Blackhawk #102, "The Doom Cloud!"

BLACKHAWK #102, July 1956; published by Quality Comics; Alfred Grenet listed
in the indicia as editor with Richard Arnold as Associate Editor;
cover-featuring "See the Fantastic Flying Airport in THE DOOM CLOUD!" Oddly, there's
not a cloud in the sky on the cover, but there's a lot of other stuff in the
sky, as a futuristic flying-wing type aircraft and some regular planes attack
a ship and the boat on which the Blachawks are riding with bombs and
gunfire. Blackhawk stands heroically shouting orders, to whom it's not clear, since
the Blackhawks are behind him firing a machine gun at the attacking aircraft.

Review by Bill Henley

Like a few of the reviews I've done, this one is technically off-topic,
since it's really pre-Silver Age rather than SA. I recently managed to acquire
DC's BLACKHAWK ARCHIVE volume, which I'd been wanting to get for a long time,
and it inspired me to pull out one of my collection of Quality BLACKHAWK
issues to review. There's little doubt that the first "Silver Age" issue of
BLACKHAWK was #108, Jan. 1957, the first DC published issue. This is a sign,
however, that "Silver Age" did not automatically mean "better comics" than
their predecessors of the Golden/Silver Age interregnum. The end of the Quality
run of BLACKHAWK may have been only a shadow of the days when Reed Crandall
led the team through WWII, but still these Cold War sagas are more interesting
and exciting than the Silver Age DC tales pitting the Blackhawks against
alien menaces and what Mark Evanier called "factory-second costumed villains".

There are no credits on these stories and I have no idea who the writers
were, but the art I'm pretty sure is by the regular team of Dick Dillin,
pencils, and Chuck Cuidera, inker (and, at least by his own account, creator of

On the splash page of the first story, the Blackhawks storm into a science
lab to find a white-coated scientist being held helpless by the tentacle-arms
of a robot mounted on tank tracks. The inventor screams, "EEEAHHH! You
wouldn't destroy your own creator? Where is your gratitude?" A voice emanating
from a nearby computer console coldly informs him, "I am only what you made
me....a THINKING MACHINE! I have no emotions!" The opening caption reads,
"ADAM X was an electronic brain... a complex marvel... in one hour it solved
problems that would take human brains a lifetime! It even had a solution for
the biggest problem of to become ruler of the world! First, it
said, ELIMINATE THE BLACKHAWKS.... the ultimate machine that could become MASTER

As our story begins, a truck driver is making a regular delivery of brass
and copper and stainless steel to the lab of one Dr. Snye. The driver is
curious what the good (?) doctor is "cooking up"in his lab, and eager to make the
better acquaintance of "Vera, who works with him...boy, what a gal!" But
first he has to collect some cash, for it seems Dr. Snye has not paid yet for
his previous shipments of supplies. But when the driver knocks on the door, he
is met by a metallic creature who demands delivery and has no intention of
making a payment. While other robots unload the truck, the driver flees;
pursued by the lead robot. By happy coincidence, the Blackhawks just happen to
be passing overhead in their jets, and observing the drama below, Blackhawk
uses his guns while passenger Chop Chop enthuses, "Velly clack shot destloy
robot but not hit victim!" (Incidentally, Chop Chop here, while obviously still
a politically incorrect ethnic stereotype, is no longer quite the fat and
giganticaly bucktoothed monstrosity he was in the earlier Quality days. I used
to assume the humanization of Chop Chop was a DC innovation, but actually it
began in the latter days of the Quality run.)

Landing near the lab, the Blackhawks greet Dr. Snye, who emerges and thanks
them for preventing a possible tragedy. "I don't get this, Dr. Snye! You
talk as if you didn't have full control of your own robots!" Snye explains
that indeed he does not, as the automatons are under the direct control of Adam
X, his invention. "It isn't just another super-calculating machine. Adam X
can THINK!" And obviously not programmed for modesty, Adam X chimes in, "I
am Adam X-- world's greatest mind!" The Blackhawks respond with expressions
of amazement such as "Donnewetter!" and "Yumping Yudas!" They respond more
favorably to another occupant of the lab, Vera, Snye's shapely "niece and
assistant," especially Andre; "MMMM! Tres bien! Tres joli! Also oo-la-la,
M'amselle Vera!" Not one to be distracted by a pretty face, Blackhawk demands
further explanations, and Snye explains that Adam X is programmed to "select the
most direct solution" to any problem. In this case the problem was that
Snye had run out of money for supplies (what happened to those Pentagon research
grants?) and Adam concluded the most "direct solution" was to take supplies
without paying. Sternly, Blackhawk warns that Snye had better disconnect the
brain before it gets him in real trouble. Meanwhile, the still-panicky
truck driver is calling the cops.

After the Blackhawks depart, Dr. Snye is of two minds; he knows Adam X is a
threat, but "there is so much I need to know and only Adam X can give me the
answers1" Vera has no doubts about what should be done; "A brain without a
soul evil!" Resolving to disconnect Adam, Snye goes to do so and
finds the brain is still cogitating on the problem of obtaining funds and has
decided on the ultimate solution; "Rule the world and everything you need is
yours for the taking!" Snye protests that he has neither the desire nor
ability to rule the world, but Adam has an answer for that too; "You have only
feeble human brain! Adam X has perfect mind! Adam X will rule world for you!"
Convinced at last that Adam must cease to function, Snye tries to pull the
plug, but too late, for Adam has had the robots rewire his control panel so
that anyone trying to disconnect him gets an electric shock. Pursued by Adam's
robots, Snye and Vera try to radio the Blackhawks for help. Meanwhile, the
local cops are mobilizing for action, having actually believed the truck
driver's wild story of rampaging mechanical men. And a gang of crooks, hearing
the reports on a police scanner, decides to try to beat the police to the scene
and seize the robots for their own criminal use. And Snye reaches the
Blackhawks and alerts them, just before the robots capture and silence him.

The criminal gang blocks the police by moving a disabled car across the only
road to the isolated lab. Observing the forces converging on the lab, Adam
X gives the order, "Destroy all police! Leave criminals alive till their
usefulness is over!" The Blackhawks land their jets, commenting, "Yas ban a
yigantic yoke on Dr. Snye!" "It will be a joke on the world, Olaf...a mighty
grim joke....if that mechanical genius takes over! And it could!" Rushing
towards the lab, the Blackhawks encounter the criminal gang; "The Blackhawks!
Now's our chance to get rid of them too and collect a fat bonus from the
boss!" But instead the black knights make short work of the gang, which flees,
only to be menaced by Dr. Snye's creations; "Yow! It's one of those roberts,
or whatever you call it!" "Robot, you fathead!" The crooks' getaway car
crashes into one of the robots and then is hurled over a cliff by the robot as
the crooks flee. Leaving the crooks to the finally arriving cops, the
Blackhawks hurry to Snye's lab. Eager to rescue "la belle Vera," Andre tries to
unplug Adam but is shocked into unconsicousness. "Dr. Snye! Compared to your
creation, Dr. Frankenstein was a two-bit piker!" Blackhawk sets out to try to
cut the cables feeding the brain power from outside, as the other Blackhawks
run interference by tackling the robots. Another squad of robots is foiled
in its mission to destroy the Blackhawk jets, as the Blackhawks have cannily
set the planes to take to the air again under remote control. Failing to
reach the outside cables, Blackhawk makes a try to reach the inside cutoff
switch using his "insulated boot" to protect against shock. One of the robots
blocks him, but Blackhawk somehow manages to grab it by the arm, swing it around
on its tank tread ("Wheee! Blackhawk play clack-the-whip!") and propel
the robot into Adam X's control panel, smashing the panel and short-circuiting
Adam X. All flee as the lab is destroyed by fire, and Dr. Snye mourns the
loss of his life's work, but there are no hard feelings on Blackhawk's part;
"You can start againon some safe project! We'll see that you get a spot and
funds to work with!" And as they take off in their jets, our heroes improvise
yet another verse of their endless song...."No evil mind can rule a land, as
long as we can take a hand! WE'RE BLACKHAWKS!"

Before continuing with the Blackhawks' adventures, we get a four-page filler
war story, "Critical Target!" Set during the recent Korean War, the story
tells of Squadron Commander Dawson, whose dilemma in picking aircrews for a
vital bombing strike on a North Korean target is particularly acute. His best
flight leader is Captain Carroll, a former friend who is now his romantic
rival for the same girl back home. Because of Carroll's abilities, Dawson has
little choice but to pick him to lead the dangerous mission, but Carroll is
convinced Dawson is scheming to get him killed so Dawson can get the girl. The
anger gets even worse when Dawson returns from his mission alive, only to be
told the higher brass have ordered a second strike on the "critical target",
and Carroll is to lead that too. Once again, Carroll makes it back but is
determined to punch Dawson in the jaw, until he learns that Dawson is missing
in action-- refusing to order others to take risks he will not share, he has
taken a place on one of the bombers, and it was the only one not to return
from the second mission. After Dawson manages to bring his crippled plane in
on one engine, the two men are reconciled as "firm friends".

After fighting a sci-fi menace on American soil in their first story, the
Blackhawks return to more familiar ground for these pre-SA yarns-- battling
Communists in foreign territory-- in the cover-featured "Doom Cloud!" On the
splash panel, Blackhawk leaps from his own jet toward a Red plane, as Chop Chop
bemoans, "Oh woe! Blackhawk jumpee without parachute!" (Oddly, neither the
cover scene nor this splash scene exactly appear in the story.) "It's okay,
Chop Chop! I'm sure this joker will lend me his!" The freighter Lulane,
bound for Formosa (aka Taiwan), with "munitions for the Nationalist Chinese
defenders", is puzzled by the approach of a cloud in the sky moving against the
wind. Puzzlement turns to terror as the cloud spits out a swarm of gliders
carrying bombs to blow up the ship's volatile cargo. The Lulane radios the
Blackhawks for help before being blown up and sunk. Arriving in their jets in
time to investigate and help rescue survivors, the Blackhawks are puzzled by
the report, since gliders can't normally operate out at sea without the heat
waves that rise over land. They fly through clouds but find no trace of the
gliders, then receive a report that now the sinister gliders are attacking
Fushan harbor. Again failing to find the attackers, Blackhawk concludes that
the Reds have created a flying aircraft carrier which somehow conceals itself
within a cloud and pulls back its fleet of gliders-- "soundless, cheap and
expendable"-- when their mission is done. The Blackhawks decide to sleep on
the problem, but during the night the silent gliders make a landing on
Blackhawk Island itself (which somehow at some point moved from its original
Atlantic Ocean location to the Pacific). , and the pilots emerge to spray their
barracks with rifle fire. But to no avail, for the Blackhawks have been alerted
by "electronic detectors"-- "Yiiii! They were only dummies!" "We thought
the same thing about you and your mob!" While the Blackhawks battle the Reds
and send them fleeing to their gliders, their smallest member has a
brainstorm; "Oh woe! Chop Chop has fine good it scares honorable self...
but must do same for sake of Blackhawk victory!" While the Blackhawks find the
Reds have blocked the air intakes of their own jets, Chop Chop takes the
pilot's seat of one of the Red gliders so that he will be drawn up with them and
discover their secret. "Chop Chop, you crazy, nervy kid! Break off and
land again!" "So solly, but cannot control glider! It climbs without power!
Will keep belt radio open on guide beam so Blackhawks can follow!"

Arriving at the gliders' base, Chop Chop discovers, as Blackhawk suspected,
that it is a giant aircraft carrier held aloft by helicopter rotors and using
an electromagnetic generator to lift the gliders. Though he is Asian like
the Red Chinese pilots, Chop Chop is betrayed by his glider's lack on an
identification signal. "I am Comrade Nichivo, inventor of the flying carrier!
And you are one of the stupid Blackhawks!" "So solly! I am stupid all by self
to thlust head into noose in most unhappy manner!" After seemingly foiling
Blackhawk pursuit by releasing tinfoil strips to foul their radar, Nichivo
tries to force information from Chop Chop, but "Chop Chop velly solly but have
been bitten by mad Red! Have bad case of LOCKJAW! Cannot talk!" "He's as
stubborn as all the Blackhawks! Get rid of him! I have no time to fool with
stupid tools of capitalism!" Nichivo orders. But as Chop Chop is is about
to face a Red firing squad, the Blackhawks land their jets atop the carrier--
having been guided by Chop Chop's radio despite the tinfoil ploy-- and rescue
him and capture the carrier for the Nationalist Chinese. Flying off again,
they sing, "We did our jobs...we met the foe...we think we have a right to
crow.... AS BLACKHAWKS!'

In the days before letter columns became common, the one or two page text
story, required by postal regulations, was a common feature in comic books, but
rarely did this token text story feature the comic's regular character.
BLACKHAWK was an exception (and I'll bet that because of it, more readers
actually read the text story than usual). In "Intercepted Peril", while carrying
out a mission in Zingra City, where "the formal duel is not only legal but
practically necessary", Blackhawk is repeatedly challenged to duels and realizes
there is a plot for him to be faced by one challenger after another until
one of them finally kills him. He goads all thirteen of the plotters into
challenging him at once, and, as the challenged party, sets the conditions;
himself alone against all 13 at once, with fists, in a darkened room. Even the
Blackhawks cannot believe their leader can win against such odds, and they are
amazed when he emerges unharmed while his foes are all battered and beaten.
Blackhawk explains he simply withdrew into a corner and let all the
challengers beat each other to a pulp trying to find him.

Finally, in a regular comics story the Blackhawks discover "The Red
Professor's Secret!" In a castle courtyard, all the Blackhawks are covered by
purple-uniformed Red soldiers' guns, as Blackhawk moans, 'G-great guns, men! We've
blundered into a Red trap!" A beautiful woman named Fraulein Hegel is being
interrogated by West German law officers, but refuses to reveal vital
information to any lesser personage than Blackhawk. Accordingly, the Blackhawks
are summoned to the scene, with Hendrickson directed to handle relations with
the locals; "Ja, Blackhawk! Chermany is my old home!" (Hendrickson was
originally Dutch. I wonder when exactly he changed into an anti-Nazi German?)
The "distraught girl" reveals that her fiancee, physicist Professor Gartmann,
was kidnapped by Communist East German agents and is being held in a temporary
prison until he can be spirited behind the Iron Curtain Escaping
momentarily from his captors, Gartman called his fiancee on the phone and begged her to
obtain the help of the Blackhawks to rescue him, since only the famed black
knights can be trusted not to be Red agents. The Blackhawks agree to try to
rescue Gartmann from his prison at Todgraf Castle in the Bavarian Alps. On
the way, however, Blackhawk muses that he whole things seems a bit fishy;
maybe Gartmann is himself a Red who engineered his own "kidnapping" as a cover
for a plot. Nonetheless, they press on to Todgraf Castle, where they are
greeted by its master, Baron Von Horla, who seems to be hospitable and
cooperative-- until he springs a Red trap on our heroes. And the mastermind behind the
trap is none other than Fraulein Hegel herself-- she, not Professor Gartman,
is the Red spy. Gartmann is an innocent victim whom the Fraulein used as
bait to lure the Blackhawks, the Red's archfoes, into her trap (and so the story
title is in error, since he's not really a "Red professor".. Herded into a
cell along with Gartmann, Blackhawk incautiously drops a hint that rather
than being a mere pawn, Gartmann actually is developing a secret weapon for the
Allies. Intrigued, Fraulein Hegal demands that her former fiancee
demonstrate the weapon. But Gartmann has realized Blackhawk's real plan, and after
demanding "certain chemicals" in order to create his "weapon", he creates a
sudden explosion to catch the bad guys off guard. The Blackhawks subdue the
Reds with flying fists, and those who escape are caught by West German police
whom Blackhawk earlier alerted as a precaution. The Blackhawks win again, but
they don't sing about it this time, or at least we don't get to "hear" them.
(Earlier in the days of the Quality BLACKHAWK, the beautiful woman who turns
out to be an evil schemer was an almost invariable figure of the stories--
someone involved with the series must have been a real misogynist. This tale
is a throwback to that era.)