It is that time of year again. Thanksgiving has passed (although if you’re Canadian like me that happened in October), Black Friday is over, the snow has begun to fall (again, if you’re Canadian like me this probably started in October too), the calendars have been flipped to December, and that means that it is indeed time for the Flash/Arrow cross over event!
This week’s episode will serve as the launching pad for the CW’s new superhero series Legends of Tomorrow which will air in the new year. During the cross over viewers will be introduced to two new characters: Hawkman and Vandal Savage. If you’re sitting there wondering who this massive winged man is look no further. I’ve got your introduction to the characters history and a few choice comic books for you to consider adding to your collection right here.
Who Is Hawkman?
The answer to that question is surprisingly convoluted.
First the basics: Hawkman was created by comic book legend Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville and first appeared in Flash Comics #1 published by All American Publications in 1940. There have been two versions of Hawkman throughout his history. The first, which appeared in Flash Comics #1 was an archaeologist by the name of Carter Hall who was also the reincarnated soul of an ancient Egpytian pharaoh named Khufu. Hall had discovered a mysterious material known as ‘Nnth” metal which negated the effects of gravity. As anyone would Hall crafted himself a harness created with the Nnth metal and adorned it with large artificial wings that would allow him to control his ability to fly, he armed himself with a mace and other weaponry from the museum he curated and set about fighting crime as the masked vigilante Hawkman. This version of Hawkman would join up with fellow heroes of the era to form the Justice Society of America in All Star Comics #3 and was elected the groups chairmen in issue #8 until the series was ended in 1951. These adventures took place on what would become Earth-2.
Throughout the 1950’s super hero comics largely fell out of fashion with American audiences and most lay the reason for that squarely at the feet of the 1954 Senate Subcommittee Hearings on Juvenile Delinquency which spent some time discussing comic books. As a result of this subcommittee’s work the reputation of the medium was severely damaged. While the comic publishing houses stopped producing superhero themed books for a time, they didn’t disappear completely and by the beginning of the 1960’s they were back in vogue. Given the American public’s fascination with all things space related and with the United States enamored with the thought of putting a man on the moon super hero comics began to find their stride again. Following the public’s lead (as well as the success being enjoyed by the upstart Marvel Comics) DC Comics, under the leadership of Editor-in-Chief Julie Schwartz, rebooted many of their iconic characters giving them powers and abilities that were founded in science and space themes rather then the original concepts of God given and magical based powers.
Jay Garrick, the original Flash, had been given his powers by the Greek God Mercury, but the new Flash, Barry Allan, received his powers as the result of being dosed in lab chemicals and a lightening strike. Allan Scott, the original Green Lantern, whose powers were magic based was replaced by Hal Jordan who inherited his ring from an alien who crashed on Earth while carrying out his duties as a member of the intergalactic police force, the Green Lantern Corps.
Hawkman was no exception, with his archaeological roots tied to ancient Egypt, was rebooted to be a police officer from the planet Thanagar by
the name of Kator Hol who came to Earth (Earth-1) in pursuit of an alien fugitive. After catching the villain Kator decided to remain on Earth and took the name Carter. This version of Hawkman, created by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert, premiered in Brave and the Bold #34, in the March/April issue of 1961. Kator Hol would go on to joined the Justice League of America and meet his Earth-2 counterpart during the numerous occasions when the JLA and JSA would meet or team up for adventures.
Two Hawkmen existing on parallel Earths was fairly easy to keep track of continuity-wise, but when DC Comics rebooted their whole universe ending the multiple Earths concept in favor of a single shred universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths things got messy for Hawkman. Previously the JSA and Justice League existed on their other separate Earths, but in the new single shared universe the JSA were now active in the 1940s and 1950s where as the JLA emerged decades later during the space race. With two distinct eras and two distinct Hawkman who was who? DC decided to keep the two Hawkmen as they were with Kator Hol being the current version active in the DCU and a member of the Justice League having joined in team in 1988’s Justice League International #19. It was established that Carter Hall had been the original Hawkman having served his time in the JSA.
This worked fine until a year later DC’s editors chose to reboot the character again in a limited series – and later an ongoing both titled Hawkworld – in which Katar Hol was a member of Thanagar’s police force who had only just arrived on Earth. This immediately threw Hawkman’s continuity into chaos as fans clamored to know who Hawkman was in the years preceding this Hol’s arrival on Earth; who had joined the JLI the year before? A satisfactory answer was never achieved, although DC retconed their modern history to explain that the Hawkman who joined the JLI was actually a Thangarian named Fel Andar who was spying on the League. After one more failed attempt to straighten out his conflicted history during 1994’s Zero Hour which tried to meld all of the versions into one new version known as Hawkgod. While DC gave this version of Hawkman his own ongoing the company decided to pull the plug on it and the character after 34 issues in 1996. In doing so they elected to completely remove Hawkman from the DCU for a while, his history too confusing and muddled.
The JSA series would attempt to untangle Hawkman’s continuity in the 2001 story arc ‘The Return of Hawkman’ that ran in issues twenty three to twenty five, establishing him as Carter Hall, a man who – along with Shiera – had been reincarnated dozens of times since his life in ancient Egypt, and whose powers were derived from Thanagarian Nth metal, which had been retroactively renamed from “ninth metal”. The Katar Hol of the Hawkworld series had also come to Earth during the 1990s, as previously established. The 1980s Hawkman Fel Andar returned to Thanagar. The Hawkgod was later revealed to be an avatar of the Hawk aspect of the Red (from which Animal Man receives his powers) and only believed that he was Hawkman.
Johns conceived of these characters as having been incarnations of the original Egyptian Prince Khufu and his love Shey-ra. He and Shey-ra had lived all of these various lives tied together by their love and fated to suffer a tragic deaths before their eventual and inevitable reincarnation. With the release of this weeks Flash teaser clip it’s clear that this is the direction the show will follow in terms of the history and back story of the Hawks.
Where Does He Come From?
Getting your hands on seminal issues of Hawkman’s history can range from ridiculously expensive on one end of the spectrum to ridiculously cheap on the other end of it. Obviously the most expensive books related to Hawkman are its oldest, but they are prized not just for being important to the history of the character but because they include important milestones for other characters as well.
As noted above Hawkman made his first appearance in Flash Comics #1 as did the Jay Garrick’s Flash, and lesser known JSA member Johnny Thunder, as such it’s a coveted issue and an extremely rare comic book to find today. Anyone looking to get their hands on the issue is likely going to be sitting in the Sotheby’s or Christies auctions houses possessing more money then sense. A “poor” conditioned copy of the comic is valued at $8500 by the Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide, and a near mint edition would set someone back nearly $200,000. Both All Star Comics #3 and #8 are also important Hawkman issues for reasons already noted, but they are also tremendously important comic books for two other reasons. All Star Comics #3 features the first appearance of the Justice Society of America, while All Star Comics #8 features the first appearance of Wonder Woman. As such these books will run you a fortune. Overstreet pegs All Star Comics #3 value ranging from $4800.00 for a well worn copy to $100,000 for a near mint edition, while All Star Comics #8 will run you just slightly less; $4700 for a well worn copy to $90,000 for near mint. Obviously All Star Comics #8 is only going to go up as we get closer to the new Wonder Woman movie’s release as well.
The Brave and the Bold #34 reintroduced Hawkman for the silver age bringing his Thangarian heritage into the character’s cannon. While we aren’t talking tens of thousands of dollars to get this issue in your long box we’re not talking chump change either. Overstreet puts this comic book, which also introduces the silver age Hawkgirl to the DCU at $145.00 for a well worn copy, while a near mint edition is valued at $4200.00.
Once you start to get into the modern era the books featuring Hawkman become cheap, cheap, cheap. You should be able to get books from any back issue bin for $5.00 or less going back to the second volume of the series published in 1986. There’s a lot of story here and its rich and diverse so fill your boots. For those looking to ensure they have the books featuring the Hawk’s origin story that will be features on Legends of Tomorrow, you’re going want to grab JSA issues 23 through 25, and you should still be able to get those for five bucks or less. Whether speculators will influence the value of these books or not, only time will tell. Of all the books published featuring Hawkman these three issues are probably the most important to have given their direct link to the upcoming show. They’re also written by Geoff Johns who I think is the most important and best story teller during the early to mid-2000’s that DC Comics employed.
Now You Know
Now that you’ve got your primer on Hawkman you can plug into the Flash/Arrow crossover and enjoy. If you’re looking for a run down on Vandal Savage be sure to check out my “Who Is Vandal Savage?”.