Hello. We're serializing a convention transcript and this is the second of two parts. It's the year 1999 and we're at the
Comic-Con International in San Diego. The masses are down in the main hall, squandering their shekels on vintage funnybooks. The
intelligentsia is up here, listening to a dialogue with two giants of the comic book field. The overweight Jewish kid is between them,
directing the discussion traffic.
On my left is Chuck Cuidera, who was described in Part One by the great Will Eisner as the man who made Blackhawk succeed.
On my right is the great Will Eisner.
We pause to thank Jon B. Knutson for the splendid transcription job. Then the talk resumes, as we sneak up on the topic of how
one of comics' all-time great features, Blackhawk, came to be...
M.E.: What was your arrangement with Quality Comics?
CUIDERA: Oh, "Busy" Arnold was the publisher. He saw some of my stuff, I think. Will, you were down south hunting
when I did the first story, weren't you?
EISNER: Actually, Dick French wrote the story. From him, you got the scripts.
CUIDERA: He didn't write the first one, did he?
EISNER: Bob Powell did. Actually, before you did that, Dave Berg was doing a thing called Death Patrol,
EISNER: And that led to Arnold seeing Death Patrol and saying, "I'd like another feature like that." Arnold kept
doing that kind of stuff.
M.E.: At this point, they had a new title called Military Comics, and you were engaged to create features for it.
EISNER: That's right.
CUIDERA: Well, don't forget. Most of his competitors were doing military stuff because we were at war.
M.E.: Now, had anybody in the shop actually served in the military?
CUIDERA: No. I went in 1942.
M.E.: That was four years later, but you were all writing war stories without ever having been in the service.
CUIDERA: Yeah... (laughs)
M.E.: What kind of reference did you use? Movies and books, or...?
EISNER: Mostly books.
CUIDERA: Yeah, and movies.
M.E.: Any files of photos of airplanes?
CUIDERA: I had them all, second to none. Everyone used to come to me for reference!
M.E.: Bob, you had a question?
BOB BEERBOHM: I'm a little confused, and would just like some clarification. You said Death Patrol led into
CUIDERA: As I remember it!
BOB BEERBOHM: But they both started in Military Comics #1.
CUIDERA: I think it started before. I'll look into it because I don't remember. It's hard to remember what really
happened, because first of all, it was a very close-knit shop. With The Spirit, for years, Eisner claimed that Jules Feiffer did certain
stories, and then Feiffer said, "No, I didn't do those. Will did those. I did these stories."
Then Will says, "No, you didn't. I did those." It's very hard to remember some things.
BOB BEERBOHM: When you were working on the script for Blackhawk, Death Patrol hadn't been published...
EISNER: Death Patrol, as I remember it, preceded Blackhawk, because Blackhawk was carefully
engineered. It had Bob Powell, a Polish guy, there. We were doing the idea of a very fascist ideal, by the way.
CUIDERA: Powell did Mr. Mystic.
EISNER: He did Mr. Mystic, and we were working on Blackhawk, and he would come over where Chuck and I were sitting
and I was talking or something, and he said, "How about a Polish guy? It's an international group. Put a Polish guy in it."
It's hard to remember which one came first. If my memory serves me, Death Patrol was first. It was not as
well-done. [Jack] Cole couldn't draw realistic figures the way Chuck could and it was half-humor and half-satire. Blackhawk began
as a serious adventure.
[M.E. NOTE: Everyone started talking over one another so our tape didn't transcribe well at a few points. Basically, there was
general speculation that Cole did the first Death Patrol episode and when Arnold — or someone — saw the finished art, it prompted
the idea of a more serious strip with a similar premise, and both wound up in Military #1. But that was just speculation. No one
could recall for certain.]
M.E.: Now, with the decision made to start a new book, someone said, "I think there'd be a market for a comic called Military
Comics," and they picked a creator to fill the magazine?
M.E.: And was Blackhawk created to be the lead feature, or were a lot of things created, then somebody said, "Hey, that's
the best thing in it"?
EISNER: Blackhawk was part of it, and someone realized it was the best one of the group.
M.E.: In an anthology book like that, would the publisher have any way of gauging the popularity of the various strips, or would he
just be going on instinct?
EISNER: They would use mail. Eventually, somebody would write in and say, "We need a bigger story. You've got only
seven or eight pages...there could be a longer story in there." But you had no real way of knowing, although I remember Joe Simon telling me
that stuff that he and Jack would do for Martin Goodman became immediately popular. How they knew that, I don't know.
M.E.: So, as you recall, Bob Powell wrote the first story?
CUIDERA: Oh, yes.
M.E.: And you drew it?
CUIDERA: I also wrote it...half of it. But Bob had a little more experience than I, working with Bill Eisner here.
M.E.: He was Bill to you then, not Will?
CUIDERA: Yes, he was.
M.E.: Joe Simon was calling him Bill all last year, here, too. (laughter) When you did that first Blackhawk story, did
you say to yourself, "Hey, this is a great strip! I want to keep doing this!"?
CUIDERA: No, I started getting enthused when I designed the uniform. I swiped that from the Nazis...their boots and pants,
and the top part I designed myself. It seems that everybody liked that. The only bad feature was that they were solid black, and when you
did a panel with the other members, you could hardly distinguish the two!
MIKE CATRON: Will, for years, you've been credited with writing the first Blackhawk story, but you say Bob Powell wrote
EISNER: He [Chuck] said Bob Powell wrote it.
CUIDERA: Bob Powell. He was also a graduate of Pratt.
EISNER: One of the reasons I've survived in this business all these years is that I never deny anything. (laughter) I just smile
AUDIENCE MEMBER: You said you were partners with "Busy" Arnold, the publisher at Quality. Did your studio get paid a
percentage of the product sold, or was it like a flat rate?
EISNER: We got half of the profits.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So it was an actual business partnership?
EISNER: Sure. It was a partnership. There were problems between partners, because Arnold had his own line of books,
and we were sometimes competitors. He offered Bob Powell an increase on what I was paying him for working on The Spirit Section, and Bob
came to me and said, "I can make more with your partners." I called up Arnold and said, "You want a lawsuit?"
Arnold apologized but Powell got very angry, and he said, "You ruined my career! You cut me off."
I said, "Well, you want to quit me, and go down the street and work for someone else...well, all right. But you're not going to
work for my partner while I'm around."
Anyway, we settled it. When I went into the service — I was drafted about the same time you were, Chuck, I guess — I
got a letter from Bob Powell that said, "Well, now that you're in the Army, you might get killed. I want to tell you that I forgive you."
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Wasn't there a Blackhawk movie serial in the '40s?
M.E.: Blackhawk movie serial...Kirk Alyn in the lead...
CUIDERA: He also played Superman.
EISNER: There was a movie? I didn't know there was a movie.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: There was a radio show, too, that same year.
CUIDERA: Yes, there was.
[M.E. Note: The Blackhawk radio show was short-lived and, at last report, not even the most complete archives of old radio shows
contained even one copy. If you know of any episodes that still exist, let us know and we'll build a large statue of you somewhere.]
DAVE SIEGEL: I have a question. Do you recall where the name "Blackhawk" came from?
EISNER: Do you want to take this?
CUIDERA: There was a hockey team named the Blackhawks.
EISNER: No, remember we talked about it, and I said, "There's an Indian tribe named Blackhawks, we should do that." There
wasn't a hockey team at the time. It came long after that, Chuck. We're running into dangerous territory, because most of us can't really
remember this. I'm lucky I remember his name! (laughter)
[Another M.E. Note: More on this in a moment...]
M.E.: Did you start bringing in other artists early on?
CUIDERA: Oh, yeah. When I went in the service, that's how they got a very good artist by the name of Reed Crandall.
He came in after I went into the Air Force, and I didn't see him until about four years later. Instead of giving me Blackhawk back, I
did one called Captain Triumph.
EISNER: Also, on a magazine Mr. Arnold did in the middle of the war, about '44, we got into an argument over stealing profits and
so forth. So I sold my half to him.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Did the artists look at each other's work?
CUIDERA: Yes, yes they did, and swiped from one another. (laughter)
M.E.: Let me ask you about a man named Dick Dillin.
CUIDERA: Dick Dillin replaced Reed Crandall, and he worked for me. I didn't pay him, though. The publisher did.
He improved tremendously. In the beginning, I thought he stunk. (laughter) So when I inked his stuff, I'd correct the bad drawing.
Dick was a very hard worker. He died a couple of months back.
[M.E. Note: Actually, Dick Dillin passed away in 1980.]
M.E.: And eventually, he was penciling all the Blackhawk stories, at Quality and then later, at DC...
CUIDERA: Yes, when we went to DC.
M.E.: Now, Arnold sold Blackhawk to DC?
EISNER: Yeah. Arnold went broke at one point...
CUIDERA: I think it was 1956.
M.E.: And you worked with who at DC? Was Jack Schiff the editor there?
CUIDERA: Jack Schiff had a reputation, but the guy I want to hit was Murray Boltinoff. That's the guy I want to whack!
(laughter) I really did!
M.E.: Any particular reason, or just general principles?
CUIDERA: Well, I don't think he knew anything about good art. He was arrogant all the time.
M.E.: Now, Blackhawk went on, and they kept changing things, changing their costumes and putting monsters in the strip...and
then, one day, they changed the Blackhawks into these strange super-hero type things.
CUIDERA: I had nothing to do with that! (laughter)
M.E.: How did you feel about it?
CUIDERA: Like I said, I wanted to hit the little... (laughter)
M.E.: I believe the editor was George Kashdan at that point.
CUIDERA: Well, they had three editors. They had Murray Boltinoff, Schiff, and Kashdan.
M.E.: And Bob Haney was writing them then.
CUIDERA: Yeah, I think so.
M.E.: Sales were going down, so they tried this. How did you feel about what they had done to Blackhawk at that
CUIDERA: At that time, I was more concerned with my three children. I had two in college and one getting ready to go, so we
needed the money. That's why I stayed.
M.E.: They cut Blackhawk to bi-monthly, and they put you on Hawkman for a while. You also inked a few other
things, like The Brave and the Bold, and then you got out of comics.
CUIDERA: Yep, I'd had enough. (laughter)
M.E.: Was there a specific event? Were you not getting enough work? Were you tired of it?
CUIDERA: I wasn't tired of doing comics, but I wasn't making the money I should have been making. So I took an exam to
become a professional planner, and I got lucky. In the state of New Jersey, you're required to have a license, and it's a five-hour exam.
It's worse than the engineers, but I got lucky and passed it. The next 20 years, I spent as a professional planner for the County of Essex,
doing the master plan. Then I retired in 1988.
M.E.: Did you care? Did you ever look at them again?
CUIDERA: Yes, I always did. I would look to see like people like Russ Heath, who was a very good artist. He's here
today...one of the top-notch illustrators.
And that's more-or-less where the tape runs out.
Before we go, I have the unenviable task of correcting Will Eisner on a minor point. Remember up above, he said that there wasn't
a hockey team called the Blackhawks at the time they named the comic? Well, that's not so.
The Chicago Blackhawks were chartered by the National Hockey League in 1926 and began competing in the 1926-1927 season. They
were named by their founder, Major Frederic McLaughlin, who had served during World War I as commander of the 333rd Machine-Gun Battalion of the 85th
(Blackhawk) division of the U.S. Army. The outfit, in turn, had been named for Black Hawk, the famous Indian warrior of the early 1800's.
The Major chose the name to honor his former military unit. He also figured to garner a little publicity for The Blackhawk, a
restaurant he owned in Chicago. Oddly enough, the team's name was misspelled for much of its existence. It was christened as the
Blackhawks but thereafter spelled as two words — Black Hawks — on nearly everything.
In 1986, then-owner Bill Wirtz ordered it written as one word forever after, as per the team's original charter. (By the way: I
lifted all this off a website devoted to the team's history. The only thing I know about hockey is that if you sit in the front row of a Don
Rickles performance, he calls you a puck.)
My guess is that both Mr. Eisner and Mr. Cuidera are wrong and that the comic was named after the army unit. But it could have
been the Indians or the hockey team. Hell, it could even have been a dark-colored bird...