzman and he had put their hearts into it. (In fact, the parody that actually did appear there would perhaps have been better had Kurtzman and Wood had this story before them as they worked.) In any case, to me it looks far too much like that of a skilled comedic artist to be primarily the work of Crandall or of Bryant.

Joe Thompson said...

That's a great disclaimer. Thanks for sharing it, Pappy. Hawk-a-a-a.

Pappy said...

Joe, I'm always eager to hear from people who have advanced insight into the subject.