Thursday, February 9, 2017

Look, Up in the Sky! It's a Hawk!

Thanks to his seven comic book titles, his newspaper comic strip, his movie cartoons, his movie serials, his radio show and finally his TV show, Superman’s preeminence in the DC Comic universe was indisputable by the mid-1950s.
An epiphenomenon of that preeminence was the odd fact that so many other DC characters also acquired super powers at one time or another —Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, Lex Luthor, Batman, Robin, Batwoman, cats, dogs, monkeys and horses.
Even as a child, it struck me as weird that they would always accidentally acquire Superman’s EXACT powers — not just super-strength, flight and invulnerability but X-ray vision, super hearing, super breath, the whole bit.
This applied even to characters as far removed from Superman as two of DC’s three “hawks” — Blackhawk and Tomahawk.
In Blackhawk 125 (June 1958), the crusading aviator accidentally got super through exposure to the Mole’s ray gun beam. The story also off-handedly established that Blackhawk — a character acquired from Quality Comics, after all — existed in the same universe as Superman. Shared universes weren’t always apparent in the 1950s, but in this case Blackhawk remarked that he had gotten powers “…like Superman.”
Tomahawk, being an 18th century frontier fighter, had of course never heard of Superman, but he acquired powers anyway through the attentions of a wise and kindly medicine man in Tomahawk 68 (May-June 1960). Tomahawk, like many other comic book heroes, also borrowed from Batman, always going into action with a boy sidekick, Dan Hunter.
In both cases, the heroes’ powers faded before the final showdown with the heavies, enabling them to demonstrate with their resourcefulness that they didn’t need Superman’s powers after all, thank you very much.
Fan of Superman that I was, I was more likely to buy a comic if the protagonist acquired super powers, so the sale gimmick worked for me.
I wasn’t aware until later that Blackhawk’s super accident was something of an in-joke. In the Columbia movie serials a few years previously, both Superman and Blackhawk had been played by the same actor, Kirk Alyn.
How ironic, as they used to say in the comics.

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