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

Oct 20, 2019

Hawkman 80th Celebration: The Best Comic Book Series

Hawkman first appeared in the comics on November 10, 1939, in Flash Comics No. 1. Since then, Hawkman has been featured in eight regular series and several mini-series, back-up features and one-off issues. The Winged Wonder has been written and drawn by many of the greatest writers and artists in comics since the very beginning. Whenever I'm asked to come on a podcast or YouTube video, I'm always asked which series is my favorite. This question is always a tough one because it's impossible to choose just one. As comic book fans, we all have those issues that stay with us through the years. It can be for any reason; the writing, the art, or the characters. But when that special comic comes at a certain time in our lives, it stays with us and becomes a part of our own history. Comics have that kind of magic when it all comes together. As a Hawkfan, there are issues that stand out in my memory. There are series that I enjoyed more than others, and when I want to read my favorite hero again, I instinctively reach for those favorites. For this article, I've chosen the five series that have stayed with me and have remained my favorites over the years. In chronological order;

The Silver Age Hawkman (1961-1969)

The Brave and the Bold No. 34-36 (1961)
The Brave and the Bold No. 42-44 (1962)
Mystery in Space No. 87-90 (1963-64)
Hawkman Vol. 1 No. 1-27 (1964-1968)
The Atom and Hawkman No. 39-45 (1968-69)

I'm going to cheat a bit right off the bat and group these five series together. After the Justice Society ended their run in All-Star Comics in 1951, Hawkman disappeared from the comics for ten years. When Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert brought him back in 1961, it was a whole new Hawkman. He had a new name (Katar), an updated look (black hair and the Hawk logo), a new planet (Thanagar), new villains (Byth, Shadow Thief, etc.), a new city (Midway City), and new supporting characters (Commissioner Emmett, Mavis Trent, Joe Tracy, etc.). Thanagar is one of the coolest names ever for a planet and it remains one of the most important and popular places in the DC Universe. It took three trial runs but Hawkman was finally given his first series, 24 years after his debut. The first series lasted 27 issues and then was combined with The Atom series which lasted seven more issues before finally being canceled at the end of 1969. Gardner Fox, along with Joe Kubert and Murphy Anderson's art, gave us a run that was smart, creative, and memorable. It was pure superhero-science fiction fun, and it remains one of the favorite series of many Hawkman and Hawkgirl fans today.

The Shadow War of Hawkman (1985)

After the Silver Age Hawkman ended in 1969, it would be another 16 years before he was finally given another shot at a series. Tony Isabella's story about Hawkman and Hawkwoman fighting off a Thanagarian invasion was a hit, and it led to the second regular series. Hawkman and Hawkwoman's relationship was a central part of the story, and with Richard Howell's dramatic art, we were able to see what Katar and Shayera meant to each other. If you want to see Hawkman and Hawkwoman's relationship as it should be, then this is the series to read. Isabella had a 5-year plan for this story to continue, but sadly the Crisis on Infinite Earths and other factors got in the way and the second series ended after only 17 issues. Professor Bill of Comic Book University does an in-depth review of the series. For any Hawkman fan, this explains everything great about the series. Also, I started a petition to get the Shadow War series, the Hawkman 1986 Special, and the Hawkman Vol. 2 issues collected in trade paperbacks. Come over and sign the petition!

Hawkworld (1989)

Comics started taking a darker, more dramatic approach during the 1980s. The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight Returns series gave a whole new look at the characters of Superman and Batman, and other characters started getting new origins and stories as well. In the recently released "Forgotten All-Star: A Biography of Gardner Fox," author Jennifer DeRoss tells the story of Timothy Truman and Gardner Fox discussing in the mid-80s about creating a new, darker Hawkman. But sadly, Fox passed away just when they had started getting their ideas together. Truman kept the dream alive, and in 1989, the three-issue series called Hawkworld was released. This was nothing like the Hawkman we had seen in the past. Thanagar was no longer a utopia but a dystopia, Katar Hol was a drug-addicted murderer, and Shayera Thal had possibly the saddest and cruel stories ever seen in comics. Personally, I was in school and busy writing my thesis when this series came out, but I finally picked up all three issues at once and was stunned. I could not put it down and I believe I stopped breathing until I finally finished the third issue. It completely blew up everything I thought I knew about Hawkman, Hawkwoman, and Thanagar, and I was hooked.

Legend of the Hawkman (2000)

At the end of Hawkman Vol. 3 (1993-1996), Hawkman's story had been muddled and changed so often that DC Comics finally decided to put Hawkman aside for a few years. Hawkman finally made his comeback in the JSA series in 2001, but he did not completely disappear during that time. He had some appearances in some flash-back or other dimensional Justice League stories, and in 2000 he was given a three-issue series by Benjamin Raab and Michael Lark. This series showcased Katar and Shayera's love for each other and the faith that sustained them. Shayera is wanting to return to Thanagar and start a family, while Katar wants to remain on Earth and continue their work there. During the story, Katar's belief in a god, or a lack of it, is tested. At the final battle, we find out where Katar gets his faith from and it is one of the most beautiful scenes in Hawkman's history. I'm man enough to admit I had a lump in my throat. It is brilliant writing by Raab. I definitely recommend this one.

Hawkman Vol. 4 (2002-2006)

Hawkman finally returned to his own series in 2002, and this series by Geoff Johns, Jimmy Palmiotti, Justin Gray, and other writers is probably the most relevant and central of the Hawkman mythos to date. Reincarnation truly became the foundation of Hawkman's story, and it brought together, to an extent, Hawkman's past lives. Compared to the past versions, this Hawkman had a rage and brutality that we had not seen before. His relationship with Hawkgirl was also completely altered. We no longer had two heroes completely in love with each other, but their reincarnation and pre-ordained destiny came into question. Carter's relationships with other heroes and villains were expanded, and it cleverly added Thanagar and Egypt into the story. The never-ending back and forth between Carter and Kendra was interesting at first, but by the end, it became a bit tiresome and the weakest part of this version of the Hawks. Nevertheless, it now serves as a place to start when a new fan wants to read up on Hawkman.

Hawkman Vol. V (2018-)

Whenever I read an article or watch a video about Hawkman, it always mentions the "confusion" of the story of Hawkman. But that's just beating a dead horse. Continuity has never concerned me that much. Hawkman is Hawkman. Whether it is the Thanagarian version or the Egyptian version or the Hawkworld version, it never really bothered me. I made flowcharts and timelines to explain to other comic book fans how his continuity really wasn't that screwed up, but that was never an issue with me. But then Robert Venditti came on the scene. In one brilliant issue (Hawkman Vol. V No. 1, August 2018), he gave us an explanation. Every Hawkman we have seen in the last eighty years are all the same man. Over time and space, Hawkman has been reincarnated in different times, on different planets, and in other dimensions. Some times they overlap. Sometimes they jump ahead or go back. During the first twelve issues, along with Bryan Hitch's stunning art, Venditti gave us a new origin, new and improved powers, a Kryptonian Hawkman and a New Genesis Hawkman (and many others), and many other fantastic moments. Venditti is still in the process of reestablishing the legend of Hawkman and it is one of the best series that DC Comics is putting out today. It's easy to follow, you don't need to be a Hawkman scholar to understand what is going on, and it's a down-to-earth and fun superhero comic book. The only thing that is missing is the presence of Hawkwoman. When she finally comes back into Carter's life, this series will be the foundation of the story of Hawkman and Hawkwoman.

I gave my five favorite series in this article, but there are many, many more great Hawkman comics. I've listed all of the comics and collections that Hawkman and Hawkgirl have been in over the years, so check out the list and start reading Hawkman!

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