Showcase #75 (Hawk & Dove)

SHOWCASE #75; June 1968; DC Comics; Carmine Infantino listed in the indicia 
as editor (was there anything else he edited personally?); featuring the debut
of The Hawk and the Dove, created, plotted and drawn by Steve Ditko with 
script/dialogue by Steve Skeates.  On either side of the cover by Ditko, we 
have figures of the two heroes, the red and white costumed Hawk with clenched 
fist and aggressive scowl, and the blue and white Dove with meek, uncertain 
expression and posture; below the heroes' figures are their high school aged 
alter egos.  In the center, a series of panels of a screaming, stooping red  hawk
and a gentle, alarmed white dove, and the blurb, "In this world, those who 
seek justice often walk different paths; the TOUGH and the TAME!  The 
CHALLENGER and the CHALLENGED!  This is our tale....a tale of two  brothers...the HAWK
and the DOVE!"  Unusually, the characters' logo appears  at the bottom of the
cover rather than the top.

Review by Bill  Henley

With the nation once again bitterly split into hawks and doves  over Iraq
(no, I'm not going to get political this time and discuss my own views  on the
issue), it seems like an appropriate time to review this quirky series, a  late
Silver Age attempt by DC to exploit "relevance", as well as the talents of 
Steve Ditko, who with Stan Lee had been responsible for the creation of the most
successful new superhero of the 60's. 

In the Prologue, we find  dueling counter-demonstrations on a college campus,
as supporters of the war  (presumably the one in Vietnam, though the word
Vietnam is never specifically  mentioned) carry signs urging, "Keep Up the
Bombing," "No Let-Up", and "Fight to  Win", while on the other side the slogans are
"Peace", "Pull Out" and "Stop the  Bombing".  Two younger than usual part
icipants, on opposing sides, are high  school students and brothers Hank and Don
Hall.  Dark-haired Hank, the  older of the two, clad in suit and bow tie 
complains about the peace  demonstrators and insists, "Force is the only way to make
them (apparently  meaning the wartime enemy, not the demonstrators) quit! 
Force is the only  thing they understand!"  Younger blond-haired Don, clad in
suit and bow tie  (did even the geekiest teenager in 1968 wear a bow tie?  Did 
*anyone*?)  on the other hand thinks that "compromise" is the key and 'if  we
give in, everybody'll be happy and we'll have peace!"  As the brothers  argue,
the older demonstrators on each side resort to more violent tactics, and  as
police arrive to quell a brewing riot,  they order "you kids" to "beat  it". 
Meanwhile, we see a shot of the nearby high school, where "students  not yet
old enough to participate in significant debate are content to  participate in
student government, sporting events and occasionally in doing  their
homework"... and between the two campuses stands the Elmond County  Courthouse, where
the father of the two Hall boys is judge.  As Part 1 of  the story "In the
Beginning..." opens, Judge Hall is dealing out the maximum  sentence to a hoodlum
named Dargo who has been found guilty of running a  protection racket on shop
owners.  Outraged by the stern judgment, Dargo  vows to have his "boys" take
revenge; "You're as good as dead right now,  Judge!  I SWEAR it!"  Unfazed, the
judge meets his son Hank, who is  returning from the demonstration and
complaining about the foolishness of his  brother and the other "peaceniks"; "I
thought college was supposed to make you  smart, but these weirdies don't even
have enough brains to know when they're  wrong!"  The judge suggests that, in
that case, "Explain to me just what  makes YOU right and THEM wrong!"  When Hank
has no answer, his father  comments, "Neither of you has thought this thing
out!  That makes you BOTH  wrong!"  When Don arrives and defends his own
beliefs-- "Violence only  begets more violence! Nothing is ever solved by
fighting!"-- the judge is  scarcely more charitable, pointing out that "sometimes
violence is necessary"  and that neither brother has learned the use of logic to
solve problems;  "Sometimes it surprises me that my two sons could act so
irrationally!" (The  Judge seems to have been Ditko's own viewpoint character,
championing  quasi-Objectivist reason and logic against his sons' emotion.  Though it
was fairly clear that between the two boys, Ditko's own views were closer to

The discussion of violence is interrupted by an act of  real violence, as one
of Dargo's thugs opens the judge's chambers door and hurls  a bomb.  Urged by
their father, the boys reach safety behind a desk but the  judge himself is
caught in the blast and injured.   While Don stays  with his father, Hank is
tempted to chase the bomber but goes for medical help  instead.  Later, as the
judge rests in a hospital bed, the boys and their  mother are relieved he
survived, but Hank is concerned about another attack,  while Don is confident a
police guard will provide safety. 

In Part  2, "A Voice...A Voice...." the boys are heading to the hospital for
another  visit after school the next day when Hank spots and recognizes the
crook who  threw the bomb.  Hank wants to "jump him" right there, but Don
restrains  him and urges calling the police instead.  They compromise on tailling
the  crook together, with Don hoping to spot a policeman along the way.  No cop 
shows up when you need one, but the boys trail the bad guy to an "old
theatrical  warehouse" being used as a gang hideout.  Impulsive as always, Hank
insists  on crawling in through an open window, and Don follows him; "I shouldn't,
but  you ARE my brother and I can't let you go in there alone!"  However,
while  trying to move quietly, the brothers accidentally lock themselves in a
room,  where they can hear the gangsters plotting-- to invade Judge Hall's
hospital  room and finish the job of murder.  Outraged, Hank is ready to try to break
out of the rooma and confront the crooks directly, but again Don restrains
him,  pointing out that it will do their father no good if the two of them
attract the  gang's attention and are killed.  But Don's plan to break out after
the  gang leaves and call the police goes awry, as they find themselves
helplessly  trapped in the room and unable to break out.  As Hank pounds uselessly on
the door, a desperate and frustrated Don muses, "If only we had some sort of
super-strength....or power..."  Hank jeers at Don's "fantasies", but 
suddenly it becomes more than a fantasy, as a "disembodied voice speaks  up. 
power to take on the gangsters and  "SMASH them...TEAR them apart so they'll
never commit crimes again!"  Don,  on the other hand, is content to receive
the power to "save Father" and leave  retribution to the police.  As the
brothers argue some more, the Voice  interrupts; "SILENCE, BOTH OF YOU!  WE SEEM TO
Suddenly, the  brothers' ordinary clothes transform into costums, as Hank is clad
in bright red  and white costume and mask with flaring wing feathers, and  Don
finds  himself wearing a baby-blue outfit with white trim and droopy feathers.
  Hank is delighted with his new look, but Don complains, "Yick!  I didn't 
WANT a costume-- let alone one as sickening as this get-up!"  Talking back  to
the Voice, Don complains that he doesn't want to go through life looking like 
a bird, but the Voice explains that the transformatiion into Hawk and Dove is
temporary and will end when the powers are no longer needed.  After that, 
if the powers are needed again, the brothers can regain them by saying the
words  "Hawk!" and "Dove!"-- but the change will work only if "injustice" is
present,  and once the powers are no longer needed, "you will revert to your
ordinary  selves!"  (Thus, unlike most superheroes, Hawk and Dove did not have 
complete control either of when they assumed their costumed identities nor when 
they returned to their alter egos.)  But what sort of powers do they have, 
Hank/Hawk demands to know.  Simply "EXTENSIONS OF THOSE ABILITIES YOU  ALREADY
GREATER EASE AND CONSUMMATE SKILL!"  (This was in line with  Steve Ditko's
apparent preferences, in creating characters, as he seemed to like  costumed
acrobats and fighters without cosmic-level super-powers or outre  abilities.) 

As the Voice takes its leave, the brothers find that  with their new powers
they can easily break through the door that previously  trapped them.  But will
they be in time to save their father?  As a  corrupt orderly allows the
gangsters to approach Judge Hall's room, Hawk and  Dove scramble across rooftops
and over parked cars, swim a river and climb a  drainpipe to reach the
hospital..  Hawk scorns Dove who is afraid of being  seen, but Dove scores a point on
his brother when they find that, even with  their increased powers, Dove can
actually swim and climb better than  Hawk.

But as Part 3 "The Birds Fly!" opens, the real question is, can the  Dove
fight-- and will he?  As the costumed boys burst into the hospital  room, they
find they are the only thing standing between their father and the  gangsters,
who have shot the police guard from behind.  Hawk plows into the  thugs with
flying fists and "a harshness bordering on base cruelty", "You won't  get any
mercy from ME!  I'm gonna play this the same way YOU'RE playing  it!"  But how
will his opposite, the Dove, play it?  He tries to talk  the crooks out of
their murder plot, dodging their blows as he insists that they  have no chance to
win and might as well surrender to the police.  A lucky  blow dazes Dove and
the crooks push him out the window, from which he would fall  to his death
except that his enhanced abilities enable him to grab a flagpole  and swing back
up to the wndow.  Meanwhile, Hawk is so intent on committing  mayhem with the
lesser thugs that he does not notice the gang leader pulling a  gun and moving
to "finish off the judge".  It is Dove who spots this threat  and grabs the
thug, disarming him and holding him helpless.  Then Hawk  crashes into the scene
and hits the gangleader with a smashing punch to the jaw,  much to Dove's
displeasure; "You didn't hafta do that!  I coulda held  him!  You're worse than a
witless barbarian!" 

With all the  gangsters out for the count, our heroes are left with their
father; "Looks like  we saved your hide, Judge!  No need to thank us, fighting
crime is how we  get our kicks!"  The Judge does thank his masked rescuers but
wants to know  their names; "Just call us the Hawk and the Dove!  It's up to
you to guess  which is which!"  An anxious Dove hurries his boastful brother
away,  pointing out that with the threat of the gang ended they may revert to
their  normal selves at any moment.  And indeed, as soon as they close the door 
behind them, Hawk and Dove are once more mere Hank and Don Hall.  Hank is 
eager to reveal their secret to their father and receive his accolades, and for 
once Don agrees with him, hoping the judge will sanction their secret costumed
crimefighting.  But they're in for a shock when they hear the judge tell a 
news crew that even though he is grateful for the Hawk and Dove's lifesaving 
intervention, "I cannot condone their actions!  There can be no place for 
vigilante tactics!   Private citizens, no matter how honorable their  intentions
are, cannot be allowed to take the law into their own hands!   Even hardened
criminals are guaranteed due process of law!  I suggest that  the two who call
themselves the Hawk and the Dove turn themselves over to the  authorities!" 
Once again the brothers agree, that this quashes any thought  of revealing
their secret to their father.  But they disagree on what to do  about it, as Don
is ready to give up the identity of the Dove-- "I never wanted  to get into
this crime-fighting bag anyway!", but Hank complains that   "Dad's been a judge
so long he's starting to think like a lawbook" and doesn't  understand the good
the Hawk and Dove can do.  The brothers walk away still  squabbling, as Hank
calls his brother a "coward" for wanting to give up  crime-fighting, and Don
retorts that Hank "can't beat up everybody you disagree  with".  But the real
decision whether Don will become the Dove again-- or  Hank, the Hawk- lies with
a higher power, one even higher than the "Mysterious  Voice".  "Shall we
write FINIS to the Hawk and the Dove?  Have their  careers ended before they even
got started?  NOT ON YOUR LIFE!  THE  HAWK AND THE DOVE appear in their own
magazine on sale June 25th!"  As far  as I know, this was the only instance
where it was announced that a SHOWCASE  tryout series would get its own book
within the SHOWCASE issue itself--though  around this time, there were several
series which got their own titles quickly  after only a single tryout issue.  It
seems to kind of negate the point of  having a SHOWCASE tryout, if the decision
to  launch a new title is already  made even before the SHOWCASE issue

The ensuing HAWK AND  DOVE title lasted just 6 issues, dated Aug-Sept. 1968
through June-July  1969.  Steve Ditko only stayed around for the first two of
those  issues.  The fannish rumor at the time was that the hawk/dove dichotomy 
carried over into the comic's creative team itself, as Ditko was a confirmed 
hawk while scriptwriter Steve Skeates was a dove.  As a result, Ditko  tended
to draw and plot Hawk as heroic and Dove as ineffectual and bumbling,  while
Skeates slanted the dialogue the other way.  Clearly an unstable  situation,
which ended as Gil Kane took over the artwork with issue #3 and  stayed on for
the run of the title (and scripted #5 and 6 as well).  Kane  was an ideal
choice to carry on the visual look established by Ditko, and did a  good job of
putting forth the idea that both heroic brothers had things to  learn, the Hawk
when to restrain his aggressive impules and the Dove when  violence in defense
of self and others was unavoidable.  But as with so  many innovative
late-Silver Age creations at DC, the run was short as management  pulled the plug
after about a year.  As with Ditko's Creeper and other  late-SA creations, though,
DC couldn't leave the battling brothers alone in  limbo.  They hung out off
and on with the Teen Titans.  In 1981,  writer Alan Brennert and Jim Aparo
produced a Batman/Hawk and Dove team-up which  made a perfect coda to the series
(and ought to be included if DC ever does a  collection of the series) in which
Batman encounters Hawk and Dove who have  grown to adulthood but still not
wholly learned to resolve their philosophical  differences or use their powers
to their full potential.  It might be  better if that had been the final end of
Hawk and Dove, but the Brennert B &  B story was wiped out of continuity, as
the characters reverted to teenage and  the original Dove was killed off in
CRISIS IN INFINITE EARTHS; Hawk survived,  made some appearances with the New
Teen Titans, and starting in 1988 got a new  HAWK AND DOVE series teamed with a
new, female Dove.  (As the 80's turned  into the 90's era of grim'n'gritty,
down'n'dirty "heroes", Hawk was certainly  more in turn with the era than the
Dove.)  Still later, Hawk suffered the  indignity of being named at the last
minute as the villainous Monarch in the  ARMAGEDDON crossover miniseries (was
that it?  those crossovers tend to run  together in my mind) after a plan to make
the revived Captain Atom-- another  much-changed Ditko creation-- the bad guy
fell through.)

But the Hawk and  Dove are not forgotten, and even made a recent appearance
in a new medium as  they were spotlighted in an animated JUSTICE LEAGUE
UNLIMITED episode, recruited  for the expanded JL and still in their original Hank
and Don Hall  identities.  Perhaps, as I noted at the start, their time has come
around  again....