HAWKMANMedium: Comic books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1961
Creator: Gardner Fox
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In the late 1950s and early '60s, there was a tendency for DC Comics to do new versions of the old Justice Society of America members, starting with The Flash in 1956 and continuing with
Green Lantern in 1959. Of them all, Hawkman, the new version of which appeared in early 1961, most closely resembled his earlier counterpart — and yet, the two were light years apart — literally — in origin and outlook.
The 34th issue of The Brave and the Bold (March, 1961), which at that time DC was using (like its companion, Showcase) to try out new concepts before giving them their own comics, told the story of Katar Hol and his wife Shayera, police officers from the planet Thanagar, who came to Earth to study our crime-fighting techniques. They set about using their alien technology (such as a device to absorb all knowledge on Earth including the ability to communicate with birds; and the ability to fly using anti-gravity devices coupled with large wings for maneuvering) to battle our planet's evil as Hawkman and Hawkgirl. As cover for their alien identities, they adopted the Earthly names of Carter and Shiera Hall. Carter took a job as a museum curator; and the Hawks supplemented their advanced crime-fighting techniques with ancient weapons borrowed from his museum.
For some reason — possibly the dark, moody artwork of Joe Kubert (Viking Prince, Enemy Ace), a hit with critics but unlike anything else seen in 1960s superhero comics — the Hawkman series had trouble getting off the ground. Sales on the three-issue tryout were marginal; so instead of moving into their own comic, the Hawks were given a second three-issue tryout in 1962. Again, sales didn't justify devoting a whole comic to the Hawkman series; but in 1963, they got a regular slot in the back pages of Mystery in Space, sharing that comic with its established star, Adam Strange.
In the Mystery in Space series, Joe Kubert was replaced by Murphy Anderson, whose affinity for light, upbeat science fiction stories (his prior credits include the Buck Rogers newspaper strip and DC's own Captain Comet) gave the Hawks an upsurge in popularity. When a 1964 editorial shake-up resulted in Hawkman losing his slot to Space Ranger (who had transferred over from Tales of the Unexpected), he was finally given his own comic, with Anderson as its regular artist. A few months later, he became a member of The Justice League of America.
The Hawkman title, never a high-flying seller, lasted only until 1968. The Hawks then shared a book with The Atom, also a low seller, on the theory that the two together might be able to support one comic. There, the Hawkman art was brilliantly handled by the team of Joe Kubert pencilling and Murphy Anderson inking. This series never took off, and ended with its November, 1969 issue.
Hawkman continued as a member of the Justice League, where, in 1977, Hawkgirl, in response to the burgeoning women's movement, finally demanded and received membership of her own. By 1981, in fact, she even managed to put across the idea that she should be referred to as Hawkwoman, the name she's known by today. From the 1970s through the '90s, the Hawks had occasional brief series in the back pages of Detective Comics or World's Finest Comics, and were at various times featured in their own book, but they never were able to hold down a series for any great length of time.
In recent years, DC has revised its characters' history a number of times. In one or another of the "retcons", this version of Hawkman and Hawkwoman seem to have been written right out of existence. There is a Hawkman flying around the DC Universe now, but his relation to past characters of that name isn't entirely clear.