Who Was That Winged Man?
by Nicolas Juzda
art by John DeBarbieri
The character of Hawkman debuted at the start of the Golden Age, in Flash Comics #1, officially published in January 1940 (but, for reasons peculiar to the comic book industry, therefore probably available in late 1939). This version, the "Golden Age Hawkman", was named Carter Hall, and was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince. His girlfriend Shiera Saunders (later to become his wife) was also the reincarnation of his beloved from that previous life, and she assumed the identity of Hawkgirl. Throughout the 1940s, they had myriad adventures both alone and with the Justice Society of America.
During the superhero renaissance of the 1950s and 1960s that has been dubbed the Silver Age, DC Comics revived the Hawkman name for a new character. Though nearly identical in appearance to the original, this version was an alien lawman named Katar Hol who came to Earth with his wife Shayera Thal. The reason for this migration was initially the pursuit of a criminal from their mutual home planet of Thanagar and they then stayed to study Earth's police methods. They assumed the names Carter and Shiera Hall and had numerous adventures over the subsequent decades in the guises of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (later changed by Shayera to Hawkwoman), including many as members of the Justice League of America.
The Hawkworld ongoing series of the late 1980s and early 90s differed from the mini-series of the same name that preceded it in that it clearly and unequivocally clashed with the Silver Age adventures of Hawkman and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman. Katar Hol and Shayera Thal were presented as arriving on Earth for the first time in what was then the immediate present. All previously published comics featuring them therefore required either outright elimination from the ever-shifting official history of the DC Universe or else some explanation for the presence of a character (or, if both were present, characters) who officially did not exist.
Predictably, the first group of comic books to be put into the latter category was the Silver Age series Justice League of America. A cornerstone of the DC Universe and a perpetual strong-seller, JLA's own importance to the history of the company and its fictional universe was such that a Hawkman revamp would likely have been vetoed before wholesale elimination of a significant portion of the JLA series would have been allowed.
Justice League of America (vol 1) had already had numerous members retroactively removed from its ranks, to the point where reading Silver Age stories from that title with an eye towards what the current official version of the story was basically constituted an act of construction of an entire imaginary comic on the part of the reader.
Both Superman and Batman, key figures in many stories, had been retroactively removed from the team's ranks (Batman has since been partially reinserted). Superman's place was alleged to have been filled by the Martian Manhunter, whose lengthy departure from the team was declared to have never occurred. Simple substitution of course solves few of the problems Superman's absence posed; there were numerous occasions where the Manhunter would have necessitated a different outcome, and this says nothing of the stories in which both heroes played an active role. Batman did not receive any official substitution. However, both Superman and Batman continued to have existed during the periods in question and worked with the League on numerous but mostly unspecified occasions, allowing for their inclusion whenever absolutely necessary for a story to have worked.
The third retroactive removal was Wonder Woman, who like Hawkman was declared to have debuted later. This of course eliminated the possibility that she worked with the JLA at all during its early years. Instead, the Black Canary's addition to the League was moved to make her a founding member. This presented similar problems to the replacement of Superman by the Manhunter; Canary and Wonder Woman had been included in stories together, and the mere combination of athleticism and sonic powers would have rarely been enough to allow Black Canary to replace the significantly more powerful Wonder Woman.
Into this already confusing mass of conjectured history and inconsistent solutions was inserted the problem of a missing Hawkman. The answer that the Hawkworld series provided in its first annual was ingeniously simple. They replaced one Hawkman with another: Carter Hall, the original Hawkman.
Though the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman no longer existed, the Golden Age versions of the characters did. Therefore, the original Hawkman and Hawkgirl, who had in actual fact been largely inactive during the Silver Age, were declared to have become members of the Justice League and served as liaisons between that group and the Justice Society.
The problems of coexistence and inadequate replacement did continue to exist. Various JLA/JSA cross-over stories that had previously had two Hawkmen involved now only had one. Additionally, several JLA stories focussed on or were in some way dependant upon the Silver Age Hawkman's status as an alien from the planet Thanagar, which his predecessor did not share. This latter problem was somewhat ameliorated when, later in the Hawkworld series, it was revealed that the current Thanagarian Hawkman's father had visited Earth and befriended the original Hawkman, giving him some pieces of Thanagarian technology. This also explained the otherwise improbable similarities between the Golden Age hero and members of the police force of another planet.
Despite these problems, a relatively smooth fit had been established, particularly by the standards that the Silver Age Justice League was rapidly beginning to cultivate. The handful of stories that cannot be justified under such an approach must simply be ignored.
The solo stories of the Silver Age Hawkman (and I do not mean to ignore Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman when I refer to them as "solo" stories; that simply happens to be the accepted term for adventures occurring within a hero's own title and not involving guest stars) bear commenting upon at this juncture. Since unlike the JLA stories these generally have no bearing on the DC Universe at large, and because their presumed removal was a direct result of the elimination of the Silver Age Hawkman rather than an incidental one (arguably, their removal was the actual reason for said removal, but this has never been argued to my knowledge), the general presumption has been that they are all non-canonical.
In the vast majority of cases this would indeed seem to be the sensible conclusion, perhaps the only logical one. Unsurprisingly, many Silver Age Hawkman stories are dependant upon the character's unique elements. Comic after comic features Thanagarian technology and practices (if not a visit to the planet itself) that go far beyond what the Golden Age Hawkman could have reasonably been expected to acquire from his alien friend. A lengthy story arc during the mid-80s went so far as to have the people of Thanagar become the main antagonists of Hawkman and Hawkwoman, who for several years were depicted as waging a covert war to defend Earth from invasion by their fellows; this entire period must be summarily declared non-canonical. Additionally, numerous antagonists of the Silver Age Hawkman were removed from history alongside him to be reintroduced in the Hawkworld series or the subsequent Hawkman title as appearing for the first time (e.g. the Shadow Thief). Without those foes, the question of whether the stories they appeared in are adaptable to a different Hawkman is moot.
However, there are two additional classes. The first is simply those stories that did not require either villains who no longer existed during that period nor a Thanagarian connection that the original Hawkman did not have. These stories may be considered to have happened with the Golden Age Hawkman filling his erstwhile successor's shoes or not, as the reader chooses.
Finally, a small minority of cases actually require that the solo story still have occurred, due to some minor effect upon the DC Universe that is to all appearances still valid. The most common example is the debuts of a few villains who were not eliminated from the Silver Age in the Hawkman revamp; I.Q. is one example, but there may be others.
In these cases the logical conclusion would seem to be, as I have implied in my analysis above, to once again use the Golden Age Hawkman in place of the Silver Age one. This would necessarily imply that aspects of the life of the Silver Age version outside of simply super-heroics were adopted by the Golden Age version. Residency in Midway City and the position of museum curator would both fall upon him. This would actually make a certain amount of sense; the Golden Age Hawkman's memories of ancient Egypt would make him ideal for a museum specializing in antiquities, as Midway's clearly did during the Silver Age. However, I caution that this is purely my conjecture; to the best of my knowledge this has never been confirmed in a published work.
A second candidate to replace the Silver Age Hawkman, which I find less appealing, is the Doom Patrol. They were also based in Midway (incidentally confirming its continued existence in the current DC Universe) and may have defended it from threats previously handled by Hawkman. However, their eventual deaths make a full replacement impossible, and their simple difference in approach and abilities from Hawkman and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman would require far greater re-writings of the text were they to be selected as designated replacements.
The Silver Age Hawkman's team-ups with, among others, Adam Strange and the Atom should be considered along similar grounds as the solo stories. In some cases, such as their collaborations with the Silver Age Superman in DC Comics Presents and elsewhere, it is the other character's revised history that must be the deciding factor.
It is also important to note that the Golden Age Hawkman continues to have appeared in comics published during the Silver Age that featured him. His role in the Justice League was, after all, as liaison to the Justice Society, in which he continued to be active. Comics of note featuring him in that group include the revived All-Star Comics (Featuring The Super Squad). Despite various major revisions to its stories necessitated by the elimination of the Golden Age versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman (now reinstated in revised form), Robin, and Huntress (not a Golden Age character per se, but a member of that team during that period and since removed from continuity), certain elements confirm that some of the stories therein did happen (notably Power Girl and the Star Spangled Kid's memberships) and the Golden Age Hawkman's participation where necessary can be safely assumed. Likewise, the Golden Age Hawkman's minor roles in Infinity Inc. are affirmed. America Versus The Justice Society, by contrast, is rendered unworkable for reasons connected with the removal of the Golden Age Batman and Robin. All-Star Squadron stories were set in the past anyway, and do not excessively burden the Golden Age Hawkman's schedule during the Silver Age.
Despite the apparent exhaustiveness of the above analysis, a problem remained. The final appearances of the Silver Age Hawkman occurred after the entire Justice Society, including the Golden Age Hawkman, had left this dimension in order to wage an eternal war to prevent the end of the world.
In several issues of Hawkworld during the storyline "Escape From Thanagar" which ran from #21-25, it was revealed that prior to Katar Hol's dispatch to Earth, another Thanagarian had been sent. This individual, Fell Andar, had pretended to be the (human) son of the Golden Age Hawkman who had been, for unclear reasons, raised on another planet. Since that Hawkman was already inaccessible and his genuine son (whose identity was not the one Fell Andar assumed; presumably he claimed to be one of two sons) was dead, no one refuted his story. Fell Andar married a human woman named Sheila, who was unaware of his deception; she assumed the guise of Hawkgirl.
The explicit target of this fix was Hawkman's membership in Justice League International and his incidental appearances in Invasion!. However, it seems quite probable that it can also be used with regard to Millennium. Much more problematic is the Invasion! cross-over in Animal Man #6. Since this replacement Hawkman's true loyalties continued to lie with Thanagar, unlike the Silver Age version, that story's requirement that he defuse a bomb used by Thanagar during the Invasion is impossible to meet. Considering that this same epic storyline was declared to have been when he ended his charade and killed Sheila, it is insufficient to assert that he was simply acting "undercover".
At any rate, the Hawkworld solutions to the void left by the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman's retroactive non-existence demonstrated a commendable ingenuity that, contrary to popular belief, left comparably few inconsistencies.
If only DC Comics had stopped there. Unfortunately, they didn't leave well enough alone, and have since further convoluted the history of Hawkman many times over. One might have thought that they'd have learned that such alterations only make things worse and that the past should be left as intact as possible, but I suppose that those who do not have history are doomed to repeat it.
Fiction editor Nicolas Juzda
is currently studying law in Saskatchewan. He fills the void that was left in
his soul by contributing to Fanzing. He has twice been among the winners in
the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest for bad writing.
John DeBarbieri has a blurb.
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2002 by Nicolas Juzda
This art is © 2002 by John DeBarbieri
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