Justice, Blackhawk Style

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Skell The Ruthless was one of the more notable villains to encounter Blackhawk.

Not only was “ruthless” part of his name, but the character was cunning enough to conceal his history as a Nazi war criminal and adopt the guise of a civic-minded German national eager to atone for his country’s sins.

If a few innocent peasants happened to be murdered along the way, well … even an evil geniuses can’t make an omelet without slaughtering an egg or two.

Too bad Skell ran afoul of a certain leather-clad aviator. While a modern “Big Two” super-hero – even the so-called edgy ones – would probably decide the character wasn’t worth killing and hand the Nazi over to the authorities, Blackhawk was never afraid of taking the law into his own hands.

In fact, the hero was so eager to take down this particular villain du jour that … well, you’ll just have to see for yourself.

“Skell The Ruthless” originally appeared in Military Comics #26 (Quality, February 1944). The art is by John Cassone and Alex Kotzky.

Unfortunately, just about every Golden Age Blackhawk story is marred by the undeniably offensive characterization of Chop-Chop. However, I strongly believe it’s better to confront these instances of institutionalized racism openly rather than cover-up the more shameful aspects of our past.

I do apologize if anyone is angered by certain images in the following story.

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Eternal Relief

It wouldn’t be the Halloween season without a mad scientist seeking to create a hulking monstrosity out of used body parts. Enter Doctor Pain, a would-be Victor Von Frankenstein who is too impatient to even wait for his patients to die before harvesting their organs.

Kid Eternity answers the bell for the fourth day of Super-Heroes Vs. Super-Horrors Week to face his most macabre foe yet in “A Tale of A Door… A Doctor … and A Dreaded Cat.”

The story originally appeared in Hit Comics # 26 (Quality, February 1943). The art is by Ruben Moreira.

Keep an eye out for a surprise appearance by one of the Time Bullet’s favorite Golden Age characters …

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Remember Time Bulleteers …. if you need someone skilled in the art of Golden Age justice, Blackhawk is your man! Coming tomorrow: The original Mr. Monster!!

Cold As Ice

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Count on Blackhawk to find skimpily dressed femme fatales in the least likely of places, such as the frozen arctic!

The following story originally appeared in Blackhawk #37 (Quality Comics, February 1951). The story is uncredited, but the Grand Comics Database guesses the art was drawn by Bill Quackenbush.

As is the case with just about every Golden Age Blackhawk story featuring Chop Chop, the comic contains more than its share of offensive racist stereotypes. While it isn’t my intention to condone such ignorance, I don’t wish to censor a very real – if unpleasant – part of our cultural heritage.

I wish we were beyond such nonsense in the 21st century, but recent media coverage of Jeremy Lin unfortunately illustrates we haven’t advanced as a society as much as we’d like to believe.

With that in mind, here’s “Aurora, Queen Of The Arctic.”

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Birds Of Prey

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Since Blackhawk is one of the many “franchises” (ugh) DC plans to reboot this September, I thought it would be a good idea to enjoy a vintage adventure featuring the original crew.

This particular tale finds the team far removed from their World War II roots, but still fighting the good fight against Communists, crime lords and an alien invasion or two.

The artist is Dick Dillin, a name familiar to Justice League fans of the 1970s. Although he isn’t as closely associated with the Blackhawks as Reed Crandall, Dillin did enjoy a long run with the characters under both the Quality and DC banners.

“The Human Torpedoes,” featuring the sinister scuba machinations of the awesomely named Admiral Eel, originally appeared in Blackhawk #86, Quality Comics (March, 1955). The art is by Dillin and an inker who also shares more than a little history with Blackhawk, Chuck Cuidera.

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The Opposite Number

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Although Blackhawk fought his share of colorful villains in the Golden Age, the fictional aviator never developed much of a rogues gallery because few of his opponents survived beyond a single story!

The sociopathic King Cobra and his Squadron Of Rattlesnakes  – the Nazis’ response to Blackhawk and his international team of swashbucklers – certainly had the potential to be formidable arch nemeses, but … well, you’ll just have to read the story to find out why their names don’t live on in infamy.

(Here’s a three-word hint: “Golden Age justice.”)

The following story, written and drawn by the legendary Bill Woolfolk and Reed Crandall, originally appeared in Military Comics #19 (Quality, 1943).

Like many Golden Age comics, the tale contains dated  racial stereotypes that modern sensibilities rightfully find offensive.

(Namely, the now infamous Chop-Chop.)

Although I generally try to post stories that either avoid or minimize such characterizations, it’s also not this blog’s intention to whitewash the past. Who knows what future generations will think of social conventions and attitudes that we currently find acceptable?

With such caveats in mind, enjoy the story!

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The Blonde Bomber

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The Time Bullet is alive if not necessarily kicking … a state of existence that also happens to describe the topic of today’s post: Lady Blackhawk!

Zinda Blake debuted in 1959 – the same year that DC introduced a certain Maid Of Might – but never achieved the same notoriety as other female characters of the era or even the aviatrix’s own distaff counterpart, Blackhawk.

The reasons for her also-ran status are painfully evident. By the late ’50s, the Blackhawk character was far removed from his WWII heyday and DC isn’t exactly known for its treatment of properties acquired from defunct publishers. (Cases in point: Captain Marvel, the Charlton Action Heroes and the infuriating Milestone debacle.) A newly introduced heroine in a comic far removed from DC’s A-list isn’t exactly riding the fast track  to stardom.

Complicating matters, Zinda’s most notable story-line involved her abduction and subsequent subjugation to a fourth-rate villain. By the time that saga played itself out, no one – not even the characters in the book itself – seemed to care.

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The comic was finally put out of its misery by the end of the 1960s. Although the Blackhawk team would subsequently be dusted off for an unsuccessful revival or two, Zinda Blake wasn’t seen again until the “classic” Zero Hour event in 1994. Supposedly lost in the mists of time for decades, the still-youthful Lady Blackhawk settled into a supporting role in Guy Gardner: Warrior that lasted until the Green Lantern spin-off met its eventual demise.

Lady Blackhawk returned from limbo once again in 2004 when Gail Simone added the character to the Birds Of Prey line-up. Re-purposed as a tough-talking, two-fisted throwback from another era – a much less meat-headed version of Mark Millar’s Captain America – Zinda stole more than her share of scenes until Birds Of Prey was canceled. After that high point, the heroine once again found herself  … abducted and brainwashed by a fourth-rate villain.

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The more that things change …

There is the possibility of a happy ending, however. DC is cleaning house once again to undo the last set of changes intended to forever alter their fictional universe. As a consequence, Gail Simone is returning to Birds Of Prey along with Barbara Gordon, Black Canary, Huntress and – last but not least – Lady Blackhawk. In celebration of Simone’s feisty interpretation of the character, the Time Bullet is proud to present the secret, Golden Age origin of Zinda Blake.

Golden Age, you ask? Didn’t Lady Blackhawk premiere in 1959?

Yes … and no. During the Quality Comics era, a young woman who looked and acted very much like the Zinda Blake we know and love flew to Blackhawk Island – guns a’ blazing – and pronounced herself a member of the team. As is often the case with Golden Age heroines, this mysterious aviatrix showed a lot more moxie than her Silver Age successor. Heck, she wasn’t even brainwashed!

So, to introduce a character who may – or may not – have inspired everybody’s favorite gun-slinging gal in a mini-skirt, here’s “The Blonde Bomber” from Military Comics #20. The art is by the great Reed Crandall.

* As a note of warning, the following story does contain racial stereotypes that are undoubtedly offensive to the modern eye. However, these sort of depictions were common throughout society at that time and there’s no value in pretending that such prejudices never existed. In fact, given the way certain racial groups are portrayed in modern stories like Kick-Ass, maybe we should take a closer look at what’s considered acceptable these days. American culture has not traveled quite as far as everyone would like to believe …

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