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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Rad Ads - How to Breakdance, Breed and Raise Parakeets, Skul and "Attention Virginia"

Welcome back to the long-awaited and highly anticipated return of our Rad Ads segment. Chris Sheehan and I will be teaming up for this one.

DC Comics — who published materials targeted towards teens, young adults, college-aged kids and (in some cases) adults — reached a very wide North American demographic. This was perfect for selling advertising space. (DC Comics was a business after all, and needed to generate revenue to keep it's doors open). Many companies that produced candy, cookies, video games, bicycles, model kits (and just about anything else aimed at a young adult market) bought full page and half page ad space to display their colorful advertisements for their products. These were legit companies with REAL advertising dollars who were able to pay for vibrant and splashy ads.

...and then there were the 'classifieds' (for lack of a better word). The classifieds took up a whole page and contained a whole bunch of ads packed into one condensed space.

Need to post an ad in a DC comic, but you're on a tight budget? Here you go...

If you had the money, Sanford Schwarz & Co. (and later Print Advertising Representatives Inc.) would let you advertise in a DC comic — no matter how nefarious the product or service. To be fair, most of the ad space featured comic book shops trying to sell back issues, Charles Atlas ads or "high school from home" programs for adults [note: we at DC in the 80s strongly support education of any kind. Stay in school, kids. -J].

[There were times in which you could tell how lucrative these classified pages were. There would be months where several of the ad "spots" would be full of DC "bullets" or variations on the WRITE RIGHT NOW! Bumper. I may be misremembering, but I feel like there were even months where the classifieds only received a half-page. -Chris]

In this article, Chris and I are going to take a look at some of the more interesting classified ads we've ran across in our years of reading DC comics.

Found in a few 1985 issues:

Justin: Remember when breakdancing took North America by storm? As evidenced by the films Wild Style, Breakin', Beat Street, Body Rock and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo, America seemed to be fascinated with this new dance craze in the early to mid-1980s. I think there's even a scene in Flashdance where Jennifer Beals mixes it up with some pop n'lockers. Well, now you can learn at home and earn a "Champion Breakdancer" certificate.

Even McDonald's was trying to cash in on the North Americam breakdancin' craze

Chris: The breakdancer certificate is something I’m actually surprised they're including for the low low price of just under five bucks. I’d have imagined there would be a coupon or something in the back of the book that a novice pop-locker would have to clip and mail off with an additional fiver. Just think of the value here… Sally Struthers should be doing commercials for this place! You wanna learn to headspin? Sure, we all do!

Justin: I think breakdancing was popular again for a bit while I was in high school (mid 1990s). Some of my 'cooler' friends tried really hard to get good at it, but of course, we were all just middle-class white kids from a small Canadian town so we were all self-taught (based on music videos we saw and etc) and none of us were able to pull it off gracefully. I personally don't know anybody over the age of 30 who still breakdances. Except for 'the Robot'. Everyone seems to think that they can do 'the Robot'. They claim to do it ironically, but they're really putting their hearts into it.

Justin: In keeping with the true spirit of the 'classified' section, they should've re-worded the ad to "MAKE EXTRA MONEY! LAY DOWN SOME CARDBOARD AND PERFORM HEADSPINS AND WINDMILLS FOR HAPLESS PASSERBY".

Chris: I’m thinking this is a missed opportunity. Seinfeld fans may remember Kramer’s "Coffee Table Book" that would actually fold out to become a coffee table… why not give this booklet an over-sized cardboard cover? You could learn your flashy footwork secrets… then just lay the book down on a street corner and bust 'em out. Hell, maybe even offer a "deluxe" model with a linoleum cover!

Justin: On that note, I've never seen anyone become successful from being a B-boy or B-girl. All it ever seems to net them is a hip replacement at 45 years old. Truth in advertising, "DAZZLE YOUR FRIENDS WHILE CRUSHING YOUR T6 VERTEBRAE". Breakdance Back Syndrome is a real thing, people. Look it up.

Chris: Ehhh, that pesky T6 vertebrae just gets in the way of doing the worm anyway!

Justin: I wouldn’t be surprised if the city of New York had never issued any Public Service Announcements warning the population from partaking in this activity. A very stern 1984 New York Times article addressed the perils of breakdancing. The truth in all this is that while we recognize breakdancing is a REAL art form, it can't be taught from the pages of a book with illustrations — you'd need an actual experienced instructor who knows what he's doing.

Chris: Just a brief mention, but the Johnson Smith Company is still in business, though no longer in Michigan. Now operating out of Bradenton, Florida, JSC has a wide array of catalogs and novelties. There’s no mention of breakdancing how-tos on their website… so either they realized the fad has passed, or they lost their accreditation from the Boogaloo Shrimp Board of Crew Dancing.


1981 classified ad (this one ran for a few years):

Justin: Welcome to the fast-paced and high stakes world of parakeet breeding.

Chris: Just don’t put them in the same cage as the rattlesnake eggs you got from another ad!

Justin: Prior to this ad, I had no clue Parakeet Breeding was a 'thing', and just thought it was an advertisement placed by a plucky entrepreneur with too many books about raising parakeets lying around. Apparently, the business of Parakeet Breeding is still alive and kicking as demonstrated by specialty websites (i.e. Budgie Place,, Cute Little Birdies Aviary and, but it's not a very well-publicized activity (which is why I've never heard of it until this ad). There's a good reason for that — this ad was most likely an offshoot of the North American 'Budgie Boom' that swept the nation in the early-to-mid 1950s.

In 1930, the United States experienced a HUGE outbreak of psittacosis (a respiratory disease mainly transmitted to humans by birds) that affected around 800 individuals and indirectly prompted the creation of the National Institute of Health. The 1930 psittacosis epidemic led to a ban on budgies (aka: the Australian shell parakeet) throughout New York and several other states, but was ultimately lifted in 1952. This led to the North American 'Budgie Boom' that permeated the United States for the next two decades; breeding and raising your own parakeets suddenly became a popular national pastime. Why? Because back then, a single budgie could run you anywhere between $5 to $15 in a bird shop. There was a great demand for these birds.

I couldn't honestly tell you what the state of breeding parakeets for profit was during the 60s and 70s, but I DO know that New York City had reported an influx of exotic birds introduced to it's domestic ecology sometime in the early 1970s, with at least one species of parrot becoming a regular fixture in New York state.

Unless you plan on making this a large-scale operation (i.e. hundreds and hundreds of birds), breeding parakeets is not as lucrative as it used to be. According to experienced parakeet breeders, thanks to a) the high price of bird seed, b) market and demand fluctuations, c) veterinary maintenance and d) the current economic climate of the country, the best a small-scale breeder could hope for is being able to cover expenses. In essence, it'll develop into a hobby that pays for itself. Today, you'd be better off raising chickens. At least you can eat those.


This one actually ran in DC comics for a few months in 1982:

Justin: Nothing says 'professional retailer' like an ad that looks like it was drawn up by a 7 year old. It's like some kid got mad at his father and took out an ad to sell all of his stuff.

Chris: During the late 1980's, dozens of comics fans ventured into the deepest, darkest corner of Graham, Texas with one goal in mind… Skul Posters. None of them returned. This really looks like something put together by a mad man. I actually get a bit uncomfortable looking at this… perhaps that is due to my vivid and crooked imagination, okay… that’s definitely it. But there is something sinister here… there’s just gotta be.

Justin: I'm imagining you show up at this guy's house, he silently leads you to his homemade backyard arena, throws you a broad sword and excepts you to duel with him to the death. For the life of me, I can't figure out what 'Skul' is supposed to mean. "Skull"? "Kull the Conqueror"? "School"?

Justin: I think the retailer realized how amateur it looked (or decided to pay Sanford Schwarz & Co. for their professional typeface services), because it was quickly replaced with this version several issues later:

Justin: All gentle ribbing aside, I'm really curious to see what Robert Robbins is up to now (is he a professional graphics designer?) and what his posters looked like. Maybe he was the next Todd McFarlane and we all missed out. Or maybe he was a guy who just had too many Conan, Hulk and Skul posters lying around and was trying to ship 'em out. Either way, Mr Robbins, if you're reading this, drop us a line.


I first saw this in a 1985 DC comic, but I think it ran for many years:


Chris: I won’t be sorry? Is that a threat? All kidding aside, it’s crazy to consider that up until last summer… Dave’s Comics (and cards) was still a brick-and-mortar presence in Richmond! He currently runs an online store and is active with local conventions. The ad itself does read like a "missed connection" on Craigslist… only this one probably cost actual USD to share… and likely attracted a slightly less perverted response... hopefully.

Justin: I want to leave this Rad Ads segment on a rockin' note. So we're going conclude with this embedded video of Prism's "Virginia":


Big thanks and welcome back to Chris Sheehan, who has been on hiatus to work on The Cosmic Treadmill and the Weird Comics History podcasts for the DC Weird Science blog. Unless I'm mistaken, Chris will also be nearing his one year anniversary on his Chris Is On Infinite Earths blog — be sure to check out his interesting and entertaining comic reviews.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Presenting DC in the 80s' first 'zine: Baxter Stock

As of January 19th, DC in the 80s will have reached it's ONE YEAR mark as an actual website (prior to this, we were a tumblr blog). To commemorate this event, we've created an 8-page fanzine!

In the spirit of promoting the D-I-Y movement of the 1980s, we've made our first paper zine free* to everyone! (you just need to print and assemble it yourself)

*2017-03-22 update: we've had to take it offline due to 'reasons'. contact us at our inbox for more information. apologies to all. :(


1. Download and print each PDF. You're going to need to use double-sided printing. Depending on your printer settings, you may need to select "long edge portrait". Whatever you need to do, just make sure that whatever's printed on the reverse on the page is 'right side up'.

2. The PDFs fit an 8.5 x 11" standard computer page. Print in black and white (just like the xerox'd fanzines of the 1980s). Hey, you don't want to print on white paper? Want to print on colored paper instead? Fuscia? We don't care - it's your copy. Go nuts.

3. We like printing on 32lb bond paper (to give it that "fancy feeling"), but regular computer paper (ex: 20lb bond) will do just fine.

4. Stack all 3 pages (pg 1 on top of pg 2, pg 2 on top of pg 3) — make sure all three pages are facing the same direction (ex: 'front' side is facing up).

5. Fold the pages horizontally and staple on the fold. Voila. Your zine is ready.

6. Did you like it? Tell your friends. Tell your enemies. Tell anyone who will listen (we don't care). Just get the word out. Tell us on our Facebook page how much you liked it. Tell us on our Twitter. Send us a photo of you proudly displaying your 'zine. Maybe we'll make another one in the near future. ;)

7. Maybe, for whatever reason, you don't want to make your own 'zine? Send us an e-mail at and we'll mail you a copy. We'll only charge you the cost of printing the 'zine (we use 32lb bond white paper) + shipping & handling. If you're a comic book shop or retailer and you're interested in ordering in bulk, please contact us via e-mail.

Without further ado...

Page 1 - front:

Page 1 - reverse:

Page 2 - front:

Page 2 - reverse:

Page 3 - front:

Page 3 - reverse:


Friday, January 20, 2017

1989 Hawk & Dove v3 ongoing series part 2

[This is a continuation of our review of the 1989 Hawk & Dove v3 ongoing series. Our previous article reviewed issues #1 to #24 and Annual #1. This article will contain SPOILERS. We at DC in the 80s are big fans of letting readers discover things for themselves. If you have any interest in this series, we implore you to seek it out read it yourself before reading this article. While Hawk & Dove v3 may NOT currently be available in any collected TPB format, the back issues can be picked up for pretty cheap.]

As contributing editor Rob Perry alluded to in our previous article, the Hawk & Dove v3 ongoing series took a drastic turn in tone come issue #25.

A storyline had been building up since Hawk & Dove v3 #22 in which Hawk is receiving phone calls from his deceased brother, Don Hall (aka Dove) [he died back in Crisis, remember?]. Issue #25 begins with a dream sequence in which it appears that parallel timelines are being revealed to Hawk, I'm mainly mentioning this because one of the realities revealed to him was the non-cannon Hawk and Dove story from The Brave and the Bold v1 #181 (1981).

The Brave and the Bold #181 was written by Alan Brennert and penciled by Jim Aparo. This was presented as the LAST Hawk & Dove story — it's set in present-day 1981 and Hank and Don Hall seem to have aged accordingly. In this issue, the 'Voice' that gave Hawk and Dove their powers decides to take it back, since it deemed that the brothers haven't matured whatsoever since they gained their powers 12 years ago.

In hindsight, it feels like this issue was intended for readers who were unfamiliar with the characters: it recounts the duo's origins, mentions how much things have changed since the late 60s/early 70s, explains a lot of their back story, and takes their powers away. In typically Hank Hall fashion, Hawk goes on a destructive rampage, which served as the catalyst for having their powers taken away. Batman's involvement is kind of a moot point [probably to get readers interested enough to pick up the issue], as he doesn't really have any big role in this story. Editor Dick Giordano revealed in the letter column of The Brave and the Bold v1 #186 that the Hawk & Dove story "drew an incredible avalanche of mail; the largest reader response to a single issue in our series in recent memory."

Giordano went on further to explain:
"The decision to publish "Time, See What's Become of Me" was not an easy one. Chronology is important in our DC Universe and I was painfully aware of the fact that I was messing with it. But as the original editor of THE HAWK AND THE DOVE back in the '60s I also felt an emotional obligation to write finis to the pair that were a product of their time. Alan's excellent script allowed me to do this with class."
"It was not the conflict between 'mindless violence' and 'extreme caution and passivity' that we feel renders the Hawk and the Dove obsolete. Starting with the title down to the basic story-lines and characterizations, the original concept was intended to deal, symbolically, with the political and social unrest of the time in which it was published. Moreover, the original version was really a triangle with Judge Hall (their father) providing a third (moderate) point of view to the boys extreme views. With the absence of social unrest and Judge Hall's viewpoint, the question of hawk and dove became academic."

How were Giordano and Brennert messing with DC chronology? Well, when Hank and Don Hall were guest starring in Teen Titans v1 back in the late 1970s, they were the same age as the rest of the Teen Titans. When this issue was published, Don Hall was 27 years old (and his brother, Hank, was roughly the same age) and Dick Grayson was still 19 years old — effectively implying that Hawk and Dove had aged, but nobody else in the DCU had.

As mentioned, this issue is considered non-cannon since Hawk and Dove are seen with powers in Crisis On Infinite Earths in 1985. I do appreciate that the Kesels took the time to reference this gem in issue #25 and provided an 'imaginary' epilogue to it (they even go so far as to thank Brennert and Aparo) — it demonstrates that they did their research and have a respect for the characters.

Issue #25 was a 38 page issue and boasted 'Guest Artists Galore'. I'm not very good at recognizing artists, but I did spot a few pages of Kevin Maguire art in there. The other contributing pencillers were (apparently) Dick Giordano, Tom Grindberg, Dan Jurgens, Jim Aparo, Will Blyberg and Greg Guler. The inkers included Scott Hana, Al Vey, Robert Lewis, Gabriel Morrissette, and Ken Branch. Don't ask me who did what in the issue — I'd only be guessing. Apparently, Jerome Moore illustrated the cover.

Who illustrated and inked these panels above (from H&D v3 #25)? Comment below if you know.

By this point I'm wondering if the Kesels were aware the series would be facing cancellation and were in a rush to get their last MAJOR story arc completed (hence the double-sized issue). Hawk, who keeps receiving phone calls from his dead brother, is instructed to retrieve Sargon the Sorcerer's Soul Sapphire gemstone being held in a museum. This drives Hawk to commit a felony and break into the museum to steal it, causing everyone around to worry that Hawk's gone off "the deep end" again. Everyone is affected by this; Dove's not sure if Hawk is going evil, Hawk's girlfriend [Ren] thinks he's cheating on her with Dove, the Washington SCU is convinced that Hawk is a threat and needs to be taken down. I'm really digging the Sargon the Sorcerer reference. Throughout issue #25, the Soul Sapphire is referred to as an instrument of Order. It looks like the Kesels were laying the ground work for Sargon to be part of the agents of Chaos and Order mythos.

Throughout the previous 24 issues, the Kesels have managed to keep Hawk's 'crazy side' under wraps and portrayed him as someone we should be sympathetic to. Prior to the 1988 mini-series and this 1989 ongoing series, Hawk was more or less portrayed as a warmongering loose cannon (who always had America's best interests at heart) — the introduction of Dove (Dawn Granger) helped downplay this quite a bit. [Here's some foreshadowing for you, folks. ;) ]

The story continues. In issue #26, Hawk is missing and Dawn goes looking for him. She doesn't find him, but we are treated to a flashback of when Dawn had first discovered that she possessed the powers of Dove and tried finding Hawk. This wasn't a retcon, but it was adding new details to things that happened immediately after Crisis On Infinite Earths. We also learn that Kestrel was hunting for Hawk back then.

There's an extensive manhunt for Hawk in issue #27; things inevitably escalate, Hawk behaves more 'out of character' and steals a recently deceased body for his dead brother, Don Hall, to be reincarnated into. The end of the issue reveals that Hawk's been set up, it's not Don Hall he's reviving, but someone else...

...and this leads us to the 48 page finale of the series. Hawk & Dove v3 #28 has a lot going on and it seemed like the creative team was trying to jam five issues worth of story into one issue. If I had to sum up this final issue in one word, I'd go with 'chaotic' — Hank Hall and Dawn Granger's parents reveal that they knew who Hawk & Dove were the WHOLE time, Dawn's love interest [Sal] makes the connection and figures out Dawn and Dove are the same people, the Wildebeest Society attacks Hawk for being a former member of the Teen Titans, Azure returns to go on a rampage (a War of the Gods tie-in), the big 'secret' villain is revealed, and Uncle Sam makes a guest-appearance!

Jonathan Peterson was the editor during the last year of Hawk & Dove v3 and it's a little difficult to tell where Peterson's influences end and the Kesels' begin. At this point in his career, Peterson was the Teen Titans editor extraordinaire — overseeing New Titans, Hawk & Dove v3, Deathstroke: the Terminator, and working on the launch of another Teen Titans spin-off book called Team Titans. The Wildebeest Society charging in on Hawk (albeit briefly) was a tie-in to the Titans Hunt storyline which ran through New Titans #71 to New Titans #84 (Nov 1990 - Mar 1992). Part of Peterson's plan for a Teen Titans resurgence was to create a BIG event that would whittle down the team [according to Peterson, there were too many Titans and honorary Titans running around] and this is what the Titans Hunt was meant to be.

Wildebeest Society attacks!

War of the Gods was one of the big 1991 cross-over events running throughout DC comics [the other big cross-over event being Armageddon 2001, but more on that shortly]. Karen Berger, Bob Kahan and Tom Peyer were the editors overseeing this cross-over, and it ran through 14 DCU titles (notable exclusions included Aquaman, Deathstroke the Terminator, the Justice League titles, Green Arrow, Green Lantern and the Legion of Super-Heroes). War of the Gods was a Wonder Woman-centric cross-over that coincided with the 50th anniversary of the character, Hawk & Dove v3 being included in this cross-over event may have come from a top-tier DC editorial decision (i.e. Dick Giordano) and was something the Kesels couldn't work around.

The 'big reveal' of the villain Hawk had unintentionally revived will catch most (if not all readers) off guard. He's actually a villain from another DCU character's book. [No, we're not telling you who it is — either buy the issue or find out somewhere else. Some things need to be kept unspoiled.] Equally surprising is a guest appearance by Uncle Sam (Quality Comics character; leader of the Freedom Fighters) who appears to trade blows with Hawk, and to deliver an important message to the duo:

So... Uncle Sam shows up to tell Hawk and Dove that they symbolize the 'spirit of America'? And that even their costume color choices [red, white and blue] were indicative of this. Huh. If you consider the politically-charged origin of the original duo, this actually fits quite nicely. If we look at the bigger picture, this could've led to a change in direction for the series (had it continued beyond this point) — not only were Hawk and Dove avatars of Chaos and Order, but they could've been involved in bigger story lines about 'finding America' and battling threats to the American dream. I'm going to go ahead and credit this idea to the Kesels, because at this point I think they were the only ones who gave a damn about the characters anymore.

The issue wraps up in a 'happily-ever-after' scenario as both Hank Hall and Dawn Granger reunite with their respective loved ones. It left an open ending with the promise of nice things to come to both characters — a really nice way to conclude a series.

The end. (But not really.)

At the end of our last article we promised we'd delve into the last few issues of Hawk & Dove v3 and what made this ongoing series so unpopular. Before we get into that, we have to tell you about a little thing called Armageddon 2001.

Armageddon 2001 was a 1991 cross-over event than ran through a large number of the 1991 DC comics annuals. Someday we'll give you a comprehensive review of the entire cross-over event from start to finish, but for now, know that a [1991] modern day character from the DCU goes nuts and kills all of the other DCU heroes. A protagonist from an apocalyptic future [named Waverider] returns back in time to try to determine who the traitor will be and to prevent that disaster from occurring — he does this by entering said character's timeline and seeing their future. This was all framed as a big mystery to keep you guessing who the traitor was going to be, as Waverider visited each DCU hero in his respective annual to look for clues. The event starts with Armageddon 2001 #1 (1991), runs through about twelve annuals, and concludes with Armageddon 2001 #2 (which contains the 'big reveal').

Hawk & Dove v3 Annual #2 (1991) was part of the Armageddon 2001 cross-over and showed three distinct future possibilities in which a) Hawk survives the original onslaught and rises up to battle Monarch, b) Dove survives the onslaught and is now the mother to Hawk's son, and c) Hawk and Dove have a daughter named Unity who possesses a combination of both Hawk and Dove's powers and ultimately defeats Monarch.

Hawk & Dove v3 Annual #2 (1991) - Unity
On its own, Annual #2 was a nice little trio of "What If" stories and was released sometime in early June 1994. If nothing else, it confirmed that neither Hawk nor Dove would end up becoming Monarch, and it maybe even got fans excited with the notion that Hawk and Dove would become an item someday and have a child.

Something went wrong. Somebody [a disgruntled DC comics employee perhaps?] leaked that Captain Atom would be revealed as Monarch. This spoiler was leaked before Armageddon 2001 #2 was released to the public, so DC editorial had time to change the conclusion to the Armageddon 2001 event. A different DCU character had to be revealed as Monarch. So who did they pick?

From a 2006 article by Dylan Brucie in Wizard Magazine #179:
"I remember [editor] Jonathan Peterson saying to us cryptically, 'Do you guys have any future plans for Hawk and Dove?'" Karl Kesel explains, "And Jonathan told us later on that at that point, he knew that Hawk was going to be Monarch and he was just feeling us out."

In a 2005 interview with Jonathan Peterson from The Titans Companion, Bill Walko asked about the identity of Monarch in Armageddon 2001:
Walko: "It’s pretty common knowledge that it was supposed to be Captain Atom, then it became the Titans-based character Hawk. How did you decide on Hawk, of all heroes?"
Peterson: "I remember this now. With Captain Atom, it made sense power-wise, with the atomic powers, and in a weird way, it would echo Watchmen’s Dr. Manhattan. Dr. Manhattan was based on Captain Atom since Watchmen started as the Charlton heroes anyway. Then we could also do a Anakin Skywalker thing. Hawk was this war-like guy anyway. You could just push him off the deep end, bring him to the dark side, and that would be the tragedy, that Waverider’s interference would ultimately be the event to cause Hawk’s transformation. He was a B-level character we could do something with, anyway."

Hawk becoming Monarch wasn't THAT terrible of an idea and, continuity issues aside [see Hawk & Dove v3 Annual #2], even seemed to work — Armageddon 2001 was intended to be a launchpad for Peterson's new Teen Titans spin-off series [Team Titans], so Hawk being the main villain stayed in-step with the whole Titans-verse thing. The real problem was Monarch killing off Dove/Dawn Granger in Armageddon 2001 #2. A future version of Hawk killing off the present-day Dove was completely out of character for any version of Hawk, and not to mention a waste of an excellent character.

Over the span of a several comic book pages, Dove's life went from this: this:

To make matters worse, due to shipping delays, Armageddon 2001 #2 (the death of Dove) would've been released the same week as Hawk & Dove v3 #28 (if not earlier). Some Hawk & Dove v3 readers would've been aware of the true final ending for the duo before they read the last issue of the ongoing series.

Barbara Randall Kesel's opinions on the matter?
"The story I originally got is that Hawk and Dove together became Monarch, which I thought was brilliant because then you had this internally schizoid character. But just the cheap killing off of Dove and making Hawk just be the psycho bad guy I thought was a good last minute save, but not a really satisfying version." (Wizard #179, article by Dylan Brucie, 2006)

As you can see in that last quote, Barbara was just being professional — she reveals how she REALLY felt in an interview with Jennifer M Contino for Sequential Tart:
Contino: "I HATED the ending of Hawk & Dove. What was the real reason that Hank Hall became Monarch and Dawn Granger died? What was the ending that you and Karl had planned for the series?"

Randall Kesel: "Let’s get one thing clear: that wasn’t a planned ending of Hawk and Dove. That awful story was an Armageddon 2000 special created after somebody at DC spilled the beans about Captain Atom’s being Monarch. Then, a small number of people worked feverishly to find some other character to sacrifice, and since H&D had just been cancelled!"

"If you’ve ever pitied anyone, pity Jonathan Peterson, the poor person who had to give me the news. I wasn’t pleased, and wasn’t shy about sharing. If there’s anything I hate with a passion, it’s characters behaving out of character, especially when it involves a smart woman being stupid for no reason. H&D becoming Monarch could have been a clever idea: if they BOTH became the character, their innately opposite natures could explain a schizophrenic villain. As it was… it was a last-minute fix that sucked. The ending closest to what I have in mind was in the Unity story in the H&D Annual #2, but it’s all water under the bridge."

As I was re-reading this ongoing series as a whole [28 issues, 2 annuals and 1 Secret Origins issue] for this comprehensive review, I can honestly tell you that I didn't expect to enjoy this title as much as I did. Admittedly, the first several issues felt a little 'slow', but the unfolding plotline about the mystic origins of the duo's powers kept me powerin' on. To me, this series hits its stride immediately after issue #17: we're getting more guest stars [Titans West, Creeper, Barbara Gordon/Oracle, etc ] and new villains being introduced. This series may have avoided cancellation if it had felt more integrated into the rest of the DCU since its launch (rather than a year and a half into it). Why did it take almost a year before the Teen Titans appeared? I realize that the Kesels were trying to create a stand-alone world for Hawk & Dove with their own supporting characters and villains, but the duo may have been too unknown to a modern audience to establish a strong fan base so early. This is just my opinion of course. I would've liked to have seen this book continue past issue #28 to see where the Kesels would have brought us — the 'Spirit of America' idea seems to show some promise.

Dove was easily the most interesting character in the series and, at a time when DC didn't have too many strong female headlining characters, killing her off in Armageddon 2001 was a major mistake. It's ironic that Dove was killed off as part of a plot device for Hawk to descend to the role of Monarch — this is exactly the kind of thing Barbara Randall Kesel (Dove/Dawn Granger's co-creator and Hawk & Dove v3 co-writer) would've flagged in her original letter to Dick Giordano from the early 80s [i.e. a female character losing her powers/life so her male counterpart could evolve as a character]. Dawn Granger/Dove didn't NEED to be killed off — there must've been some work-around that could've been used to allow her to be a functioning character in the then-DCU. Understandably, this upset a lot of Hawk and Dove fans.

One bold theory I'm putting out there is that DC editorial had Dove killed off to prevent Rob Liefeld from getting royalties. Dawn Granger/Dove was an interesting character and had a lot of potential as far as a leading character was concerned; with the right exposure she could've quickly became one of DC's strong B-list characters. Rob Liefeld is listed as one of the co-creators of Dove/Dawn Granger, and it has been hinted that some members* of DC editorial at the time were not fond of Liefeld. Liefeld has been known to make candid remarks his relationship with DC comics in the late 80s/early 90s was 'interesting', could this have been what he was talking about?

*[Part of DC in the 80s 2017 New Year's resolutions is to NOT get sued for libel, so we're not listing any names here.]

Despite Dove's untimely demise in the pages of Armageddon 2001, she still appeared in 1992's DC Cosmic Cards trading cards released by Impel. It's nice to know that she was deemed significant enough to appear in this card set. Hawk also got a card. This is somewhat impressive since I can think of at least 6 or 7 DCU heroes (excluding Batman-related characters) who had their own title in 1992 that didn't get a trading card.

Do you know who else also got a card? Monarch. It straight up revealed who Monarch was on the card art, too. So much for maintaining the suspense...

Anyways, that concludes our review of the Hawk & Dove v3 ongoing series from 1989. Hawk and Dove/Dawn Granger would be re-united in 2009's Blackest Night crossover event, but that's a little too modern for us, so we'll let someone else cover it.

Thanks to Jennifer M Contino, Dylan Brucie, Bill Walko for interviewing Jonathan Peterson, Karl Kesel and Barbara Randall Kesel in other publications/websites (listed above).

(with big help from our new Contributing Editor, Rob Perry)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

1989 Hawk & Dove v3 ongoing series

[The Hawk & Dove v3 ongoing series is a bit of an anomaly as it is part of the late 80s/early 90s "lost DC" (usually lumped somewhere with the last issues of Gerard Jones' El Diablo, Roger Stern's Starman, or Joey Cavelieri's Huntress) — all this to say that we know it exists, it's just not very talked about or referred to as anybody's favorite comic book series. I had no clue why it had earned that rep (possibly something to do with DC's 1991 Armageddon 2001 event?), so I kept as opened-minded as possible while reviewing this.]

Hawk & Dove v3 picks up where the 1988 Hawk & Dove v2 mini-series left off; Hank Hall and Dawn Granger, upon discovering that they're agents of Chaos and Order, reluctantly team-up to become a super-powered crime-fighting duo based out of Washington, DC.

As far as picking up where things left off, Karl Kesel and Barbara Kesel are still the writers for this series, Mike Carlin is still editing, but Rob Liefeld is NO longer illustrating (by this point he was penciling for Marvel Comics). Greg Guler is now handling penciling chores on this title. Hawk & Dove v3 would be one of Guler's longest assignments for DC comics.

Since their debut in the 1988 mini-series, Hawk and Dove have participated in the 1988 Invasion! cross-over event and seemed to have grown more comfortable with each other (as far as operating as a team). Something that immediately caught my eye in the first issue were a few flashback panels in which Hawkman and Hawkgirl make small-talk with Dove during Invasion!. This seemingly innocent gesture turns way more sinister when it's revealed a few years later in Hawkworld that the Hawks in these panels were actually TRAITORS. More on that some other time.

The flashback sequence with Hawk and Dove meeting up with the other heroes from Invasion! re-affirmed to readers that the duo was part of the larger DCU. [...and it additionally gave me the hope that we were going to see a lot of interaction with the other DCU heroes throughout this series.] As of the first issue of this ongoing series, I was still undecided if Hawk and Dove were interesting enough to carry their own series or if it would require lots of guest appearances and cameos to keep me looking forward to the next issue.

This series wastes no time and quickly establishes it's own set of antagonists for Hawk and Dove (two new villains within the first issue) and re-introduces the college-aged supporting cast from the 1988 mini-series. Also re-introduced are the Washington Special Crimes Unit (SCU) (from the mini-series) who, around mid-way into the series, would gain more members and start to play a bigger role in the book.

One of the biggest strengths of this series was it's writing - namely it's characterization of the title characters and the supporting cast. Don't get me wrong - there's a nice mix of plot development and bare knuckle brawling action, but Dove is an interesting character and her relationship with Hawk (and any perceived romantic tensions) is something that keeps you turning the pages. The new Dove's guilt about becoming an agent of Order at the expense of Don Hall (the former Dove) is another theme that is explored and resolved within the first 5 issues. The Kesels gave a lot of attention to character development, and you can see that as the series progresses. Hawk and Dove having a college-aged support cast means that there's plenty of opportunity to have sub-plots about young adult stuff like relationship drama, finding your place in the world, and more relationship drama.

Hawk & Dove v3 #8
The first half of this series has the duo battling new villains (i.e. Barter, Gauntlet, Azure, Sudden Death, M.A.C., Scarab, and Shellshock) and a few C-rate villains that have been out of circulation for a while (i.e. Copperhead, the Untouchables/Intangibles, Flaw and Child), while trying to uncover the mystery of their origins and their grand purpose as agents of Order and Chaos. Admittedly, uncovering who and what Hawk and Dove actually are is an engaging mystery and keeps the story interesting.

Hawk & Dove v3 #13 - Dove bleeds light?
Mike Carlin edited the first four issues of this series (sometimes with Jonathan Peterson), and by issue #5 Michael Eury joined Carlin to become the editorial team.  As of issue #10, Eury became the solo editor on the title. In an interview with Bill Walko from the Titans Companion (published by TwoMorrows in 2005), editor Jonathan Peterson disclosed that "[...] Dick Giordano decided to give me the Titans, which at the time was being handled by Mike Carlin. Mike needed more time on his hands to handle the Superman books, and as a footnote, Mike had inherited them from Barbara Kesel, who had left DC’s staff to go freelance when she married Karl Kesel."

The first year of the series ends with the resolution of a plot line that started all the way back in issue #1 and a team-up with the Teen Titans. Hawk and Dove joining forces with the Teen Titans (now renamed to the New Titans) is something that readers had been requesting since the beginning of the series - and I'm a little surprised that it didn't happen prior to issue #11 (considering Barbara Kesel's previous experience as an editor on Tales of the Teen Titans, New Titans and Teen Titans Spotlight). Hawk being a former member of the Teen Titans was a huge selling point for the series, and fans anxiously wrote in wondering if Hawk and the new Dove were going to rejoin the team. (Bette Kane (aka 'Flamebird' from Titans West) is mentioned in issue #3. Nightwing is referenced in issue #5.) While the Kesels weren't shy about name-dropping other DC characters in the series, I get the gist that they were trying to carve out a separate world for Hawk and Dove.

Unlike the original 1968 Hawk & Dove ongoing series, there isn't much 'politicking' between the duo in this series (Hank and Don Hall spend most of the original series squabbling over who's political views are more correct) — most of the focus is on the Chaos and Order properties of the characters. A few Chaos and Order associated characters appear in this series: Flaw and Child (from Amethyst v2), Kestrel (from the 1988 mini-series), T'Charr, Terataya and M'Shulla. When a reader commented on this in the letter column of issue #11, the Kesels reply with:

Issue #15 has Hawk & Dove visit a far-away mystical land called Druspa Tau, and suddenly this title turns into a Sword & Sorcery comic book. [I was initially worried this series was going to pull a "Sword of the Atom" and suddenly change genres. Thankfully, this only lasted a few issues, and Hawk and Dove go back to the modern-day DCU by issue #18.] What's interesting to note is that Barbara Kesel Randall had just began writing for three TSR titles around this point (i.e. TSR Worlds, Spelljammer and Avatar), which borrow heavily from the Sword & Sorcery genre.

I'm not 100% sure on this, but I think this was the first mention of the geographical region Druspa Tau in the DCU. My best guess is that it was part of Amethyst's Gemworld, the dead give-away being the appearance of the Amethyst villains Child and Flaw during the course of the story. [Starting with 1987, Amethyst v3 was one of the titles that got swept up into the Chaos and Order mythos.] Their adventures on Druspa Tau reveal the origin of Hawk and Dove's powers, and confirms that they are the last incarnations of Hawk and Dove and will never have successors. Karl Kessel explained the reasoning for this in his foreword to the 1993 Hawk & Dove TPB:
"Mike Carlin’s one worry about the new Hawk and Dove was that if either one died, the voice(s) could easily replace them. This isn't good in comics. It led Barbara to create the star-crossed lovers M’Shulla and T’Charr and, eventually, to a pivotal story in the HAWK & DOVE monthly series establishing Hawk and Dove as the last of their line."
After Hawk and Dove's mysterious origins had been explained, editor Michael Eury left the series after issue #17 and Johnathan Peterson would remain the sole editor until the bitter end (issue #28).

Prior to Eury leaving the series, Hawk & Dove v3 Annual #1 (which fell somewhere between issues #17 and #18) saw publication. This Annual was a treat to Titans West fans, as it featured the first REAL Titans West reunion since 1989's New Titans #56 and the first REAL story of the post-Crisis Bette Kane as Flamebird. (Beast Boy/Changeling was not in the Annual, as he was being used in Marv Wolfman's New Titans at the time. Instead he was replaced by Dial H for Hero's Chris King.)

Titans West (created by Bob Rozakis and Don Heck) was a Teen Titans spin-off team introduced in 1977's Teen Titans v1 #50 that, due to one reason or another, never seemed to have gained enough traction to merit its own series. A Titans West series is something readers have been requesting since the Marv Wolfman and George Perez' New Teen Titans saw print in the early 80s. The 1986 Teen Titans Spotlight On... series just added more fuel to the rumors and readers suspected DC editorial was just 'testing the waters' to see if there was enough interest in a Titans West book. There was even talk in the late 1980s of Wolfman creating and writing the series, and then it was strongly hinted that Perez himself would be writing it. Needless to say, there was NEVER a modern day Titans West series. Hawk & Dove v3 Annual #1 was the closest thing Titans West would get for a modern day story. (Note: Titans West member Golden Eagle was killed during Titans Hunt nearly a year later.)

Hawk & Dove v3 Annual #1 (1990) was an exceptionally good story with a more 'grown up' version of the Titans West and plenty of previously forgotten DC villains for them to fight against. Dave Hoover and Tom Artis pencilled this annual, while Will Blyberg and Bill Wray inked. Rob Liefeld penciled the cover of this annual (with inks by Karl Kesel), which appeared to be based on an early Hawk & Dove portrait Liefeld had illustrated (also generously included as a pin-up in this annual).

Liefeld's (albeit limited) involvement in this annual was kind of 'full circle', as Liefeld was a big fan of the Teen Titans and had even proposed a new Teen Titans spin-off series [suggested title: Titans Force] in the early 90s that never saw realization. I often like to imagine how the early 90s comic book landscape would've been altered had Liefeld written and illustrated a Teen Titans book. Maybe the 90s would've seen a flood of Teen Titans spin-off titles on the shelves [Titans Force, Titans Unlimited, Teen Titans Adventures, Teen Titans: The Early Years, Nightwing and the Teen Titans, Titans Factor, etc...] and Marvel's X-Men would've only been contained to one or two books? The possibilities.

Starting with issue #18 (and Peterson taking over editorial control of the book), Hawk and Dove gain new powers (Hawk is now super-strong and invulnerable, while Dove gains the power of flight) and there's also the hint of a romantic connection between the two. Around this time, Peterson was also editor for New Titans and Deathstroke: the Terminator, and it would seem that this was the duo's chance to finally get absorbed into the Teen Titans' universe. Now that the mystery of their origins is resolved, we start to see them meet up with other heroes of the DCU.

Issues #18 and #19 were a nice two-part salute to Steve Ditko: Hawk & Dove (originally created by Ditko) team up with the Creeper (created by Ditko) to battle the Mad Men (also created by Ditko). Punch and Jewelee (created by Ditko) also make an appearance. This team-up was actually the winning result of a contest announced in issue #10 (by editor Michael Eury) encouraging readers to submit names of DC heroes or villains who should guest star in an issue of Hawk & Dove v3. The character(s) had to have had appeared at least once in a DC comic book and couldn't be from a licensed book (Star Trek, Doc Savage, Dragonlance, etc). The winner would get a page of original splash page art from the comic they appear in. Punch and Jewelee had appeared earlier that year in the pages of Suicide Squad, and the Mad Men were last seen in Blue Beetle v1 #23 (1988). The Creeper wasn't appearing that often in the DCU (last seen in 1989's Justice League International) — which I felt was a waste of a good character. The Kesels managed to capture the absurd dual nature of the Creeper/Jack Ryder in this story. This was an excellent Creeper story.

Hawk & Dove v3 #18
There were a few filler issues (issue #20 and #21) before the last big story arc we're going to cover in this article. [Contributing editor Rob Perry suggests keeping issues #25 to #28 (along with Hawk & Dove v3 Annual #2) as a separate post, so that's what we're going to do.] Hawk & Dove v3 #20 was a solo Dove story pencilled by Kevin Maguire and inked by Dick Giordano, and Hawk & Dove v3 #21 was a story introducing a bunch of new Female Furies to the DCU (pencilled by Steve Erwin and inked by Scott Hanna). Steve Erwin, who was illustrating Checkmate!Deathstroke: The Terminator and New Gods (all edited by Peterson), may have picked up this pencilling assignment as a favor to Peterson (who was editing Hawk & Dove v3 at this time as well).

Kevin Maguire and Dick Giordano's solo Dove story (Hawk & Dove v3 #20)

Issues #22 to #24 are a follow-up to a Batgirl story Barbara Kesel wrote in 1982. The Velvet Tiger (created by Barbara Kesel and Trever Von Eeden) first appeared in Detective Comics v1 #518 as a computer savvy villainess who stole her brother's computer program with the intention of wreaking havoc on Gotham City. Her brother thwarts her capture by Batgirl, and the two-part story concludes with the Velvet Tiger proclaiming a "I swear I'll get you" and that's the end of that. Flash forward to 1988 and Alan Moore's Batman: The Killing Joke leaves Barbara Gordon paralyzed from the waist down. Barbara Kesel was not terribly impressed with this development of the character (Barbara was actually hired by DC comics in the early 80s because of a letter she wrote to Dick Giordano suggesting how to write better female characters), and quickly devised ways to get Barbara Gordon back into action. Not long after Barbara Gordon had been shot and paralyzed, Kim Yale and John Ostrander (writers of Suicide Squad) had introduced a character named 'Oracle' into the series who was providing information to Task Force X to assist them on missions. About a year after Oracle's introduction, in Suicide Squad v1 #38 (1990), it was revealed that Oracle was actually Barbara Gordon.
Hawk & Dove v3 #24 - Greg Guler pencils, Scott Hanna inks 
Hawk and Dove teaming up with Barbara Gordon/Oracle to battle Velvet Tiger is pretty significant as it has Barbara Kesel writing Batgirl/Oracle/Barbara Gordon again. If Barbara Kesel Randall should be known for anything, it's for writing intelligent and interesting female characters. Hawk and Dove would become members of Oracle's Birds of Prey in 2010.

Something noteworthy is that a few new villains created for and introduced in this series found life in the DCU afterwards:
  • Sudden Death (introduced in issue #5 and created by the Kesels and Chris Wozniak) appeared numerous times in other DC titles (ex: Suicide Squad, Darkstars, Birds of Prey) afterwards, usually as a member in a gang of super-villains.

  • Most of the new Female Furies introduced in issue #21 (created by the Kesels and Steve Erwin) found themselves in either Superboy v4 or Guardians of Metropolis (both written by Karl Kesel), or in various Teen Titans/Fourth World related titles.
Hawk & Dove v3 #21 - cover illustrated by Steve Erwin and inked by Karl Kessel

Prior to writing this ongoing series, Karl Kesel was the main inker for Amethyst v2Suicide Squad, Superman v2 and The Forever People v2 (and most likely part of the creative teams)  — and you can see a bit of those influences in the series (which truthfully just added to the overall feeling of a 'big picture' DCU):
  • Issue #9 has an indirect cross-over to the Superman/Flash race from Adventures of Superman #463 (1990). Nether Flash nor Superman appear in the issue, but a bunch of the main and support characters all gather to see the two speed through Washington, DC. (Apparently the idea was that all of the DC titles that month would have some sort of reference to the Superman/Flash race).

  • Maggie Sawyer (a Superman-affiliated character) is name-dropped a few times by the other Washington SCU characters. Karl Kessel was inking John Byrne's Superman v2 when the Metropolis SCU was introduced. I'm wondering if Karl took a queue from this and created the Washington SCU for his own series?

  • The Suicide Squad and possibly Belle Reve (the prison facility where Task Force X holds its metahumans) are mentioned a few times.

  • Bruno Manheim, a Superman/Fourth World villain, is name-dropped a few times in issue #23. Superman actually appears (as a flashback) in issue Hawk & Dove v3 #23, making the connection very obvious.

  • Issue #23 also has a reference to the Titans Hunt storyline that what was going on in New Titans at the time: Hawk is informed that "Nobody has seen the Titans lately", prompting him to wonder where the Teen Titans are and if he should go looking for them.

  • Child and Flaw were characters from Amethyst v2. Karl Kesel was the inker for the issue Child and Flaw first premiered in [Amethyst v2 #15 (1986)]. I wouldn't be surprised if the land of Druspa Tau was Karl's idea, too. Had the series continued longer, I imagine Amethyst herself may have even made a guest appearance.

To conclude, in keeping with our namesake (i.e. DC in the 80s), we're going to point out a few late 80s/early 90s references in the book that readers today probably wouldn't get if they hadn't lived through that era.

Hawk & Dove v3 #14:

"Liz and Dick" refers to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton — two Hollywood stars who were known for their tumultuous relationship (married and divorced twice... to each other). "Jim and Tammy" refers to televangelist Jimmy Baker and his wife Tammy Faye Baker — in 1987 it was uncovered that he was using fundraising money from his PTL Club for scandalous reasons. "Sean and Madonna" refers to actor Sean Penn and the singer Madonna — they were married from 1985 to 1989 and most people from that era only seem to remember Sean Penn having violent outbursts and going so far as to assault a photographer. That's where the 'dangerous' comes from.

Hawk & Dove v3 #20:

Well, if you couldn't figure this one out - this is a parody of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (who were a marketing juggernaut in the late 80s/early 90s). Actually, this whole issue is a poke at the big toy department stores that were so popular in the 80s — the name of the department store Dove visits is "WE-R-TOYS" [Toys "R" Us, anyone?].

Hawk & Dove v3 #20:

Yep, Oracle and her friend are watching Twin Peaks — a TV mystery/drama that aired on ABC from 1990 to 1991. It was created by Mark Frost and David Lynch, and is probably like nothing you've ever watched before. If you haven't already, you need to watch it at some point in your life.

Join us next time as we take a look at the last few issues of this ongoing series (#25 to #28), the second annual, and the awful thing that happened to Hawk and Dove after this series concluded.

(with special thanks to contributing editor Rob Perry for the guidance)