Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Darkhawk Redux

The Hawk rises again,
15 years on since I drew the first issue of Darkhawk. At the time I was looking for any book to do since buring out on Quasar, my first regular Marvel gig as a penciler, but a book I never really liked. Quasar was sort of a "weenie Captain Marvell crossed with Superman." But I wanted to be a guy drawing for Marvel, that was my goal since a teen and I took the opportunity and that was the book I was offered by the late Mark Gruenwald. I was never a big fan of DH either to be frank, I wasn't even the first artist offered the book, Pat Broderick was, but they were not happy with his take and Quasar editor Howard Mackie gave me a shot at DH. From the first I felt it was a bit too much like Spidey for my tastes and the last storyline featuring interstellar weapons manufacturers and aliens was much more to my liking. The suit after all was a weapon. Much like the updating of Batman's suit crossed with the Guyver. But Marvel was smart then, and the business was so different, you can't even compare then to now... lot more kids and young teens reading, this was pre-Image, and Marvel was launching several new books each year, essentially throwing stuff against the wall and seeing what stuck. DH was one of them.

I finally left with issue 25, and never looked back.I never looked at an issue after i left, so I never knew what happened to Chris Powelland DH. I never felt the book was popular and got no kudos at Marvel for working on it. This was at the time of the rise of guys like Liefeld and Mcfarland, Wolverine and the Punisher appearing in every book,and soon Image. What I felt I brought to the table, strong storytelling and drawing were just not in favor at the time. So it's funny to have so many people tell me in the last few years how much they enjoyed the book and my work on it. I get that at every show or con, and several e-mails, even folks who post here. Seems like the character is popping up more and more at Marvel too, I haven't seen any of the books though... Maybe it's time for me to try and pitch a new DH series? I don't know, as I have heard it guys 40+ are not welcome at Marvel...

Here is a link to a nice review of
While Googeling myself ( come on admit it, you do it too) I came across a link to this review of the character and first issue of DARKHAWK by Drew Clements. Enough time has passed that I don't feel bitter and burned out like I did when I left DH and Marvel soon after for DC and eventually Batman. And that friends is a story for another day.


bustedacres said...

I have a small story regarding Darkhawk. That was around the time I lost interest in comics. The Image thing just crushed the life out of them for me--I still went to the comic store every week for a while but found there was nothing I wanted to spend my money on.

Darkhawk appeared to me to be just another "dark" book (obviously, it's even in the title). . .even the cover that you've posted has lots of browns and things in it. At the time, it seemed every character's name was "object" plus "object"--Witchblade! Darkhawk! Knifeslice or something!--and it was all this weird amalgam of fantasy and so-called "adult" violence, and it never gelled for me.

Now, I actually like violent, adult entertainment--in comics, I loooove Jordi Bernet's "Torpedo", for example--but there was a juvenile approach to it then, as it seemed comics as an industry were trying to appeal to both 12-year-olds and 30-year-olds (unsuccessfully, in my opinion). So I saw another "Dark" book and never paid attention.

To make this extended post even longer (and to go on a tangent that may not be related at all to your post, and for this I apologize), I think what appeals to me most about comics is using bright symbols (i.e. Superman or Tom Strong or the Flash or whoever) that were never designed as complex personalities and seeing them placed in more complex situations. The characters that are already inherently complex (for example, Wolverine) don't hold as much appeal to me anymore (though when I was in my early teens, I found Wolverine the most exciting). I think that Watchmen was one of the best things to happen to comics and one of the worst--it seemed that its success inspired a lot of writers to take the trappings of the book--blood, sex, insanity--and to use those (you started to see a lot of rapes in comics then) without the actual psychological complexity of the story, which really (for me) asked "what would a world dependent upon such figures actually be like--how foolish we would be to depend on superhuman pseudo-gods".

Blah blah blah. . .I've gone on forever now. Anyway, that's why I didn't pick up the book at the time. I wonder what it would be like nowadays?

And I'm curious about your comment saying guys over 40 don't seem to be welcome at the big publishers. . .really? That's ridiculous if so. Michael Golden's gotta be in his fifties, right? Art Adams in his forties. . .there's lots of guys who do much better work than the younger guys they've got doing things now, in my opinion.

Mike Manley said...

I agree, and while I love Torpedo and any book by Bernet, love the whole Euro-canon, Moebius,Pratt etc.,I do think Dark Knight and Watchment were good an bad like you said, but the worst is the colapse of the direct market coupled with loss of readers that brought.

that caused there to be a loss across the field in variety of material. Gone are the Richie Rich, War, Goldkey, Warren horror mags etc. Only babyman dark books left.

DH was like a combo of Shazam and Spidey. Chris could swith bodies like Billy Batson did and he had problems the typical teen had in the fantasy universe of Marvel. the thing is you can but the whole run cheap on Ebay.

Alex Segura said...

I really enjoyed DH as a kid. It had the elements I liked about Spidey during a time when the Spidey books had lost their way (even pre-clone saga, they were going for a darker riff). So, my top reads around the time of Mike's run on the book were DH, Spidey 2099 and New Warriors. Just fun, superhero stuff. DH has popped up here and there, but the cameos haven't been all that consistent, in my opinion, so if someone came in with a new pitch, they could probably start anew.

And Mike, your Batman run was really underrated, I thought.

On an unrelated note: would you be up for doing an interview for the comic blog I edit, The Great Curve? I'd love to get the chance to lob a few questions your way. Great hearing from you.

Mike Manley said...

Sure Alex, fired me an e-mail off blog, I'll be happy to do something for your site.

South Park Junkie said...

Mike, you mention that some horror mags dissapeared. I recall reading somewhere that MAD used to be a horror comic book called Tales Calculated to drive you Mad. Then in the mid-50's the Comics Code Authority got rid of a lot of horror comic books because of juvenile delinquency. Mad avoided this by turning into a magazine that made fun of stuff. Could that have anything to do with all those horror comics disappearing?

bustedacres said...

Hey, South Park Junkie--the story of MAD is a little different, though you're on the right track.

MAD was never a horror comic, though it did use the "Tales Calculated to Drive You MAD" tagline. However, EC Comics, which was the publisher of MAD, was hounded by a Senate Subcommittee in the 1950s after the publication of Dr. Fredric Wertham's book "Seduction of the Innocent".

Wertham believed that comics were corrupting children and making them violent and anti-social. As a result of the public outcry against comics--particularly lurid horror comics that EC published, some of which were pretty grotesque (but really great!)--the comics industry formed the "Comics Code Authority".

The CCA in essence functioned exactly like the MPAA that rates motion pictures (PG, R, PG-13, G, etc.). The industry placed a seal of approval on books that it deemed okay for kids, and any books that didn't have it just didn't stand a chance and were simply not published. As a part of this approval process, they outlawed a series of words that could no longer be used in titles of comic magazines--"weird", "horror", "terror", "crypt", etc--all of which were used in EC's titles.

In essence, EC Comics (which featured some of the best writing and art in the history of comic books) was destroyed except for one comic that survived: MAD. Soon MAD was converted to magazine format, and the rest is pop culture history.

Mike Manley said...

Nice neat, concise history lesson busted.

And now the CCA is like a toothless old cat, a mummified one at that. I don't think they have any say anymore at all.

The mags I was talking about SPJ were the Warren mags, Creepy, Eerie, 1984 and Vampirella. They were some of the best magazines art wise up into the 80's, and for a while had some of the best short story writing by guys like the late Archie Goodwin. Vampirella is still published, but it isn't anything like it used to be, it's just another booring pin-up chick book.

If you are interested you can often find back issues of the warren stuff like Eerie and Creepy at many shops and local cons. Ebay too. They are the direct decendent of EC and many of the artists who worked for EC did work for the Warren magazines.

South Park Junkie said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
South Park Junkie said...

I found all this out when I was ready the history of MAD on wikipedia. I also read the history of the CCA. It says that there are rarely any comics that appear with the CCA seal nowadays.
That thing about comics without the seal is stupid though. Just because something isn't suitable for kids doesn't mean it should be made unavailable. There are
people who think there should be filters on library computers so no one can access porn. Now being a girl, I don't always understand guys' obsessions with porn, but
if you wanna look at that stuff you should be able to. They could have some computers with filters and a seperate section away from where the children's books are for more mature people without filters, sorta like the adult section in the book store with beaded curtains. That would make both trenchcoat-wearing perverts and concerned parents happy.

The same can be applied for comics. Comic book stores can have acceptable comics throughout most of the store and then have a special beaded curtain area in the back that kids under a certain age can't enter.

But don't ban adult content altogether, that wouldn't be fair. Kids get to enjoy childrens' websites, books, shows etc. If parents of younger kids are constantly being forced to endure annoying children's videos featuring Barney the fucking gay dinosaur (come on we all know he's gay. He's purple for god's sake!), they deserve
to enjoy their adult stuff just like kids can enjoy their children's stuff
And I know this was kind of off topic but it was relevant to the more recent posts about banning comics so I thought I'd post it. I'll go away now

Bobby Timony said...

Does anybody still work for the CCA? Do they get paid? How do they make money?
How do they feel about about being a toothless old censor cat?
These are questions that I occasionally think about at night, while I'm trying to sleep but my brain won't let me. Since the CCA was brought up, I thought I'd ask.

Mike Manley said...

SPJ, I agree, there should not be censorship, especially in the library, but people are lazy. lazy pople always want other people to take responsibility for them, even the goverment. No, they can't turn off the TV when something comes on they find offensive, they want the TV Police to do this for them.

Part of living in a free society that engenders self expression through all media is that you will have to come in contact and listen to ideas and expressions ( art, songs, movies etc.) that you find offensive, dumb, irritating, etc.

In the library there is a section for kids, but also section for everything else, and a kid could go and borrow books by Mamment, or The Tropic of Cancer or many, many other books that might not be deemed age appropriate, but this is the tricky area. You are still a minor, so if a librray lent you a book that some might consider "adult" that leaves them open to trouble. Your parents should be monitoring what you read, watch, listen to. that is a parents job, to help you put things in perspective, and at times to say no if they think you are not ready for something yet.

Comics is crossing over into less "childrens fantasy into babymen's fantasy". the females are drawn to titilate ina way they were not yeras ago, storylines deal with rape, sex and violence far beyond the adventures of the same characters in the 60'70's even the 80's. This is especially tricky when you take into account state and local laws. the laws in LA are not the same as laws in PA or NY. certainly not the same as a place like Georgia. What may be harmless titalation here in Philly, a fairly liberal place, can get you busted in states like Gerogia. The comic book legal defense Fund has fought many such cases if you are interested in reading about them.

Comics walks this messy landscape as 99.9% of people associate comics with children and childrens entertainment, yet mostly adults read them now. kids can't even be 3% of the readership on any comic not sold in a supermarket.

The CCA is no more I think, they were sponsored, or funded by Marvel, DC, Archie etc. I don't know if they are still funded by them but the books no longer carry the seal. Image never belonged nor I believe did Dark Horse etc.

SPJ, since you are so interetsted in humor comics why not try writing or drawing some yourself? The industry certainly need more women cartoonists and writers.

South Park Junkie said...

Laziness is also a problem, as you pointed out. There are lots of soccer-moms who do just that. Instead of monitoring their kids, they would prefer to let a 3-year-old sit in front of the TV watching Teletubbies and hope their kids don't see anything wrong on TV. There are many things today that parents use to filter content such as v-chips, and programs like Net Nanny.
A few years ago my parents installed said program on our computer. Being normal kids, my brother and I felt this was too restrictive and even some sites that weren't so bad were being blocked. We couldn't remove it completely but a few months later I got the idea to click Start and look at the list of programs. I clicked the folder labeled "Net Nanny" and dragged it to the desktop. Then I put it in the recycle bin, and voila! problem solved. The program was still on the hard drive but it didn't work anymore and everything was back to normal.
And even though our internet was filtered, my parents never blocked anything on TV. When I was in elementary/early middle school, I used to watch Nickelodeon
and cartoon network alot. Then as I got older I discovered shows like South park and Jerry Springer. South park is rated MA, but Jerry Springer is only rated TV-14, so I can legitimately say that it's alright because I turned 14 last summer. (I just realized I'll be turning 15 in 15 days)
And if your TV is blocked there's always one guaranteed way for kids to be corrupted: the schoolyard. When I was little, I was pretty sheltered. Most kids start swearing at 3 or 4, but I didn't know about curse words until I was 7 and someone wrote "bitch" on a stop sign near my school. It was at that age that I heard kids at my school using words like "balls", "dick" and "gay" and making them sound dirty. Of course at that time I had know way of finding out what they meant. My parents definately wouldn't tell me. Being the firstborn in the family, I had no older siblings to corrupt me. By the time I got to middle school I knew some nasty words and their meanings. In 6th grade I heard my first dirty joke on the bus home from school.
By this time I already knew how to get around the 'net, and I would type the words and expressions I heard into search engines to find out what they meant.
Wow this post has gotten so long. I started out talking about censorship, but winded up telling you about how I learned curse words and all that. But the point is still the same: you can try to filter what your kids see, but sooner or later they're going to end finding out stuff they shouln't. And even though I am still a minor, at this point trying to censor what I see would be futile since I already know so much stuff I probably shouldn't.

Mike Manley said...

Happy earlier B-day SPJ.

Yeah,parents never really are able to stop kids from seeing things or protecting them 24-7. I saw smut (Playboy pin-ups in my dad's work shop)and heard plenty of dirty words early...of course many from my parents too :-)

You write well for your age, wellbetter than many people several years older as I get letters from many professed college grads who couldn't write a menu order.

You seem to have a sharp eye and wit, which I think make for good comedic writing.

nope said...


I'm sorry for being intrusive in to your blog. But I am Melissa and I am a mother of two that is just trying to get out of an incredible financial debt. See my hubby is away in Iraq trying to protect this great country that we live in, and I am at home with our two kids telling bill collectors please be patiant. When my husband returns from war we will beable to catch up on our payments. We have already had are 2001 Ford repossessed from the bank, and are now down to a 83 buick that is rusted from front to back and the heater don't work, and tire tax is due in November.

I'm not asking for your pitty because we got our ownselfs into this mess but we would love you and thank you in our prayers if you would just keep this link on your blog for others to view.

God Bless You.

Melissa K. W.
To see my family view this page. My Family

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Unknown said...

Quasar was not a weenie!

I object to that!