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ISSUE NO. 826
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"Christmas" from Hawk Son of Tomahawk #138 (February 1972), story by Robert Kanigher, art by Frank Thorne.
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In this special Christmas issue of Dial B for BLOG, we take a look at "A different kind of Christmas story," from Hawk, Son of Tomahawk #138. Different indeed! This story was published in February 1972. By this time, there had been countless Christmas stories, in films, TV, comics-- in every media. These stories covered all genres, from musical to horror to comedy. Basically, it has ALL been done.

So, to claim that this particular story was "different" was quite an audacious claim. And, as it turned out, it was also a TRUE claim. There really had never been a Christmas story like this one before. Daring beyond words, revolutionary in concept, brilliant in execution. You're probably not familiar with it. But this issue is being posted on Christmas Day, 2017, so it's the perfect day to fix that.

Let's start with the cover. This cover was heavily dependant on production. By that, I mean the artist -- Joe Kubert -- didn't just draw it, and send it in. There were several complex production techniques involved. This type of thing was a real rarity in comics of this era, and many artists didn't even know or understand how it was done, so they didn't try to do it. It was too complicated, and too involved for them. For THEM. But not for Joe Kubert! Another artist's nightmare, for Kubert the Great, it was a walk in the park.

To create this cover, Kubert did TWO entirely separate drawings, both pictured below.

The first image, pictured below, left, shows the story's three main characters, as lassoed by someone off-panel. Also seen are several snowflakes, and a large blank piece of "parchment" topped with snow. Filling the background are some gray streaks.

The second image
, pictured below, right, showed a large wooden cross with a buzzard sitting on it, plus a rope, and the words in the cover blurb, which were meant to be intriguing and descriptive. This is NOT the story's title. If you notice, it seems like certain part of the drawing are "missing."

Both of these images, like every comic cover, were drawn in black and white. Next, they had to be colored. Sometimes, cover coloring was a secondary factor -- but in this case, the coloring would absolutely make or break the cover.
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Seen below is the cover image, separated into its color components. The left part was colored with standard techniques, such as making the faces flesh, and the clothing yellow, blue and green. The right part was colored entirely with a uniform purple shade. That's why it had to be done separately, and why there seem to be "holes" in the cross and other places.

The right image is surrounded by huge black areas, leaving the actual art untouched. This is because these areas were not PART of the image. During the printing process, these areas would be "masked," meaning the film negative containing them would be left covered with opaque paper. The had no images on them, so there was no need to see them.

The printed cover, like all comics of this era, was colored using percentages of just four colors, CYAN, MAGENTA, and BLACK. Each color was contained on a separate plate. When combined, they became "full color." It looked like this...
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But in this case, the secondary, background image had to be a single uniform purple color, so it had to be created entirely separately. Using the same process shown above, the secondary image was colored purple. The plates below show how. There's nothing on the black plate because there was no black used to create the desired shade of purple.
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Combing the plates above resulted in an image colored entirely in a uniform purple color, seen below, right. This purple image was then laid over the other image to create the finished, printed color cover.
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All this was done by DC's production department, no doubt under the personal supervision of genius head colorist, Jack Adler, resulting in the beautiful finished product! Let's take another look at it... Note how the purple overlay cause certain things (the rope, the shoes) to take on a brown coloration.
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Wow. All that, just for the cover. Now that you know how it was created, you can see how really DIFFERENT is was. The story it represented was every bit as different, and then some. Here we go, reader -- it's "CHRISTMAS."
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It's Christmas in the old Western frontier, and we're celebrating with the legendary Tomahawk, star of his own long-running DC title, before it was taken over by his son, Hawk. But Tomahawk didn't mind losing his title. He was ready to retire anyway, and happy to settle down with his son Hawk, Hawk's Indian wife, and his biracial grandson, Little Eagle.
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This boy, somewhat like little Ralphie in "A Christmas Story," (which we covered in our last issue), Little Eagle has just one thing on his mind. For some reason, he's desperate to have a Christmas tree!
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Little Eagle and his grandmother ride off to get a tree, when their Christmas morning is interrupted by renegades -- the villains of the story -- who shoot Little Eagle's horse! Ye Gods. On Christmas Day! The bastards.
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The incredibly courageous Little Eagle stands over his fallen steed, extending his arm in an attempting to shield his grandmother from the evil renegades.
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I said this story was daring, didn't I, reader? Well, you tell me. Remember that this story was published in 1972, just a few years after Star Trek's controversial inter-racial kiss caused he show to be banned by some TV stations.

A white man kissing a black woman? That's NOTHING. You want controversy? Let's talk controversy -- in this story, the renegades object to Little Eagle being raised in a foreign culture, with a foreign religion -- namely, Christianity. This is the type of thing that still causes an uproar today, 45 years later! Let's continue...

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The renegades kidnap both and Little Eagle, and murder several other people. Then, Tomahawk arrives at the bloody scene...
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Thing get worse -- MUCH worse -- was the renegades tie their helpless captives -- a woman and a child -- and drag them through the snow by a rope...
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Meanwhile, Tomahawk rides off to find his beloved family members....
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As the old woman and Little Eagle pass the remains of what looks like three crosses, their renegade captors taunt them to ... "PRAY!" and ask, "Who will hear you?"
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Next comes a page that tears up the rule book and throws it into the fire -- a page that shatters every known comic convention. Christ crucified-- shown not in Silhouette or from afar, but shown in full detail, from up close, with his devastated mother at the foot of the cross. Cutting edge? No, bleeding edge.

Note that artist Frank Thorne depicts the Romans in this scene as more like creatures than men, with horrifying, skull-like faces.

"Father, forgive them," Jesus prayed on behalf of his brutal Roman executioners.

Barely legible, the sign above the crucified Christ bears the letters "INRI." These are the initials of the phrase "Isus Nazarene, Rex Judaum," which means "Jesus of Nazareth, Kings of the Jews."

Daring? Well (here it comes), I, Robby Reed, sole creator of this web site and author of this artile, suggest to you that this page would be considered too controversial to publish in any MODERN comic book, and this story was done 45 years ago.

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In the scene shown above, God was expected to serve as the "calvary," riding in to rescue the hero at the last minute -- or at least in three days time.

In the scene shown below, the cavalry does arrive -- in the person of Tomahawk. And the old man is in no mood to talk.
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He wants one thing only -- to rescue his lovedones. And if anyone is foolish enough to stand in his way and threaten him with lethal force, then that someone is going down. You're gonna scare Tomahawk?

Forgive the exclamation, readers, but Jesus Christ! This man made a career of fighting giant gorillas and Frontier Frankensteins. You think you're gonna beat HIM? Think again! K-POW! POW!

A vengeful Tomahawk descends upon the renegades like Moses (as played by Charlton Heston) descended from Mt. Arat, warning, "Those who will not LIVE by the law will DIE by the law!"

Tomahawk dishes out the same warning to those who took his family...
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And, when the big rescue scene is all over...
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The end...
A clean page...
"On which man can write PEACE TO AL
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... or his own epitaph!"
 

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The Dynamic Duo vs. SHAME
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