In honor of the 40th anniversary of the creation of the Hawk and the Dove, DIAL B for BLOG proudly presents the secret origin of the battling birds. The Hawk and Dove were born in a distant place called the Gulf of Tonkin, because the characters are a product of the Vietnam War, and it was in the Gulf of Tonkin that the Vietnam War began in earnest for America. On August 2 and 4, 1964 , the North Vietnam Navy attacked two American destroyers, the USS Maddox and the USS XTurner Joy, in the Gulf of Tonkin. The incident is pictured right, in a painting by E.J. Fitzgerald.

Following this incident, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which authorized President  Johnson to give military assistance to any Southeast Asian country jeopardized by "communist aggression" — namely, Vietnam. With the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution serving as a declaration of war, Johnson began America’s decade-long involvement in Vietnam.

Today, America’s military is an all-volunteer force, and there is no draft. But back in the Sixties, when able-bodied young men were needed to fight the communist takeover of Vietnam, the U.S. government simply picked the men they wanted and drafted them into service. Compulsory military service was hardly a new invention, even in America, but to the free-wheeling, do-your-own-thing generation that came of age in the sixties, it was anathema.

And as the War’s unpopularity increased, the country was torn in half. Casting the Vietnam conflict –- and the concept of conflict itself -- in aviary terms, anyone who supported the war was called a “HAWK,” while anyone who opposed it was labeled a “DOVE.” A famous photograph showing a draft-bait age student placing a flower on the rifle of a National Guardsman summed up the two-sided Hawk/Dove conflict in a single memorable image, seen below, center:

At this time, Marvel comics were surging in popularity, while DC’s books were sinking fast. When Flash artist Carmine Infantino became Editor in chief of DC Comics, he set out on a desperate hunt for new ideas. ANY new ideas, even controversial or crazy new  ideas. “That was my promise over there,” Infantino recalls,  “To just try. I didn't care what the hell they were about, just try 'em all. Keep trying. It's the only way you're going to find winners!”

Sometimes, Infantino thought up a new concept himself, then let others run with it. This was the way Hawk and Dove were born. According to Infantino, “I had Steve Ditko come in and I threw the idea at him. I called one the Hawk and the other the Dove.”

XSeries writer Steve Skeates (pictured right with self-portrait) has a more detailed recollection of the birds’ birth: “H&D was created by a committee consisting of editorial director Carmine Infantino, editor Dick Giordano, artist Steve Ditko, and myself. Part of the concept was to directly appeal to the counter-culture.”

If DC wanted to appeal to the counter-culture, hiring Steve Skeates-- and Creeper-scripter Denny O'Neil -- was certainly an excellent way to do so. Shown below is one of Steve and Denny's infamous cartoons from a fanzine called "Phase" published by Sal Quartucchio and Phil Seuling cica 1971. Written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Skeates, it reveals Skeates' trippy, anti-establishment style, and showcases O'Neil's unique brand of counter-culture humor. Depicting a clash between aggressive Jockfish and beret-wearing, peaceful Swimmers, it's like an aquatic version of Hawk and Dove!


“Steve Ditko already had the rough plot worked out,” editor Dick Giordano recalls, “Steve Skeates worked from that plot and came up with a script. The Showcase was okay because Steve followed basically what Ditko wanted him to do. But from that point on it was terrible for them both.”

The reason it was “terrible,” according to Skeates, was that “Infantino, Dick Giordano, and Ditko were basically dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. As soon as a script left my hands large sections of it would get changed, would be all but totally re-written, and not just by Dick but by Steve as well.”

WHAT was rewritten? Were Skeates’ stories too political? Not according to Skeates.  He once said, "Personally, I would refrain from labeling that extremely bizarre series [Hawk and Dove] as my most political comic book! Surely, certain stories I did for TEEN TITANS back in those days more accurately, more forcefully, expressed my own political beliefs, tales like ‘Greed Kills!’ (below, left) and ‘To Order is to Destroy!’ (below, right). Even certain Kid Flash stories I did for Julie Schwartz reflected my own beliefs far better than HAWK and DOVE did.”


Steve Ditko was asked to talk about himself for a "Meet The Creators" feature that ran in Showcase #73 (April 1968). Ditko replied...
What, exactly, did Ditko change in Skeates’ original scripts? According to DC editor/artist Dick Giordano, “Ditko would pretty much eliminate whatever was in Steve Skeates' scripts Xthat he didn't feel belonged there. O’Neil and Skeates were left-wing radicals compared to Ditko.”

Ditko, of course, had just come to DC after a triumphant run at Marvel which included a mountain of monster stories, a formative role in the depiction of the Hulk, and the co-creation of Spider-Man with Stan Lee.

In fact, in terms of their uniforms, Hawk and Dove's predecessors seems to be two Spidey villains: Kraven the Hunter, whose flowing sheepskin rug-cape resembles Hawk's jagged red wing-cape, and Meteor Man, whose sleek lines and mask resemble Dove's similar outfit. Both baddies are show below, on the covers of Amazing Spider-Man #34
and #36:
From a SPIDER to a HAWK and a DOVE

AS WE ALL KNOW, Steve Ditko had come to DC and Hawk and Dove after a hugely successful run on Spider-Man and Dr. Strange at Marvel. Ditko left Marvel partially because of a long-running dispute with Stan Lee over who had created Spider-Man. Lee originally said HE created the character alone, but he later proclaimed in a newspaper ad that Ditko was, in fact, Spidey's co-creator. However, Ditko was offended by the wording of the proclamation, and refused to reconcile with Lee. Ditko has made very few public statements regarding the "Who Created Spider-Man?'" controversy. He addressed the issue in a 1990 essay for HISTORY OF THE COMICS, and alludes to it in THE AVENGING MIND, a recent collection. Pictured below is his boldest statement, an editorial cartoon from "Ditko Package" #5 (1999):

DITKO FANS! Feast your eyes on this rare "Guest Star Page"
penciled and inked by the one and only Steve Ditko:
And how about this Spidey Super Strength
explanation, also penciled and inked by the amazing Ditko:

Soon after leaving Spider-Man and Marvel Comics, Steve Ditko went to DC and began working on new projects, including Hawk and Dove. In an era when it was rare indeed for ANY comic creator to be mentioned by name in promotions, DC made Ditko's name a centerpiece of their Hawk and Dove promotion. Pictured below is a DC house ad for the book which prominently mentions Ditko and his "second strike" (his first "strike" was The Creeper):

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