Artist and Writer Basil Wolverton created SPACEHAWK for Novelty Press, and his first appearance was in that publisher's TARGET COMICS #5 in June 1940. Spacehawk was conceived as an 800-year old super-powerful being from an alien race dedicated to preserving justice in the spaceways, and initially appeared fully masked and completely covered by a heavy space suit. Spacehawk was revealed to be a very-human appearing male with Hollywood leading-man good looks once he unmasked in a subsequent adventure to claim a kiss from the imperiled Queen Haba whom he had just rescued from a coterie of grotesque alien monstrosities.
Wolverton had created and pitched an earlier newspaper strip called MARCO of MARS, which exhibited a Wolverton artistic hand which appeared fully developed and meticulous in its relishing of science-fiction detail as his later work. A victim of truly terrible timing, The MARCO strip was handed back to him, rejected because the then-new strip BUCK ROGERS by Dick Calkins had turned its attention to Mars and the syndicate editors felt that the MARCO strip would be seen as an imitation. SPACEHAWKS which was published in 1938 by Globe Syndicate in the three released issues of editor Monte Bourjaily's CIRCUS, THE COMIC RIOT compilation comic book. These strips bear some of the elements that would later be distilled into what would become SPACEHAWK: the bulky, steam-boiler looking spacecraft, the exquisite intergalactic vistas, and the strange and utterly bizarre alien creature designs, all beautifully rendered in Wolverton's distinctly hatched pen-and-ink style. Some elements of the earlier strip continued to be reworked as Wolverton strove for the golden-ring of a syndicated newspaper strip, and those pages were reworked into what became SPACE PATROL in 7 issues of Centaur's 1939/1940 AMAZING MYSTERY FUNNIES, featuring a lead character who looked as if he could have stepped out of the later SPACEHAWK's mirror, and later as THE STRANGE ADVENTURES OF METEOR MARTIN which emerged in 2 issues of Centaur's AMAZING MAN in late 1941 and 1942, reworked into comic book stories after this newspaper pitch was also rejected in the wake of the successes of Alex Raymond's FLASH GORDON and Dick Calkins' BUCK ROGERS.
Wolverton loved the exotic vistas of outer space as a field for creative expression, and he distilled several elements from his previous endeavors (while rejecting some of the more pedestrian concepts like a traditional earth-based space police, and a team or crew of fellow adventurers) into the creation of SPACEHAWK, "The Lone Wolf of the Void," about whom we never learned an origin, or anything about his far-off home planet, or even a distinct listing of his considerable powers, but even so, Wolverton succeeded in creating not only his only real venture into traditional comic-book super-heroics, he transcended those same ideas by involving his Spacehawk into a succession of utterly fantastic and otherworldly adventures featuring grotesque and oddly-envisaged space aliens and alien vistas, all exhibiting Wolverton's design brilliance, illustrative distinction and sheer joy in the utterly bizarre, both graphically and narratively.
Spacehawk's first nine adventures are framed in some vaguely defined "other" space, far from our pedestrian world and perhaps even our own time, given the utterly over-the-top technology exhibited. And in those adventures, Spacehawk defeats horrific, titanic monsters along with evil, ugly and treacherous alien brigands and scientists with the barest expenditure of effort, using his keen mind, his superhuman strength, and his exceedingly advanced technology, all in service of an equally vaguely defined force for good and justice in the universe of which Spacehawk is vaguely defined as being a part. His first three adventures feature him as a character behind a fearsome space-helmet/mask which gives the character just the dramatically otherworldly aspect needed to work in the fantastic worlds he moves through. In short, he looks really cool, in the bulked-up manner of Wolverton's portrayal. In the last two pages of his 3rd adventure he unmasks for a kiss from "an Earth girl," whom he has just rescued from hapless alien villains Jark and Zorg, and we learn she is the same imperiled nubile that Spacehawk rescued from space-pirate Gorvak in his first adventure, "The Creeping Death From Neptune." The mask never goes back on, which is a pity, but the adventures stay as otherworldly and strange for the next six episodes. We meet a colleague of his, Galar, from his same never-defined home in the universe ("An old friend from my native solar system!" Spacehawk thinks to himself, and Galar also indicates by his appearance that even those of Spacehawk's ancient race, can exhibit male pattern baldness), as well as the beauteous Queen Haba, ruler of the kingdon of Noom on the planet Neptune, who remains an equally vaguely defined love interest for the Lone Wolf of the Void, while never actually getting Spacehawk to pay her the attention she really wants.
As popular as the character may have been to TARGET's readers, Novelty never really felt that the fit they had for the character was right. Despite being listed prominently on many covers, Spacehawk had only one cover appearance, on TARGET Vol 1 #7, from August of 1940. And it's a great cover illustration, Spacehawk rampant, looking as windblown and Saturday- Afternoon Serial Hero fabulous as ever, about to deliver a death blow to a half-seen alien creature (its back is to us) whom we can only imagine as being too horrible to bear. "With one lightning blow," the caption reads, "Spacehawk crushed the planetoid monster." There exists a cover sketch by Wolverton for a later issue, when Spacehawk was brought down to Earthbound narratives, but it was never used.
And after nine of those utterly fantastic and phantasmagorical issues, Spacehawk was brought down to Earth with a mighty crash. The editors at Novelty Press had been increasingly uncomfortable with Wolverton's over-the-top narrative weirdness and fantastic creatures, and even across those nine episodes (and one text story, "The Scratches of Doom," written and illustrated by Wolverton in TARGET #10 in November 1940) there had been an effort to whittle away at the extremity of Spacehawk's otherworldly adventures. There was a war on, you see, and publishers across the economic spectrum were cashing in on WWII patriotism as well as purportedly supporting the war effort, at least propagandistically, by involving their titles and characters in the war effort. There had been a back-and-forth at Novelty Press, visible even in the letters page, about just HOW fantastic Wolverton's Spacehawk stories ought to have been; there were ample letters in evidence from readers supporting Wolverton's efforts and wanting more of the same, as well as letters decrying Spacehawk as "too weird" though in retrospect those feelings may have been more on the part of Novelty's editors than their readers. There even appeared a letter in the issue with Spacehawk's 9th adventure about how much a reader loved those strange adventures, and a reply from the editors about how much they supported Wolverton. That was a lie, however, and the editors made plain that all the line's characters needed to show their young readership that they were united in America's fight against the Axis. And so, at the conclusion of that ninth comics story in Target Volume 2 #1, in March 1941, Spacehawk tells Queen Haba, in what appears to be a hastily pasted-over word balloon, that he must depart--- "Uncle Sam needs me," he says, "more than you!" and from that point on, while Wolverton's art is as spectacular as ever, the stories become infinitely and increasingly more leaden and stiff, with still-strange aliens and monsters, now side by side with blatantly carciatural Japanese and German officers and a recurring super-villain in the person of evil scientist Dr. Gore, eventually descending to the narrative depths of "Spacehawk and the Case of the Missing Tires," (TARGET COMICS Vol. 3 #9, November 1942) where our Interstellar Alien Adventurer, the 800-year old Superhuman Enemy Of Crime, battles black market tire thieves on the streets of a lovingly-rendered urban American city. There was only one more adventure after that, and Spacehawk was peacefully, tragically laid to rest by Wolverton after the December 1942 issue of TARGET COMICS. It was a tragic end after 26 issues to a remarkable character and some of the most remarkable work of a truly remarkable comics creator. SPACEHAWK continued to be reprinted in various other publications for a total of 41 appearances, but that original 26 issue run in TARGET was all that Wolverton ever produced, and no one since has matched his original vision of the character.
Several collections of Wolverton's SPACEHAWK in black and white have appeared over the years, and Dark Horse has issued a several issue run of SPACEHAWK reprints in B&W, along with some unfortunate updates of the character by contemporary artists, and Fantagraphics has released a complete reprinting of the entire run of SPACEHAWK in a single volume, published in 2012 with an introduction by Wolverton's son Monte.