The Hawk and the Dove #2 (October-November, 1968)
Writer – Steve Skeates
Artist – Steve Ditko
Letterer – Ben Oda
Cover Price: $0.12
You’d have no idea what kinda agita the title of this comic gave me… then again, if you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you might know exactly how much agita. Do I refer to it as “Hawk and Dove”, “Hawk and the Dove”, “The Hawk and the Dove”?
We’ll be super-formal and include the “The”s this time around… why not?
Anyhoo… from what I hear, Hawk and Dove (though likely not this Hawk and Dove) will be appearing on that Titans TV show that I’m not going to watch… so why not take a look at one of their earliest outings?
We open during a prison riot. A fella named Harker is just thrashing his fellow inmates… just going nuts. There are zero guards to be seen, and he has to be restrained by another prisoner, named Davis. Harker informs the rest of the gang that there’s gonna be a jailbreak, seeee… and they’re all gonna help’im, seeee… Anyhoo, one jailbird in particular stands by just wishing that he could do his time and return to the real world.
We then head to the suburbs where it looks like Peter Parker and Johnny Storm just had a sleepover! Oh waitaminute, that’s Hank and Don Hall, better known to us as (the) Hawk and (the) Dove. Hank is excited to see the morning news, where he expects that the Drop-Outs (whether that’s a descriptor or a gang-name, I dunno) will cite Hawk as their attacker. He hopes that this will legitimize his alter-ego in the eyes of his civvie-ego’s father, Judge whatshisface. Long story a teensy-bit less long, the Drop-Outs don’t name their attacker. Wonk wonk.
The boys head to breakfast, and learn that later on that day they’ll be headed to Uncle James’ farm for some fun in the soil… or something. Before they can go, however, Papa-Judge has a case to preside over… and boy is it a doozy. Well, not really… but it does facilitate a few philosophy bombs. The man is sentenced… but neither Hank nor Don are pleased with the outcome. Hank thinks the sentence was too lenient, while Don feels it was too strict. If you’re new to these characters, strap in… these two goofs have this kind of argument constantly.
Back at the prison, Harker, Davis, and the poor fella who just wants out (we’ll call him Lefty… he looks like a “Lefty”) prepare to head toward the grand egress. They (somehow) get their hands on pipes and other heavy blunt objects… and pummel the guards and steal their paddy-wagon. Oh well. At the same time, the Halls drop Ma and Don off at the farm… while Hank, Dad and Uncle James head off… somewhere.
The escapees make it to the woods… then promptly run out of gas. How far were the guards planning on taking them? Not far, I reckon. It’s here that Davis and Harker boot the rest of the gang… but then, immediately reunite… I think? Either way, the baddies then spring a trap on the next car passing by… which just so happens to belong to Uncle James! This “trap” consists of dropping giants rocks on them… which is a bit hardcore.
While the crooks change the tire of the would-be escape car they just dropped giant rocks on… “Lefty” runs toward them alerting them that the police are closing in. The baddies scramble… which gives Hank the opportunity to break away as well.
When the dust settles, “Lefty” puts his hands up (looks like he’s throwin’ up “the horns” actually) and walks toward the Judge and Uncle James. He admits that he lied about the police presence, and really just wants to give himself up. He was never in on the jailbreak, and only went along because ol’ Harker would’ve killed him otherwise. The Judge gives him no promises, but says he will speak to the authorities on his behalf.
Back at the farm, Harker and Davis have arrived… and are slapping around Ma Hall… while Don just stands by. Davis tries to calm Harker down… and manages to at least stop him from beating up the poor woman. It’s almost as though they’re a villainous version of… (the) Hawk and (the) Dove! Their names even start with an “H” and a “D”.
Hank runs up, and sees his brother just standing around while their mother prepares food and clothing for the escapees. Well, that’s all he can stands, he can’t stands no more… so he “Hawks up” annnnnnd… continues to stand by the window.
Don catches a glimpse of his bird-bro out of the corner of his eye… and fears that he will rush in and cause the baddies to react… with their gun. Harker tells the Halls that he wants to take them as hostages, which Davis advises against. He claims they’ll only slow them down… and he’s probably right. I figure “hostage taking” is one of those last-ditch things, where the bad guys know they’re probably not walking out free… or alive. Anyhoo, they look out the window to see the (other) Hall-mobile driving away! Davis gives chase, and Harker just makes a break for it. This provides Don an opening to run off and “Dove down” (har har).
The chase is on… Hawk tracks Davis, while Dove follows Harker. Hawk catches up with his quarry… and beats the hell out of him. He’s really quite effective. He hears a few gunshots and fears his goofy brother will try and “reason with” a bullet rushing toward his head.
On his way he runs into more escapees… and, again, beats the hell out of them! He’s like a war machine… hurling stones, swinging tree branches… Hawk don’t mess around!
We finally join Dove as he catches up with Harker. Harker… drops his gun… and turns himself in? Not so fast, kemo sabe… he’s just drawing gullible Don in for a whack. Hawk runs up for the save, but Don tells him to stay back… he’s gonna handle this his way.
Hawk ain’t keen on standing down… but, Dove is adamant that he butt out. And so, for the next few pages… Don gets his butt kicked. All the while Hank does the whole head-in-his-hands thing and provides running commentary… it’s actually kinda funny. Harker continues to pummel Dove… who refuses to fight back. He finally grabs for the escapee’s shirt and “jerseys” him… and (somehow) that’s all she wrote.
We wrap up back at the farm where the Hall elders comment about their very eventful day… and note how Hank, the roughhouser came away scratch-free, while pacifist Don had to be bandaged up… wonk wonnnnnk.
Yowza… I’d forgotten how “extreme” these characters were initially portrayed.
There’s this mix of “sign of the times” and “creator whim” that dictates the way these characters are depicted. Nowadays Hawk has been relegated to the role of a gung-ho, dim-witted joke where Dove (whichever Dove) is shown as completely virtuous and a saint for even putting up with the ridiculously overblown Hawk.
Here, it’s almost completely the opposite. Hawk is depicted as take-charge, and… while physical and willing to punish, is shown as being effective in his approach. On the other hand, Don is ineffective, weak, wishy-washy… and only wins via lucking out and tricking the bad guy. Not a completely “peaceful” resolution… he didn’t “talk Harker down” or anything like that. It’s almost as though they wanted the takeaway from this to be “might is right”.
We also get that odd scene at the courthouse, where Judge Hall dispenses his wisdom about personal rights, criminality, and justice. Seemed a bit preachy… and there’s probably a reason for that. This is a pretty cynical book…
Even when we have “Lefty” turn himself in… the Judge doesn’t outright say “everything will be okay”… he tempers his response, offers zero promises… and just says he’ll speak on his behalf. For all we know, Lefty wound up in the electric chair three days later. I get the feeling if this was another book, he’d have been exonerated… and probably go on to become a judge himself.
The art is classic Ditko, and looks pretty great. Though, I will say, there were a few panels where Hank looked very Peter Parkery… but, I suppose that’s to be expected. He’s a teen-age boy with brown hair… whattayagonnado, right?
Worth mentioning, the Grand Comics Database attributes the lettering for the story part of the issue to Ben Oda… however (as you may have noticed), it’s got that same squared “balloons” like Ditko used on Mr. A. comics. Not a big deal, just something I feel is worth mentioning. It is a bit jarring at first… but you get the hang of the squared balloons pretty quick.
Overall… I think this was an enjoyable read, in its own way. Not going to rock your socks… and, hell… depending on your outlook, it might even tick you off, but still… worth checking out. Surprisingly enough, this issue is available digitally. It has also been collected in both The Steve Ditko Omnibus, Volume 2 (2012) and Teen Titans: The Silver Age Omnibus (2017).