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What's the Deal With Hawkman?

What's the Deal With Hawkman?

By Meg Downey Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

Is he an archaeologist? An alien cop? A superhero? In this look at Hawkman's comic book legacy, we bring the winged warrior's sprawling continuity back down to Earth.

When you start digging around the history of the DC Universe, you're bound to find some...well, let's call them weird little anomalies. Characters with pasts that overlap and loop back in on themselves, stories that get wiped from existence and then brought back—it's all part and parcel with the whole superhero thing, after all, and the DCU is always changing. But perhaps one of the most famous (or, depending on who you talk to, infamous) of those anomalies lies squarely on the shoulders of one Carter Hall aka Hawkman. If you're looking for weirdness, look no further. Carter's got you covered.

In fact, shaking out the strange twists and turns of his own past is exactly what Carter plans on doing as he kicks off his very own solo series with HAWKMAN #1. So, don't let the past scare you off! Diving into the unknown is what comics are all about, and we're here to help you every step of the way, starting with your plain English crash course on everything you need to know about Hawkman as you prepare to take this journey.

Welcome to Hawkman 101.

Carter first appeared way back in FLASH COMICS #1 in 1940. In this Golden Age incarnation, Hawkman was actually pretty recognizable by modern standards. His name was Carter Hall, he wore a golden hawk-shaped helmet and he had big hawk-like wings powered by what was then called "ninth metal" (the earliest form of what we know as Nth Metal today). Oh, and he was also the reincarnation of an Egyptian Prince named Khufu—that part is something we'll come back to in a second.

Archaeologist and museum curator by day and crimefighter by night, Carter became a staple of the teams of the time like the Justice Society of America and bounced around through books like ALL STAR COMICS where he generally did pretty well for himself. He was even chairman of the JSA for a while.

But then, things started to change. The Golden Age was fading fast and the Silver Age was dawning, and with it came some pretty major changes to DC continuity. Older Golden Age heroes like Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, and Jay Garrick, the first Flash, were replaced by more familiar heroes like Hal Jordan and Barry Allen. The same happened to Carter...kind of. Unlike Alan and Jay, Carter wasn't so much replaced by a new Hawkman, he was just given a totally different backstory and origin. Or so that's how it seemed.

Starting with THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD in the early 1960s, the name "Carter Hall" became the civilian identity for Katar Hol, an alien from the planet Thanagar who came to Earth trying to track down a criminal. His powers were mostly the same, though "ninth metal" had become "Nth Metal" and generally made more cosmic in flavor. Still, sounds pretty simple, right? Archeologist updated to space cop—not totally of the wall for a comic book.

And then, the Multiverse happened. Not long at all after Katar Hol was introduced at the dawn of the Silver Age, it was revealed that the Golden Age heroes who had been "replaced" by their new counterparts were actually not gone, but instead, continuing to exist on a different, parallel Earth. Suddenly there were two Carter/Katar Hall/Hols on two different Earths, and come the great condensing of the Multiverse in CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS, they both ended up in the same place at the same time. That's right, there were two Hawkmen in the DCU with virtually the same name and the same powers—one went on to join the JSA, and the other the JLA, and everyone involved started getting kind of confused.

That only lasted a few years until a miniseries called HAWKWORLD retold Carter's origin story (sticking with the Thanagarian roots this time) and effectively deleted out everything that had come before it. According to Hawkworld, this version of Carter was the only version—and it was a pretty wild version, all things considered. It retroactively tried to say that the Katar Hol who had worked with the JLA was actually a Thanagarian spy named Fel Andar. It tried to introduce the idea that Carter's father had actually helped the original Carter from the ’40s discover Nth Metal. Put plainly, it was a lot of continuity looping in on itself in an effort to streamline things. (Things were not, in fact, all that streamlined.)

The Hawkman who came out of Hawkworld was actually empowered by a mythological being called the Hawkgod, but that didn't last all that long, either. Only a handful of years later, the ZERO HOUR event took another stab at streamlining Carter's story, this time by...well, making all of the stories true and about one guy. Carter became everything all at once, somehow, and generally an extremely perplexing guy, given how varied and intense his backstory was. It's not often that a man can be both a reincarnated Egyptian prince, the host of the powers of a Hawkgod, and a Thanagarian all at the same time.

That was eventually dealt with when the JSA was relaunched in the late ’90s. After spending some years decidedly out of action, Carter was returned to the forefront of the team with a new, new take on his story. In this version, all those contradictory origins and histories were explained as reincarnations—past lives of Carter Hall, who in ancient times was cursed to be reborn over and over again.

It's in that cycle of death and rebirth that we join Carter now. He's spent some time away from Earth, trapped in the heart of the Dark Multiverse (you can catch that story in DARK NIGHTS: METAL and the one-shot HAWKMAN FOUND), but now he's back and ready to start digging into the mysteries of his own existence…and, as you can probably guess, there are a lot of them.
 

You can jump into the fray and discover the truth yourself with HAWKMAN #1, which is now available in print and as a digital download.