Column: The Art of War – ‘Don Winslow of the Navy’ and ‘Blackhawk’ – Lesser-Known Comic Book Staples of the Early 40’s


One of the most unknown war comics was Don Winslow of the Navy. It actually began in 1934 as a comic strip in the newspapers. It made the transition to a comic book in 1943 and  was released during World War II as a pro Navy propaganda title. The comic was very popular, but only a few issues were published. On one cover, Don Winslow was pictured with Captain Marvel (the DC version, who in modern day comics is called Shazam!).

Most of the comics were reprints of the comic strips and they lasted until 1948 for a total of 69 issues. The comic focused on Naval tradition and courage and was also geared to fascinate American youth to join the Navy. The character of Winslow, the hero of the story, had no powers and was a Naval spy chaser, who found himself in many spine-tingling situations.

In 1942, Don Winslow of the Navy  was later a Universal Pictures Serial film based on the original comic strip Don Winslow of the Navy by Commander Frank V. Martinek. It was theatrically released in January of 1942 and you can view the original trailer via YouTube below:

Up next this week, we cover the title Military Comics, which came out in 1941 and were published by Quality Comics. The title was changed to Modern Comics in 1950. Military Comics featured many military heroes, but was best known for introducing Blackhawk and his Squadron. DC later acquired the rights to Blackhawk and continued to publish it for many years. Blackhawk was my all-time favorite comic character growing up as a kid.

The Blackhawks were ace pilots of varied nationalities and consisted of seven members. The early issues had the Blackhawks fighting the Nazis during World War II. Blackhawk was of Polish heritage. Maybe that’s why I liked him so much! The squadron had a Chinese cook named, “Chop Chop”. It was fantastic that even at that time, he became an expert pilot and full member of the team.

Lady Blackhawk joined the group in the 1950’s. She was one of the few early female comic book heroes. Blackhawk later got a mascot called, “Blackie the Hawk”. This bird could type notes in English. Thecomic spawned a serial, radio series, novel and even a future Steven Spielberg film coming out in the very near future. In the early issues, the Blackhawks would never use weapons. In future issues, they were forced to use them to survive.

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