Well that was real mature...

Well that was real mature...

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"What are you, man?" "I'm Bat-er-um-Knight Hawk" (aka Bronze Age Comics and Blaxploitation Films - How Denny O'Neil and Pam Grier Influenced "Hawk and a Handsaw")



            Again this is a pretty straightforward continuation of page two. We introduce Knight Hawk, our satire of Batman. Just as I knew I wanted a Latino for El Supremo, I knew from the beginning that I wanted a black man under the Knight Hawk mask. Minorities have mostly gotten the shaft when it comes to comics. Most of the iconic characters were created pre-civil rights so the most enduring characters have been white men. Post civil rights, particularly in the '70s the big two did make efforts to change that. At Marvel we had the introduction of Power Man, The Falcon,  Black Panther and the Latino hero White Tiger while, across town, DC put a Green Lantern ring on the finger of John Stewart. In cinema we had more minority casting and even the evolution of blaxploitation films. Pulp novels (regardless of genre) overall fared even worse with minorities being relegated to villain status (Mr. Big or Thulsa Doom, anyone?). As I said in my page one commentary, the vibe of this particular tale was a mash up of bronze age comics and blaxsploitation films, so I wanted, I needed our titular heroes to be minorities. I started reading comics during the bronze age so part of my love for that era is nostalgia, but I also think that's when comics really grew up. Most people may point to "The Watchmen" or "The Dark Knight Returns" the following decade as the turning point of the maturation of comics, but in my mind it was Denny O'Neil's work on "Green Lantern" that turned that page. Comics ceased to be kid's only fare (although not yet "graphic novel") because in spite of the colorful costumes, there were morality plays, themes, ideas and ideals being bandied about. Comics were no longer disposable entertainment but actual full color literature that had something to say about people and society. Sure, comics got more mature (even with "adult only" books flooding the mainstream market) but Denny's work was an example of all ages reading. Sophisticated enough for adults but nothing you would want to hide from your kids (rather the opposite, I dare say). The blaxploitation genre is something I discovered a few years ago. Low budget films of the '70s starring black actors aimed at a black audiences to make a pile of green. Like all exploitation films there was gratuitous violence and sex, but I must confess what got me loving the genre were the plot twists. Unlike the big budget films, I think writers and directors were left alone and they did daring unexpected stuff. Stuff you would never see coming and, despite the cheapness, a lot of it still holds up (dated fashions aside). If you don't believe me look at Quentin Tarantino's films. They are basically big budget exploitation films. Remember when the "gimp" got out of his box in "Pulp Fiction?" Those are the kind of twists I'm talking about. "Blackula" is still a good classic vampire film (certainly no sparkly, broody twenty-somethings here) certainly as good as the classic Hammer horror films. "Coffy" is an fantastic revenge flick (I'm sorry but Pam Grier is a Goddess, pure and simple). Some films like "Foxy Brown" even veer into self parody. There is some very good overlooked stuff there.

            Page three, like the last page, is all about the origin which was also originally scripted to be a single "large central panel that bleeds multiple images together" and again, Matt repeated his look from page two, which makes for a nice consistency. Like a song, the music is the same but the lyrics are a little different. I also decided to switch up the characters a little and instead of having the child be the lone survivor, I chose to have the father narrowly escape death to become the tragic hero. As a parent let me say, the worst thing in the world that could ever happen is for a parent to outlive their child.  The origin, again, is the primary point of the page, but the continued conversation between Dr. Peters and Dr. Felicity takes us on our first big turn as we learn that Dr. Felicity is not as much the "wide eyed ingenue" as we lead you to believe on the first two pages.

            I also give a shout out to the late great Carmine Infantino. Carmine had passed just a few months prior to my scripting this story and his work in the industry (particularly on "The Flash" including the classic #123 "Flash or Two Worlds" issue) is beloved by fans and creators alike.


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