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

Oct 1, 2018

Hawkman and The Atom: An Enduring Friendship

By Tim Board, Hawkworld
Art by Bryan Hitch and Alex Sinclair

Hawkman and the Atom, aka Carter Hall/Katar Hol and Ray Palmer, have shared one of the strongest friendships in the DC Universe since their first meeting back in 1963. Ever since their first adventure, the two have shared a bond that has stood the test of time. In the current Hawkman series by Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch, the two have finally been brought back together. At the end of Hawkman No. 4, Carter Hall was transported to the microverse and finds Ray Palmer there. In issues No. 5 and No. 6, it appears that the two heroes will be battling side by side once again. I’ve gathered together significant scenes from their history, the comic book covers they have shared, and special art and figures that feature the two heroes. It's long. I hope you enjoy the walk through their history.

In 1940, the Golden Age versions of Hawkman (Carter Hall) and the Atom (Al Pratt) were charter members of the Justice Society. There appears to be no specific mention of a special friendship between these two. They did spend many years fighting alongside each other and Carter even taught the language of the birds to Al and the other members. But the true friendship between Hawkman and the Atom would start with the Silver Age versions of Katar Hol and Ray Palmer in the 60s.
All-Star Comics No. 10 (April 1942)
The Atom was given a solo series in 1962, and in issue No. 7, Hawkman guest stars in the issue for the heroes first meeting. In a story called "The Case of the Cosmic Camera" by Gardner Fox, the two pair up together for the first time. They have heard of each other in the news and immediately team up.
The Atom No. 7 (June 1963)
To be honest, it's a rather kooky story that's more silly than anything, but it gives Hawkman a chance to be featured in a comic a few months before his own series would finally start. At the end of the story, Katar and Shayera run into Ray and his fiancee Jean Loring and the foursome hit it off and go, what else, bird-watching!
The Atom No. 7 (June 1963)
A few months after Hawkman's first series got started, Katar received a visit from Ray, who had an invitation for him to join the Justice League. After apologizing to Shayera for not being able to invite her as well, the two head off to the Justice League headquarters. The Atom does not take part in Hawkman's first JLA adventure but the two would share many in the years to come.
Justice League of America No. 31 (November 1964)
Hawkman, Hawkgirl and the Atom kept their secret identities hidden from each other until September 1965. In the Atom's only appearance in Hawkman's first series (Hawkman Vol. 1 No. 9), Katar and Shayera require some help from Ray to return to their normal size after being shrunk to a size even smaller than the Atom. Ray brings them to his lab to combine his expertise with Thanagarian science and successfully restores the Hawks to their original size. Katar and Shayera realize that they are in Ray Palmer's lab, so Ray reveals his true identity to them. The Hawks return the favor and the bond between the three grows even stronger.
Hawkman Vol. 1 No. 9 (September 1965)
Hawkman made a few guest appearances in the Atom's series over the years. One of their most famous comic book covers was The Atom No. 31 (June 1967) by Gil Kane (pencils) and Murphy Anderson (ink). Hawkman is shooting the Atom with his slingshot. This maneuver was used again many years later so we would have to think it is one of the duo's favorite moves. In Captain America: Civil War, Hawkeye did the same maneuver with Ant-man. The scene was one of the highlights of the film, but alert fans quickly recognized the move as a Hawkman-Atom trick.
The Atom No. 31 (June 1967)
In 1968, the Atom and Hawkman's comics were struggling in sales, so DC Comics decided to combine the two heroes into one book instead of just canceling both altogether. Hawkman's book was canceled at No. 27, and the Atom's book was retitled The Atom and Hawkman, a bi-monthly starting with issue No. 39 (November 1968). The move lasted for only seven issues, but it gave us a few more moments of the deepening friendship of Katar and Ray.
The Atom and Hawkman No. 39 (November 1968)
After the Atom-Hawkman series was canceled, we didn't get as many buddy moments as before, but the Justice League of America series still threw in references to their bond every now and then. During the 70s, the verbal back and forth between Hawkman and Green Arrow got more attention, even to the point of showing that Oliver Queen actually cared deeply for "Beak-Face," but that appears to have died out during the 80s. No other JLA member knew Hawkman as well as the Atom, as he often pointed out as he does in this JLA issue from 1977.
Justice League of America No. 143 (June 1977)
In 1978, Ray Palmer finally tied the knot with Jean Loring, which would prove to be the worst mistake of his life. But before she went completely crazy, Ray and Jean did have some nice moments. The JLA series even gave us this double-page spread of their wedding. Who's the best man? Why, Hawkman, of course!
Justice League of America No. 157 (August 1978)
In 1983, the Justice League of America series did a four-part saga about the Atom getting trapped in the "micro-cosmos" and several members, including Hawkman, go to save him. The story all started when Jean came to Katar to come to help Ray who was acting strangely. Hawkman tells the story of what happened at Ray's home by first talking about the importance of his friendship with Ray and what it means to him. This is maybe the first scene where we get to see how much the two mean to each other.
Justice League of America No. 213 (April 1983)
In 1988, Ray Palmer had another series called the "Power of the Atom." In issue No. 4, Hawkman and Hawkwoman (changed from Hawkgirl in 1982) pay him a visit. The friendship bond is established once again. However, this issue along with the entire series of Hawkman Vol. 2 (1986-87) becomes completely out of continuity with the recent Crisis on Infinite Earths. Hawkman Vol. 2, Action Comics No. 588, this issue and many others are moved over to Earth 85. It's a shame but it's a loose end that DC had no way of fitting into their Crisis event. Still, it gives us a nice friendship moment.
Power of the Atom No. 4 (November 1988)
During the 15 long years of not seeing each other, Katar was retconned to Carter, merged with Hawkworld's Katar, then sent to the Hawk Realm and finally returned as the new Carter Hall, before he finally meets up with Ray again. The easiest way to explain this is that Hawkman is now all of the past Hawkmen combined (except for Fel Andar), so he remembers all of his past adventures with Ray. Ray remembered Hawkman as having blond hair and being older, but he now had brown hair and was younger. Even though Carter's appearance had changed, Ray recognized his friend and they picked it up right where they had left it so many years ago.
Hawkman Vol. 4 No. 8 (December 2002)
In Hawkman Vol. 4, writers Geoff Johns, Jimmy Palmiotti, and Justin Gray gave us many more great moments with Carter and Ray. Before the Identity Crisis, the two try to catch up on lost time, explaining what was happened during the long separation. Carter tried to help Ray with his divorce from Jean (it would get much worse), and Ray tried to help Carter figure out his relationship with the new Hawkgirl, Kendra Saunders. Both of them were completely honest with each other, strengthening the friendship. Ray and Kendra even appeared to be a bit jealous of each other over Carter.
Hawkman Vol. 4 No. 20 (December 2003)
Hawkman Vol. 4 No. 20 (December 2003)
Hawkman Vol. 4 No. 32 (November 2004)
During the Identity Crisis in 2004-2005, Ray's former wife Jean killed Sue Dibny and committed other horrific crimes to win back the heart of her former husband. Several heroes, including Hawkman, went all out to find the killer, and the incident almost destroyed the Justice League. Ray decided to go away for good but before he did, he appeared before Carter. We again get to see the bond between the two as they discuss the situation before Ray goes away.
Hawkman Vol. 4 No. 46 (January 2006)
In 2005-2006, Jim Krueger and Alex Ross gave us one of the best non-continuity series ever with the Silver Age heroes. During the first half of the series, the members are attacked by the villains, with Hawkman and Hawkgirl's museum being destroyed by Toyman, and Ray being shot by Giganta. After being shot, Ray calls Jean and before he blacks out, tells her to "Call Carter." The trust and reliance that Ray has for Hawkman is yet another sign of the bond between the two.
Justice No. 4 (April 2006)
It's always great to see a writer just throw in a Hawkman-Atom buddy scene in a random comic. In the Justice League: Cry for Justice series, Hawkman did not have that big of a part in the story but we got this little scene that once again reaffirmed the special bond these two heroes share.
Justice League: Cry for Justice No. 5 (January 2010)
The two friends continued to run into each other in many other big events. In the Countdown Special (2008), the two once again use the slingshot maneuver, except this time it was with a crossbow. Ray becomes a member of the Indigo Tribe during the Blackest Night event (2010) and fights off Carter and Kendra who had been turned into Black Lanterns. Ray and Carter do not seem to know each other at all in the New 52 Futures End series (2014). Ray appears to be very unfamiliar with Carter's Nth Metal, and even chops off Hawkman's arm to attach it to Frankenstein (Hawkman's arm grows back). The two fight side by side through the series until Hawkman's death towards the end.
Countdown Special The Atom No. 1 (February 2008)
The Atom and Hawkman No. 46 (March 2010)
New 52 Futures End No. 9 (September 2014)
In the Giant-Size Atom Special (2011), Atom is fighting a group called The Colony who are trying to steal his White Dwarf Star to gain his shrinking powers. They take his father hostage but Hawkman comes to the rescue. 
Giant-Size Atom Special (May 2011)
Hawkman is attacked by agents of The Colony and they shrink and go into his body to try to kill him. The Atom goes in after them and defeats the agents one by one. While he is looking for the agents, he explains why Carter is so special to him. 
"People could never understand why Hawkman and I became such great friends. On the surface, we couldn't be more different. He's brash, loud and assertive.  I'm more.....let's say.....cerebral.
"Truth is, he reminds me of my brother Danny. When Danny died, it sort of left a hole in my life. Carter was there to fill it. And from that initial bond, our friendship grew into something else, something more. Most people don't see it, but behind that gruff exterior, Carter is fiercely intelligent...and incredibly loyal."
And there we have it. Ray was able to see past Carter's rough exterior and understand the man he truly was. Most other heroes were not able to get close nor did they want to get close to Carter, but Ray felt an immediate bond with him because Carter reminded him of his brother Danny. And once the friendship started, it grew stronger and stronger because of Ray's brotherly love for Carter, and Carter's incredible loyalty to his friend who had understood him when no one else had. I would be surprised if there is a stronger friendship than this in all of comics.
Giant-Size Atom Special (May 2011)
In 2016, we also had the opportunity to see a live action Hawkman and Atom on the same TV show. Hawkman was played by Falk Hentschel, and the Atom was played by Brandon Routh. The opportunity and potential to see their friendship was right there, but sadly, it was never even mentioned. Hawkman was killed off in the pilot, and Atom fell in love with Hawkgirl. that ended quickly when a Hawkman from the future showed up and the Hawks flew away together at the end of the first season. It would have been great to see the two heroes interact with each other, but they were never given the chance.
Hawkman (Falk Hentschel) and Atom (Brandon Routh), 2016
The two have also been featured together in some figures, sculptures, and cosplays over the years. For DC Comics fans, these two are instantly familiar.
Hawkman Mini Bust with the Atom by Tim Bruckner
Heroclix Figure
Hawkman, Hawkgirl and the Atom Cosplay, 2008 DragonCon
The Atom and Hawkman Cosplay, 2007 DragonCon
The two have also been featured together in many pictures by some of the greatest artists in comics; Alex Ross, Andrew Cartwright Robinson, Alex Saviuk, Fred Hembeck, Charles Shulz, Rags Morales and many more.
Alex Ross
Andrew Cartwright Robinson

Fred Hembeck
Ludovic Leondi
Rags Morales
Rags Morales

Michael Mongello

William Vuk
Alex Saviuk
Charles Shulz
Rags Morales
Hawkman and the Atom have shared a few covers over the years. Here are some of the best ones!

When the new series by Robert Venditti and Bryan Hitch was announced back in March, I had no idea that we would be treated to a Carter-Ray reunion so soon in the series. And judging from the art for the cover of issue No. 6, it appears that the Atom will be appearing for at least a couple of issues. Here's to one of the greatest friendships in comics history, and let's get ready for many more adventures for Carter and Ray! 
Bryan Hitch


  1. One thing I love about superhero comics is all these odd, long lasting relationships between characters who should by all means have nothing to do with each other.

  2. Great article. I love Hawkman and Atom, I wish they were together more often.

  3. Great article. I love Hawk man and Atom, I wish they were together more often. Very interesting, good job and thanks for sharing such a good blog.
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