Issue No. 9

Winter 1944

Bait for a Death Trap!: During a raid on a Japanese base in Burma, Blackhawk's Skyrocket is hit by an anti-aircraft round and he crashes in the jungle. Andre and Olaf land to look for him but before they find him, Blackhawk is captured by the enemy. He puts up a good fight but is overwhelmed. As he his about to be executed, a bull elephant charges out of the trees, picks Blackhawk up with its trunk, and carries him away. The elephant delivers him to a teak compound run by Burma Jack, who plans to turn Blackhawk over to Major Kirisu for the reward on his head. The Major wants to shoot Blackhawk on the spot, so he won't have a chance to pull his usual clever escape (this is something you would think all villains would figure out eventually), but Burma Jack stops him, saying Blackhawk is his property until the reward is paid. About then Jack's men bring in Andre and Olaf. Jack takes his elephants to deliver the three Black Knights to the Japanese base. Andre and Olaf whisper about escaping, but Blackhawk tells them to stay cool, he suspects everything is not as it appears. Sure enough, when Major Kirisu leads them to the hidden base, Burma Jack stampedes his elephants and releases the Blackhawks. A glorious battle ensues in which the Japanese are wiped out. Turns out Jack is working for British intelligence and needed the Blackhawks as prisoners to convince the Japanese that he could be trusted.

This was a very well written story with plenty of twists, interesting characters and exciting action. The artwork is first class, though the Skyrockets are drawn sort of tubby. I particularly liked the character of Burma Jack. I don't know if he ever appeared again, but he should have.

Where in the World?: The Blackhawks plan and execute a devasting attack on the Japanese fortified Reri atoll. The enemy commander attempts to burn his secret papers, but Chop Chop rescues a partially destroyed message that indicates there is a secret Japanese base in Bangkok, Manila or somewhere in the middle of the Pacific. The team splits to check all three locations. Stanislaus and Olaf, in a "scouter" bi-plane, spot something amazing at the coordinates of a spot in the ocean to which they've flown, and then the story cuts away to Blackhawk and Chuck in the Phillipines. They are picked up by the Fillipino underground and led to its leader, Professor Gomez, who tells them how to find Captain Shozo of Japanese intelligence. In his office, they find plans for a major retreat, then make their escape after a fight in which Shozo is killed. Meanwhile, in Bangkok, Andre and Hendrickson find Major Fugira leading a hedonistic life with the local ladies and wines. They capture him and discover plans for a major retreat. Then Fugira attempts to stab Andre in the back but Andre eludes him and Fugira falls on his own knife. Finally, we return to Stan and Olaf in the plane. They have spotted an island-sized fort rising from the sea. It launches Zeroes but somehow the biplane manages to shoot down what were some of the best fighters in WW II. The scout plane is in turn shot down by AA fire and the Black Knights are captured. Of course, the Japanese commander has to explain the whole secret plan to them before they are killed (it must be a rule in the villains' handbook). The fort is built into a submerged volcano and they use the force of the volcano to raise or lower it. The retreat is a fake to lure the Allies into a trap which will be sprung from the submersible base. Just then the other Blackhawks arrive and land on the fort. Incredibly, none of the Japanese thing there is anything odd about this. The Blackhawks (with their uniforms hidden under fur-lined flight suits, at least) bluff their way into the commander's office and rescue Stan and Olaf. In the ensuing big fight, the Blackhawks escape and rig a line to the single lever that, when pulled, will release the volcano and destroy the base.

Although this story had some interesting elements, it suffered from way too many comic book cliches and illogic. It especially looks bad following immediately the much better Burma Jack story.

The Super-spies of the Rising Sun!: The story opens with a particularly destructive raid by the Blackhawks against a Japanese base. As they fly away, Blackhawk points out their inside source, Li Huang, a Korean posing as a Jap to gain information. Afterward, we are shown a high ranking officer in the Japanese war department bemoaning the lack of a way to stop them. His fellow officer reveals a secret plan that has taken three Japanese agents and, through biochemical treatments and surgery, changed them to look Caucasian. They will be used appearing agents to trap the Blackhawks. But Li Huang discovers the plan. He is found by the Japanese and killed, but with his last breath sends a message, via carrier pigeon, to the Blackhawks. The pigeon, too, is wounded but manages to reach the team before it dies. Unfortunately, the message is incomplete. At that moment, a damaged plane makes an emergency landing on Blackhawk island (Blackhawk makes a point of identifying it as a P-47 Thunderbolt by its silhouette, but the plane as drawn looks like a P-40 Tomahawk). The injured pilot tells them of his two buddies on Rentao Island who need help. Of couse, the Blackhawks fly to the rescue and are trapped by the "white" Japanese agents. But the Black Knights really don't have any difficulty defeating the "super-spies" and they drop them by parachute onto the Tokyo headquarters. The Japanese commander commits suicide because of his failed plan.

This story's blatant racism is hard to take now, but was pretty standard stuff in the U.S. during WW II. Even trying to put that aside, it is not a particularly good story. The bad guys are never a serious threat and are too easily defeated. It does, at least, try to distinquish good Asians from bad Asians (Chop Chop and the Korean agent versus the Japanese) but even that highlights the racism of the time. Chop Chop is still drawn as a characture of a Chinese peasant with the exaggerated teeth and the silly ribbon on his queue. I believe that Koreans are racially different enough from the Japanese that I doubt one would be able to pose un-noticed but, to Americans, all Asians look alike. This is not a story that has stood the test of time well. It is, in some ways, unpleasant to read now.

The Blackhawk Miracle - A text story: David Doyle had come to a small island years before to die, because doctors had told him his health was shattered and he had no hope of recovery. He is there when Blackhawk is captured by the Japanese. Doyle saves Blackhawk by throwing coconuts at the right moment and he and Blackhawk make their escape after Blackhawk decimates the Japanese with the commanders own samuai sword (in an amazingly blood-thirsty scene that has heads and other body parts flying). Doyle discovers that he is not dying and contributes it to a miracle brought by Blackhawk. Blackhawk counters that Doyle has recovered in the healthful climate of the island but believed he was sick so he acted that way until he forgot about his own condition to rescue Blackhawk. It was in him all the time.

Rasputin and the Empress - A comedy strip about a chimp (Rasputin) and a monkey (Merwin) who save an empress from a giant and a spell.

Ezra - The comic adventures of high-schooler Ezra Jones. Ezra tries to join the "Whiz Cats", a select school club to impress a girl, but things go awry.

Editor's Note: I had previously dated this issue as Winter of 1945 because that is what I calculated the date should be, working back from later issues. True, references listed the date as Winter 1944, but I didn't see how that was possible when No. 14, only five issues later, was dated Spring 1947. Well, apparently the publishing schedule during the war was very irregular because the Winter 1944 date is correct. Barry Williams sent me a scan of the publishing data on the inside cover of his No. 9, and there's no arguing with that.

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