For an extended/updated version of this article, check out Kistler’s web-site.
This is it. What I promised. Hawkman in a nutshell …
… a very large nutshell … with duct tape over several parts of it.
Fair warning. This is LOOOOONG.
Far away, there is a door, a very large one as doors go and with a very large knocker on it (insert random boob joke here). A weary traveler approaches the door. Our hero, Kistler. Oh, I grant you, he is not like other heroes. He is neither fit nor attractive.
Indeed, there’s very little heroic about him. He talks too much and his music taste confuses mortals, jumping as he does between listening to Frank Sinatra or Eminem depending on his mood, not to mention his ridiculous wardrobe which at times involves either purple pants, a 19-foot scarf, moccasins or a black fedora. I mean, who besides Bruce Banner even has purple pa-?
HEY! Enough about me and get on with it!
Oh, yes, of course. And so here goes our would-be hero Kistler as he approaches the door. A voice calls out, "Kistler, beyond this door is the greatest continuity cluster-hump ever to be achieved in the DC Comics Universe. Some claim it to be worse than John Byrne’s GENESIS story or the Spider-Man Clone Saga. Some even say it is worse than that story in which Dr. Doom was defeated by Squirrel Girl or where Daredevil developed multiple personalities for each of his costumes."
"I understand," says Kistler. "And I am ready to meet the challenge and find a cohesive way to explain everything about Hawkman while maintaining my own sanity in the process."
"Very well," the Voice says and the door opens. Kistler screams as his mind is assaulted by the wave of information, the contradicting storylines, the over-lapping files and seemingly inexplicable editorial screw-ups and decisions. But at last, the moment passes and he is calm again.
And so we begin …
Hello, folks. Kistler here. And when I am done explaining a little character(s) called Hawkman, you will understand that I’m not exaggerating that much by my intro above.
So let’s get to it. Begin at the beginning, shall we?
The very first Hawkman was a Golden Age super-hero. In his first appearance (FLASH COMICS #1), we met him as wealthy Carter Hall, a New Yorker who had a hobby/interest in archeology. One day, Carter received an ancient crystal dagger sent by Dr. James Rock. Touching it, he was assaulted by visions/memories of being an Egyptian prince named Khufu. Thousands of years ago, Khufu had been murdered alongside his lover Shiera by an evil priest named Hath-Set, murdered by the very same dagger Carter was now holding. In the dream, Carter witnessed Khufu’s death. Khufu swore that he and Hath-Set would both walk the Earth again and that then it would be Hath-Set’s turn to die.
Carter wandered the city streets, believing now that he was the reincarnation of Khufu. Passing by a subway entrance, he saw a mob of people running for their lives. Going down to investigate, he ran into a young woman named Shiera Sanders. Looking at Shiera, he realized this woman was the reincarnation of Khufu’s lover Shiera who had also been murdered by Hath-Set. Carter and Shiera found out the subway was being flooded with massive amounts of electricity, killing many. Carter decided to investigate this chaos, realizing this was no mere accident but an act of terrorism.
Believing himself to be an ancient Egyptian warrior king, Carter couldn’t help but feel he should face the matter head on, tracking down the terrorist himself to battle him physically. Apparently, he had recently discovered a new element he called "Ninth-metal" that could grant the effect of anti-gravity. He attached the Ninth-metal to his belt, built a winged harness to control direction and donned a hawk-mask (obviously thinking of Horus the Egyptian hawk-god) and went off. Eventually, he found out the lightning attack in the subway tunnels had been caused by one Dr. Anton Hastor, who was apparently the reincarnation of Hath-Set.
Hastor escaped his initial fight with Carter (who was calling himself Hawkman due to his outfit) and took Shiera hostage. Hawkman saved her and shot Hastor a mortal wound with an arrow, leaving him to die in the flames of his now burning headquarters.
Thus began Carter Hall’s career as Hawkman. Armed with ancient weapons (maces, crossbows, morning-stars, etc.) and his wing-harness, he fought crime in New York and eventually became a founding member of the Justice Society of America (JSA). The original leader was Jay Garrick, the first Flash. After him, Alan Scott the Green Lantern was made leader. Following that, Hawkman became chairman of the JSA in ALL-STAR COMICS #8, a position he held from there on. He was also the only character to appear in every single issue of All-Star Comics, as well as EVERY SINGLE Golden Age story of the JSA.
Shiera was not content to be merely the girlfriend of a super-hero and eventually got in on the action too. In ALL-STAR COMICS #5 in 1941, she took Carter’s outfit to become a Hawkgirl, predating Wonder Woman’s debut by several months. This was an identity she donned occasionally at first but later she cemented herself as a full-time hero.
Hawkman fought a few memorable foes: The Monocle, The Gentleman Ghost, others. But as the years went on, super-heroes became less popular. And in 1951, Carter Hall, like many other heroes, simply went away due to the fall of super-hero comic popularity. He would not be seen again until FLASH # 137 in 1963, by which time a NEW Hawkman had already been introduced to the world.
When the Golden Age ended, there were a few years when no real super-hero comics were published, replaced instead by mostly western, romance or sci-fi comics that featured space adventures. Adam Strange, Captain Comet and the Martian Manhunter appeared during this time.
Finally, DC began relaunching super-hero comics. They went back and kept most of the same names and powers of their old heroes, but made up new characters and origins to make the characters fresh and like new for new fans. Also, the origins were often changed in order to make the heroes more science-fiction like and thus more desirable to the comic reader who loved the space adventures of that time.
The first hero to get this treatment was the Flash. During the Golden Age, the Flash had been university student Jay Garrick of Keystone City who gained super-speed after inhaling a batch of experimental hard water. The new Flash not only had a new costume, he had a whole new name and identity. He was Barry Allen, not a college kid but an adult, a crime lab scientist. One night while working late, a bolt of lightning struck the metal chemical racks in front of him and caused all the chemicals to explode and mix onto him. The electrified chemical bath caused his body to mutate and suddenly he was capable of high speeds. He made a special costume for himself and called himself the Flash.
Now here’s an interesting note. In his first appearance, Barry mentioned he got the idea to become a super-hero because of a comic book he’d read as a child called "The Flash." And the cover we saw was Jay Garrick. So, readers were basically being told that if they were old enough to remember the Golden Age stories, they had to understand that those events were not in continuity here. This was a whole new universe to explore.
The practice continued. There was a new Green Lantern. A new Atom. Finally, it was time to introduce the new version of Hawkman. Although he was making up a whole new origin story, writer Gardner Fox also evidently wanted to give big nods to the original Hawkman, who he seemed to like. For instance, unlike the new Green Lantern, new Flash and new Atom, the second Hawkman had a costume nearly identical to his Golden Age counterpart. This Hawkman, along with the new Hawkgirl, was introduced in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD # 36 in 1961.
Here was the story. On the planet Thanagar, there was a society of people very much like humans. They were peaceful, but then a race called the Man-Hawks came and introduced the concept of crime as they went through Thanagar, terrorizing the people. Man-Hawks were man-sized birds who wore cloth masks to make it look like they had human faces. To fight them, a Thanagarian named Paran Katar formed a police force of “hawkmen”, all of whom were armed with wing harnesses and anti-gravity "Nth-metal" belts that Paran had invented. Paran Katar’s son Katar Hol was part of the Thanagarian police, partnered with a red-headed warrior woman named Shayera Thal. The day came when Katar and Shayera went off to persue a shape-shifting criminal named Byth and they wound up chasing him all the way to Earth.
In a way, this story was a reverse on DC’s Adam Strange. Adam Strange was an Earthman who became a hero on the planet Rann and was known as "man of two worlds." Katar came to Earth from Thanagar and was known as "policeman of two worlds."
Upon arriving on Earth, Katar and Shayera used a device called an absorbascon. This machine let them absorb all the languages and history of Earth so they would be able to operate on the planet with ease. A side-effect of this was that they also somehow absorbed the language of birds and could now communicate with (but not control) avian life forms.
Katar Hol and Shayera Thal battled Byth in open view of the citizen of Midway City. They were labeled "Hawkman" and "Hawkgirl" by the public, who mistook them as super-heroes and didn’t realize they were alien policemen wearing uniforms. After defeating Byth, the Hawks befriended Police Commisioner Emmet of the Midway Police Department. They decided to stay on Earth for a while and learn about Earth police methods (exactly why an alien society with an entirely different culture would want to do this with Earth as opposed to the many other planet wasn’t explained). Commissioner Emmet was glad to have them as allies. To help them learn about Earth culture outside of the police department, he set them up with false civilian identities. Katar Hol and Shayera Thal thus took on the fake names of “Carter and Shiera Hall” (the closest English equivalents of their Earth names). In their new cover identities, they became curators of the Midway Museum. Despite their alien nature, they preferred the weapons of Earth’s past and later it was shown that they had a device on their space-ship (which they kept hovering high above the city) that could duplicate any ancient Earth weapon they wanted.
The Hawks became the heroes of Midway City and Hawkman eventually became a member of the Justice League of America (JLA), which was the new major super-hero team of DC Comics (a sucessor of sorts to the JSA from years earlier). Like Batman, the Hawks had a close friendship with their city police commissioner who would actually send a pet bird to the Hawks whenever he needed to get messages to them or ask them for aid, knowing that Hawkman and Hawkgirl spoke "the language of the birds."
Eventually, DC decided that their modern heroes of the JLA should meet their Golden Age heroes of the JSA. But how could the teams meet when it had been established that the Golden Age stories didn’t happen in the same continuity as the modern stories of the new Flash, etc.? Simple … The Golden Age heroes DID exist, they just existed in a different universe. It was revealed that there were multiple universes, multiple Earths that were separated by dimensional barriers. On Earth-1, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were Katar and Shayera, aliens who used the cover names of “Carter and Shiera Hall.” On Earth-2, Hawkman and Hawkgirl actually WERE named Carter and Shiera Hall and were human beings who had been Egyptian royalty in a past life.
For the purposes of this article and to avoid confusion, I will NOT be referring to the Earth-1 Hawks by their cover identity names. If I say “Carter” in this article, I am referring to the Earth-2 archeologist-turned-super-hero. If I talk about the Earth-1 alien who joined the Justice League, I will refer to him as Katar. Hopefully this will make things easier for you.
Anyway, with this new concept of there being Earth-1 and Earth-2, the two Hawk duos could meet whenever the JSA and JLA teamed-up. Unlike the two different Flashes or Green Lanterns, it was sometimes confusing seeing the two Hawkmen and Hawkgirls together since they had nearly identical costumes. Eventually, DC tried to help things out by giving the Earth-2 Hawkman a golden metal helmet to distinguish him from his masked Earth-1 counterpart. Also, there was the simple difference of hair color. Earth-2 Carter Hall was blonde while Earth-1 Katar Hol was black haired. Earth-2 Shiera Hall was brown-haired while Earth-1 Shayera Thal was a redhead.
As a member of the Justice League, Katar Hol often crossed swords with Oliver Queen AKA The Green Arrow. Green Arrow had, by this time, become a very liberal-minded person who saw himself as a fighter for the common man and the guy whose job it was to keep the Leaguers from becoming power-mongers and fascists. Naturally then, he didn’t trust Katar Hol, whom he saw as an alien cop first (and thus a member of the establishment) and a super-hero second. Katar Hol, who had been raised with rigid discipline on Thanagar and was part of a police force that took regulations and protocol as seriously as the U.S. army, found Ollie’s attitude to be ridiculous, bordering on that of an anarchist. It made for some great character scenes when the team would try to have a meeting or go into battle and before you knew it, GA and Hawkman were at each other’s throats again.
Outside of the League, Hawkman and Hawkgirl (or Hawkwoman as she came to be called later on) began to develop their lives in new ways. The two of them got married for one thing. For another, DC combined the Hawkman title with the Atom, publishing both of their adventures in one series. As a result, it soon became part of continuity that the Atom and Hawkman were good friends.
Hawkman and Hawkwoman teamed-up with Adam Strange a few times but the day came when their relationship changed. On day, the planet Thanagar tried to invade Rann, Adam’s adopted homeworld. Rather than side with their people, the Hawks rebelled and helped Adam fight back the Thanagarian invasion, marking themselves as traitors to the Thangarian empire. Where once the Hawks had been sort of ambassadors to Earth, showing that both cultures had something to learn from each other, they were now exiles hiding on a world they’d taken as their new home. This made them quite different from alien heroes such as Superman and the Martian Manhunter, who had both been the last survivors of their races and saw Earth as a refuge as much as a home.
From then on, the Hawks had to also be careful of members of their own race. A series started called The Shadow War in which the Hawks fought Thanagarians who had schemes for the planet Earth. During the process, the Hawks were exposed in their identities of museum curators Carter and Sheira Hall and it was revealed to the public that these two were aliens who’d been living secretly among humanity.
Okay, enough of Earth-1. Let’s see what was happening on Earth-2 with the older, human versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl. On Earth-2, the Golden Age Hawkman had to deal with his son Hector becoming a super-hero. Dressed in an armor suit of Ninth-metal, Hector Hall took on the name of “Silver Scarab” and led a new team of heroes called Infinity, Inc. The members of Infinite, Inc. (or “Infinitors” as they were called) were all progeny or successors of JSA members. Another member of Infinity, Inc. was a young man named Northwind who was part of a bird-like race that lived in the hidden city of Feithera, which Carter and Shiera had discovered long ago.
Hector felt unloved by his parents. He thought that they wanted to be super-heroes more than parents and believed they loved their avian godson Northwind more than they did him. Despite the chip on his shoulder, Hector tried his best to be a good leader to the team. He eventually married his teammate Lyta Hall, the young Infinitor known as Fury.
Back to the Thanagarians of Earth-1’s universe.
Just before the Shadow War happened, THE CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS took place. As has been stated before, where once there were many universes there was now one with a unified timeline. This meant that as far as history was concerned, there was the JSA in the 40s, they retired for a while and then many years later new heroes showed up, some of whom adopted the same names of Golden Age heroes who had had similar powers and the JLA was soon formed, etc. Jay Garrick had been the Flash and now Barry Allen was the new Flash and they lived on the same planet (indeed, their cities were neighbors to each other).
This also meant that Carter Hall and Shiera Hall were living on the same planet as Katar Hol and Shayera Thal who, natch, went by the Earth names Carter and Shiera Hall.
Huh. Seems like a bit of a coincidence, doesn’t it? I mean, it made sense when they lived in parallel universes, but now how did you explain that the two later heroes just happen to pick aliases that were the same as the real names of their predecessors? What’s more, how did you explain the coincidence that Carter Hall of the Golden Age had invented a Ninth-Metal belt and wing harness all on his own that was identical to the Nth-Metal belts and wing harnesses that the Hawkmen of Thanagar used when he’d never met a Thanagarian before?
After THE CRISIS, DC wasn’t sure what to do with having the JSA live on the same planet as the JLA. The general belief was that it was redundant to have older, more experienced versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, etc. living on the same planet as their successors. In a comic book called simply THE LAST DAYS OF THE JSA, the team was cast into Limbo in order to protect Earth from the threat of Ragnarok (this was later retconned slightly in Neil Gaiman’s SANDMAN series, remind me to bring that up later, won’t you?).
What was the point of that? It meant that DC was able to, in one fell swoop, cast aside the entire JSA without actually killing them. Only Power Girl, the Star-Spangled Kid, Dr. Fate and the Spectre remained on Earth. So, since the Golden Age Hawkman was off in Limbo, writers just ignored the strange continuity questions brought about by the fact that he now lived on the same Earth as Katar Hol (though that didn’t stop readers from debating the matter). As far as any of their loved ones knew, the JSA was lost and very likely dead.
So Carter Hall the archeologist was gone now, but what about his son Hector? Well, things were not rosey for the kid. During one adventure, Hector was attacked by a female Dr. Rock who it turned out was Hath-Set, once again reincarnated. Hath-Set was killed and it was also discovered that Hector was under a curse, that he had no soul and was going to be used as a vessel for a spirit calling itself the Silver Scarab. Apparently, Hector had chosen his name because subconsciously he was aware the spirit’s presence in his body and had been getting ready to become its vessel. Unwilling to give up his humanity, Hector fought this fate and died in the process. Lyta was left a pregnant widow, mourning for her lost husband.
Okay, now. Before we talk about what happened to Hector, let’s back-track a bit and speak about a few characters called “The Sandman.” The first Sandman was Wesley Dodds, a JSA member who fought crime with a gas-gun and was spurred into action by prophetic nightmares. Many years after he had fallen out of the spotlight, comic artist Jack Kirby created a NEW Sandman. This was Garret Sanford, a scientist who became the “protector of the Dream Dimension.” Dressed in a costume of red and gold, Sanford fought nightmare creatures, aided by two creatures called Brute and Glob. But the series didn’t meet with much success and eventually got cancelled.
“Protector of the Dream Dimension …”
Weeks after his death, Hector’s spirit returned. But this was no mere ghost. Hector was now the NEW protector of the Dream Dimension. Apparently, Garret Sanford had died and his sidekicks Brute and Glob had been desperate for someone to take his place. When Hector died, Brute and Glob saw his spirit leaving the physical world and grabbed it, asking him to be the NEW Sandman of the Dream Dimension.
Lyta was over-joyed to have her husband back (even though he was still technically a ghost). Hector explained that he couldn’t stay in the physical world, being that he was dead, but she could join him in the Dream Dimension and there they could live and raise their child when it was born. Lyta agreed and the two lovers walked away from the physical world, letting readers assume that they would live happily ever after.
I know, weird.
Back to Katar Hol. Hawkman’s series eventually got cancelled. A little later, Batman was trying to fill the newly formed Justice League International with more seasoned heroes. He approached Katar and Shayera, asking them to join. They agreed, but Hawkman soon found he couldn’t stand these people who didn’t take themselves seriously and seemed to get into ridiculous situations (this was the era of Giffen’s Justice League, where the emphasis was on comedy for many stories). He got huffy and took off, taking Shayera with him.
DC then did a storyline called INVASION in which several alien races such as the Khunds, the Thanagarians, the Durlans and the Dominion sought to join forces and invade Earth as a whole. The Thanagarians stated their desires not only to take on Earth but to capture the traitors Katar and Shayera. Earth was able to beat back the invasion. During the course of this story, readers also finally learned about the meta-gene, that rare DNA x-factor that allowed some humans to develop super-powers when subjected to catastrophic accidents rather than merely die.
Soon after that, Tim Truman sought to reinvigorate Katar Hol. He produced a three issue mini-series called HAWKWORLD and it is, in my opinion, a wonderful story. It did for Katar Hol what YEAR ONE did for Batman and Jim Gordon, redefining them for a new audience. In HAWKWORLD, we saw Katar Hol when he was a young man on Thanagar, years before he would come to Earth. Son of Paran Katar, he was naturally of a high social status with quite a bit of clout. He was a strange thing, though, a patriot. Whereas other Thanagarians were content to simply live lives of decadence, enjoying the treasures their empire had plundered from other worlds, Katar missed the days when Thanagarians made their own art and furniture and wine and weapons. He studied his planet’s old legends, such as the ones about their hero Kalmoran, but was seen as being rather silly and sentimental for it all.
Katar joined the police force of Thanagar, the wingmen. It was obvious this was a corrupt, brutal police force and old school fans now had no trouble believing that Thanagar was the kind of planet that would later attempt to invade Rann and Earth if this was what they’d been like years before. It was also revealed that many people of Thanagar used recreational drugs for various reasons, the nobles to simply get high, the wingmen to turn up their senses and reflexes. Katar eventually became an addict himself.
HAWKWORLD was about exactly that, as it showed Thanagar up close and dirty, revealing that the noble classes literally lived in cities that floated above the "underworld", where the dregs and rejects barely managed to survive. The upper classes were ruled by corrupt politics and military rule, all of whom employed television for propaganda. You wouldn’t find anyone seeing a sitcom or a play on TV on Thanagar, only news programs and commercials advertising the wingmen or some such thing. The series also tried to make Thanagar more alien by giving the planet its own slang. "Flash" was a slang word for kill, such as "Flash him!" or "We’re entering a flash-zone!" Stuff like that.
In HAWKWORLD, Katar Hol’s commander was a man named Byth who manipulated Katar into killing his own father. Byth had discovered that Paran Katar had been secretly smuggling goods to the underworld and helping out its inhabitants. Byth used Katar as part of a ploy to both eliminate Paran and to aid in his rise to power. Katar was taken to a deserted island where it was expected he would die of hunger and weakness by the end of his sentence, which would not end until 10 years later.
There were two alien monks on the island and Katar woke up one day to see that one of them was building a wing harness. Believing the monk sought to escape without him, Katar killed him and grabbed the wings. It was then that he discovered to his horror that the monk had actually been making the wings for Katar. He hadn’t needed them, because his alien race had natural wings on their backs.
Katar’s horror forced him to re-examine his life and dedicate himself to becoming a better person. He studied with the other monk (who had been brother to the man Katar murdered) and the next ten years were spent honing his body and his spirit. When the Wingmen came to pick him up at the end of his sentence, they were amazed Katar was not only alive but physically fit and healthy. Katar was taken back to civilization where he was forced to join the underworld. He took his father’s place as a shadow leader and after a few years befriended a female wingman named Shayera Thal. Shayera figured out Byth’s plot from years before and gathered the evidence to prove his crimes. Katar fought Byth but was stunned to realize his former superior now had shape-shifting powers thanks to a new drug he’d been using.
Byth escaped Katar’s justice. HAWKWORLD ended with Katar getting the winged helmet, a sign of honor, and showed him and Shayera on police patrol over the skies of Thanagar. Katar ended the series by saying he’d heard rumors of Byth escaping to a primitive world far away and that one day he and Byth would meet again.
As I said, an excellent mini-series that added tons of depth to Katar and Shayera, made Thanagar a more fascinating place than just a version of Earth where the cops had wings, established that Katar had always had an interest in history, and gave us an ending that directly led into their first published adventure from years before. Great job for a prequel series.
If only it had stayed that way. SIGH.
With the success of Truman’s HAWKWORLD, DC decided to make a new ongoing series under the same name, continuing where the mini-series had left off. The first issue began the journey of Katar and Shayera learning of Byth’s escape to Earth and going after him. They were in suspended animation during the journey as their brains absorbed all knowledge the Thanagarians had about the Earth. Apparently, a Thanagarian ambassador was on Earth now and trying to establish a relationship between Earth and Thanagar. The cover story was that Katar and Shayera would hang out on Earth in order to learn of its police methods (which Shayera pointed out was a ridiculous cover, since the two planets were so different any comparison would be useless), while in reality they would be studying Earth, it’s strengths and weaknesses, for its potential joining in the Thangarian empire.
While chasing Byth, Katar and Shayera were introduced to concepts that were both alien and frightening to them. Reading the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence and the American Constitution, they were amazed and shocked that a government existed that would allow such documents to exist, that would engender the belief that people could choose their own destiny and had "inalienable rights." Shayera believed Earth was naïve and that no society could possibly function on such ideals, but Katar found it wonderful and exciting.
As the issues went on, it seemed a little odd. A few comments were made regarding a recent Thanagarian invasion attempt on Earth and that the current ambassador was hoping Katar’s presence could smooth things over so people wouldn’t hold it against Thanagar. This confused some readers because the only Thangarian invasion they knew of was the one that took place during the INVASION! storyline and this series was supposed to be in the past, wasn’t it? I mean, it was the story of how Katar and Shayera first came to Earth after all. What’s more, Katar and Shayera were still wearing their bulky armored uniforms from Thanagar rather than the green and red outfits that they had worn throughout the Silver Age AND they were using blasters instead of ancient weapons.
So what was the deal? If this was still a prequel series, when were they finally gonna get to their classic costumes and drop the blasters for maces? Also, considering that they were public about their alien status and walked around without masks, it became increasingly difficult to believe that they would eventually be able to establish cover identities as museum curators.
The truth was soon found out. In a HAWKWORLD issue, Katar and Shayera encountered Wally West, who had recently become the Flash just after the Crisis, taking the place of his mentor Barry Allen. What?! But this series is supposed to be set in the past, because so far we’ve been watching Katar and Shayera get used to Earth. So the first time they meet the Flash, it should be Barry Allen and Wally West shouldn’t have even started his career as the sidekick Kid Flash yet.
But there it was. They had just met Wally as the Flash and made it very clear that the series hadn’t suddenly jumped forward in time many years and that this was the first time they had ever met a hero called the Flash.
Readers groaned. This series was not set in the past. It was taking place NOW. The invasion mentioned previously was indeed from the story INVASION! As far as continuity was concerned now, Katar and Shayera could not have been heroes for years or members of the old Justice League, because they had never been to Earth until now. All previous stories were now defunct.
It has been stated by DC in the past that this confusion was mainly caused by the editorial mistake of not saying that issue #1 of the HAWKWORLD series should’ve started with a caption reading "Ten Years Ago…" or something akin to that. But now the damage was done. Rather than backtrack and say "oops, that issue was a mistake, it should’ve been Barry," they went with it. Hawkman and Hawkwoman were new heroes and that was that. Other sources have said that when it was proposed that HAWKWORLD be a regular monthly, Truman WANTED it to be set in the past so he could retell the old Silver Age tales with the Hawkworld continuity and atmosphere meshed in, but DC decreed that doing so would “confuse the readers” and decided that rebooting Katar at ground zero like they did with Wonder Woman would be best.
Either way, Katar and Shayera were now considered NEW heroes and all their adventures with the Justice League from the years before were now defunct.
So what about all those Justice League stories that featured Hawkman as a member? DC said that those stories still existed, but that had been the Golden Age Hawkman (not Katar Hold) who, soon after the JLA had formed, had decided to join the team as a liaison between them and the JSA. The only problem with this was that they didn’t reprint the old stories with editorial changes, meaning that rather than having them re-presented in a way that made sense in the new continuity, readers just had to realize that if they read any JLA issues published before The Crisis, they had to mentally edit out anytime Hawkman mentioned he was from Thanagar or that his wife’s real name was Shayera and not Shiera. The Hawkman of the 40s was now the same Hawkman who had worked with the JLA and had often fought with Green Arrow, this time because unlike Green Arrow he was from a more conservative time and believed in ideas that GA found anachronistic.
Not a great fix, but admittedly not impossible to swallow either. The real problem came when someone brought up a little paradox. Carter Hall had taken Katar’s place in all JLA stories Pre-Crisis. But what about those Post-Crisis? What about those stories where Batman went to Katar and Shayera and asked them to join the Justice League International? Carter and Shiera and the JSA had left for Limbo months beforehand, it couldn’t have been THEM in those issues. What’s more, what about the fact that Hawkman was around during INVASION! and was specifically named by the Thanagarians as a traitor they were after?
The last question was never resolved. On re-reading INVASION!, people have had to simply mentally edit out any time when the Thanagarians say they wanna beat up Katar. But the first conundrum was dealt with, though not very well.
Since the Hawkman who joined the JLI couldn’t be Carter or Katar, DC invented the idea of an interim Hawkman. It was stated that soon after Carter and Shiera went off into Limbo, a Thanagarian spy named Fel Andar came to Earth and assumed the identity of Carter Hall, Jr., claiming to be the successor of Carter Hall. He took an Earthwoman named Sharon as his lover and his Hawkgirl and they joined the JLI as a front while he secretly was learning about the heroes and their secrets. During INVASION!, he was revealed and defeated and it was decided that the JLI wouldn’t reveal his true agenda to the public for fear of losing public trust in their heroes.
So let me get this straight. Katar Hol not only went from being an experienced hero and long-time member of the JLA to being a newbie hero who had never even met Barry Allen, but he went from being the second Hawkman, a position he’d had since his creation, to being now the THIRD Hawkman. And really, if a hero showed up saying he was Carter Hall’s son, wouldn’t someone like Batman go and ask the REAL son Hector “Hey, did you ever have a brother? No? Hmm, maybe we shouldn’t believe this guy.”
While they were telling us all about Fel Andar, DC also informed readers that Paran Katar had been on Earth during the 40s and 50s under the name Perry Carter and had befriended Carter Hall. So now at least it had been explained how Carter could have had a wing harness and Nth-metal belt (Perry seemed to have given them to him), but this change also seemed to diminish Carter’s role in becoming a hero. Rather than being a guy who invented his wings, he had been given alien tech that anyone else could’ve used. Which sucked, since Carter and Sheira had just come back from Limbo with the rest of the JSA and now it seemed like they were being dissed in a small way.
Enough of Thanagar for while.
Back to a little dead man named Hector Hall.
SPOILER’S NOTE: IF YOU INTEND TO READ NEIL GAIMAN’S SANDMAN, PLEASE DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING ITALICIZED PARAGRAPHS. THERE WILL BE A NOTICE WHEN THE SPOILERS ARE DONE.
Neil Gaiman started his now all-too-famous series THE SANDMAN, which starred Morpheus, lord of the Dreaming, that dimension we all visit when we sleep. In the first story-arc, it was revealed Morpheus had been imprisoned for decades. Now, back in power, he sought put his kingdom back in order. He found that two of his nightmares had escaped. Following their trail, he found that the two had created a small copy of the Dreaming, their very own Dream Dimension, and had been growing in power of the years. To help their Dream Dimension grow, they needed to use humans. They had taken one guy and convinced him he was "the Sandman", protector of the dimension, but he’d died, so after that they snatched some silly little ghost called Hector Hall and had fed him the same lies. His wife Lyta was still pregnant after all these years.
Morpheus would not have this. He immediately put the two nightmare demons in their place and then sent Hector Hall off to the afterlife, where the dead belong. Lyta swore vengeance, but Morpheus was more interested in the child which had been nurtured so long in dreams. When the child was born, Morpheus named him Daniel.
A while passed and Lyta sought revenge on Morpheus for killing Hector (she did not agree with Morpheus that Hector was supposed to be dead and had simply been sent where he belonged). During her whole revenge scheme, Lyta went nuts and Daniel wound up in the Dreaming. What’s more, Morpheus died and rather than regenerate into a new incarnation of himself, he caused his new aspect to fuse with Daniel. Thus, Daniel, now possessed of Morpheus’s knowledge and power and essence, is now lord of the dreaming. Which means, boys and girls, that Carter Hall’s grandson is the current dream king. Funky, huh?
END OF SPOILERS.
ENJOY THE REST OF THE ENTRY.
Back to the story. Katar and Shayera later regarded themselves as renegades from their planet and adopted Earth as their home. It was later revealed that Katar was actually half-human and that his mother had been a Native American that Paran met during his visit to Earth. This was to give him a deeper connection to Earth and to redefine aspects of his character.
The series ended and later a new HAWKMAN series started. It began with a complicated story in which Katar Hol had vanished for a while and returned in a new black and gold costume with Wolverine claws on one glove, claiming to the public that he was a new Hawkman entirely, while elsewhere Shayera had gone temporarily evil. No, I’m not kidding. Also, after having spent months with his Native American mother Naomi, exploring his heritage and such, Katar had become a bit of a mystic and now constantly called on animal spirits for aid in his battles. It was to mark him as different than just any other alien sci-fi hero but it wasn’t really catching on. People found it funky to constantly hear Katar say stuff like "Brother eagle, lend me your sight. Brother Fox, lend me your stealth." He was Hawkman, not Animal Man.
A few months later, ZERO HOUR happened and DC saw this as a way to re-invent Hawkman yet again, hoping that maybe this time they’d get it right and simplify things.
ZERO HOUR was sort of a sequel to THE CRISIS, and was even labeled "Crisis In Time." It was meant to smooth out some of the alternate time lines that had appeared since The Crisis, as well as establish Hal Jordan (who had recently gone nuts and turned against the Green Lantern Corps) as a major DCU villain, while simultaneously allowing them to create a new timeline that ditched or explained away any anomalies in continuity. It wasn’t all that successful and was written in such a way that unless you had some of the tie-ins it was quite confusing at times.
Bottom line: DC now had a chance to undo the last few years of screw-ups. They had a chance to say "Hey, everything that happened in the HAWKWORLD on-going series and the Hawkman issues after that is bunk, just ignore them. Consider the original HAWKWORLD mini to take place before his Silver Age first appearance and then it’ll be all good." They could’ve done it. With the exception of one or two cameos in the Justice League comic, Katar hadn’t made big appearances in the rest of the DCU outside of his own book.
But no. A new tact was chosen instead.
It was revealed that there was a Hawk God who had inspired many Hawk Champions over the years, of which Katar was the latest. Other Hawk Champions included the Western hero Nighthawk ("hawk", get it?) and the medieval hero the Silent Knight (cuz he had wings on his helmet, although they confused him with the Shining Knight by also depicting him with a winged horse). This Hawk God was also the source the powered Nth-metal by being locked in another dimension (I still can’t wrap my brain around the physics of that explanation, but whatever). The Hawk God busted out during Zero Hour due to the time anomalies and razed Thanagar to the ground. He then attacked Hawkman, who was joined in battle by Carter Hall and Shiera Hall.
During the fight, there was a blast of chronal energy that erupted through all four of them. A new being was created as the four fused into one. Katar stood now, taller and more muscular than before. Shiera had apparently been killed, Carter’s memories now swirled around Katar’s head and he was now infused with the energies of the Hawk God, which gave him avian eyes, greater strength and wings made of Nth-metal that were attached to his back and could retract on command. He also now had the memories of all the previous Hawk Champions over the years. Also, as a result of the Hawk God now being dead technically, all Nth-metal other than Katar’s was now inert.
Frankly, it was weird. And it kept getting weirder. It was revealed that nearly all the previous Hawk Champions had been killed by Vandal Savage, suddenly making the immortal villain an arch-enemy. Later, it was shown that some of the Hawk Champion spirits wanted to take over Katar’s body, which was odd. On the flipside, Katar had moments where it seemed like he was actually Carter speaking. This wasn’t used much in the actual HAWKMAN series. The most effective use was in the Green Lantern title when Hawkman was part of a team that was meant to capture Hal Jordan (now called Parallax) and during the fight he spoke to Hal as if they were old friends. Hal said "That’s you in there, isn’t it, Carter? The REAL you."
Could’ve been interesting, but alas, that point just wasn’t explored. Readers lost a serious emotional connection to Hawkman, who now acted very inhuman. Shayera went off on her own, joining the Chicago PD. And the classic villain the Gentleman Ghost was brought back in such a way that everything cool about the character was removed. Before, he’d always appeared as an invisible man in a top hat, suit and cape with a floating monocle and Hawkman was never sure if he was truly a ghost or just an accomplished thief. Sometime before the Crisis, they’d come out and said he was a ghost. But now, in this new HAWKMAN series, he was just an old man who was a skilled thief and dressed in a jumpsuit. The flavor of the character was totally gone.
In a HAWKMAN ANNUAL issue, Hath-Set returned yet again in a new body, a woman’s this time. Exactly how it was possible that Hath-Set was already an adult again after having just been killed a few years ago as Dr. Rock was not explained in the slightest. Also, part of the issue dealt with flashbacks to Khufu’s time. It was now said that Khufu’s full name had been Khufu Ka-Taar, giving him a name similar to Katar which didn’t really change anything and only made it a little hokier. Also, Khufu’s lover was renamed from Shiera to Lady Chay-Ara. Again, this was made so that it sounded more like Shayera, but since the Thanagarian Hawkman and Hawkwoman had nothing to do with reincarnation or the Egyptian royal couple in question, this seemed pointless.
Finally, DC decided Hawkman was no good and labeled the character "radioactive", meaning his history was so messed up they didn’t want anyone touching him anymore. A story was quickly written in which the Hawk God re-emerged in Katar’s mind, trying to take him over and use him to kill. Rather than risk others, Katar went into a limbo-like dimension where he could harm no one. He vanished into the dimensional rift, saying good-bye to Shayera.
And that was that. No more Hawkman. Oh people tried to come up with ways to fix it, but DC was just tired of it all.
When he began writing JLA, Grant Morrison introduced a character named Zauriel who was a fallen angel and would soon join the team. During his first meeting with the Leaguers, he saved Aquaman’s life and Aquaman for a second muttered "Katar?", before he realized it was a different guy. Superman offered Zauriel membership, saying there was always a place in the League for "a big guy with wings." Basically, Grant Morrison intended this to be the new Hawkman. But DC was so done with the character and all his grief that they wouldn’t let Morrison use the Hawkman name, even though this was a totally different character. Thus, he remained Zauriel.
A few years passed. The Justice Society reformed and the new JSA title began. In it, we were introduced to a new character Kendra Saunders, grand-daugher of Golden Age adventurer Speed Saunders (who had been Shiera Hall’s cousin). Kendra used Shiera’s old harness and Nth-metal to become the new Hawkgirl. Logically, her Nth-metal shouldn’t have worked because of the Hawk God affair, but people were so ready to forget that story they all said "screw it" and moved on. Kendra also had dreams about ancient Egypt and what seemed like an alien world.
In their first story arc, the JSA was after a boy who was supposed to grow up to be the new host for Dr. Fate. Their only clue was that the kid had a birth-mark shaped as an ankh. At the end of the venture, the baby came into contact with Fate’s items of power and was grown into a full adult. The JSA members were shocked to recognize Hector Hall, who’d died years ago.
Hector explained that he was back because, frankly, reincarnation runs in the family. He remembered dying and then he remembered his spirit wandering on the edge of the Dreaming. Nothing more really. And now he was back, not as the Silver Scarab but as the new Dr. Fate.
After several issues, Kendra found herself acting oddly at times. She referred to her teammate Dr. Mid-Nite as "McNider", which had been the original Dr. Mid-Nite’s real name. Also, at one point she confronted the villain Black Adam and referred to him as "Teth-Adam", which had been his title in ancient Egypt.
Confused by why she would say such things and why she seemed to occasionally have conflicting memories, Kendra flew off to wander the sky when she bumped into Zauriel (obviously a joking nod to the fact that Zauriel was supposed to be a Hawkman). They spoke about Kendra’s past attempts to commit suicide and how after the last real attempt she was actually dead for a few minutes but then came back, though with different colored eyes. Shiera’s eyes. Zauriel posed the idea that Kendra Saunders had indeed died and that the ghost of Shiera Hall, lost and alone since being ripped from her body during Zero Hour, a body which had been fused with Katar Hol, had inhabited the body of her grand-niece moments after the death. Thus, this was actually the spirit of Shiera, but with different memories and a bit of a different personality.
Kendra freaked out, unwilling to believe that she was the reincarnation of a dead great-aunt rather than the same Kendra Saunders who had been born nearly two decades beforehand. But she didn’t get a chance to adjust before she wound up transported to Thanagar.
During a time travel trip that was happening around the same time, Jay Garrick wound up in ancient Egypt and met Prince Khufu, who showed him that something had fallen from the sky recently. It was a crashed Thanagarian ship powered by Nth-metal. This now became the source of where Carter Hall would get Nth-metal years later, rather than just getting it from "Perry Carter."
As Kendra explored Thanagar, she learned more things. It was now revealed that Nth-metal didn’t just work as anti-gravity, it worked on the whole unified field theory. What’s more, it was psycho-reactive, being sensitive to the desires of the users and sometimes carrying memories within it.
It was revealed that the knife Khufu and Chay-Ara had been killed with had been made of Nth-metal (and not crystal as previously said). The psycho-reactive properties of the metal bound Chay-Ara and Khufu’s souls so that they would constantly be reincarnated and constantly find each other. The concept of the Hawk Champions was now re-edited. Rather than saying there had been many people over the years chosen to represent the Hawk God, the Hawk God’s influence was thrown out the window and it was now said that each of those men had been Khufu in different incarnations. The Shining Knight of medieval times was a past life of Carter Hall’s, as was the Western hero Hannibal Hawkes AKA Nighthawk. And the woman gunslinger Cinnamon, Nighthawk’s lover, was now said to have been a past life of Shiera’s.
The Silent Knight and the gunfighters Nighthawk and Cinnamon
In nearly each of his lives, Carter had adopted the symbol of the hawk or a bird because he had the subconscious memories of the Thanagarians’ worship of birds, which had been passed into his mind when the Nth-metal had killed him as Khufu.
It was also said that decades ago, Thanagar had sent out scout ships to various worlds and that one such had been with Paran Katar journeying to Earth. He’d met Carter Hall and helped him become Hawkman before returning to Thanagar and helping re-establish the planet as a winged society, free of gravity’s pull.
As Kendra learned all this, Carter emerged from a dimensional rift. He revealed that upon entering the rift, he had been separated from Katar and the Hawk God. Katar had died and now Carter was back. Due to his fusion with Katar, a side effect was that his hair was now brown instead of blonde (a midway point between blonde and black, I guess) and he had knowledge of Thanagar and all its ways. Also, he now had full access to the memories of all his past lives, whereas before he’d only remembered parts of his life as Khufu and had been unaware he’d been reincarnated more than once.
It was also stated in a later story that Katar had been bonded to a Hawk Avatar, not a Hawk God per se, and that Animal Man sensed the Hawk Avatar’s presence within The Red (an energy field made by animals, just as plant life is bonded by the Green). The fact that Animal Man could sense the Hawk Avatar’s presence in The Red again confirmed that Katar must have been dead or else the Avatar could not have gotten free of their bond. It was also revealed that Shayera was still around and, like the others, had working Nth-metal.
But from now on, the Thanagarians were given the backseat. Suddenly, we had the original Hawkman back. And in my mind, the idea of making him a warrior constantly reincarnated cemented him as more than just a fighter with wings. Also, DC began to retcon certain things. It was revealed that the reason our boy was usually shirtless was because the Nth-metal made an aura that protected him from strong outer temperatures, as well as from heat and friction (probably not as good as the Flash’s aura, but still handy). It was also said that Nth-metal increased a person’s healing abilities (not the level of the X-Men’s Wolverine, but still better than a normal guy). And whereas before it had been said that it was easier for Hawkman to lift heavy weights in the air while in flight (weights like people), DC now turned that into full super-strength granted by Nth-metal. If Carter got ticked off enough, he could drive his mace through a car.
Geoff Johns also did a lot more to emphasize that because of his two major lives, that of Khufu and Carter Hall, the original Hawkman was a man of two minds. He could be very sophisticated and pleasant, displaying a well-read knowledge and a fondness of history and people. But once he put on the helmet, he seemed to devolve into a fierce warrior who had no qualms with killing if he thought it was necessary.
Another interesting thing was how the relationship between him and the new Hawkgirl was very different. As she did not remember her past life even as Shiera, much less as Chay-Ara, Kendra did not want to be involved with Carter simply because they were "destined" to be together. Frankly, the thought of a destined lover frightened her as she thought that meant she had no free will. Thus, Carter was no faced with a woman who he remembered loving for lifetimes yet only wanted to be friends.
In a later story with Carter and the Atom, it was revealed that the absorbascon was not just a device that could be used by anyone and was readily available to Thanagarians. As continuity would now have it, the absorbascon was indeed a device that could absorb all knowledge on the planet and because of that was a highly powerful and dangerous device. Makes more sense when you think about it. Also, in HAWKMAN SECRET FILES, we learned that the reason Hath-Set had been able to reincarnate so quickly to fight Katar after he’d been killed fighting the Silver Scarab. It was because it wasn’t a reincarnation. Hath-Set has never been reincarnated, it was revealed. Rather, he is a spirit capable of possessing anyone who is a descendant of his bloodline. Thus, a minor point was tidied up and a villain was brought back.
The Gentleman Ghost appeared again, now in his original form and once again a ghost. It was also revealed that he had known Carter Hall and Shiera back when they were Nighthawk and Cinnamon.
Hector eventually found Lyta and they’re together again. I’m not even going to explain what that involved, just go buy the damn JSA tpbs yourself, they’re great reads anyway.
In his series SILVER AGE, Mark Waid gave us a story that took place in the Justice League’s past but was in continuity. It involved Lex Luthor’s Injustice League organizing a plot to take over the world and defeat the Leaguers. This involved them taking, among other items, the absorbascon which, just as Johns would describe it a couple of years later, was said now to be a rather rare and powerful device.
At one point, a group of Thanagarians helped out the Leaguers and were dressed as they had been in the Silver Age, rather than how they’d been portrayed in HAWKWORLD. It seems that Mr. Waid was trying to bring back the Silver Age history at least in part, just as he did in an earlier issue of the series where Luthor found the inert form of one of Brainiac’s robot bodies, a body we hadn’t seen since before the Crisis. To further this theory, after the battle Superman was thanking one of the Thanagarian Hawkmen for his help and that he hoped they would cross paths again. the Thanagarian responded "We can only hope, Superman. The legend of the Justice League transcends its Terran origins. It would be an honor to have a Hawkman serve alongside you in the future."
I’ll admit it, I like to believe in my head that that was Katar speaking to Superman and that some of his Silver Age history at least can be preserved by a later writer developing on this track.
Recent events have been quite interesting. In the story IDENTITY CRISIS, it was revealed that Carter was part of a conspiracy with other Leaguers to perform a magical lobotomy on the villain Dr. Light and to wipe out Batman’s memory of the incident for security’s sake. It’s been said that it was because of this second act, the betrayal of their teammate, that the Green Arrow truly came to hate Hawkman.
In the Justice League cartoon on Cartoon Network, Shayera Thal was sent to Earth as a spy to figure out its strengths and defensive capabilities. To mingle among Earth’s most powerful folks, she called herself Hawkgirl and joiend the ranks of super-heroes. She found herself counting the Justice League as true friends and family thought. Eventually, the Thanagarians came to take out Earth, led by her former lover Ro Talak. She sided with the League and fought off Ro Talak and the Thanagarians. Staying on Earth, she later rejoined the League but did not renew the name of Hawkgirl since that had just been a cover.
Originally, the cartoon boys planned to have Katar Hol show up and lead the Thanagarians. But in a rare instance, DC Comics said “no, you can stray from continuity, but we stop you here. Katar Hol will not be a villain.” So they changed it to Ro Talak (same letters as Katar Hol). In the end, they felt that DC was right to call them out on that.
Back to the comics. Carter Hall is an interesting character, more so now than before, and while I do miss Katar I hope that Carter will continue to star in enjoyable stories both in and out of the JSA. What’s more, with Katar’s appearances in Alex Ross’s SECRET ORIGINS and LIBERTY AND JUSTICE and the new Silver Age-toned JUSTICE series, I like to think that one day, even if he isn’t brought back from the dead, Katar will have most of his Silver Age history restored. It seems such a shame that a guy who had such a long career with the Justice League has become a character who, as far as continuity is concerned, only operated on Earth for a couple of years before he bought it.
And if you were able to follow this whole article without taking an Advil or screaming "What the Hell?" and banging your head on the keyboard, you deserve a cookie! I, in the meantime, shall sleep for the rest of the day and dream of a universe where HAWKWORLD was written as a prequel and that was that.
Alan Kistler is a comic book historian who has been interviewed for documentaries by Warner Bros. Pictures and FUSE TV. To see his archives/blog or contact him directly, check out his personal web-site.