Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hawkman--science fiction superhero







I know, I know.

There are more incarnations of Hawkman than I'm even aware of.  His backstory has branched out so much it looks like a drunk put it together.  The result, in my opinion, of poor choices in editing at DC Comics.  Regardless, I retain an affinity for the character of Hawkman.  For the purposes of this blog, I will confine my discussion of the character to my favorite iteration.  The Silver Age one.  The science fiction one.

At face value, Hawkman seems like a direct concept in comic book superheroes.  He's a hawk and he's a man.  There is however, a bit more to him than the nutshell concept.  Hawkman is really Katar Hol.  He's a policeman on the planet Thanagar along with his wife, Shayera.  Cops on that planet use wings and an anti-gravity element called Nth Metal to allow them to fly.  These were the science fiction tools of the hawks, elite cops that were charged with bringing in the most dangerous of criminals. 

Katar and Shayera chased a fugitive alien ("he tried to kill me with a forklift..." A little MST3K joke, for those of you who might have caught it) named Byth to Earth.  Compounding the pursuit is the fact that Byth is a shapeshifter and could assume most any form.  The Hols trace Byth to Midway City (a stand-in for Chicago, I always figured.)  So they nonchalantly drop in on the city's police commissioner and introduce themselves as fellow law enforcement officers from another planet.  All while dressed in their hawk outfits, mind you.  After a brief bit...very brief.. of initial skepticism, the commissioner takes it all in stride and agrees to help the Hols.  This was the Silver Age after all.  After Byth gets nabbed, the Hols decide to remain on Earth, adjust to our own zeitgebers, learn human law enforcement procedures, and basically help us poor earthers out.  Lucky for the Hols, the commissioner's brother happens to be the curator for the Midway Museum...and he's retiring!  Thus allowing the Hols to take up the role of curators along with the civilian guises of Carter and Shiera Hall.  In time, the populace comes to call the visitors in their skies Hawkman and Hawkgirl (later to be Hawkwoman in order to keep up with the times.)  

Good thing we had them around, too.  What with bad guys like the Shadow Thief, the Gentleman Ghost, and the Manhawks.    That's right.  The latter were creatures that were more hawk than man and were just generally damned fun to read about.  Yet Hawkman was able to defeat them and his other foes with relatively little powers aside from flight.  And the ability to summon and control birds, can't forget that.  More often than not, Hawkman had to use actual problem solving skills and the superior science and technology of Thanagar aboard his spaceship...which he and Hawkwoman kept handily in Earth orbit.  Yes, a science fiction police procedural in less respects.

More than those attributes, Hakwman often got by with sheer bad assery.  Turns out that cops are pretty much cops no matter what planet they are from.  Hawkman was a law and order conservative.  There's an order in things and a way that things are done.  Get out of line and you eat the mace.  That's right.  Despite all of the science fiction weapons at his disposal, Hawkman's weapon of choice was a medieval mace from Earth.  Talk about "cop on the edge."

As mentioned at the start, the character of Hawkman has undergone numerous revisions, especially in the past year or so with DC's "New 52."  That is to say if the character is even around.  That's ok.  I've got my Showcase Hawkman edition...and can read of his battles against the Manhawks whenever I wish.


Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. On Facebook, Armando said: "Good column, but one glaring omission...Carter Hall is Hawkman, Katar Hol is the poor 50's sci-fi substitute. Otherwise, dead on."

    Bernard Sell said: "Kewl."

    ReplyDelete