With “The Savage Hawkman,” writer Tony Daniel and artist Philip Tan have undertaken the gargantuan task of reintroducing DC Comics superhero Hawkman, AKA Carter Hall, into the newly relaunched DC Universe.
One of DC’s many characters that can trace their roots back to the Golden Age of comics, Carter Hall was first introduced in the pages of “Flash Comics” in 1940 as an archeologist who discovers he is actually the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince. Using a mysterious “ninth metal” that defies gravity, Carter and his reincarnated love Shiera Sanders fought crime throughout the ’40s as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, eventually disappearing in the early ’50s as the comic book industry turned away from superhero stories.
DC revived Hawkman in the ’60s with a brand new origin, Carter Hall becoming alien policeman Katar Hol from planet Thanagar who fought crime with his wife, Shayera. Staying in the limelight after his series was cancelled in the ’70s, for the next four decades Hawkman’s origins were rebooted and rewritten extensively, merging the reincarnation story of the ’40s into the new alien history, and reintroducing the “ninth metal” as the Nth Metal, an alien substance that allows flight.
After the events of this summer’s “Flashpoint,” the slate was wiped clean once more and Hawkman is again human Carter Hall who uses the alien Nth Metal to fly — though in Daniel and Tan’s new series, the Nth Metal may be using Hall just as much as he uses it. Speaking with CBR News about his series, Daniel dove into the challenges of writing “The Savage Hawkman” touching on everything from the Nth Metal to whether Hawkgirl will return, as well as making a surprise announcement about his role as writer on the series.
CBR News: Tony, how did you first come to know the character? Were you a Hawkman fan as a kid?
Tony Daniel: Funny enough, I loved Hawkman as a kid. But honestly, I didn’t know anything about him. I had never read any of his books. I’d only seen him in the background in Justice League or whatever he happened to appear in that was exposed to me. I didn’t get to know more about the character until much later.
Thus far in “The Savage Hawkman,” Carter seems to have a bit of an adversarial relationship with the Nth Metal. In your eyes, how does Carter Hall feel about his Hawkman persona?
â€¨It’s mysterious to him. He’s never fully understood it and, as we saw in issue #1, had come to a point where he wanted to get rid of it. Now it’s part of his body and it seems that he doesn’t have much of a choice. But I think by the end of the first arc he comes to realize that the Nth metal can be just as much a blessing as it can be a curse. It’s what he makes of it. We’ll be addressing that more actually in the coming arcs, as well as getting into his past. We’ve kept that in the dark so far, but there’ll be some light shed on what Carter has gone through pretty soon.
I say “we” because starting with the second arc, my longtime screenwriting partner, Jim Bonny, will be helping out as my co-writer. I really needed some help in order to maintain deadlines, with all of that work on my plate, and he’s been a big help already. We’ve written up to issue #8 together and I think his input will make this arc better than the first. I think both of our writing strengths merge very well together and I think people will see that with the “Gentleman Ghost” arc.
You and artist Philip Tan are playing up the Nth metal as if it’s an organic substance more than a metal. Is the idea of the Nth’s organic properties going to be essential to your series and this first arc with Morphicius?
Yes, the idea was that this Nth metal is alien. It’s properties are unlike any here on earth and therefore, we’re not constrained by anything. We could take it as far as we wanted. As for Morphicius, he drained some of Carter’s Nth metal and we see that its effects are different with him. It really is just the first step of setting up, creating a villain who could fit the role as a Hawkman’s true nemesis. That will take time, but hopefully when we do another Morphicius storyline, we’ll be closer to that goal.
Outside of Hath-Set, Hawkman is a character that does not have a famous rogues gallery. Is the idea in “Savage Hawkman” that you are trying to create the definitive Hawkman bad guys?
Exactly. That was definitely one of the challenges I pondered when I first started planning the book. That and also playing it vague concerning his past (though there’s a reason for that we’ll see soon), made it very challenging. By the end of the first year, we will have established a good set of bad guys as well as friends, and lover(s). It will take that long just for everything to finally unfold. Then I think the hard part is done and we can start to build from there and create some really good character moments and crazy stories.
Along those lines, your first arc deals with a brand new bad guy, Morphicius, while as you mentioned your next arc reintroduces Jim Craddock, one of the few reoccurring Hawkman villains. Why should Carter (and readers) be terrified about seeing Morphicius again? And why should they be equally as worried about the Gentleman Ghost?
Morphicius and his alien organisms consume and destroy everything they touch. And Morphicius has just taken a bit of Nth metal for himself. The real trouble begins when he starts learning its secrets — things it can do for him that it can’t or won’t do for Carter. The Gentleman Ghost has been redefined in our upcoming storyline and I promise that he’ll be anything but a gentleman; he’s a man stuck between worlds and looks more zombie than ghost. Wherever he goes, hell follows. I’m really excited about that story.
When you spoke to CBR’s THE BAT SIGNAL about “Detective Comics” you mentioned the inspiration for the Dollmaker was plucked from your subconscious since horror movies have always scared you. Many of the themes you play with in “Hawkman” — alien invasion, the zombie Craddock — also have that visceral horror tone. Do you see horror as a big influence on your writing style?
I would say so. I read more horror than I watch though; I’m a big fan of Dean Koontz and Stephen King. I balance that out with reading humor novelists like Christopher Moore and my favorite, Robert Rankin. But for sure, I’m intrigued by horror, and so I guess it’s natural that my writing would have that slant.
Tonally, Hawkman has been everything from Egyptian-flavored fantasy adventure to science fiction superhero. So far the series is in that “Indiana Jones” style of adventure story, but you also have science fiction elements thrown in with Morphicius and the spaceship. What do you see as your tone and take on the book?
“Indiana Jones” meets “Sherlock Holmes” meets “Flash Gordon.” We’re going to go intergalactic right after the Gentleman Ghost arc. I can’t reveal much about that yet, but we’ll finally see Hawkman off of earth.
Any plans to reintroduce Hath-Set or Hawkgirl, or are you more focused on establishing Hawkman on his own before touching the greater Hawk-mythology?
At this point, neither character appears in “The Savage Hawkman” but I can’t rule anything out. We’re about to find out a whole lot more about Hawkman in issue #4 with one simple line.
Turning to the series’ artwork, what has it been like working with artist Philip Tan? Has it been somewhat freeing to hand over art duties and just concentrate on story?
I think it can be harder to hand off my stories for another artist because it means that whatever script I send in, I’m married to. That means I can’t change it or improve upon it after it’s being drawn, at least not as easily as I can when I’m writing for myself. So a little more work goes in to writing for another artist. Philip has done a great job with his art. I especially like the Gentleman Ghost cover he just did.
In your eyes, why does Carter Hall interest you as a reader and writer?
What interests me about Carter Hall is the eventual unraveling of his own mysteries. Beyond the secrets of the Nth metal, we’re about to start learning about his past now. We know he’s down and out, but soon we’ll find out why. He’s a character who goes through extraordinary means to take his pain away. These are all character developments that will unfold after issue #4 and I think peeling away his layers and finding something more interesting each time is the challenge that interests me.
The difficult task I had in rebooting Hawkman was that I had a blank slate to work with. I had to avoid all the history of the character that was the root of confusion for many readers. So essentially, I had to approach him like a brand new character, while also making his first story an action packed one. It takes time to evolve a character and I think the payoff for readers will happen within the next two to three story arcs so I hope most of them stick around because “Savage Hawkman,” I guarantee, gets much, much better.
“The Savage Hawkman” #4 hits stores 12/28.