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! 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 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.
I think my first reprint was the original Hawkgirl introduction in the Flying Heroes Super-Spec, some three years later.
Then the debut of the Ghost in the short-lived 70s Secret Origins, followed by the Human Fly Gang in Wanted.
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.
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:
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.
This was very much the Johns/JSA incarnation: aggressive, brusque and associated with antiquities and archaelogy- a cross between Aquaman, Conan and Indiana Jones.
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