Thursday, 28 January 2016

Spacehawk 1 - The Arc of the Hawk

Ask my now why something is a monster and you'd get a lecture, and it would take a while to wind its way.

Ask me when I'm twelve and you'll get an explanation. (It's becasue Morgoth was banished by Iluvatar or because Orks are a semi-fungal life form bred for war.)

Ask me when I'm five and I'll say that's what it is. A monster is a monster. It requires no referents.

Spacehawk is like that. It is what it is because that's what it is.

.....

WHAT IS SPACEHAWK

Spacehawk is a comic created by Basil Wolverton which ran for thirty issues from 1940 to 1942 in the pages of Target Comics. About ten of those issues are genuinely good and provide the aesthetic and creative heart of the series, almost everything I talk about here comes from those first ten issues. Beyond the point, the creative power of Spacehawk slowly dies.

The reason we are talking about it is becasue it is very beautiful and very strange.


.....


THE ARC OF THE HAWK

What is Spacehawk? Where does he come from? I'll let the comic tell it;

"WITH THE COMING OF INTERPLANETARY TRAVEL, THE LEGIONS OF THE LAW FIND IT IMPOSSIBLE TO COPE WITH THE PIRATES, KILLERS, AND OTHER CRIMINALS LURKING IN SPACE... THEN, APPARENTLY OUT OF NOWHERE COMES THE SUPERHUMAN ENEMY OF CRIME, THE MYSTERIOUS SPACEHAWK!
THEREAFTER, BANDITS OF THE VOID BEGIN TO DISAPPEAR, FOR THEY SOON LEARN TO FEAR THE AMAZING POWERS OF THE SPACEHAWK WHO ALWAYS STRIKES WITHOUT WARNING
FOR EXAMPLE, HERE IS THE CASE OF GORVAK, NOTORIOUS MARTIAN SPACE PIRATE WHO BOASTS HE IS TOO CLEVER TO BE CAUGHT BY THE SPACEHAWK...



In the first two pages of Spacehawk we have two its its most powerful recurring elements;

The Bad Monster Men, these have every negative quality, they are cruel even to each other. Despite being innovative and crafty, they are always cowards. They are planning a crime.

And the Woman.



There are three or four female appearances over the history of Spacehawk, yet, in some way, they are always the same spirit, the same anima. The Woman is there at the creation of Spacehawk, she appears before he does, she will be there at every major shift in character, and she will be there at the end.

(We are also in a cave, with a space ship, the Chthonic and the celestial meet at the point of creations. We will end there too.)



These basic elements call out for the creation or the existence of Spacehawk, and so he appears.



Spacehawk is a masked figure in yellow and green. (We know this is a primal hero comic as the fundamental arrangement of heroes wearing red, white and blue and villains wearing green, purple and yellow, has not yet been discovered. Here at the dawn of things the colour signifiers have not yet been set.) He wears a bulky green jumpsuit/uniform. His helmet, his gloves and the handle of his gun are yellow. Some of these will change colours a little in the first stories, possibly due to printing errors, but more likely  becasue, at least to begin with, things in the Spacehawk universe can change colour whenever they need to. (See 'The many-Coloured God!')

Spacehawk here is his most primal, alien and inhuman self. We don't even know if he *is* human. Like the most masculine of male heroes, he is utterly alone. He has no friends, he has no home, he has no social context. He doesn't even speak. On his first appearance, Spacehawk lets his opponent see him full on. (He will always do this.) The evil martian Gorvak looks up, sees Spacehawk, says "THE SPACEHAWK!" and is so frightened that he spontaniously drops his gun.

A signifigant percentage of Spacehawks opponents will drop their gun simply from the shock of beholding him. Some of the rest will have to have their gun swatted out of their hands. Only a few will keep hold of their weapon and these will be the most potent enemies.

Spacehawk rescues the Woman, whose first words are "YOU - YOU'RE THE SPACEHAWK!" (Spacehawk is told who he is twice. He needs to be brought fully into existance by the story.) He quickly sends the Woman to safety then goes after Gorvak.

On his way he interacts with a strange bat creature who offers to help.

"YOU LOOK FOR PIRATE SHIP? YOU FIND HIM 'ROUND BEND. ALL TIME HE COME HIDE HERE, KILL MY PEOPLE! WE HELP YOU GET HIM, MAYBE, HUH?"

"THANKS! I DON'T BELIEVE I'LL NEED ANY HELP, BUT IF I DO, I'LL SHOUT!"

This is important because it tells us;

A - All kinds of things in this story look freaky and monstrous, but not all are evil.
B - Spacehawk is not a threat to someone just becasue they look wierd.
C - Spacehawk works alone.
D - He's kind of a dick about it.

In their ship the Martians describe their criminal plan. Spacehawk appears, he and Gorvak draw and fire their Atom Guns at the same time. The energy beams meet in mid-air. Gorvak drops his gun and calls for help. The other martians hear that Spacehawk is on the ship and spontaneously run away out of fear.

Spacehawk breaks both his and Gorvaks weapons in his hands, tearing them physically apart.

"AS FOR GIVING YOU A CHANCE - WELL, I'LL BREAK BOTH OUR ATOM GUNS, AND MY FLAME GUN. THAT WILL PUT US ON AN EVEN FOOTING!"

He then wrestles Gorvak. Spacehawk seems to lose and Gorvak ties him up to be eaten by the Creeping Death.

Spacehawk then spontaneously breaks his bonds.

"I'VE LET YOU HAVE ENOUGH FUN. NOW YOU ARE GOING TO DIE BY YOUR OWN INFERNAL DEVICE."

He easily throws Gorvak into the room and tears out metal to bar the door. Gorvak is eaten. Spacehawk goes back to his ship and uses it to throw the martian ship into the sun.

"WELL, THERE'S ANOTHER JOB DONE!"

........

From this point on Spacehawk becomes more and more human with each story. He becomes more emotionally complex, more social, more creative  more inventive with a greater range of interests and a greater capacity to care. Watching SH grow is almost exactly like watching a child grow up.


#2 Spacehawk and the Lost Tribe of Mercury

H helps some Mercurians protect their platinum from evil robbers. One kills the other out of greed and, after appearing suddenly in the depths of an alien ocean..

"YOU - *YOU'RE NOT REAL*! HOW CAN YOU BREATHE*? HOW CAN YOU STAND THE PRESSURE?

SH ejects the second robber up through the ocean into space where he explodes. (The catastrophic joining of air and sky is another common motif in Spacehawk.)

Instead of just leaving, SH uses his incredible science to evolve the water-dwelling Mercurians (at their request) into hardy air-breathers and helps them use thier platinum to build their city of Draxia.



#3 Spacehawk and the Perilous Planetoid Trap

SH rescues the same nameless woman from issue one. She asks him to unmask.



Although he says he has never been unmasked before, once he takes off his mask to kiss the Woman, he never puts it back on again. Spacehawk has a human face from this point on.



#4 Spacehawk and the Vulture Men from the Void

SH allies with a tribe of Moon People, this is the first time he has fought along anyone else or even involved anyone else in his plans. He defeats some Vulture Men who are bombing earth with terrifying corrosive gas.

This is the first time we have heard of Earth or seen it in the series. And in the last panel he says this:

"THAT WAS AN UNPLEASANT JOB, BUT THAT'S WHAT I'M HERE FOR!

His first expression sadness or regret.



#5 Spacehawk and Mayhem at the Martian Election

SH disguises himself as a Martian and stops an evil Martian from destroying his own planet with a gravity device after losing an election.


Again we see the rising water motif as the planets come close to collision.



#6 'Spacehawk and the Pirate City on Uranus' 

This is the best and most joyfully insane SH story. SH follows a plutonian police ship to the pirate city of Gark on Uranus.



The Police are captured and thrown to wild monsters outside the city. SH arrives, too late, only brave captain Dakk is alive and badly injured.

Captain Dakk asks Spacehawk to implant his brain into the body of a giant beast so he can avenge his men, even Spacehawk thinks this is kinda tripped out, but he does it. SH returns to the city, is captured, tortured, and saved by a charge of quasi-dinosaurs lead by the police captains brain in the body of a  gigantic 'Hornousaur' the evil leader tries to escape and the hornousaur spikes his craft out of the sky with its horn and the evil leader Jubun leaps out before it goes down.

Jubin - SPACEHAWK! HOW DID YOU - ? LOOK OUT! THAT MONSTER WILL KILL US!

SH - NEVER FEAR! THIS BEAST IS AN OLD FRIEND OF MINE!

Jubun is thrown to jungle creatures and eaten off-screen.

SH - THANKS FOR GETTING ME OUT OF A TOUGH SPOT, OLD FELLOW, AND CONGRATULATIONS ON THE THOROUGH JOB YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS DID! NOW I MUST BE ON MY WAY! PERHAPS I'LL SEE YOU AGAIN IN THE NEXT FEW HUNDRED YEARS YOU HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO AS A HEALTHY YOUNG HORNOUSAUR!

this is the first time SH 'teams up' with another named character and the first time he shows any indications of individual friendship.

Another important factor in this story is that SH's shapeless yellow mittens have transformed into gloves.Wolverton has learned how to draw hands, but more important is that SH can now touch and be touched as a human being. His acquisition of human features goes along with his increasing human interests and like the forgotten mask, the hands stay human.



#7 Spacehawk and the Pirate from His Past

Hunting on Saturn, SH finds Galar, an 'old friend', another pink-skinned humanoid person who looks to be either human, or whatever the fuck species Spacehawk is. Apart from the nameless woman and the victims of the vulture men, this is the first other human-looking person we have seen in the series.

Galar has taken to crime out of boredom. SH fights Galar on the hull of a space ship, forcing him to stop his crimes, then he then redeems his friend by bringing him along on his adventure mission. The two defeat some pirates.

Galar - SO LONG SPACEHAWK, AND THANKS FOR PUTTING ME RIGHT! HOPE I SEE YOU AGAIN BEFORE ANOTHER SIX HUNDERED YEARS PASS!

Alone in his ship, SH feels what seems to be a moment of lonlieness.

I SHOULD HAVE PREVAILED UPON GALAR TO COME WITH ME! HE WOULD HAVE ENJOYED IT!

SH travels back to Saturn, but who should he unexpecandly run into but Galar!

Galar - I HAD TO COME BACK HERE AND GET A SUPPLY OF MEAT TO DO ME THRU MY LONG TRIP SPACEHAWK! THERE'S NO PLACE IN THIS GALAXY WHERE THERE'S SUCH HUNTING AS THERE IS HERE!

SH - RIGHT YOU ARE GALAR! AND WE'RE DOING OUR HUNTING TOGETHER!

The story ends with Galar and SH hunting together, SH's now fully-fingered human hand on the shoulder of his friend.

Now Spacehawk has not just a friend, but an 'old friend, a social context and a particular place that he is from. This is also the first time that someone can do something 'bad' in Spacehawk but be redeemd to the side of 'good'.



#8 Spacehawk and the Treachery of Smebar

The Woman returns, now she is 'Haba, Queen of the Noomites', a groovy blonde with bow lips, curled hair and a conical madonna-basque. Her evil chief guard Smebar wants to marry her and persuade her to world conquest. the queen is kind of into the idea of world conquest, but not marrying this dork, she wants Spacehawk.

So now we have a high status female character who is kind of potentially evil, kind of cool and instead of being rescued by Spacehawk, is actively hunting him.

Eventually the Queen tempts Spacehawk by commanding her armies to pretend-fight each other.

Queen Haba - SPACEHAWK, YOU KNOW I'VE ALWAYS LOVED YOU! MY WHOLE KINGDOM IS YOURS IF YOU WILL MARRY ME! TOGETHER THEN WE CAN CONQUOR AND RULE THIS PLANET!

SH - THATS A WONDERFUL COMPLEMENT TO ME HABA! BUT SUCH A THING IS IMPOSSIBLE! I'LL HAVE NO PART IN OVERPOWERING PEACEFUL NATIONS!

SH - HISTORY SHOULD TEACH YOU THAT WARLIKE GREEDY RULERS ALWAYS COME TO BAD ENDS! CONSIDER THE MARTIANS - HOW THEY BROUGHT DESTRUCTION ON THEMSELVES WHEN THEY FOUGHT TO OVERCOME THE SATURNIANS! AND WATCH WHAT HAPPENS TO THE  NATIONS THAT WISH TO DOMINATE EARTH TODAY!

Queen Haba - YOU DON'T NEED TO PREACH TO ME! GET OUT BEFORE I HAVE YOU THROWN OUT!

Monsters are fought, maidens are rescued, evil is defeated and Queen Haba is redeemed. SH leaves with the tantelising possibility of seeing her again and an actual grown up relationship with someone equal to himself.



#9 Spacehawk and the Master Plan of Droon

An evil scientist tricks Queen Haba into promising him what he wants if he can bring Space Hawk. He lures SH by torturing his own servant and broadcasting the pain to SH's senstive pshychic mind. Revealed, Queen Haba slaps the shit out of him, SH knocks him out and he is eventually killed by his own tortured thrall.

This is a sad story, from this point on, by orders of the editor, Space Hawk will be defending America specifically and directly. He will no longer be in space. Although his adventures will be more grown up he will do no more growing up. The surge of emotional, moral and creative development that began with 'Spacehawk and the Creeping Death from Neptune' is over.

I MUST GO NOW HABA. UNCLE SAM NEEDS ME - MORE THAN YOU. BUT I'LL COME BACK TO SEE YOU SOON!

He doesnt, Spacehawk never comes back. Like some young men sent off to war, Spacehawks's emotional development stops here. This is the most complex relationship he will ever have. Haba, Queen of the Noomites is still waiting somewhere out there in technicoloour space.

All that can wait till my final post, 'The Long, Slow Death of Space Hawk'.  Hold on comics fans becasue...

Next Post 
in
False Machine
Basil Wolverton 
burns through 
reality itself!
!n..

1 comment:

  1. I read that book too. Basil Wolverton is amazing --- his comedy and adventure comics both.

    ReplyDelete

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