Art by Prentis Rollins (2017, Commissioned by Tim Board)

Jan 1, 2018

The Life of Hawkman as a Japanese Samurai

The History of the Japanese Hawkman
By Tim Board (Admin of Hawkworld Twitter and Hawkworld Facebook)

Here’s a history question for you. Who was Hawkman/Carter Hall in his life as a Japanese man? In the Reincarnation Age of Hawkman (2001–2010) and on the chart Doug Zawisza had in Hawkman Companion, several former lives of Hawkman have been identified. So far we have the following:

Prince Khufu: 13th century B.C.
Brian Kent (Silent Knight): 5th century A.D.
Koenrad Von Grimm: October 1483 — November 1514
Captain John Smith: June 1580 — January 1631
Hannibal Hawkes: 19th Century
Detective James Wright: Early 20th Century

In Hawkman Vol. 4 No.18, titled “Bloodlines”, Hawkman is remembering his past lives. On one page he mentions about a former life as a Japanese man during the Ashikaga Period. Also, in Justice Society of America (2007) No. 11, it is mentioned that Hawkman speaks hundreds of languages fluently, including Japanese. I’ve always wondered about who he was in his Japanese life.

According to Carter Hall’s collections of stone rubbings from the graves of his former lives, he lived as an actual person (Captain John Smith) in our history. So I decided to see if I could find the Japanese samurai who could have been Hawkman. Over time I’ve been able to put together some very interesting information and history to come up with Hawkman’s former life as a Japanese samurai.

The Muromachi era (also known as the Ashikaga era that is mentioned in Hawkman No.18) was a period that lasted from 1336 to 1573. Hawkman says that he was born in the middle of the era. His life as Koenrad Von Grimm started in 1493, so I figured the time of his life as a Japanese would be anywhere between 1380 to 1493. I studied that part of history to see what kind of people left their mark in history. Judging from the one picture of him as a Japanese baby, it’s pretty obvious that Hawkman was born into a family of high standing. His father has a samurai sword, and they have a servant waiting on them in a seemingly well-off environment. I looked into the prominent houses during that time and found something interesting.

During the feudal and Edo periods in Japan, most people were not allowed family names. The more prominent lords and leaders at the time were the only ones allowed two names. They also identified themselves with a family crest called a “kamon”.

I took a look at these crests and discovered there were five major crests called the “Godaimon”. There was the Woodsorrel Crest, the Woodmelon Crest, the Wisteria Crest, the Paulownia Crest and finally the Hawk Feather Crest. Whoa! The Hawk Feather Crest?! This was it!

I looked over the list of families and one of the most prominent families that used the crest was the Kikuchi family. There were many styles of the Hawk Feather Crest and this family’s crest had two feathers lined together. The Kikuchi family was one of the oldest and most powerful daimyo houses in the history of Japan and they served many emperors. They were based on the island of Kyushu (pretty close to where I live). I was hoping there would be records of the wives of the family members but that was very hard to find. So I decided to center on just the man in the family. This family even has a city named after them (Kikuchi City, Kumamoto). They have a huge samurai warrior statue of one of the earlier family lords and they even have their own shrine.

The individual had to fit my time frame of being born around 1400. The closest that came to it was the 18th head of the Kikuchi family named Kanetomo Kikuchi. He lived from 1383–1444 and it seems to have been a tumultuous lifetime. He fought with his own son for control of the house and when he was 48 years old, he gave up control of the house and his son became the lord of the Kikuchi clan. What happened to Kanetomo after he left the house? It’s very possible he was a homeless samurai. In Hawkman Vol. 4 No. 46, the Atom pays a visit to Carter Hall and mentions his life as a ronin. 

Apparently, Shiera was killed by Hath-Set at this time so it’s very possible Carter left the Kikuchi House after her death and became a sort of ronin, or a homeless samurai, and roamed Japan for ten years. He dies at the age 61. Here is a painting of him. Also, you can clearly see the Hawk feathers on his son’s kimono.

Kanetomo Kikuchi’s grave is located at a temple called Shuzenji Temple, southwest of Tokyo. Maybe Hawkman has been by here for a stone rubbing!

So there it is. While it may not be a perfect fit, the time frame, the position of his family, his life as a ronin, and the family crest of hawk feathers makes a strong case that Kanetomo Kikuchi was a former life of Hawkman during the Ashikaga era that was mentioned in Hawkman Vol. 4! 


  1. That is incredible research. Thank you!

  2. Got a thing for samurai and have been wondering this myself, fantastic read. Thank you


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