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

Jul 25, 2020

Hawkman Unleashed Part Two: Breaking Down Hawkman's History

By Tim Board

   During Hawkman's 80-year history, he has had seven series, four mini-series, many special one-shot editions, and several runs in other comics. If we gave Hawkman comics a legacy count, we'll reach No. 250 in September 2020. (Check out the list here.) That's pretty low for a character that has been around that long. Hawkman seems to be a character that is impossible to ignore as a concept, but the concept has proved to be difficult to put onto the comic book pages for whatever reason. In Hawkman Unleashed Part One, I listed nine things that should be included in a Hawkman comic: origin/purpose, secret identity, love, powers, weapons, locations, villains, supporting cast, and death/reincarnation. In Hawkman Unleashed Part Two, let's take a look through the history of Hawkman comics and see how each series included the nine components.
Flash Comics No. 1, All-Star Comics No. 3
Flash Comics/All-Star Comics (1940-1951)
Origin/Purpose: reincarnated Egyptian prince
Secret Identity: Carter Hall, a wealthy research scientist
Love: Shiera Saunders (engaged)
Powers: flight, knowledge of weapons, ability to breathe underwater
Weapons: quarterstaff, gauntlet, mace, flail, and many more
Locations: Carter Hall Mansion (appears to be in New York City)
Villains: Hath-Set, The Monocle, Hummingbird, Gentleman Ghost
Supporting Cast: Shiera Sanders, Big Red (a hawk)
Death/Reincarnation: Egyptian Prince Khufu, killed by Hath-Set

   In his debut in 1939, Hawkman was introduced as Carter Hall, a wealthy research scientist who collected ancient weapons and lived in New York City. Carter was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince, he dressed up as a Hawk, and he used Ninth Metal (changed to Nth in 1949) to fly while using ancient weapons to combat evil. He had the ability to communicate with birds and even had a hawk called Big Red as a sidekick. He usually was based at the "Carter Hall Mansion." Gradually, Hawkgirl was brought into the story as not only his love interest but an equal partner, making her one of the original DC heroines.
   After the first story about his origin, the idea of reincarnation was never really expanded on. He started out with a quarterstaff and used many different kinds of weapons until the mace gradually became his standard weapon. During this run, Hath-Set, the Monocle, and the Gentleman Ghost along with many other villains were introduced. Hawkman was popular enough to be in all 104 issues of Flash Comics, and be included as a charter member of the first-ever superhero team, the Justice Society of America. But he never received his own series. Still, with the Flash Comics and the solo adventures in All-Star Comics, we have over 140 Hawkman stories to enjoy from the Golden Age.
   Why didn't he get his own series like the Flash or Green Lantern? There are many theories. In Hawkman Companion by Doug Zawisza, writer Jim Beard gives several reasons. Most of them are speculation. Flash Comics artist Sheldon Moldoff said in an interview that publisher Max Gaines wanted Moldoff to do a Hawkman Quarterly, but he turned it down because he just didn't have the time to do a whole book of Hawkman. It has also been said that since Justice Society members who got their own book (Flash, Green Lantern) were made honorary members and left the All-Star Comics book, editor Sheldon Mayer may have felt that "a Justice Society of America without a Hawkman would have been a very dull society."
Of the nine components, a good supporting cast was lacking, and the reincarnation aspect of his story was not explored as it could have been.
   Still, even though he didn't get his own book until the Silver Age, it is a testament to Hawkman's appeal that he has lasted for so long and been put in prominent places in comics despite not being considered worthy of a solo book in the beginning.

The Brave and the Bold No. 34, No. 42, Mystery in Space No. 87
Brave and the Bold/Mystery in Space/Hawkman Vol. 1 (1961-1968)
Origin/Purpose: police officers from Thanagar, catching Byth and learning Earth police methods.
Secret Identity: Katar Hol (Carter Hall) and Shayera Hol (Shiera Hall)
Love: married
Powers: flight
Weapons: ancient weapons from Earth and scientific gadgets from Thanagar, most notably the Absorbascon
Locations: Midway City, Thanagar
Villains: Byth, Shadow Thief, Lion-Mane and others
Supporting Cast: Commissioner George Emmett, Mavis Trent
Death/Reincarnation: None

   In 1961, the Hawks were finally brought into the Silver Age and this version remains the most established  They were completely rewritten, this time as Katar and Shayera Hol, police officers from the planet Thanagar. They were set up as curators of the Midway City Museum and went back and forth between Earth and Thanagar as they battled crime in their new home town and joined the Justice League of America. Not only did he have the ancient weapons, but he also had all kinds of futuristic gadgets from another planet. The Thanagarian spaceship and Absorbascon were often featured. After three trial runs in The Brave and the Bold #34-36, #42-44 (1961-62) and Mystery in Space #87-90 (1963-64), Hawkman finally received his first series in 1964. During the first series, Many new villains such as Byth, the Shadow Thief, the Matter Master, the Man-Hawks, and Lion-Mane were introduced. We saw a Hawkman who used his brains more than his brawn, often figuring out how to solve crime with science. It came out every other month, but unfortunately, it was canceled after just 27 issues. Hawkman was moved over to the Atom comic, but that experiment ended after only seven issues. It would be another 17 years before he got his own series again.

Hawkman Vol. 1 No. 1 / The Atom and Hawkman No. 39
   Hawkman was the first DC superhero who had the power of flight when he was introduced in 1939. But by the time the 1960s came around, the power of flight wasn't so special anymore. His weapons of choice may have seemed outdated to some. Even the idea of a hero from another planet wasn't that unique. The Hawks were a happily married couple and depending on the writer, that may be a bit boring. Green Arrow and Black Canary have always had a very unstable relationship and that makes for interesting stories. Reincarnation made the Hawks really unique but it was barely mentioned, if at all, during the Silver Age. The book was also released every other month, so it was difficult to gain any kind of traction. The supporting cast introduced several recurring characters, such as Mavis Trent and Commissioner George Emmett, but the characters of Thanagar had very few appearances. The story of reincarnation again took a back seat, this time to the outer space theme.

Justice League of America No. 67, Detective Comics No. 428, All-Star Comics No. 74
Showcase No. 101, World's Finest Comics No. 278, All-Star Squadron No. 1
   From 1970 to 1985, during the time between Vol. 1 and The Shadow War of Hawkman, Hawkman and Hawkgirl could be found in Detective Comics (14 stories), World's Finest Comics (23 stories), the Justice League of America, All-Star Squadron, All-Star Comics and other series. They were even given a three-issue spotlight in Showcase. It was a great story by Jack Harris and Al Milgrom, but it did not lead to a new series.
   During this period, we were able to see both versions of Hawkman. The Silver Age version of Katar Hol regularly showed up in the Justice League of America, Detective Comics, and other series, while the Golden Age Carter Hall returned in the new All-Star Comics and All-Star Squadron. So even though Hawkman didn't have his own series, he made his presence known in the DC Universe. You just had to know where to look.

The Shadow War of Hawkman No. 1, Hawkman Special '86, Hawkman Vol. 2
The Shadow War of Hawkman/Hawkman Vol. 2 (1985-1987)
Origin/Purpose: To fight off the invasion of Thanagar
Secret Identity: Carter and Shiera Hall, Midway City Museum curators
Love: married
Powers: flight, aerial abilities, limited exposure in outer space
Weapons: mace, flail, Thanagarian weapons
Locations: Midway City, Thanagar
Villains: Shadow Thief, Darkwing, Byth, Lion-Mane, Fel Andar, and others
Supporting Cast: Commissioner George Emmett, Mavis Trent, Joe Tracy, Stewart Frazier, Gentleman Ghost
Death/Reincarnation: None

   In 1985, Tony Isabella came up with a story for the Hawks that remains one of the best in Hawkman's history. The story centered on Thanagar planning an invasion of Earth and Hawkman and Hawkwoman being the only heroes who could stop them. Along with artist Richard Howell, he portrayed the relationship between Katar and Shayera as stronger, more beautiful, and deeper than it ever had been shown. After the four-issue mini-series and another special issue, the Hawks were given their own book again. Isabella has said that he had a five-year plan for the series, but sadly, it didn't work out that way. Denny O'Neil replaced Alan Gold as editor and decided Isabella's plan needed to be cut short, so Isabella was gone after only nine issues. The run overlapped the Crisis on Infinite Earths event, but it was pretty much in its own continuity and the story was unaffected. The Thanagar story was quickly wrapped up, and the series faded away, ending after just 17 issues. The series never really had a chance after the departure of Isabella. Perhaps it was the right book at the wrong time. If this book had been released in 1980, with Alan Gold as the editor for the entire run, it could have been the longest-running series in Hawk history. But despite the premature end, the series remains a fan favorite for its depiction of Thanagar, the beautiful relationship between Katar and Shayera, and the brilliant writing of Isabella.
   In my opinion, this series had everything that is great about the Silver and Bronze Age Hawkman. The reincarnation story continued to be unused, and it is the shortest regular series in Hawkman's history, but it is one of the best and remains a fan favorite.

Hawkworld Vol. 1 No. 1, Hawkworld Vol. 2 No. 1
Hawkworld Vol. 1/Hawkworld Vol. 2
Origin/Purpose: To capture Byth, to act as liaisons between Thanagar and Earth
Secret Identity: None
Love: Partners, eventually lovers
Powers: flight
Weapons: guns, Katar blade
Locations: Thanagar, Chicago
Villains: Byth, White Dragon, Fel Andar, Count Viper, Shadow Thief, and many others.
Supporting Cast: Andar Pul, Hyanthis, Ambassador Darl Klus, Joe Tracy, Mavis Trent, many others.
Death/Reincarnation: None

   After the success of The Man of Steel and The Dark Knight, DC Comics decided to give Hawkman a reboot in 1989. Timothy Truman took on the project but it is important to note that Truman had been in talks with Gardner Fox to write a new Hawkman book when Fox suddenly passed away in 1986 (Forgotten All-Star: A Biography of Gardner Fox by Jennifer DeRoss). But Truman was able to move forward and he gave us a Thanagar that we had never seen before. Gone was the utopia-like Thangar of the Silver Age. It was dystopic and oppressed. It completely rewrote the story of Katar Hol and Shayera Thal. It had an edge. It had drama. It was a fascinating story that changed everything about Hawkman. After the success of the three-issue series, a new series started in 1990. The Hawks came to Chicago in pursuit of Byth and were learning about Earth, much like the Silver Age Hawks back in the 1960s. Katar and Shayera's reaction to the United States Constitution was great writing by John Ostrander. But seven issues in, they made a huge mistake. The setting for Hawkworld would have worked if it had been set before the Brave and the Bold issues, but they inexplicably set it in the present continuity of DC at the time. Hawkman Carter
Hall/Katar Hol (1939-1987) was shoehorned into one continuity. Katar Hol was suddenly replaced with Carter. This began a series of missteps that just got worse and worse with each attempt to fix it. The decision to set Hawkworld in current time apparently came from Mike Gold, the editor of the series. He even wrote a two-page explanation called "Continuity: A Slightly Tongue-in-Cheek Secret Origin Story" in Hawkworld Annual No. 1 (December 1990). He presented six methods that comics can use to "straighten out" a continuity. The method he says he used here is "Sleight-of-Hand." He defined it as "you don't really change anything, but you take it to the next evolutionary step." But it asked the fans to ignore too much of what had happened before. The "sleight-of-hand" we're talking about here is how they made the Golden, Silver and Bronze Age Hawkmen all the same character. Not exactly sleight-of-hand in my opinion. More like cram-of-foot. I've always thought of it as being the same as Cinderella's step-sister cramming her size 10 foot into the size 5 glass slipper. Maybe not impossible, but it's awfully painful.

   It could have been avoided so easily by placing the story back at the beginning of the Silver Age. The Crisis event that ignored Hawkman and left two Hawkmen flying around with no explanation and the Hawkworld "Sleight-of-Hand" scheme would throw Hawkman and Hawkwoman into a pit of continuity crisscrosses that lasted for years. The Hawkworld Vol. 2 series lasted for 32 issues and 3 annuals but it ended to give Hawkman a fresh start in Hawkman Vol. 3 six months later.
Of the nine components, only reincarnation remained on the shelf.

Hawkman Vol. 3 No. 1
Hawkman Vol. 3 (1993-1996)
Origin/Purpose: To discover the true source of the Nth Metal, to defeat other animal avatars
Secret Identity: None
Love: Shayera Thal, but eventually split up
Powers: flight, organic wings, hawk-senses
Weapons: mace, guns, Katar
Locations: Chicago, Carter and Shiera Hall's penthouse
Villains: Count Viper, Airstryke, Mongrel,
Supporting Cast: Naomi Carter, Lefty, Netherworlders, Thal Provis, and many others.
Death/Reincarnation: Katar essentially died to end the series, past lives were mentioned; Khufu, Silent Knight, Nighthawk, etc.

   The new Hawkman series lasted for 33 issues and two annuals. It introduced many new ideas for Hawkman. We found out that his mother was an American Indian, making him half-Thanagarian and half-human. He was given a dark blue costume and a huge red insignia on his chest. His signature weapon was now the Katar. The Hawks were deeply in love. Carter and Shiera Hall left behind a penthouse in Chicago for him to use as his base. He had an interesting cast of supporting characters. The story even brought back the reincarnation story in the second annual. So what happened?

Hawkman Vol. 3 No. 13
   The Zero Crisis happened. During the mayhem of yet another crisis, DC attempted to "clean up" Hawkman. They brought in a Hawk avatar, merged Katar, Carter, and Shiera with the avatar, and introduced a "Hawk god." The character did look pretty awesome. Hawkman had an Indian and Thanagarian background, awesome powers, iconic weapons, reincarnation was back in the story, and a base to work from. But it was wasted. After the merger in 1994, the series gradually went off the rails. Although Katar now had organic wings that grew out of his back, along with other heightened senses, he steadily went insane. Hawkwoman was written out of the picture and moved to Detroit. Katar was always brooding and in pain. The series just kept getting darker and more brooding with each issue. DC had no idea what to do with him. They thought they had streamlined Hawkman into a character that fans would latch on to, but it didn't work. They finally decided to end it all by sending him into another realm and quickly ended the era of Katar Hol of Hawkworld.

Legend of the Hawkman No. 1
   For five years, DC Comics considered Hawkman too messed up to use anymore. Grant Morrison wanted to use Hawkman in his new Justice League series, but DC refused. So Morrison created another winged character called Zauriel and used him instead. Hawkman and Hawkgirl showed up in flashbacks or non-continuity stories, including one very special series.
   In 2000, a 3-issue mini-series called Legend of the Hawkman was released. The story was beautifully written and centered on the love Katar and Shayera had for each other. Hawkman's faith was also an important theme throughout the story. Writer Benjamin Raab and artist Michael Lark gave Hawkfans a true gem out of the blue.

JSA No. 25, Hawkman Vol. 4 No. 1, Hawkgirl No. 50
JSA/Hawkman Vol. 4/Hawkgirl (1999-2007)
Origin/Purpose: Reincarnated from Prince Khufu, merged Carter Hall/Katar Hol returns from the Hawk realm
Secret Identity: Carter Hall and Kendra Saunders
Love: Back and forth between friends and lovers
Powers: flight, super-human strength, hawk-vision, healing
Weapons: mace, Claw of Horus
Locations: Stonechat Museum, St. Roch, Louisiana
Villains: Shadow Thief, Hath-Set, Gentleman Ghost, Lion-Mane, Onimarr Synn, Fadeaway Man, Matter Master, etc.
Supporting Cast: Speed Saunders, Oliver Evans, Danny Evans, Jayita Sahir, Andrew Grubbs, etc
Death/Reincarnation: Khufu/Chay-ara, Nighthawk/Cinnamon, Silent Knight, and many other past lives were revealed.

   DC Comics finally brought back Hawkman and Hawkgirl in the JSA series that began in 1999. Hawkgirl was now Kendra Saunders, the granddaughter of Speed Saunders, Shiera's cousin. Hawkman was Carter Hall again, but this time he was a combination of Katar Hol from Hawkworld and Carter Hall of the Golden Age. Their new base of operations was in St. Roch, Louisiana, where Carter was a curator of the Stonechat Museum and a part-time professor at the local university. The Hawks were no longer in love, as Kendra refused to have her love predestined because of their reincarnation. There was also an interesting supporting cast with the staff at the museum and the police in the city. For the first time, reincarnation was a big theme in their story. Writer Geoff Johns used the reincarnation angle to showcase many of Carter's past lives. He even brought in the Silent Knight, Nighthawk, and other characters. Kendra's past lives were also revealed. Not only that, but we discovered that Shiera's soul was in Kendra's body which was the craziest of all the crazy ideas during this time. The series ran for 49 issues, making it the longest-running Hawkman series to date. From No. 50, the title was changed to Hawkgirl and it ran for 17 more issues before finally being canceled in 2007.

Rann-Thanagar War, Justice Society of America,
Justice League of America, Rann-Thanagar Holy War
Hawkman Special '08, Trinity, Blackest Night, Brightest Day
   This series had many things going for it, but the back and forth run around between Carter and Kendra became tiring and just went on for too long. The series also depicted Hawkman as one who is not in control of his feelings and actions. Until now, Hawkman had been level-headed, intelligent, and a hero who used his brains as much as his brawn. As a result, Hawkman was depicted in other series and storylines as one who was not too intelligent, which was a bit ridiculous considering he had been reincarnating and retaining his memories and experiences for thousands of years. After the series came to an end, the Hawks were seen in the Rann-Thangar Holy War, Blackest Night, and other series until 2011.

The Savage Hawkman, The Justice League of America, Justice League United
The Savage Hawkman, Justice League of America, Justice League United (2011-2014)
Origin/Purpose: Fugitive from Thanagar, Gladiator-turned-prince
Secret Identity: Carter Hall, archaeologist/cryptologist
Love: Former lover of Shayera Thal, Emma Ziegler, Power Girl
Powers: flight, super-human strength, hawk-vision, healing
Weapons: mace, claw, ax
Locations: Manhattan
Villains: Morphicius, Askana, Gentleman Ghost, Ironside, Xerses, Pike, St. Bastion, Corsar Thal, Shadow-Thief, Blockbuster
Supporting Cast: Emma Ziegler, Professor Ziegler, Shayera Thal, Green Arrow
Death/Reincarnation: Reincarnation is not mentioned, One death in Justice League United

   DC Comics' ambitious New 52 project brought us The Savage Hawkman. Before it started, we last saw Hawkman agonizing over Hawkgirl's unexplained disappearance at the end of Brightest Day. When I read the first few pages of The Savage Hawkman, I honestly thought this was the same Hawkman, disgusted by all that had transpired and ready to get rid of Hawkman forever. Kinda made sense. But this was a whole reboot (again) muddying the Hawk-waters further. He had a new love interest (meh), the Nth metal had now bonded with him Venom-style (kinda cool), and Shayera was now an enemy (wut). The question I had in my mind during almost the entire series was "Why is he doing what he's doing?" The relationship with Emma was kind of flat, Shayera was killed off rather quickly, and everyone was constantly trying to get Hawkman's Nth metal. The best part about the series were the villains. Some classics were reinvented and there were some new ones introduced and they were a lot of fun. The art by Philip Tan and Joe Bennett was also fantastic. The series didn't seem to know where it wanted to go after the Thanagar story and it was canceled after only 21 issues.

From Justice League of America No. 2
   After the series ended, Hawkman could be found in the very, very short-lived (was there a plan past the first year?) Justice League of America and then another short-lived Justice League United series. The first series did give us one of the most memorable pages in Hawkman's history, but it was a rather lackluster, frustrating era.

Earth 2 No. 4, Earth 2 World's End No. 3, Earth 2 Society No. 22
Earth 2/Earth 2 World's End/Earth 2 Society (2012-2017)
Origin/Purpose: origin incomplete, Treasure Hunter
Secret Identity: Kendra Munoz-Saunders
Love: None
Powers: flight, detective skills
Weapons: guns, crossbow
Locations: None
Villains: World Army, Terry Sloan
Supporting Cast: Wonders; Green Lantern, Flash, Dr. Fate
Death/Reincarnation: None

   While The Savage Hawkman was going on, we had a whole new Hawkgirl over in the Earth 2 series. Her origin was never fully explained, but somehow wings were grafted onto her back during an expedition into an Egyptian pyramid. She joined with the other wonders of the world to battle the World Army and other threats. This version of Hawkgirl is pretty badass. She is an expert detective and tracker, good with weapons, and very confident in her abilities. The art in this series was absolutely beautiful and remains the most memorable thing. Her origin and reincarnation were not fully explained or used, and she had no real base except the other Wonders, so in some ways, the story felt half-baked for Hawkgirl fans. It's a shame that the Savage Hawkman and this Hawkgirl never ran into each other, although they came close in The New 52: Futures End series.

The New 52 Futures End No. 12, Convergence Hawkman No. 1,
Convergence Justice Society of America No. 1 
   The next few years were pretty lean for Hawkfans. Hawkman showed up in a series called The New 52 Futures End but was constantly ridiculed and mocked all through the series, finally ending with his odd death. Hawkman and Hawkgirl's appearances in the Convergence series were some of the highlights. When DC Rebirth was announced, there was hope that the Hawks would finally return. Then this picture was released.

Art by Ivan Reis
   This picture was released in mid-2016 as a promo for the upcoming Rebirth. There are 63 heroes in this picture but Hawkman and Hawkwoman are nowhere to be found. At this point, I literally thought that we were back in the mid-90s and DC had deemed the Hawks too "nuclear" to use again.  Several series were announced and released, but there was absolutely nothing about the Hawks. This was undoubtedly the lowest point for Hawkfans since the late 90s. 
   Then out of the blue, a new Hawkman series was announced to begin in October 2016. It was a 6-issue mini-series called "Out of Time," a team-up with Adam Strange. A few weeks before it was released, the name was changed to "Death of Hawkman." That sounded a bit ominous. After seeing Hawkman die numerous times during the last decade, this title didn't exactly put fans on the edge of their seats. 

Art by Bill Sienkiewicz
Origin/Purpose: No origin story/Defeating Despero
Secret Identity: Katar Hol
Love: Seraphene (one-night stand)
Powers: flight, super-human strength, hawk-vision, healing
Weapons: mace
Locations: Thanagar
Villains: Despero
Supporting Cast: Adam Strange Alanna Strange
Death/Reincarnation: Dies trying to defeat Despero, one mention of "See you in the next life."

   This series appeared to be based on the Hawkman from the Savage Hawkman series. There was no direct mention of the series, but this version was apparently floating around unused in the DC Universe after the Justice League United series. His appearance and powers seemed to suggest that this was the Katar Hol from Savage. The entire series had an ominous feel to it since it was pretty obvious how it was going to end. Adam Strange was written rather poorly as if he were a rookie who had never fought in battle before. Thanagar was destroyed during the battle and this would come into play later in the story of Shayera. It was an entertaining series, but difficult to fit into the history of Hawkman. Some rewrites and reboots would help that later.

Dark Nights: Metal TPB
   A new series was announced in April of 2017. The new series called Metal would supposedly center on Hawkman's Nth Metal. In the issues leading up to it, Hawkman and Hawkwoman's reincarnation was revealed to have started at the dawn of man, instead of the Egyptian version. Carter Hall, Shiera Hall, and Kendra Saunders all finally returned to the DC Universe. This series would set the stage for the new series by Robert Venditti in 2018. Several ideas were introduced during the story, but most have remained unused or unexplained; Blackhawk Island, Carter Hall's connection to the Wayne Family, the power of Hawkman's mace, etc. Many things were erased or rewritten by this series, but Hawkman, Hawkgirl (Kendra), and eventually Hawkwoman (Shayera) were back in the DC Universe. 

   I hope this run-through of the history of Hawkman in the comics made some sense. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below. You can also check out guides through the current Hawkman here and Hawkwoman here.

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