Among the many announcements this past weekend at Comic Con International was the news that Jeff Lemire is returning to DC Comics to write, among other things, the Hawkman: Found one-shot as part of Dark Nights: Metal. The character’s past has been an important part of the Dark Days prologue issues but his place in continuity is more nebulous than it’s ever been and no-one’s quite sure what’s going on with him anymore. The Hawkman in Dark Days seems to be a different Hawkman who was in The New 52, who was a different guy to the pre-Flashpoint version and his backstory is often so confusing that it feels like it’s not even worth bothering to try.
However, despite all the reboots, relaunches and fake-outs over Hawkman’s storied career, there’s a good character in there at the core. After all, something keeps writers coming back to him despite his confusing backstory. In the hands of a writer like Lemire, Hawkman could be elevated into one of DC’s most vital franchises and finally get the recognition he deserves as one DC’s coolest and most interesting characters.
Hawkman debuted in Flash Comics #1, the same issue that gave the world Jay Garrick, and in his first appearance his origin was no more confusing than any other masked adventurer of the time. He was an archeologist named Carter Hall who discovered an ancient knife made of mysterious metal which unlocked secrets of his past life as an Egyptian Prince. It also revealed to him his and his lover Shiera’s murder at the hands of the dark priest Hath-Set and Carter used ancient artifacts made of the mysterious “ninth metal” to become Hawkman and save the modern-day Shiera from Hath-Set in the present. Together, they became Hawkman and Hawkgirl and served as members of the Justice Society of America throughout the Golden Age.
Then the Silver Age brought in a new Hawkman, which shouldn’t have been too much of a problem. The new Hawkman was an alien police officer from the planet Thanagar named Katar Hol, who traveled to Earth with his partner Shayera Thal in order to apprehend a dangerous alien fugitive. After subduing the criminal, the pair decided to remain on Earth at Midway City, taking positions at the local museum in their civilian identity while serving on the Justice League of America as Hawkman and Hawkwoman.
Things Get Confusing
In the Silver Age, most of DC’s original slate of heroes was reimagined for a new generation of readers, and it wasn’t a problem. Barry Allen followed Jay Garrick, Hal Jordan followed Alan Scott and Ray Palmer followed Al Pratt with no problems. The problem with Hawkman was that he shared a name with the original and in that way he was more of a reboot than a successor. So when DC Comics merged their Golden Age Earth-2 with the present day Earth-1 as part of Crisis on Infinite Earths, Hawkman’s place in continuity was a lot difficult to pin down because they had two Carter Halls to deal with.
It was originally decided that Hawkman would retain his original heritage as a reincarnated Egyptian prince, but serve as an elder statesman in the Justice League; a link between the JSA and the JLA whose son Hector Hall served on Infinity Inc. However, DC later decided to redo the Hawkman concept from the ground-up, similar to how it handled Wonder Woman at the time. Thus, a new Katar Hol was introduced in the Hawkworld miniseries. This meant DC once again had two Hawkmen to deal with, and issue resolved in an even more confusing way by introducing a third Hawkman, Fel Andar, a Thanagarian imposter who masqueraded as Carter Hall Jr while the original Carter Hall was trapped in Limbo with the rest of the JSA.
In order to fix this, DC used the Zero Hour event to clean up the Hawkman mess by merging all of their Hawkpeople into one character who was briefly known as the Hawkgod, but the Hawkgod went crazy and was shuffled off stage fairly shortly afterwards. Grant Morrison and Howard Porter introduced Zauriel as a potential Hawkman with none of the baggage, but DC never allowed them to use the Hawkman named for the character.