Spacehawk: the complete collection of Basil Wolverton's space crusader

Spacehawk is Fantagraphics' recently published complete collection of Basil Wolverton's long-lost space-hero comics, published for a two-year run starting in 1940. In his introduction, Monte Wolverton (Basil's son) explains that Basil had always dreamed of having his own superhero book, and that Spacehawk was the realization of that dream. The character -- an 800 year old psychic crime-fighter with an anti-gravity belt and an army of robot clones of himself that he controls through telepathy -- had an all-too-brief existence fighting interplanetary crime before being co-opted by Wolverton's editor into fighting Nazis and the Japanese Navy.

Wolverton wasn't much of a superhero writer. There's not much dramatic tension here. Whenever Spacehawk shows up, he's inevitably stronger, smarter, faster, and more powerful than the bad guys. He rescues the girl (if there is one), puts down the bad guys (usually terminally), and flies off, saying something appropriately square-jawed and brave. But that doesn't matter. You'd be nuts to read Spacehawk for the plotting: what you read it for is the character design, that amazing Wolverton grotesque that is as unmistakable as it is unforgettable.

I mean to say, this guy could really draw monsters.


The backgrounds were also marvels of four-color fantasy, the spaceships all spare and dieselpunky, the alien worlds all a-squish with weird fauna and distant astronomical bodies, and strange, Gernsbackian impossible high-rises.

But honestly, Spacehawk was really about the monsters and weirdos.

And Fantagraphics really does the art justice with heavy-stock pages that soak up titanic amounts of ink, making for a supersaturated, weighty tome that almost strobes with awesome.

Alas, the art takes a decided turn for the duller when Spacehawk starts fighting WWII, and Wolverton has to limit himself to drawing caricatures of Tojo and American Bund fifth columnists. But every now and again, he sneaks in a full-page spread like the one above, just to be sure we all know that's he's not just phoning it in.

This book would make a fantastic gift for happy mutants, and might just spark a lifelong love-affair with the estimable Mr Wolverton.




  1. This is a cornucopia of awesome, love Wolverton’s work.  That first panel (cover?) should be a T-Shirt for sure.

  2. Looking at these pages raises the question, “how much did Steranko really innovate with Nick Fury?” Still quite a lot, but seeing that this was out a quarter-century earlier is mindblowing.

    1.  That’s meeeeee! I have a B&W run of Spacehawk, too – later than the 70’s though – need to dig it out (and need to grab this edition).

      1. cool.  i chose your link b/c i really wanted as many images as i could find; hats off!

        i discovered BW the same year i picked up my 1st ish of WEIRDO.

  3. Wolverton is amazing. This book is essential, especially if you all you know from comics is the bland vanilla marvel/DC (and their imitators) superhero junk of the last 50 years. There WAS a time when there was room for a lot of different oddball stuff in mainstream comics.
    Greg Sadowski (FOUR COLOR FEAR- 50’s horror and THE B KRIGSTEIN books) has been working on a volume reprinting all Basil’s”serious” horror and SF stuff from the 50’s, well after the SPACEHAWK days- BRAIN BATS FROM VENUS, THE EYE OF DOOM,all his classics from WEIRD TALES OF THE FUTURE and more. Those are some seriously weird stories, with great unique Wolverton art. It’s turned into a bio with lots of unpublished stuff (Monte and other major aficionados are involved), so it’s been delayed, but it will be a killer when it hits the stands in a year or so.

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