Savage Hawkman

Hawkman: They should have stopped at reincarnation.

I wrote this post back in January 2015, when this blog was just getting started. It was inspired by my disappointment that the new Hawkman comic wasn’t better. Let’s hope that the new TV character inspires someone to try again. In the meantime, anyone interested in Hawkman should really check out the Geoff Johns comics.

I thought it would be interesting for the show to bring out the romance between Hawkman and Hawkgirl, and the show did start with that angle, before killing Hawkman off. He’s been dead a lot, though, so who knows.

I grew up reading reprints of the old JSA comics – every so often I had to resurface and remind myself that the Nazis were history. Some of the characters from that era did survive to join the Justice League – including Hawkman, who is a remarkably durable character considering how much he’s been through.

When the DC Comics reboot New 52 came out, I was really excited that they were bringing back Hawkman. I liked him when I was a kid, and I had high hopes for him and Hawkgirl. Oh, well. It sucked, and soon it was cancelled.

They seemed to be trying to turn the character into a combination of Wolverine (claws, prominent on the covers, often pointed 3D style towards the reader) and Spider-Man (he abandons his uniform, just as Peter Parker did, feeling the price is too high).

Savage Hawkman? More like Self-Hating Hawkman. I stopped reading it long before it was killed.

Hawkman and Hawkgir

Hawkman and Hawkgirl

My brother, who is a proper comics fan, suggested I check out the Geoff Johns Hawkman, which ran from 2002-6. I did, and I really like it.  Johns is a well-regarded writer who has many good series to his credit. (His JSA is supposed to be good too. That’s next.)

Of course, Johns and the new comic both had to face the fact that Hawkman’s been rebooted several times already. There’s a blog post, “The 10 Hilariously Confusing Origins of Hawkman” which covers them all. Basically, he’s either a reincarnated Egyptian priest, an alien from the planet Thangar, or Indiana Jones – alike Carter Hall. Or some or all of the three of them.

The Johns version makes him a reincarnated Egyptian priest, Prince Khufu, who is reborn time and again along with his lover, Chay-Ara. Back in ancient Egypt, they were murdered by the priest Hath-Set, and each time they reincarnate and find each other it sets in motion events that will lead to Hath-Set murdering them again.

The reincarnation, along with the super-powers, comes from the Nth metal found in a crashed Thangarian ship. This seems rather convenient, but it just needs to set up the fact that he can remember past lives, has a problem with Hawkgirl (if they get together, they trigger their eventual murder by their age-old foe), and explains why he’s so intelligent and philosophical – he’s seen it all before.

I think it’s Grant Morrison who said that second-tier characters were more fun because you had more freedom with them. Certain things you can’t change about Hawkman: he’s got to have wings, and he should look, well, hawk-y. He gets his powers from the ninth or nth metal, which comes from  the planet Thangar. Making him an archaeologist gets you bonus points. After that you can play around a little.

The original Gardner Fox/Dennis Neville Hawkman, launched in 1940, was an archaeologist, Carter Hall, who found out that he was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince. And he found the “ninth metal”, which allowed him to fly. He got his weaponry from the museum where he worked. (I’m pretty sure that’s a sacking offence.)

Hawkman image by Mike Mahle

Hawkman image by Mike Mahle

As the 10 origins blogpost suggests, Hawkman has been rebooted numerous times since then. Certain characters, like Superman and Batman, have a basic origin story, that may be tinkered with, but the general outlines are there. Superman’s from Krypton, Batman’s parents were shot before his eyes. Green Lantern got a ring from a dying alien. Hawkman doesn’t seem to have settled into a particular storyline that people could associate with him.

He never really seems to have caught on as a major character, except with a few people like me. (Being the mythomane that I am, I like the Horus-aspect of his character. Horus being a young warrior god seems fitting for a super-hero.)  I hesitate to suggest that perhaps they could work the god into Hawkman’s storyline, but perhaps Prince Khufu could be his priest? Just saying.

I think part of what makes the Johns Hawkman so good is the love story. It’s not a common feature of comic books, after all, that the two main characters are lovers from way back, whose love continues throughout time, and always ends tragically. It could make a really good hook for a movie, the ultimate time-travel romance with tragedy, mythology and morningstars.

It will be interesting to see if the Legends of Tomorrow show in Janurary plays up this angle. Both the Flash and Arrow have strong love stories along with the superhero action, so it’s not impossible.

It’s not clear if Hawkman’s going to be in the Justice League movie, but I can’t resist ending with a link to this clip from a projected Hawkman movie.

And if you liked the image at the top, click here.