Sunday, December 01, 2013

The Hawk & the Dove.

To me, Ditko's move to DC to try to reignite the fire under the fan base is rather sad. He was still, of course, bursting with ideas and was one of the best and most imaginative artists then working in comics. And for their part, DC was heavily promoting his move to DC...almost to the point of howling about how it was Ditko who had arrived at their doors rather than the titles he had brought with him.

By now, we all know what happened. He entered the marketplace with two new titles: BEWARE THE CREEPER and THE HAWK and THE DOVE. True comic book fanatics know the history of how this move coincided with serious health problems for Ditko that prevented him from working at his desired pace and intensity. 

Both of these books reflected his right wing philosophy more than the two titles he had created at Marvel (THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN and DR. STRANGE). And of the pair, the one least like anything he'd done at Marvel was THE HAWK and THE DOVE. It was also the first title he had to abandon due to his serious health problems. Ditko completed three stories featuring the Hawk and Dove. The issue of SHOWCASE in which they were introduced, and the first two issues of their regular title. As always, the artwork in all are superb. The stories, to my way of thinking, were rather strange and dogmatic. Apparently, Ditko was trying to present a balanced view of the political turmoil running through the USA at that time, but his particular brand of Fascism ruins any such attempt. I cannot see how the title could ever have been anything other than a failure.

After Ditko left the book due to those health troubles (tuberculosis, from what I've been able to discover), the book was left in the hands of Steve Skeates as writer and Gil Kane as artist. If anyone was going to do that book, I would think that Kane was as good a choice as any. But the writing was on the wall, and Ditko's initial tenure at DC as a superhero creator was soon at an end. Both of his titles ended after just six issues.

As with just about everything Ditko has created, though, the characters and their images live on in revivals and animation. Ditko was not quite the machine Jack Kirby was, but he is still one of the best who worked the superhero comic book world.

Was Martin Goodman worried? At this point, I rather doubt it. He'd already seen Ditko's new superhero creations at Charlton fail to attract the fan base he'd established at Marvel. Would the work at DC bring them in? Nope.

The mincing, cowardly Dove.

The manly Hawk dominates.

From here on out, it was Skeates writing and Kane illustrating. And both ultimately failing.

You have to admit...Ditko could create some iconic superhero imagery to be used effectively by artists who followed in his wake.

And then...half a dozen issues was all that DC could justify.


Kirk G said...

I remember these coming out on the spinner rack, and reading them on bended knee until... "HEY KID, THIS AIN'T NO LIBRARY. YOU GONNA BUY THAT OR WHAT?"

I too wondered how the book was going to sustain what I thought was a one note premise. But I didn't catch that Gil Kane had taken up the art chores, though I could spot his work and didn't like it. But the covers kept drawing me in.

Did Ditko have a contract for at least a half a year at DC? Or was it for a year's worth of books (12 issues total?) or was it just then that some editor had to pull the plug on un-selling books? It seems to me that about the same time Brother Power--The Geek, and the Inferior Five, and the Secret Six were all attempted...and all failed.
Gee, I wish I had had a paper route to help support my habit. I would have bought so much more!

James Robert Smith said...

I don't know the specifics of Ditko's contract with DC. I think the editors at DC just gave the two titles six months to show some good sales, and they never did. Ditko's fans from Marvel never made the jump over to the DC books he produced for them.

One problem was his health troubles at that time. But another was just that the right wing dogma in those titles just didn't appeal to the readers.