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Rhys Hughes wrote a piece for Gestalt Mash about prog 4, which we featured a while back, and now he returns to look at one of the stories in the very earliest parts of 2000AD’s Golden Age, Blackhawk:

All this effort at trying to remember a much earlier time of my life, when 2000AD was extremely important to me, indeed one of the things I most lived for, has opened some creaky floodgates. I’m not sure that what is pouring through is necessarily pure and clear… So fond was I of my regular dose of 2000AD that once a week simply wasn’t enough. I was little better than a junky. So I instantly embraced whatever else came along from IPC Magazines
…
Objectively speaking, Tornado wasn’t such a great comic at all. The paper it was printed on was cheap and it aped the gimmicks of 2000AD with far less panache and wit. Instead of Tharg the Mighty as editor, Tornado was in the hands of one of his acolytes, the absurdly named and attired ‘Big E’, who apparently had a brain capacity 50 times larger than an average man. Despite my incipient gullibility (I am and always have been gullible, and if you believe that you’ll believe anything; nevertheless it’s true) the fact that ‘Big E’ was some sort of cheap ironical parody didn’t entirely escape my attention. For one thing, his physique belied his claim of super fitness and strength. It was a little too well fed…
As it happens, I later learned that the photograph of ‘Big E’ that appeared each week in the Tornado editorials was a fake. Dave Gibbons, co-creator of ‘Rogue Trooper’ simply dressed in spandex to achieve the effect, but he was a normal (albeit talented) man in other ways. No matter. Any comic must stand or fall by the quality of the stories, and although Tornado had some clunkers, there was one series that burned itself into my mind with all the force of the Nubian Desert sun. Not that the Nubian Desert sun has ever burned itself into my mind, but you know what I mean. The title of the series I’m alluding to was ‘Blackhawk’.
I adored ‘Blackhawk’ right from the beginning. The hero was an African warrior who had been captured and turned into a slave by Romans during one of their punitive forays into Egypt. Forced to march across the desert in chains, Blackhawk, who didn’t have that nickname yet, spied a hawk circling high above the soldiers. The symbol of Nubia, his home, happens to be a hawk. The significance of this wasn’t lost on the Romans, who also noticed the bird and released their mascot, an eagle, the symbol of Rome, to kill it. An aerial fight followed and against all expectations the hawk won. Then it perched on Blackhawk’s shoulder.
…
Tornado folded after only 22 issues (the same number as Starlord; weird coincidence that!)
…
In one of the most audacious and ludicrous plot changes since the days of insane genius Van Vogt, Blackhawk transmigrated into the pages of 2000AD, beamed up by malign aliens from a pseudo-historical comic strip and set down in an SF one. Culture shock!
Blackhawk was forced to fight as a gladiator in intergalactic competitions against weird and wonderful extraterrestrial warriors. He soon teamed up with an axe-wielding ursine entity imaginatively called Ursa. So now: a black warrior with a furry sidekick. If that’s a cliché, it’s a radically new kind, despite the logical contradiction of this sentence. Other memorable aliens included Batak, a batty being with a bad attitude; and Zog, a dwarf of colossal power who used a club wrapped in barbed wire. Zog became a sort of cultural icon and unhealthy role model among the friends I loaned copies of 2000AD to. His simple cry of “Zog!” as he bludgeoned some hopelessly outmatched lifeform or other to pulp was curiously inspiring. I still can’t read any reference to the historical King Zog of Albania without shouting “Zog!” in my mind, silently (one hopes).
Apparently, the creators of Blackhawk regarded it as a weak series, as a failure. I beg to disagree. It was enthralling, unpredictable, original and absurd in the best way. When Blackhawk lost his soul to an alien beast called ‘The Soul Sucker’, his perfectly black eyes reflected spiral galaxies and nebulae. One doesn’t forget imagery like that in a hurry, unless my memory is playing tricks again and his eyes didn’t shine quite in that way. Well, that’s a risk I’m willing to take… And the very concept of a bear with a weapon is magnificently weird. There’s a bear with a knife in the Brian Aldiss story ‘Old Hundredth’ and another in a Far Side cartoon; but Ursa swung a double-headed axe and sang as he did so. How can anyone in their right mind deem that a failure?

All Blackhawk fans will be pleased to here a collection is in the pipeline for this November, in fact it can already be pre-ordered from Amazon.co.uk. To further whet your appetite this is the placeholder at Amazon, although I am unsure if it will be the final image used:

Rhys Hughes wrote a piece for Gestalt Mash about prog 4, which we featured a while back, and now he returns to look at one of the stories in the very earliest parts of 2000AD’s Golden Age, Blackhawk:

All this effort at trying to remember a much earlier time of my life, when 2000AD was extremely important to me, indeed one of the things I most lived for, has opened some creaky floodgates. I’m not sure that what is pouring through is necessarily pure and clear… So fond was I of my regular dose of 2000AD that once a week simply wasn’t enough. I was little better than a junky. So I instantly embraced whatever else came along from IPC Magazines

Objectively speaking, Tornado wasn’t such a great comic at all. The paper it was printed on was cheap and it aped the gimmicks of 2000AD with far less panache and wit. Instead of Tharg the Mighty as editor, Tornado was in the hands of one of his acolytes, the absurdly named and attired ‘Big E’, who apparently had a brain capacity 50 times larger than an average man. Despite my incipient gullibility (I am and always have been gullible, and if you believe that you’ll believe anything; nevertheless it’s true) the fact that ‘Big E’ was some sort of cheap ironical parody didn’t entirely escape my attention. For one thing, his physique belied his claim of super fitness and strength. It was a little too well fed…

As it happens, I later learned that the photograph of ‘Big E’ that appeared each week in the Tornado editorials was a fake. Dave Gibbons, co-creator of ‘Rogue Trooper’ simply dressed in spandex to achieve the effect, but he was a normal (albeit talented) man in other ways. No matter. Any comic must stand or fall by the quality of the stories, and although Tornado had some clunkers, there was one series that burned itself into my mind with all the force of the Nubian Desert sun. Not that the Nubian Desert sun has ever burned itself into my mind, but you know what I mean. The title of the series I’m alluding to was ‘Blackhawk’.

I adored ‘Blackhawk’ right from the beginning. The hero was an African warrior who had been captured and turned into a slave by Romans during one of their punitive forays into Egypt. Forced to march across the desert in chains, Blackhawk, who didn’t have that nickname yet, spied a hawk circling high above the soldiers. The symbol of Nubia, his home, happens to be a hawk. The significance of this wasn’t lost on the Romans, who also noticed the bird and released their mascot, an eagle, the symbol of Rome, to kill it. An aerial fight followed and against all expectations the hawk won. Then it perched on Blackhawk’s shoulder.

Tornado folded after only 22 issues (the same number as Starlord; weird coincidence that!)

In one of the most audacious and ludicrous plot changes since the days of insane genius Van Vogt, Blackhawk transmigrated into the pages of 2000AD, beamed up by malign aliens from a pseudo-historical comic strip and set down in an SF one. Culture shock!

Blackhawk was forced to fight as a gladiator in intergalactic competitions against weird and wonderful extraterrestrial warriors. He soon teamed up with an axe-wielding ursine entity imaginatively called Ursa. So now: a black warrior with a furry sidekick. If that’s a cliché, it’s a radically new kind, despite the logical contradiction of this sentence. Other memorable aliens included Batak, a batty being with a bad attitude; and Zog, a dwarf of colossal power who used a club wrapped in barbed wire. Zog became a sort of cultural icon and unhealthy role model among the friends I loaned copies of 2000AD to. His simple cry of “Zog!” as he bludgeoned some hopelessly outmatched lifeform or other to pulp was curiously inspiring. I still can’t read any reference to the historical King Zog of Albania without shouting “Zog!” in my mind, silently (one hopes).

Apparently, the creators of Blackhawk regarded it as a weak series, as a failure. I beg to disagree. It was enthralling, unpredictable, original and absurd in the best way. When Blackhawk lost his soul to an alien beast called ‘The Soul Sucker’, his perfectly black eyes reflected spiral galaxies and nebulae. One doesn’t forget imagery like that in a hurry, unless my memory is playing tricks again and his eyes didn’t shine quite in that way. Well, that’s a risk I’m willing to take… And the very concept of a bear with a weapon is magnificently weird. There’s a bear with a knife in the Brian Aldiss story ‘Old Hundredth’ and another in a Far Side cartoon; but Ursa swung a double-headed axe and sang as he did so. How can anyone in their right mind deem that a failure?

All Blackhawk fans will be pleased to here a collection is in the pipeline for this November, in fact it can already be pre-ordered from Amazon.co.uk. To further whet your appetite this is the placeholder at Amazon, although I am unsure if it will be the final image used:

  1. 2000adonline posted this
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