Eee- Urp!

I rarely mention the books I read: at present I’m half-way through the Dr. Who short story collection Time Trips; about three chapters into a second-hand copy of 1979’s The Goblin Tower by L. Sprague DeCamp; and the same amount into The Miniaturist. Last night, I finished H is For Hawk, Helen McDonald’s memoir about training a goshawk in a response to a family bereavement. I think it’s beautifully written and it reminded me that Hawkman is seventy years old this year. A stablemate of the Flash and Johnny Thunder,  the Winged Wonder made his debut in a pulpy tale of subway electrocution and ancient empires, written by Gardner Fox. It’s a fervent, headlong thriller, redolent of Batman and Doc Savage and feeding off the King Tut craze that informed Art Deco. I first read of it in Roy Thomas’ All-Star Squadron in the early 80s and then later, mid-decade, in his Secret Origins series. But I had known Hawkman since before I could read. Here are the earliest Thanagarian adventures I encountered, in the order I “read” them! 8391-2178-9267-1-hawkman      Atom_and_Hawkman_43 Hawkman_Vol_1_8 Hawkman_Vol_1_11 photo-2-6 I loved the eerie Manhawks and the giant space-spider in “Parasite Planet Peril”; the giant automaton in the golden mask and the harpy aliens in the same issue. The Gentleman Ghost was a macabre character, more clearly an actual ghost than his enigmatic predecessor. The Kubert story reprinted in my very first Super-Spec, introduced me to the wingless headgear, now my favourite. Essentially, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were John Carter and Dejah Thoris on Earth- a charming reversal of stablemates Adam Strange and Alanna. These are gorgeous comics, if a little staid, with a deeply loving couple ( who are equal partners) in stories flavoured with myth and Burroughsian adventure. They are, perhaps,  a little short on a rogues gallery-aside from the spooky Gentleman Ghost;  the Shrike, a parody of Kal-El; and the Raven, who looks a lot like tv’s “Winged Avenger” from The Avengers 8135-2178-8985-1-hawkman   Winged Avenger In between those 1967-1970 stories, I encountered the hooded Hawkman of Earth-2 in the splendid Murphy Anderson poster found in the giant-sized JLA 76.

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 I think my first reprint was the original Hawkgirl introduction in the Flying Heroes Super-Spec, some three years later.

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Then the debut of the Ghost in the short-lived 70s Secret Origins, followed by the Human Fly Gang in Wanted.

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The very rare glimpse on early 70s editions Glen Michael’s Cavalcade ( in the Star Trek-inspired “Space Teller” slots)  of  Katar’s ray- blasting power claw made the space-faring Hawkman terribly exciting. However, the lawman from Thanagar had lost his own series by that time, even after merging, UK-style, with the Atom’s book. The E-1 Hawkman then seemed in further decline as he left the JLA for about a year, in the early weeks of 1974. Hawkgirl really only grabbed my interest when Englehart added her to the League in late ’77, setting up her transition to Hawkwoman. By that time, I was hooked by the revived JSA under Levitz and Staton/Layton; I particularly liked the metallic, Egyptian-styled helmet adopted by the E-2 Hall.

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Thanks to distribution issues, I never saw the Showcase revival in the summer of ’78. Nor did I pick up Tony Isabella’s series in the mid-80s or the Tim Truman hard sci-fi reboot , Hawkworld, in 1989. The post-Zero Hour Hawkman was clearly a Wolverine rip-off in 1994. I was however a little more interested in James Robinson’s gloomy new Hawkgirl ( a failed suicide and lone parent) in 1999 and Geoff Johns’ subsequent efforts to streamline the mythos of her “radioactive” mate. However, despite the Cosmic Conan take on Carter Hall, I was really drawn to this nostalgic take in 2000:

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In 2001, Hawkgirl was featured in the Cartoon Network Justice League, where she was very clearly Thanagarian Shayera. 2006 saw the Robinson Kendra Saunders version join novelist Brad Meltzer’s ponderous new JLA. A year later, the JSA was relaunched with Hawkman as a mainstay. The Thanagarian version, meanwhile, appeared in Kyle Baker’s segment in the weekly Wednesday Comics in 2009. The following year, a forty-ish Michael Shanks portrayed a hypermasculine Hawkman in five episodes of Smallville.

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This was very much the Johns/JSA incarnation: aggressive, brusque and associated with antiquities and archaelogy- a cross between Aquaman, Conan and Indiana Jones.

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In the Image-flavoured New 52,  James Robinson reimagined Kendra for his “post-Apokoliptic” dystopian series ; while Rob Liefeld was brought on board Savage Hawkman, which ran for nearly two years until 2013. Which approach is best for Hawkman? I really can’t choose: the supernatural elements chime with ancient Eurasian legends cited in Helen Macdonald’s book. But the interplanetary adventure angle ( while it duplicated Hal Jordan’s schtick) is also romantic and charming.  I understand Kendra will be featured next year in the tv series Legends of Tomorrow, proving that the cycle of reincarnation for the Hawks truly does never end. Coming soon: Green Arrow and the Seven Soldiers of Victory All images are considered copyright of their respective owners

Dangerous Visions

Since Heroes for Sale closed in Inverness last year, I have been buying comics in Glasgow once every six weeks or so, or on the very rare trip to Aberdeen.

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Last week was FCBD and I visited Forbidden Planet and Plan 9 (above) in the Granite City. My highlights were the Dark Circle comic, reviving Archie’s legendary Black Hood and Fox ( for, I think, the fourth time since I discovered the Mighty Crusaders in an Alan Class comic.)

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Also, The All-New, All-Different Avengers by Waid and Mahmud Asrar gave a glimpse of the Avengers-to-be: a much younger line-up with Nova, Miles Morales and Kamala Khan.

The new Ms. Marvel, along with Guardians 3000 and Captain America and the Mighty Avengers are must-reads for me ( also DC’s Batman ’66 and Astro City). I’m delighted to see Kamala in the Assemblers but less thrilled by the new movie Vision’s, er, envisioning.

It is amazing, of course, that there IS a movie Vision- even if he owes more to Adam Warlock than Wonder Man. But I felt his introduction was rather rushed in the melee that is Avengers:Age of Ultron.

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It would be hard to beat Captain America :The Winter Soldier- for my money, the best Marvel movie and one I also saw in the Moray Playhouse. This loose adaptation of “Ultron Unlimited” came quite close, as you’ll see. Spoilers ahead! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

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 The Pros:

The Beauty/Beast relationship of Banner and Natasha.

Villains galore, including Baron Strucker, Klaw and Thanos.

Hawkeye’s secret domestic life and the whole bait-and-switch about his mortality.

Thor as a humorous character.

The Maximoffs’ Eastern European acc-zint.

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The island in the sky sequence, inspired, I’m sure by Jim Shooter’s Graviton story.

The Old Order Changeth in the final scenes!

The cons:

Too many Avengers! Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, Vizh, Falcon and War Machine in addition to the sextet from the first film.

The Death of Pietro.

The Vision’s terrible parti-colour design.

The horrid story of the Widow’s sterilisation.

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There was far too much sturm und drang for me- but the Avengers were always fighting among themselves and the division with Stark will doubtless fuel  Captain America: Civil War. So, a good popcorn blockbuster but perhaps not a great one.

However, we shouldn’t forget the small screen’s contribution to a golden age of super-heroes in mass media. On Arrow, we’ve met Black Canary, Katana, Nyssa Raatko and Roy Harper; while on The Flash, Ray Palmer, Professor Zoom and Vibe ( probably) Even the lacklustre Agents of SHIELD has introduced the Absorbing Man and an iteration of the Inhumans. ‘Xcitin’!

Check in here or on Some Fantastic Place on Blogger for an upcoming post on DC’s “Convergence” event.

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners