The Confusing History of Hawkman

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We took a little break but we’re finally back with another Character Corner. We still have to finish up our Peter Parker series but we wanted to take a bit of a detour from Marvel and head over to DC and cover one of the most confusing comic book character histories ever: Hawkman.

Now you may be asking yourself “Why Hawkman? Why now?” And that’s a very valid question. Why would we tackle one of the most confusing comic book characters of all time at this point? The answer is simple: Scott Snyder’s Dark Knights: Metal. Snyder wrote an incredible 52 issues of Batman during New 52 and he’s now back with a series that not only answers questions about Batman but also Hawkman, Nth Metal and the rest of the DC Multiverse. While it’s a daunting task to take on Hawkman’s history (one that rarely works out), Snyder definitely has our attention with the first issue of Metal, as well as the preludes Dark Days: The Forge and The Casting.

Carter Hall & the Golden Age

Hawkman starts off relatively simple. Carter Hall first appears in Flash Comics #1 in 1940 as an archaeologist. After finding and touching an ancient knife that Egyptian priest Hath-Set used to kill his past self, Hall regains his memories of his past life. He realizes he is the reincarnation of Egyptian Prince Khufu. He meets up with Shiera, a woman who reminds him of a woman he saw in his dreams as Khufu who he believes to be Princess Chay-Ara, his long lost love. Using the mysterious metal, Nth Metal, they form harnesses that give them the power of flight. Throughout the years Nth metal has taken on many different qualities, from powering the harnesses the Hawks wear granting them flight to increased strength, regeneration powers and more.

Silver Age Space Cop

The Silver Age of DC comics brought us new versions of older Golden Age characters. Barry Allen replaces the Golden Age Flash Jay Garrick. Hal Jordan becomes the new Green Lantern replacing Alan Scott. The same happens to Hawkman, except DC gets a bit weird. Instead of making an entire new and easily distinguishable character, Brave and the Bold #34 debuts Katar Hol as the new Hawkman. Katar is an alien law enforcement officer from the planet Thanagar. Even worse, Katar and his wife Shayara (they didn’t even try with the names) take on the names Carter Hall and Shiera Saunders as their human secret identities. Adding even more confusion, Silver Age Carter and Shiera also work as archaeologists in a museum. Thus marking the beginning of the confusing history of Hawkman. See, Crisis On Infinite Earths establishes that both Katar Hol (using the alias Carter Hall) and the original Golden Age Carter Hall exist and operate (even met a few times). So now readers have two different Carter Halls to keep track of. But don’t worry, it gets even worse and more confusing.

Hawkworld & Things Get Weird (well…weirder)

In 1989,  Tim Truman creates a three-issue miniseries called Hawkworld that seemingly retells the origin story of Katar Hol. The mini-series is later turned into an ongoing series written by John Ostrander. It’s a dark, gritty sto

ry that gives us the hard-nosed origin of the Thanagarian cop. It’s really good and a recommended read. There’s only one problem: Instead of making this story a simple retelling of Hol’s origin, DC decides that this story was IN canon and happening currently. Problem with that was there was already a Katar Hol running around who was a member of the Justice League International. To fix that, DC claims that the first Katar Hol was actually a deep cover Thanagarian Agent named Fel Andar who married Sharon Parker, an Earth woman who was later mind wiped to believe she was Hawkwoman.  Andar is later exposed and after killing Sharon, returns to Thanagar leaving behind their son Charlie to later cause Hawkman & Hawkgirl all kinds of problems (but now we’re getting ahead of ourselves).

Now having made a complete and utter mess of Hawkman’s history, in an effort to clean it up, Katar Hol, Carter Hall and Shiera Sanders (for no reason) are merged into a new “Hawk God” during Zero Hour. Hawk God eventually goes crazy (as does anyone who attempts to cram all of Hawkman’s history into one brain) and Carter Hall and Katar Hol are lost to limbo. A new unrelated Hawkman replacement is create by Grant Morrison (Zauriel) but thankfully, the connections are never really sold and DC showing some uncharacteristic restraint, deems Hawkman “off-limits” as to not confuse the characters history any more.

Geoff Johns & The Return of Hawkman

Enter Geoff Johns, the guy DC calls when they’ve broken their character’s history and need a repair man.  Johns, working with David Goyer help resurrect Hawkgirl and Hawkman giving them a much needed history retcon. First Goyer brings back Hawkgirl with Kendra Saunders (Nope, DC can’t help themselves with the similar names for characters). Kendra is revealed to be the reincarnation of Shiera Sanders, the original Hawkgirl. Next, Goyer and Johns write  JSA: The Return of Hawkman (JSA #16 – 25) which brings back Carter Hall as Hawkman. Carter is brought back in what appears to be the younger Katar Hol’s body but with all of his memories of both Carter & Katar (including all of Carter’s past lives).

Johns goes on to write Hawkman Volume 4 through issue #25. This is the first series since the Golden Age to The entire run of Volume 4 of Hawkman is pretty solid. At issue #50 the series becomes Hawkgirl and continues on for ten more issues and sets up a logical conclusion to the story of Carter and Kendra/Shiera. All-in-all volume 4 does a pretty good job of making sense of the confusing history of Hawkman (and to a lesser extent Hawkgirl). So of course, like a child picking at a healed wound, DC had to fuck that up.

I love most of Geoff Johns writing and while I can see where the concepts of Blackest Night/Brightest Day were going, it clearly spun completely out of control. Carter and Kendra are killed then brought back then Kendra is killed but Sheira returns…its all very confusing and unnecessary after what should have been the end in Volume 4 of Hawkman/Hawkgirl. But it gets worse. In comes New 52 which brings Katar Hol back as Hawkman, erases the Halls from memory. Recently this Katar Hol was killed in the Death of Hawkman story arc paving the way (one can hope) for Snyder’s Metal to bring back Carter Hall.

I know that I’ve skipped over a bunch here but we cover everything in more detail on the latest Character Corner episode so make sure you download/stream that episode to get all the confusing details. Well be back sooner than later to talk about the rest of Peter Parker (because we hate ourselves next episode will dive deep into The Clone Saga). Stay tuned.

Key Issues:

  • Flash Comics #1 - First Appearances of Carter Hall and Shiera Sanders
  • Brave and the Bold #34 - First Appearances of Katar Hol and Shayera Thal/Hol
  • Crisis on Infinite Earths
  • The Shadow War of Hawkman
  • Hawkworld - Tim Truman's mini-series
  • Hawkworld - John Ostrander's ongoing series
  • Zero Hour: Crisis in Time - Merges Carter, Katar and Shiera
  • JSA Secret Files #1 - First appearance of Kendra Saunders
  • JSA
    • The Return of Hawkman (Issues #16 - 25)- Carter Hall returns
    • Black Reign
  • Hawkman Volume 4
    • Issues 1 - 25 Geoff Johns Run 
    • Issues #43- 45 - Charlie Parker reveals that Fel Andar was his father
    • Issues #47 - 49 - Rann/Thanagar War
    • Issue #50 becomes Hawkgirl
  • Hawkgirl
    • Issue #60 - Kendra/Shiera defeat Hath Set, ending the curse
  • Dark Knights: Metal
    • Dark Days: The Forge
    • Dark Days: The Casting
    • Dark Knights Metal #1

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