The Daily Comic Book Coffee, number 32: Presenting a double dose of caffeinated cliffhangers starring those two-fisted aviators the Blackhawks! Action Comics Weekly #632 is cover-dated December 1987, and Blackhawk #2 is cover-dated April 1989. Both stories are by the creative team of artist Rick Burchett, writer Martin Pasko, letterer Steve Haynie, and colorist Tom Ziuko, published by DC Comics.
I was sad to hear that longtime comic book writer Martin Pasko had passed away on May 10th at the age of 65. Among the numerous series Pasko worked on was the revamp of Blackhawk conceived by Howard Victor Chaykin. Pasko chronicled the aviation adventures of Janos Prohaska and Co in serials published in Action Comics Weekly, and then in an all-too-short lived Blackhawk ongoing series. Pasko was paired with the great, underrated artist Rick Burchett. I’ve always enjoyed Burchett’s art. His style is simultaneously cartoony yet possessed of a sort of gritty verisimilitude (I hope I’m articulating that in an accurate manner). Pasko & Burchett chronicled the Blackhawk’s post World War II adventures which saw the ace pilots becoming embroiled in the Cold War anti-Communist activities of the newly-formed CIA.
Within the pages of the Action Comics Weekly #632, the Blackhawks have been tasked with transporting chemist Constance Darabont to West Berlin to pick up an experimental batch of LSD. Unfortunately for Prosahka and his team Constance is murdered in Berlin and replaced by Nazi war criminal Gretchen Koblenz. On the flight back the diabolical Gretchen spikes the Blackhawks’ coffee with the LSD, pulling a gun on Olaf Friedriksen when her deadly ruse is discovered!
Blackhawk #2 ends on a much less life-threatening note, but certainly one that is just as dramatic. Over morning coffee Janos and the Blackhawks’ assistant director Mairzey ponder the current whereabouts of the missing Natalie Reed, as well as wondering what will become of Natalie’s infant son. Mairzey tells Janos that she has been considering adopting the baby. Suddenly an unidentified figure enters the room and announces “I was always afraid to tell you this before… but I’m the father of Natalie’s baby…” (Cue melodramatic music!!!)
This past January on his FB page Pasko recounted how he came to write Blackhawk. When asked by editor Mike Gold to take over the feature in ACW from departing writer Mike Grell, Pasko initially accepted it only because of the lengthy, ongoing strike by the Writers Guild…
“I took the assignment because I had no choice–I needed the money–but it turned out, in the end, to be the most fun I ever had writing comics. I haunted the UCLA Research Library, immersing myself in everything I could learn about the post-WWII era in which the series was set, making Xeroxes of visual reference for the artist and having the time of my life.
“But my greatest thanks are reserved for that artist, my fantastic collaborator, the impeccable storyteller, Rick Burchett. Which is why this stuff is tops among the work of which I’m most proud. That stuff was all YOURS, Rick.”
The Blackhawk serials written by Grell & Pasko and drawn by Burchett were among the best material to run in ACW. I’m happy they’ve finally been collected together with the excellent Blackhawk miniseries by Chaykin. Hopefully a second collected edition will reprint the ongoing series by Pasko & Burchett.