QUALITY COMICS

BLACKHAWK

A SERIAL WORLD FILMBOOK

By Eric Hoffman

The following article appeared in Serial World #11 (Summer 1977). Publisher Norman Kietzer was so kind as to permit me to reprint it here for fans online! Please visit him at the Westerns And Serials fan club!

In 1941, Quality Comics, which had established itself back in 1937 with FEATURE FUNNIES and SMASH COMICS … followed by such titles as CRACK and HIT COMICS... began a new addition to its lineup, MILITARY COMICS. It would be a very appropriate and timely title, for 1941 was a year when the spectre of war had reached its most haunting stage.

Hitler's armies had spread like wildfire across the map of Europe. The mad paperhanger had started out as a comic figure to some, not to really be taken seriously. Now he threatened to hurtle the world into a nightmare of barbarism, slaughter and insanity.

MILITARY COMICS was to become a landmark in the history of comics, for on its cover was an action-packed scene. Atop a ponderously-rolling tank were two figures, one an enemy soldier, the other a grimly smiling figure, dressed in a heroic flyer's suit, sporting military officer's cap, delivering a power-house right to the chin of the unfortunate Axis trooper, while the battered soldier's comrade drove the tank, blissfully unaware of the stern just that was to come crashing down upon him the moment the mysterious figure in blue-black had polished off his companion. Along with this scene were the words"Starring That New Comic Sensation... BLACKHAWK!"

It was the beginning of a series that saw its birth in the war and continued until 1969, giving fans one of the most colorful fighting groups ever to battle for justice across the printed pen-and-ink page.

Blackhawk himself was introduced as the survivor of a Polish air squadron, valiant trying to fight back the tide of Nazi aggression. The brave band of patriots met their waterloo at the guns of the Butcher Squadron, led by the merciless Captain Von Tepp... until one last plane, piloted by an unknown man, wreaked havoc among the Nazis with six kills, until it too was shot down. As the pilot of that plane makes for a nearby farmhouse, Von Tepp releases a bomb that destroys the house (it was meant for the pilot, but missed). As the pilot searches the wreckage of the house he finds his sister and brother, victims of the Nazi brutality. Vowing revenge against Von Tepp and his horde, the unknown pilot moves on, vanishing into the darkness of war-torn Poland.

But, in the words of that fateful first issue of MILITARY, "Months pass by … like a huge steamroller, the Nazi war machine crushes all of Europe. Then, one day, a new name appears on the horizon—a name that strikes terror into the hearts of men—BLACKHAWK! Like an angel of vengeance, Blackhawk and his men swoop down out of nowhere, their guns belching death, and on their lips, the dreaded song of the Blackhawks …"

Blackhawk made his appearance as a serial hero in 1952, when only Columbia and Republic were producing chapter-plays. Columbia had found that serials adapted from popular pen-and-ink heroes had a marketable drawing value, particularly in many small towns where chapter-plays were still drawing them in.

It is a bit puzzling that no one had attempted to adapt Blackhawk and his international band of freedom fighters to the screen before. But when it happened, thanks to producer Sam Katz man, the man in charge of Columbia's serial unit (as well as many of its B-programmers), Columbia not only had a popular character on their hands but also had the distinction of having produced the last serial adapted from a comic strip character.

1952 was a time when the country was in the full grip of the McCarthy-inspired madness that was making everyone see 'Red' under the bedsheets. Films were pouring out in droves in which the bad guys were automatically agents of Communist powers seeking to crush Democracy... obviously, a lot of scripts that had villains from the Nazi era were either being dusted off or changed considerably to accommodate the new, all-purpose heavy, the 'Red' agent who followed the Moscow 'party line' with the same fervor that had marked followers of the Axis during the '40s.

Two of the three serials released by Columbia in 1952 had the heroes coping with Communist machinations. KING OF THE CONGO (featuring Buster Crabbe as a Tarzan-type hero known as Thunda', adapted from Magazine Enterprises' fledgling publication) saw the hero dealing with enemy agents in the middle of Africa. One episode was even entitled 'RED SHADOWS IN THE JUNGLE'. Blackhawk was already battling the Red menace in the Quality Comics publication, so it was not surprising that the heavies of the serial based on his exploits would be agents of an unnamed, but definitely Communist, power.

Kirk Alyn, already known as Superman to millions of filmgoers, was cast as the leader of the Blackhawks. By now, Blackhawk's original origin had been tampered with so that that there were strong hints that he was an American who had gone abroad to fight the Axis before the U.S. entered World War II. So, one automatically assumed that the oddly-named Blackhawk was as American as Apple Pie. In Blackhawk's distinctive uniform, complete with hawk's-head symbol on the chest, Kirk was almost a dead-ringer for the comic-strip daredevil.

For the roles of Blackhawk's compatriots, Producer Katzman dipped into his 'stock' company for many of the parts. John Crawford (who had already done bits and featured parts in many serials and is now a familiar character actor in many features) was cast as Chuck, Blackhawk's aide, sharing much of the perils and fights with the leader of the Blackhawks.

Rick Vallin was Stanislaus, or 'Stan' for short, and did double duty as Stan's enemy look-alike, Boris (the 'Red menace', remember?). Don Harvey and Frank Ellis, who usually popped up as heavies in many adventures, were Olaf, the big Swede, and Hendrickson, who seemed to spend most of his time at the Blackhawk base, tending the planes. Larry Stewart (who had been bad enough as the Video Ranger in CAPTAIN VIDEO) was cast as Andre, minus the French accent, moustache, not even coming anywhere near his comic counterpart. Weaver Levy was Chop-Chop, with his character's name simply shortened to 'Chop'.

John Crawford (CHUCK) and Kirk Alien (BLACKHAWK) fly straight into perilous adventure.

Purists will grumble about the lack of similarity between the actors and their namesakes in the strip: but one has to give allowances. To find actors who could fit the exact likenesses of someone like Olaf, or the buck-toothed Chop would have been difficult, if not downright impossible.

On the side of the heavies was Carol Forman, Kirk Alyn's old nemesis from SUPERMAN and FEDERAL AGENTS VS. UNDERWORLD INC."I always enjoyed working with her," Kirk recalls. "She was very attractive and could look as nasty as hell, when her role demanded it. When she played a villain, she was a good one." As the lead enemy agent, Miss Forman did not wear the slinky dresses that had been her trademark in her past appearances. Instead, in keeping with the general conception of what the well-dressed comrade would wear, she was dressed in a tweed skirt and jacket, all with a feminine touch, but still nowhere the more viewable costumes she had donned in the past.

Marshall Reed was her chief aide, Aller, a role that would normally have been played by Jack  Ingram (who was already popping up in KING OF THE CONGO and SON OF GERONIMO the same year). Michael Fox was William Case, the Defense Council member who doubled as agent for the spy ring. William Fawcett was scientist Dr. Rolph, while Nick Stuart, Zon Murray, Pierce Lyden and Terry Frost were cast as various heavies... if you watched closely, you even saw Dave Sharpe moon-lighting from Republic to pop up as one of the bad guys.

Spencer Bennett and Fred F. Sears co-directed the serial, which was kept at a break-neck pace throughout.

"We filmed BLACKHAWK in about a month," Kirk recalled,"and boy _ did we move." I think the motto Spence used was 'Never mind the dialogue, just get into the fights... or chases, depending on what we were doing at the time." One moment in the serial seems to bear it out. In episode 4, when visiting scientist Dr. Rolph, who has created a new secret weapon, Blackhawk remarks"Oh is this the secret device you've been working on secretly for the government!"

Veteran serial scribes George H. Plympton, Royal K. Cole and Sherman L. Lowe wrote the screenplay (with special credit given on screen to the two men who made BLACKHAWK as much of a success it was in the comics, Reed Crandall and Charles Cuidera).

As it was made in a time when budgets for serials had gone down, BLACKHAWK did contain some stock footage (such as the flying disc footage from BRUCE GENTRY, containing the notorious animated 'flying saucer').

And yet, BLACKHAWK still remains a fun serial, thanks to the playing of its cast and the pace at which it moved (particularly those mad chases through the gas plants!). It is also an indication, as most serials. were, of the attitude of the country at the time, with its references to 'comrades' and 'foreign made' devices.

(Note : For a more detailed look at the Blackhawks and the entire history of comics, SERIAL WORLD recommends Jim Steranko's HISTORY OF COMICS. Volumes I and II are out and No.3 is in the works. They can either be found at shops that specialize in material regarding the Comics, or can be ordered from Steranko's company, SUPERGRAPHICS. For further information on these and other products from Steranko's company, write to SUPERGRAPHICS, BOX 445, WYOMISSING, PENNSYLVANIA 19610.)

+ + +

COLUMBIA PICTURES presents
BLACKHAWK (Freedom's Champion)
KIRK ALYN as Blackhawk, JOHN CRAWFORD as Chuck, CAROL FORMAN as Laska, RICK VALLIN as Stan (Stanislaus), Boris, DON HARVEY as Olaf, WEAVER LEVY as Chop Chop, FRANK ELLIS as Hendrickson, LARRY STEWART as Andre, MICHAEL FOX as William Case, MARSHALL REED as Aller, WILLIAM FAWCETT as Dr. Rolph, NICK STUART as Cress, ZON MURRAY as Bork, PIERCE LYDEN as Dyke, RORY MALLINSON as Hodge, TERRY FROST as the Leader's Aide, JACK MULHALL as Defense Council Member, FRANK GERSTLE as Defense Council Member, Dave Sharpe as a Gunman.

Directed by Spencer G. Bennet & Fred F. Sears, Screenplay by George H. Plympton, Royal K. Cole, Sherman L. Lowe, Based on the character drawn by Reed Crandall & Charles Cuidera, Produced by Sam Katzman, Asst. Director: Charles S. Gould, Special Effects : Jack Erickson, Musical Director: Mischa Bakaleinikoff.

Episodes

1. DISTRESS CALL FROM SPACE

2. BLACKHAWK TRAPS A TRAITOR

3. INTO THE ENEMY'S HIDEOUT

4. THE IRON MONSTERS.

5. HUMAN TARGETS

6. BLACKHAWK'S LEAP FOR LIFE

7. MYSTERY FUEL

8. BLASTED FROM THE SKY

9. BLACKHAWK TEMPTS FATE

10. CHASE FOR ELEMENT X

11. FORCED DOWN

12. DRUMS OF DOOM

13. BLACKHAWK'S DARING PLAN

14. BLACKHAWK'S WILD RIDE

15. THE LEADER UNMASKED

1 : DISTRESS CALL FROM SPACE

Somewhere in the United States is a top-secret airfield that serves as the headquarters of the Blackhawks, an international brotherhood sworn to combat the forces of tyranny that menace the world. Led by the fearless Blackhawk, the modern day crusaders consist of Chuck, Stanislaus (or Stan), Olaf, Chop Chop, Hendrickson and Andre. The group receives their assignments from the World Defense Council..

An aircraft in distress, flying near the Blackhawk base, sends out a distress call which is picked up by the Blackhawks. Flying out to meet the airship in their own aircraft, Blackhawk and Chuck see it is in trouble. In a daring mid-air maneuver, Blackhawk descends a rope ladder from his ship and rescues the pilot of the crippled plane moments before it crashes in flames. The man says he has a message for Stan, who is upset when he receives the missive. Obtaining Blackhawk's okay to go with the visitor to a special meeting place, Stan departs.

But Blackhawk is suspicious and he and Chuck follow in another aircraft. Blackhawk parachutes near the rendezvous point and sees Stan talking to an attractive, sinister woman named Laski. Laska is pleading with Stan to desert the Blackhawks and return to his homeland where, she claims, he is needed. But Stan refuses to desert the Blackhawks, reaffirming his belief that he belongs with the group. Enraged, Laska summons henchmen who attack Stan and carry him off … just as Blackhawk joins the battle. A look-alike for Stan is substituted, wearing a Blackhawk uniform. Letting Blackhawk 'save' t/1eir agent, Boris, Laska and her men leave with the real Stan a prisoner. Boris fakes a head injury and is taken back to the base.

Laska is elated... she and her men have done what no other group of subversives has been able to do ; they've planted one of their own men in the midst ' of the Blackhawks.

Next day, the Defense Council orders Blackhawk to guard a helium plant which they believewill be attacked by enemy agents. Laska's men, led by Aller, attack but are driven off by the Blackhawks, who capture a few of the gang. Laska's unknown chief, known only as The Leader, radios orders to have Boris destroy the Blackhawk air base.

But Laska has been trailed to her hideout by Blackhawk and his men. They find the real Stan and rescue him, while Laska and her men escape. Aware that the 'Stan' back at headquarters is an enemy agent, Blackhawk realizes that the base is at the mercy of the imposter. Chuck, Stan and Blackhawk fly back to the base.

But Boris has already gone into action, attacking Hendrickson and starting a fire in one of the hangers with a fire-bomb device. As the Blackhawks cope with the blaze, Boris starts to mine the airfield. But Chop spots the enemy and tries to stop him. As the two fight, the plane containing Blackhawk, Chuck and Stan taxis in for a landing. There is a terrific explosion as the plane lands, blotting out the aircraft !

Blackhawk looks on in amazement as Dr. Rolf (WILLIAM FAWCETT) explains his new invention.

2: BLACKHAWK TRAPS A TRAITOR

Chop is able to radio Blackhawk about the mined airfield and continues to battle Boris. Blackhawk swerves his plane, avoiding the blast, caused when the detonation switch is thrown too soon. Boris uses Chop as a hostage and escapes by car to Laska's headquarters. Blackhawk and Andre follow in a plane, while Stan and Olaf give chase in a Blackhawk car.

Blackhawk spots Boris driving into a grove of trees. Landing the plane, Blackhawk meets his men and the group investigate the area.. They find an electric-eye device that opens a gate in some brush. There, they find the stolen car, empty. But as they examine it, the group sets off a booby trap. Blackhawk spots the trap and warns his men, enabling them to escape the deadly explosion.

At a cabin hideout, Chop overhears Boris receive orders to aid Laska in sabotaging another defense plant, using his Blackhawk uniform to gain en trance. The enemy agents leave Chop tied next to a time bomb, but Blackhawk follows Boris's trail to the cabin and rescues Chop in time. Chop tells him of the enemy's plan, but only knows that the endangered plant is 216 hours away by car. At headquarters, Blackhawk finds a possible defense plant on a map. Calling it, he learns that one of his men is already there.

Blackhawk and the others head for the plant, ordering his men to find Boris, if possible.

Blackhawk finds Boris in a warehouse, setting fire to the place and the two men slug it out as the mass of crates and equipment are engulfed in a gigantic blaze. Blackhawk loses his balance in the fight and is knocked out by Boris who leaves him to die under some falling, blazing debris!

3: INTO THE ENEMY'S HIDEOUT

Blackhawk regains consciousness in time to find shelter in a large packing case, shielding himself from the flaming debris. Boris heads for one of the exits, but a guard fires at the saboteur, killing him. Laska and her men spot Stan and mistake him for Boris. Going along with the spies' error, Stan leaves with them. Olaf tells Blackhawk who knows that they'll have to wait for Stan to contact them.

But Stan makes a couple of slipups that arouse Laska's suspicions. As she confers with one of her men Stan takes a chance and contact Blackhawk on a short-wave set. But before he can give directions to the hideout, Laska returns and Stan says he was taking down an emergency order from the Leader. The group is to go to a new hide-out in Palm Valley. Stan is convincing enough for Laska to send her men to the new location. But she stays behind and checks with the Leader learning that the 'orders' were false.'

But Blackhawk has intercepted the message and he and his men head for Palm Valley, only to pass the subversive's car, heading back to the original base (Laska has warned them). They arrive as Stan is tied to a stake in the middle of the airfield. In the fight, one of the heavies falls against the plane, jolting the throttle. The plane, engines rang, propellers whirling, taxis down the field toward the helpless Stan!

4: THE IRON MONSTER

Blackhawk spots Stan's danger and races after the taxiing aircraft. Grasping steering vane on the left wing, he. manages to turn the ship abound in time. The runaway airplane heads right toward the heavies, sending them running for cover. Blackhawk and his men regroup as the spies escape in their car. The Blackhawks pursue in their own vehicles (forgetting all about the plane which is still taxiing down a highway somewhere!) with Blackhawk leaping from his car into the enemy auto. Subduing the three men inside, Blackhawk brings the car to a halt and the three spies are turned over the police.

At headquarters, Blackhawk is told by Chop that the Defense Council wants him to see Dr. Rolph, a noted scientist. Rolph tells Blackhawk that he is being harassed by unknown individuals who want his secret invention... a deadly electronic ray machine, capable of destroying anything. Vital to the device is a 'target disc'. Witnessing the destruction of a piece of furniture as a demonstration, Blackhawk hits upon a plan. Rolph will agree to turn over his device to his tormentors, while the Blackhawks prepare a trap.

Laska, however, is suspicious of Rolph's surrender and makes arrangements to handle possible pursuit. While Aller and Bork meet Rolph and take him and a phony package, supposedly containing the electric ray, Blackhawk and Chuck unaware of Laska's counter-plot: give chase. Aller radios another car commanded by Cress, to close in o~ the Blackhawks.

Allier’s vehicle leads Blackhawk to a railroad crossing where a locomotive is approaching. Pulling up behind Blackhawk and Chuck forced to wait for the oncoming train to pass, Cress has his driver ram into the back of Blackhawk's vehicle, shoving it onto the track right in front of the thundering locomotive!

5: HUMAN TARGETS

Carol Forman as “LASKA" in BLACKHAWK

Unable to start up the car motor, Blackhawk does manage to grind the starter of his car, moving it far enough so that the car is only sideswiped by the locomotive.

At headquarters, Blackhawk gets permission from the World Defense Council to move the real ray machine to a safer location. But the spies ambush Blackhawk and Chuck, taking the ray device. But two of Blackhawk's men have been observing this from a plane and are soon reporting the location of the spies' hideout to Blackhawk. Blackhawk has kept an extra ace up his sleeve ; the ray device requires the 'target disc' to be effective, and Blackhawk has that in his possession.

Meanwhile, Rolph has told Laska that the ray machine won't work without the disc, and the engaged lady spy orders Rolph to build a new one, using her men as effective 'persuaders' to back up her argument.

Blackhawk and Chuck arrived at the hideout and overpower two guards. Inside his room, Dr. Rolph has started the electric ray, determined to blast his way to freedom. As Blackhawk and Chuck enter the room, Rolph activates the ray at full power. The ray seeks out the Target Disc on Blackhawk's person, smashIng Blackhawk to the floor in a burst of sparks and smoke, apparently destroying him!

 6: BLACKHAWK'S LEAP FOR LIFE

Blackhawk sees his danger just in time and hurls the Target Disc into a metal wastebasket before the beam hits. He and Chuck are knocked out by the ray's blast, but not injured. The spies believe the two men are dead and take Rolph and his invention with them. Regaining consciousness, Blackhawk is sure that Rolph will try to send a message for help with the ray machine.

Sure enough, a short-wave signal is picked up and the hunt begins. Laska is informed that the doctor is sending out a distress call, prepares to take the scientist to a new hideout. Blackhawk and Chuck arrive and are attacked by some of the gang, while Laska and Aller escape with Rolph. The State Police is called in to help the pursuit and

Blackhawk has Andre fly out in one of the Blackhawk planes to meet him and Chuck. From the air, the trio spots Laska's new cabin hideout. But the lady spy sees the Blackhawk plane and decides to bring it down with Rolph's invention.

As the plane circles the cabin, the ray is fired. Blackhawk still has the Target Disc with him and the plane is filled with static electrical force. It catches fire and Blackhawk orders Chuck and Andre to bail out. He follows, but the rip cord of his chute fouls on the plane door handle. Blackhawk hurtles to certain doom far below!

7: MYSTERY FUEL

Seeing his chief plummeting through the air, Chuck maneuvers his own chute so it is directly under Blackhawk, catching him(!). The trio lands safely. Laska orders her men to evacuate the hideout, but their car won't start. This gives Blackhawk and his men time to reach the cabin and try to save Dr. Rolph. The trio are forced to take refuge in the cabin during the battle until the rest of the Blackhawks arrive. The spies are routed and Dr. Rolph saved.

Blackhawk receives word from the Defense Council that a messenger is on his way with a secret document. Chuck and Blackhawk take off in their plane to meet the courier, but find only after he is waylaid by Laska's men who kill him and steal the message. Blackhawk has Chuck fly the plane over the spy's open car and leaps from the plane into the vehicle, battling the heavies, forcing them to stop. They learn that the recovered secret message was broadcast to the mysterious Leader, alerting him to a proposed meeting of the Defense Council at an oil field to discuss a new fuel known as Element X.

Racing to the oil field, Blackhawk and Chuck spot Laska's agents, who have planted a bomb at the base of an oil rig. A fight ensues and Blackhawk and one of the subversives slug it out atop the oil derrick. The incendiary bomb goes off as Blackhawk slips and falls to the derrick platform. A gigantic fire ensues and the blazing oil rig crashes onto the platform, burying Blackhawk!

Larry Stewart (ANDRE), John Crawford (CHUCK), Weaver Levy (CHOP CHOP), Don Harvey (OLAF), Rick Vallin (STAN), and Kirk Alyn (BLACKHAWK)

8 : BLASTED FROM THE SKY

Blackhawk comes to in time and uses his belt to slide down a guide wire to the ground below where Chuck catches him. The Defense

Council officials, who have been watching a demonstration of the Element X fuel, join the duo, leaving the cylinder of fuel in a model truck, used for the demonstration.

William Case, one of the Council members, who wears a hearing aid, suggests that he keep the model truck and cylinder. Blackhawk agrees, but will keep watch on the man as he drives off. Case's hearing aid is actually a radio device; Case is in league with the subversives and is broadcasting information to the spy ring.

Blackhawk and Chuck, following Case, spot an enemy car closing in on ' the man. They drive to the rescue, but the car sideswipes the Blackhawk vehicle and it crashes. When Blackhawk and Chuck finally arrive where Case is waiting for them, the official tells them that the spies stole the Element X cylinder. But Blackhawk reveals that he took the fuel cylinder from the model truck before Case left the oil field.

Later, Case contacts Blackhawk, telling him that he has been receiving threatening phone messages. Arriving at Blackhawk headquarters, Case plants a micr9phone in the main room and leaves. Blackhawk decides to test the new Element X in one of his planes. The spies, hearing this via the microphone, launch a remote-controlled flying disc from a site near the testing area. Blackhawk manages to maneuver his plane so a mid-air collision with the disc is avoided... for the moment. The disc is

turned back and zooms for the Blackhawk ship. Blackhawk is unable to avoid the flying disc and the Blackhawk plane is destroyed by the bizarre weapon! (Note: sequence' featured stock footage of flying disc from earlier serial BRUCE GENTRY. Disc was a cartoon.)

9: BLACKHAWK TEMPTS FATE

As the spies operate the flying disc from the ground, the other Blackhawks appear and a fight starts, causing the premature explosion of the flying disc. Blackhawk's plane dives toward the ground, undamaged (!) with Blackhawk and Chuck making a fast landing, then joining the fight. Some spies are caught but one of the gang, Dyke, escapes and hides inside Blackhawk's ship. When Blackhawk takes off, Dyke comes out of hiding and covers Blackhawk with a gun. But Blackhawk tips the plane, throwing the spy off balance, and he and Chuck capture the man.

At Blackhawk headquarters, Dyke manages to steal the Element X cylinder and escape in a car. While the police are called in to help trap him down, Dyke returns to the spies' hideout, but says nothing about getting the cylinder. Laska, however, has heard the police calls regarding Dyke and orders two men to watch him closely. Dyke gets away and contacts Blackhawk, offering to make a deal with him for the cylinder. He is overheard and forced to reveal the location of the cylinder at the meeting point. Blackhawk arrives, but Dyke is shot by his former partners. The Blackhawk leader finds the key to a cold storage plant on Dyke's corpse and goes to the building with Chuck. They find the cylinder containing Element X, but Laska's men appear

and attack our heroes. One escapes with the cylinder, while gunshots puncture an ammonia pipe. Blackhawk and Chuck are knocked out and left in the plant, right in the thickest concentration of the deadly fumes from the broken ammonia pipe!

10: THE CHASE FOR ELEMENT

Blackhawk revives in time and drags Chuck out of the deadly fumes. Chuck regains consciousness and the two pursue the fleeing spies. Aller, Laska's chief lieutenant, tosses the element cylinder from the car at a certain point in the road. Blackhawk catches up with the spies, forcing them to stop. A search of the enemy car fails to disclose the cylinder. Blackhawk then lets the thugs 'escape', to Chuck's surprise.

Sure that the heavies ditched the cylinder someplace, Blackhawk has one of his planes patrolling the area. The heavies are spotted as they retrieve the Element X cylinder and head for town. Blackhawk, checking the street where the spies went, finds a chemist's lab and questions the chemist inside. The man denies knowledge of the cylinder... until Blackhawk spots the cylinder on a table. The spies show up and in the fight, which Chuck joins, Aller gets away with the cylinder. The Blackhawks chase Aller to the helium gas plant and capture him, but another spy gets the cylinder. Blackhawk pursues him to a high structure, where the spy tosses the cylinder to Aller, who is waiting below. Blackhawk and the spy slug it out on the structure and both slip off to crash into the intricate, deadly machinery below!

CAPTURED—Blackhawk & Chuck finally get"THE LEADER" in Chapter 15 of Columbia's BLACKHAWK

11 : FORCED DOWN

Blackhawk falls into a trailer filled with paper and packing. The spy meets his death when he falls into the machines. Chuck arrives at the plant while Aller and the others escape. Blackhawk fires at the escaping car, puncturing the radiator. He and Chuck follow the trail of water leaking from the enemy car. The trail leads to a brownstone house, where Laska has received orders from the Leader to fly the Cylinder of Element X to Valdez, an area South of the Border (down Mexico way... )

Blackhawk and Chuck break into the house, but the spies escape. Blackhawk finds a pad of paper where Laska wrote her instructions, then tore them off. He manages to make out what is left of the message and he and Chuck are soon driving to Valdez. They contact the Commandante of Police, who is eager to help. He directs them to the ranch of Senior Borego, who might be able to assist them. To avoid being spotted by the spies, Blackhawk and Chuck hide themselves in a wagon of hay, driven by a police agent. But one of the spies, disguised as a strolling guitarist, spots the men as they are about to close in on their quarry. He warns his allies via coded guitar music. The hay wagon follows the man, but Laska's agents attack the wagon and an incendiary bullet sets the vehicle ablaze. The horses bolt and run away, with Chuck and Blackhawk trapped inside. The horses break loose from the wagon, which hurtles into a huge rock in a mass of flaming destruction!

12: DRUMS OF DOOM

Before the wagon crashes, Chuck and Blackhawk manage to leap from the vehicle in time. As the heavies arrive to check on their victims, Blackhawk and Chuck jump them. One man, Hodge, is caught, but the others escape. The two take Hodge with them to the Borrego ranch and use his car. Near the ranch, they are captured by Yaqui Indians who fake them to the Borego Ranch. There, a man supposed to be Borego meets them. Actually William Case in disguise, the false Borego is about to have the Indians eliminate our heroes when the real Senor Borego appears just in time to rout the Indians. Case manages to escape.

Later in town, Blackhawk hears the coded guitar music and follows the disguised spy to a loading platform where Aller has ·set up a trap for the agent. Laska's men, loading supplies onto a ship, attack Blackhawk near a ramp loaded with oil drums. Blackhawk is knocked close to the ramp and one of the heavies cuts a rope, releasing the huge oil drums, which thunder down upon the helpless fighter for freedom!

13: BLACKHAWK'S DARING PLAN

Blackhawk comes to in time and rolls out of the way of the huge oil drums, escaping death. He continues fighting with the spies, some of whom escape. Chuck, meanwhile, has followed the guitar player to a parking lot where he is attacked by some of the gang. Blackhawk has turned the men he defeated over to some policemen and is looking for Chuck when he comes upon his aide's peril. The heavies are driven off and. Chuck and Blackhawk discover a particular car in the parking lot; the one used by the phony 'Senor Borego' in his escape. They decide to keep a watch on the vehicle. Their patierce is rewarded when Case appears to claim the auto.

Confronted by the Blackhawks, who demand the Element X cylinder, Case agrees to take them to where it is hidden. But as the trio drives to a location Case manages to switch Chuck's radio to 'transmit'. As he gives directions to his captors, Laska and her men are listening in. Case directs Blackhawk and Chuck to a deserted shack where a man is to deliver the cylinder.

Hodge arrives and Blackhawk overpowers him, taking the cylinder. He and Chuck take Case to a plane belonging to the spies and take off for the States. Laska arrives shortly afterwards and it is revealed that the cylinder really contains an explosive set to go off at a certain time. Case is wearing a watch that is actually a special receiver. Laska orders Aller to warn him of his danger at once. Learning of the deadly cylinder, Case tries to get out of the plane, but Blackhawk stops him. As the two struggle and Chuck pilots the plane, the cylinder begins to smoke … and the plane is blasted to bits in mid-air!

14: BLACKHAWK'S WILD RIDE

As the cylinder begins to smoke, Case yells a warning about the cylinder. Blackhawk orders Chuck to bail out and tells Case to do the same. Blackhawk bails out moments later with Case following. But Case's parachute doesn't open and he plummets to his death while Blackhawk and Chuck land safely. With the help of police, Blackhawk and Chuck find Case's body and discover his special watch which is still flashing; Laska is still trying to contact her agent. Pretending to be Case, Blackhawk radios Laska and arranges to meet her at a certain intersection. But the spies manage to escape... barely.

Blackhawk manages to clamber onto the trunk of the enemy vehicle and hang on, climbing into the back seat. He and Hodge slug it out and fall from the car while Laska and Aller escape towards the U.S. border with the Element X cylinder. Laska crashes through a roadblock and enters the U.S.A. But Blackhawk has had Stan ready in one of the Blackhawk cars and soon Stan, Blackhawk and Chuck are pursuing Laska.

The lady spy hides her car in a panel truck, leaving a booby-trapped car behind. As the Blackhawks approach the car cautiously, Stan opens the door... the car explodes!

15: THE LEADER UNMASKED!

Spotting the booby-trap in time, Blackhawk warns his men, who hit the ground in time to escape the deadly explosion. Realizing that Laska switched cars on them, Blackhawk continues the chase in another vehicle, following the spies to a warehouse alley.

Laska and Aller enter the building. The Blackhawks arrive moments later, capturing the driver of the panel truck. Blackhawk and Chuck burst into the warehouse capturing Aller. Laska, however, has escaped with the Element X cylinder. Chuck spots her trail.

Desperate, Laska radios the Leader who orders her to send the Element X cylinder on to him and await new orders at one of their hideouts. The Blackhawks are to be led into a trap. The Leader then contacts Cress, one of his agents, ordering him to leave the cabin where Laska is hiding and let himself be captured. Suspicious of Cress's actions, Laska gets out of the cabin by the back way … and the building blows up moments later. Cress has already been caught by the Blackhawks and warned them of the trap when they started to take him back to the cabin.

Blackhawk contacts the police and asks them to help find Laska. He is soon informed that the lady spy was seen in a certain office building. In one of the offices, Laska is furiously denouncing the Leader for trying to eliminate her. She shoots him just as Blackhawk, Chuck and the police enter the office.

Blackhawk and Chuck are jolted to see that the Leader is... WILLIAM CASE!!?? An impossibility, since Case is dead. Laska tells Blackhawk that the Leader often used Case as a double, having had the man's features altered by plastic surgery so he would be an identical twin. Until Case's death, Laska and her agents could never tell who the real Leader was.

With the Leader dead and Laska in the hands of the law, Blackhawk and his men can tum their energies to battling other enemies of the world's freedom.

THE END