Art by Adam Kubert

Apr 23, 2018

Thoughts on the Continuity of Hawkman and What's Ahead

The continuity of Hawkman has always been an issue when discussing the character. There's no denying that Hawkman and Hawkgirl's story is confusing, whether you're a new fan or a veteran. When DC Comics announced the new series with Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch, most Hawkfans immediately started speculating. Which Hawkman will be used? How will it fit in Hawkman's history? Will this mess things up even more? There are many questions as we get closer and closer to the June 13th release date.
In my podcast with Rob (link below), he mentioned that he thinks he figured out a way to tie all the Hawkman versions together. He didn't let on to what it was, so my imagination is running wild. After the podcast, I remembered back to what Mike Gold (editor of Hawkworld Vol. 1 #1-3 and Vol. 2 #1-25, Annuals #1-2) said in the letter column in Hawkworld Vol. 2 Annual No. 1 (October 1990). If you read the letter columns of the first few issues of Hawkworld Vol. 2, there is a lot of discussion about continuity issues. Mike told everyone to wait and checkout the first Annual issue, which came after issue No. 5 in the Vol. 2 series. In the letter column of the first annual, he brought up six different ways to "straighten out" continuity. 1. Continuity Implants: a story that reveals a heretofore unknown incident that alters or patches history. 
2. Ignoring selected stuff: certain aspects are downplayed over time, to the point where they cease to exist. Mike said that this happens a lot more than many realize.
3. Blowing up and starting over: You take all the good stuff, reduce the series to its basics, and put everything back in contemporary terms. This happened with Superman and Wonder Woman.
4. The sleight-of-hand: You don't really change anything, but you take it to the next evolutionary step. 
5. Completely ignore continuity: a pretty good device, if the readers let you get away with it. Mike brings up Batman's "non-continuity" or "outside-continuity" stories, such as Frank Miller's Dark Knight.
6. Picking and Choosing: Combining elements of all the above. Mike said, "We sort of blew up the 1960s Hawkman incarnation, (although we saved a whole lot) and started over, remaining true to the spirit of the source material. The story you just read (the annual), serves as a continuity implant, and we can ---and indeed, have---used this story as the basis of our second generation story; it's the sleight-of-hand technique.He continues to say, " All of these techniques boil down to one central type of decision; the creative team decides which stuff happened. and which stuff didn't. The only issue is if you explain your changes." 

As of now, looking at what we have of the history of Hawkman, it seems pretty obvious that lots of continuity changes were made over the years, and some parts of Hawkman's continuity was chipped way bit by bit. To make a character relevant, exciting, up-to-date, and most importantly, interesting enough to sell books, some sacrifices have been made. But do we need to lose some history of the character to have a future?
For me, every version of Hawkman is interesting. There are a few versions of Hawkman, but every version has captured my imagination and fascination. After talking with Rob, I thought again about the theme of Hawkman. What is it? Why does every version appeal to the fans? Rob mentioned two things that stuck in my mind. There are two themes to Hawkman; one is flight, and the other is discovery. Hawkman was the first superhero who was made to truly fly. That's his appeal, and his strength. The wings and the helmet; his image is about flight. That's what he represents in the DC Universe. Also, Hawkman is about discovery. In the Golden Age, he discovered his past as Prince Khufu and the Nth metal and began his career. In the Silver and Bronze Age, he was an alien or outsider, discovering his place on Earth. In Hawkworld, he was discovering the strengths and weaknesses of the societies on two worlds. In Hawkman Vol. 3, he was discovering who he truly was and the source behind his powers. In Geoff Johns' Hawkman, he was discovering his past lives and figuring out how he wanted to live this life as a superhero, with or without Hawkgirl. In Savage, he was discovering his relationship with the Nth metal and how it bonded with him, and using that power for justice.
All through Hawkman's history, those two things, flight and discovery, have remained constant. Maybe this is where Venditti has figured out how to tie it all together. We won't know until the series comes out. But it's going to be a fun ride.

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