The Hawk And The Dove: The Silver Age (1968-1969) by Steve Skeates, Gil Kane, Neal Adams and Steve Ditko (graphic novel review).

I remember when ‘The Hawk And The Dove’ comic first came out in the late 1960s and us kids were keen to see what Steve Ditko would produce in the post-Spider-Man age. I also remember being disappointed, but I was only eight and had simple tastes. When I came across this cheap e-book I was curious to see it again.

The first ‘Hawk And Dove; story featured in Showcase # 75, the magazine where DC tried out new features. The origin issue opened with an anti-war rally at a small-town college and we encountered two brothers, Hank and Don Hall who were opposites. Hank was all for war as bad guys only understood force. Don thought violence just begets more violence and compromise was the answer. After the rally, they went off to court just in time to see Judge Irwin Hall, their father, hand out a tough sentence to a hardened criminal. Shortly after, one of his hardened accomplices threw a bomb into the judge’s chamber. He survived by sheltering behind a desk.

When Hank and Don spot the bomb thrower in the street they follow him and get trapped in a warehouse. A mysterious voice appears from nowhere and tells them they have been chosen then asks them what powers they want. Hank wants the power to smash criminals. Don wants to save people without violence.

‘We seem to have here a hawk and a dove,’ says the voice. ‘So be it. Let the transformation begin!’

Their street clothes change into super-hero costumes and they are given increased speed, strength and agility. The voice tells them they will change back when danger is over. They can become Hawk and the Dove again just by saying the names. Much later in the DC Universe, the voice was revealed to be the Lords of Chaos and Order. Anyway, the boys save their Dad and discover he is against vigilantes, ie them.

The first story sets the tone for the series. Hawk punches bad guys while Dove tries to pin them down or tie them up to stop them hurting anyone. Dove ends up with more bruises for his principles. In issue # 1 of their own comic, they fight a gang of robbers called the Dropouts. In issue #2, they tangle with violent criminals who have made a jailbreak. After that, Ditko left. Research online reveals that Steve Skeates scripts were altered to make Dove seem like a weakling and Hawk brave. His intention was to have Don the Dove do brave things, too, but that was watered down. Ditko gets credit as co-creator and his tough line on law and order is well known. Perhaps Dick Giordano had a hand in it, too. Who knows?

Ditko left and the art on issue # 3 is by Gil Kane and Sal Trapani with Skeates still scripting. Gil Kane’s lean awkwardly posed action figures are similar to Ditko’s, so the transition wasn’t too shocking. Here the bad guy is a cat burglar called the Cat. The brothers have the usual conflict about how rough to treat him and there’s a bit of their civilian life, too, trying to date a pretty girl in a coffee shop. The same team continue on issue # 4 which has a clever plot involving an artist and a crooked politician. Dove is a stronger character in this one and basically solves the crime. He is better again in issue # 5, which was both written and illustrated by Gil Kane. When Hawk is shot, Dove gets angry.

The issue concludes with a three-panel lead-in to Teen Titans # 21, where the brothers team up with Teen Titans to fight a hi-tech criminal gang. This is notable for a robot spider and the lines ‘Dig that crazy whacked-out Spider, man’ from Speedy and ‘First time I was almost buried by a spider, man’, from Hawk. The latter is delivered after he and Dove are almost crushed under the giant machine but manage with a supreme effort to push it off. The action and the dialogue are a little homage to Ditko and the classic scene in Spider-Man # 33. Neal Adams did both story and pencils for this issue and inks are by Nick Cardy.

In ‘The Hawk And The Dove # 6, someone’s out to get Hank and Don’s father, the judge, and they have to save him. It concludes with them wondering if those vigilante alter-egos were worth all the bother and DC concluded they were not. The series was cancelled. It’s a shame that Gil Kane didn’t get more of a chance because his scripts focused on Dove being a logical planner and Hawk being impulsive which worked better. Neal Adams was an okay writer, too. The pencillers were breaking out in the late 1960s.

The Hawk And The Dove’ was a short-lived series but an interesting one. It had a theme, for a start as they embodied, even in their names, the different political ideologies of a turbulent time in US history, man. It was the age of Kent State, hippies, peaceniks, riots and demonstrations. The stories aren’t brilliant in this little e-Book collection, but they are by no means terrible and for one British fiver you get art in glorious colour by three of the greats of the Silver Age: Ditko, Kane and Adams. Not a bad deal. Spend a bit more and you can get a paper version.

Eamonn Murphy

November 2020

(pub: DC Comics, 2018. 207 page graphic novel e-book. File size: 245331kB. Price: £ 5.22 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-40128-741-2)

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