Created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville, Hawkman is one of DC’s oldest characters, having been around since the earliest years of the Golden Age of Comics. Over a long career, he’s been a part of the publisher’s highest-profile teams, participated in its biggest events and appeared in live-action and animated adaptations. Still, all that exposure hasn’t necessarily translated to respect.
As a bare-chested champion who flies and hits things, Hawkman’s simple, evocative nickname of “Winged Warrior” describes him perfectly; but the trouble starts when we try to go much deeper. Sometimes he’s a reincarnated Egyptian prince, sometimes he’s a Thanagarian policeman, and sometimes he’s a confusing combination of those identities and more. The “Death of Hawkman” miniseries just concluded, but we’re not spoiling anyone by suggesting he’ll be back. (It’s one of his specialties.) Accordingly, let’s take off with the Pinioned Paladin to see what makes him soar.
15. FLASH FOUNDATIONS, ARROW ANTAGONISM
Hawkman debuted in “Flash Comics” issue #1, cover-dated January 1940, which also introduced Johnny Thunder and (not surprisingly) the Flash himself, Jay Garrick. Therefore, it was only appropriate that when Hawkman joined The CW’s superhero stable, he did it on the December 1, 2015 episode of “The Flash.” Titled “Legends of Today,” it featured Hawkman fighting both the Flash and the Green Arrow. While Flash buffeted Hawkman with super-speed wind gusts, GA grounded him with a barrage of regular arrows (naturally) and one rope arrow.
Indeed, fighting with Green Arrow — mostly verbally, of course — is another Hawkman hallmark. After Oliver Queen lost his fortune in the early 1970s and became more of a liberal activist, he and the conservative Katar Hol shared a number of spirited philosophical discussions. In that respect, it’s too bad they only shared the small screen for a couple of episodes, because Stephen Amell seems to like showing off Ollie’s political skills. Maybe in his next CW life Hawkman will come back as an advisor to Star City’s Young Republicans?
14. REINCARNATION ROLES
Reincarnation has been a part of Hawkman’s background since the Golden Age. Still, more recent stories have taken it to another level. First, writer William Messner-Loebs explained (in “Hawkman” vol. 3 issues #26-27, November-December 1995) that a couple of obscure DC characters, Nighthawk and Silent Knight, were “avatars of the hawk-god” that powered Hawkman. Later, writers Geoff Johns and James Robinson revealed that both were among the many reincarnations of Prince Khufu before he became a bird-themed superhero. The Old West hero Nighthawk (whose real name was Hannibal Hawkes), was created by Bob Kanigher and Charles Paris and had a long run in “Western Comics,” from issue #5 (September-October 1948) to #76 (July-August 1959).
Kanigher and Irv Novick also created Silent Knight, a medieval hero who debuted in the first issue of “The Brave and the Bold” (August 1955), where his feature ran until issue #22 (February-March 1959). Silent Knight presents an even deeper DC connection for Hawkman, because his real name was Brian Kent; and yes, DC went there. In April 2008’s “Brave and the Bold” #10, writer Mark Waid and artist George Pérez connected Brian specifically to Jonathan Kent — making Hawkman related to Superman via reincarnation and adoption.
13. INFINITE ISSUE
Once upon a time, Hawkman’s history wasn’t that complicated. On Earth-One, he was Katar Hol, a policeman from planet Thanagar who fought crime with the weapons of the past and the technology of the future. On Earth-Two, he was an archaeologist who used the mystical “Ninth” (or “Nth”) metal to make his hawk-gear. After a decade of superheroics, the Earth-Two Hawkman and his wife Shiera/Hawkgirl retired and started their own family. Biological son Hector became the superhero Silver Scarab, who wore a suit of Nth metal but was cursed by the Hawks’ ancient enemy Hath-Set; while godson Norda Cantrell came from a hidden city of bird-people and fought crime as Northwind.
Along with other children of Justice Society members (including Green Lantern’s kids, Jade and Obsidian) they formed the super-team Infinity, Inc. Hector eventually joined Hath-Set and turned against his Infinitor colleagues, with Northwind helping to stop them. Although Hector died as a result of the battle (November 1987’s “Infinity Inc.” #44), he was reincarnated in September 1999’s “JSA” #2 as a baby who’d become the next Doctor Fate. Appropriately enough, the baby’s parents were Hank “Hawk” Hall and Dawn “Dove” Granger, bird-themed avatars of chaos and order.
12. ENDLESS FLIGHT
Hawkman’s family tree has another surprising branch, namely that his grandson Daniel is the current Lord of Dreams. When Hector died, his spirit went into something called the “Dream Dimension,” home of the 1970s version of the Sandman (Garrett Sanford). This Sandman was a Jack Kirby creation who had his own six-issue series (Winter 1974 to December 1975-January 1976) but only appeared a few times thereafter. Hector succeeded Sanford and first appeared as the Sandman toward the end of “Infinity Inc.’s” run, eventually bringing his pregnant wife Lyta into the Dream Dimension.
“Infinity” ended with August 1988’s issue #53, but Hector and family reappeared not long afterwards, in “The Sandman” #11 and #12 (December 1989-January 1990). There, writer Neil Gaiman and artists Mike Dringenberg and Malcolm Jones III revealed that the Dream Dimension was an adjunct of the larger Dreaming, and Hector and Lyta had been tricked by two of Morpheus’ former underlings. When Morpheus found out, he killed Hector, kicked Lyta out of the Dreaming and warned he would take her child, foreshadowing Daniel’s future role. As Dream, Daniel appeared in both “JLA” and “JSA,” and eventually brought his late parents into the Dreaming.
11. SOCIALITE AND LEAGUER
In a sense, the Golden Age and Silver Age Hawkmen (and their spouses) are basically the same superheroes, just separated by different origins. In the wake of “Crisis On Infinite Earths,” where the two sets of Hawks had to share a timeline, that seemed like a problem only to the extent fans and creators allowed it to be. Still, the wave of successful relaunches which followed “Crisis” got to Hawkman late. In fact, the “Hawkworld” reboot happened after a short-lived post-“Crisis” series and a handful of guest appearances. This meant that “Hawkworld” was already contradicting post-“Crisis” continuity as well as the pre-“Crisis” material.
One solution was to have the Golden Age Hawks substitute for their Silver Age successors whenever possible. This meant that the Hawks were deemed to have served in both the Justice Society and Justice League, specifically as “liaisons” between the groups. Former “Hawkworld” writer John Ostrander and artists Val Semeiks and Prentis Rollins explained why in the first issue of the “JLA: Incarnations” miniseries (July 2001). While many characters have gone from the JSA to the JLA and vice versa, only the Hawks were inserted retroactively into the original League’s history.
10. FEL ANDAR
Another continuity patch came in the person of Fel Andar, a Thanagarian spy. Introduced by Tony Isabella and Richard Howell in the 1985 “Shadow War Of Hawkman” miniseries, he fought the Hawks on behalf of a fascist Thanagarian government. Later, in a 1992 “Hawkworld” arc by John Ostrander and Graham Nolan, it was revealed that Andar had infiltrated Justice League International as “Carter Hall Jr.,” to prepare the Thanagarian forces for the events of “Invasion!” The whole family eventually donned costumes, as Andar’s Earthling wife, Sharon Parker, became Hawkwoman; and their son Charley became the teenaged Golden Eagle.
Meanwhile, as depicted in 1986’s “Last Days of the Justice Society” special, Carter Hall was in Limbo with most of his JSA teammates, fighting on an endless loop in order to prevent the end of creation. When the JSA returned (in 1992’s “Armageddon: Inferno” miniseries), it pretty much ended Andar’s Hawkman career. He killed Sharon for telling the Justice League the truth about him; but saved Charley from the Wildebeest Society (which had been hunting down every Teen Titan as part of the “Titans Hunt” storyline). Ultimately, he died as part of the “Rann-Thanagar War” miniseries, killed by the Tamaranian leader, Komand’r.
9. HE’S NO ANGEL
Although “Hawkworld” uprooted Hawkman’s backstory in 1989 and “Zero Hour” introduced a whole new mythology in 1994, the “Hawkman” series rolled with the changes. Hawkman even joined the post-“Zero Hour” Justice League. However, the “Hawkman” book didn’t last much longer, ending with July 1996’s issue #33; and DC apparently essentially had enough for a while. Hawkman went into limbo for the better part of five years, until May 2001’s “JSA” #22 kicked off his four-part revival arc.
In the meantime, the League Hawkman had joined was no more, having given way to writer Grant Morrison’s “JLA” group. Morrison also wanted Hawkman on the team, but was told Hawkman was off-limits. Thus, Morrison and writer Mark Millar went ahead with their original plan, which was to introduce an angel as the new Hawkman. (It would explain the wings, among other things.) They just didn’t use the name “Hawkman,” calling their creation simply “Zauriel.” Their hope was that Zauriel would become so popular with the fans that they’d demand he be called Hawkman, and so “Hawkman” would be part of the JLA once again. While Zauriel proved to be fairly popular, he never adopted the Hawkman name.
8. RETCON? WHAT RETCON?
Following the 2001 “JSA” revival, the next “Hawkman” series had a pretty decent multi-year run. (We’ll get into the specifics later.) Regardless, in 2008, DC asked cosmically-inclined writer Jim Starlin to take a crack at “cleaning up” Hawkman’s past. The first step along that journey — which might have included an ongoing series — was October 2008’s “Hawkman Special,” which Starlin wrote and pencilled while Al Milgrom inked. While it tied into the “Rann-Thanagar Holy War” miniseries, it stood alone in terms of facilitating Hawkman’s confrontation with his past.
Specifically, the mysterious “Demiurge” explained that Hawkman was one of the “Aberrant Six,” beings (possibly including Hal Jordan and Wonder Woman) whose existences had been changed by DC’s various timeline tweaks. The Demiurge’s biggest bombshell was that Hawkman’s entire history of reincarnation had been a lie, and that his real identity was the Thanagarian Katar Hol. (That last part might sound like a minor distinction, but it was a big deal.) Whatever Starlin had planned for Hawkman never came to pass, though. Hawkman finished out the concurrent “JSA” arc “Thy Kingdom Come;” and then disappeared (and perhaps died?) in March 2009’s “Final Crisis” #7. Starlin’s changes were never addressed again.
7. DIE ANOTHER DAY
In fact, although “Final Crisis” #7 looked like the end for Hawkman and Hawkgirl — disappearing in a cosmic cataclysm while trying to pull off a rescue — it turned out to be just another feint in an issue full of endings and new beginnings. The Hawks weren’t out of the woods yet, though. Six months later, in September 2009’s “Blackest Night” #1, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were attacked and killed by Black Lantern versions of Ralph “Elongated Man” Dibny and his wife, Sue. (She’d died in 2004’s “Identity Crisis” while he’d joined her in 2006-07’s “52.”) The Hawks returned to life at the end of “Blackest Night,” but the Dibnys weren’t so lucky.
As usual, though, death was just another step along the road for the Hawks. In the year-long follow-up “Brightest Day,” they went on a quest to save the bones of Khufu and Chay-Ara from the queen of the Zamarons, the alien race connected to the Star Sapphire Corps. Once again, Hawkman made it out in his original form, but Hawkgirl didn’t … and then the New 52 happened and it was all forgotten. The Hawks survived “Final Crisis” only to die in “Blackest Night” and again (for Hawkgirl) in “Brightest Day.”
6. TENANT AND LANDLORD
A big chunk of Hawkman’s publishing history has been as a feature in other characters’ titles, including “Flash Comics,” “The Brave and the Bold,” “World’s Finest,” “Detective Comics” and even “Swamp Thing.” What’s more, he’s been both “moved into” another hero’s title and “moved out” of his own. His first solo series lasted 27 issues (April-May 1964 to August-September 1968), but after it was cancelled, DC just shuffled Hawkman over to “The Atom.” The retitled “Atom And Hawkman” lasted seven issues (October-November 1968 to October-November 1969) before being cancelled with issue #45.
Over 25 years later, Hawkman returned the favor, although not for the Atom. Following “Infinite Crisis,” all of DC’s superhero books did a one-year time-jump in order to facilitate some shocking status-quo change. For Hawkman, this meant disappearing entirely after issue #49, and the book was retitled “Hawkgirl” as of May 2006’s issue #50. The refurbished “Hawkgirl” also got a killer creative team, namely writer Walter Simonson and artist Howard Chaykin. However, the results were underwhelming and Chaykin left after 7 issues. While the book eventually found its footing (and Hawkman too, briefly),”Hawkgirl” was cancelled with September 2007’s issue #66.
5. ANIMATED ADVENTURES
Of course, Hawkgirl found a wider audience through the “Justice League” animated series, which ran for five years and 91 episodes (including the “Justice League Unlimited” seasons). As in the comics, Hawkgirl was from Thanagar, but her past was a mystery until the Season Two finale “Starcrossed.” There, it came out that she was a Thanagarian spy sent to gather information for an invasion of the Earth. While she helped the Justice League repel the invaders, she did so at great personal cost, fracturing relationships from both worlds.
Specifically, she betrayed her fiancé and commanding officer Hro Talak, an anagram for “Katar Hol.” Hro was originally going to be Katar, but the series’ producers weren’t sure how audiences would react to a villainous Hawkman. In any event, Hro Talak died offscreen, and a more traditional Hawkman showed up later in the episode “Shadow of the Hawk.” This time, he was archaeologist Carter Hall, who tried to convince Hawkgirl that they were the reincarnated forms of two Thanagarians who crashed on Earth during the time of ancient Egypt. While the episode makes Carter an unreliable narrator, it also suggests strongly that he’s telling the truth.
4. SELLING OUT?
Superheroes are no strangers to commercials. In the 1980s there was Superman peanut butter; “Dawn of Justice” had competing cereal flavors; and lately the Avengers have been fighting in and around Audi automobiles. Still, Hawkman can boast (and we use the term loosely) one of the stranger superheroic endorsements we’ve seen. In 1997, when DC considered him too “radioactive” to use in the mainline comics, a somewhat schlubby live-action Hawkman did a commercial for Baby Ruth candy bars.
Although the production values are (perhaps deliberately) subpar and the tone is definitely wacky, the Hawkman costume itself is a pretty good approximation of the current comics’ look; and the script even name-checks longtime Hawkman nemesis Lionmane. Regardless, it’s a candy-bar commercial about an aging Hawkman needing a sugar rush to get through a typical day. It’s a good thing Ollie Queen was dead when this commercial aired, because he never would have let Katar live it down.
3. MORE SUPER THAN YOU THINK
We can remember two big Superman/Hawkman fights. The first was in 1982’s “Justice League of America” vol. 1 #200, written by Gerry Conway. When the Appellaxian aliens (whose invasion prompted the League to form in the first place) returned and mind-controlled the original Leaguers, Hawkman (in a chapter drawn by Joe Kubert) had to stop the Man of Steel from retrieving a Kryptonite meteor. For about a page, he was able to hold his own. Ironically, Hawkman thought he was fighting a Superman robot until he realized too late that it was actually the real Superman with a near-transparent lead coating. Although Superman knocked Hawkman unconscious, that’s all the damage he did.
Hawkman got a measure of revenge in 2003’s “Superman/Batman” #4 (written by Jeph Loeb, pencilled by Ed McGuinness and inked by Dexter Vines). Using the mystical Claw of Horus, which drew power from the Earth’s magnetic core, Hawkman was able to amplify his punch exponentially. “I just hit you with the planet,” he explained, as the dazed Superman rocketed towards the snow-covered ground. So, to paraphrase another hero’s theme song, Is he strong? Listen, bud — he’s got Nth metal in his blood!
2. TEAM PLAYER
There’s a good reason Hawkman is identified so closely with the Justice Society of America: During the Golden Age, he never missed a meeting. Hawkman was among the eight superheroes at the JSA’s debut in Winter 1940’s “All-Star Comics” #3. Over the course of its Golden Age run, the team added several more members. Starting in issue #5, the JSA also directed that any character with his own title (as opposed to a feature in an anthology like “All-American Comics” or even “Flash Comics”) had to go inactive as an “honorary member.” Most notably, that affected the Flash and Green Lantern, who each had their own Golden Age books (“All-Flash” and “Green Lantern,” naturally).
However, since Hawkman didn’t get his own title until the Silver Age, he was able to appear with the JSA in all of their “All-Star” adventures, up to and including the final one (February-March 1951’s issue #57). The Atom came closest to matching this record, but he missed two issues. Hawkman also served as JSA chairman starting with “All-Star” #6. In fact, we doubt any other character on a major all-star team can beat that combination of leadership and attendance.
Hawkman lore holds that co-creator Dennis Neville based the superhero’s look on the Hawkmen of Mongo from Alex Raymond’s “Flash Gordon” comic strip. Because “Flash Gordon” debuted on January 7, 1934, Raymond’s Hawkmen were already a few years old by the time Neville’s Hawkman appeared, including a big-screen adaptation in the 1936 “Flash Gordon” serial. (Come to think of it, the presence of a “Hawkman” character in “Flash Comics” might not have been a coincidence either.) Raymond’s Hawkmen had large, man-sized wings on their backs, wore helmets and tended to go either shirtless or with minimal chest coverage — all characteristics of Neville’s later Hawkman.
However, because “Flash Gordon’s” Hawkmen were a distinct race on the planet Mongo, their garb varied accordingly and probably wouldn’t have been mistaken for Neville’s superhero. In fact, the 1980 “Flash Gordon” movie Hawkmen might have been closest to DC’s Hawkman in style (if not attitude). Of course, the Silver Age Hawkman did come from a bird-themed planet, but by then the differences were apparently clear enough. When DC published a “Flash Gordon” miniseries in 1988-89, writer/artist Dan Jurgens also made the Hawkmen visually distinct from any of DC’s hawk-people.
Did we mention your favorite obscure Hawkman fact? Let us know in the comments!