Friday, August 15, 2008

Rebooting Hawkman

Jeff over at Conditional Axe is having a "Revamp Hawkman so that he doesn't suck" contest. In between brain-melting projects for Quantum Mechanix, I've been thinking about how to do this, and in much the same way I remade Gambit, I think the best thing to do is clear away all the crap and reduce Hawkman to the simplest concept possible:

He has wings and hits people with medieval weapons.

Which, regardless of what people may say, is not a bad concept. It works exceptionally well for, say, a fighter in Dungeons and Dragons. But even in the world of comics, it's not a bad schtick. Hell, Daredevil's concept is "blind ninja" and he works. The problem, as with most things, is in context.

Hawkman's name and costume are big, bold, demanding attention. He is a bright, four-color kind of a hero. The problem is that his concept is best suited to street-level crime, the kind that is fought by Batman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, etc.

Thus, I am firmly of the opinion that Hawkman is a victim of his own dichotomy. (Well, that and the fact that I wanted to use "dichotomy" in a sentence. Plus, I think "Victim of his own Dichotomy" would make a killer name for an emo band.)

Fortunately, Palette is here to save the day, by reminding everyone that there is a genre in which big, bold, flashy heroes fight scuzzy criminals and crazed madmen and villains who don't possess uber levels of superpowers. This is a genre in which men punch jaws and kick doors, women seduce and swoon, and things goddamn explode all the time. A genre in which silly costumes aren't welcome, but unbelieveable origins are. I am talking, of course, of the Pulp genre.

Hawkman would fit perfectly in a pulp setting. Just look at some of the other exemplars of the setting:
  • The Shadow: Becomes invisible and shoots people.
  • Doc Savage: Physically and mentally perfect.
  • The Phantom: Lives in the jungle, pretends to live forever.
  • Tarzan: Lord of the jungle.
  • Hawkman: Flies with bird wings and hits people with a mace.
See? He fits perfectly.

But Erin, I hear you complaining, that's all fine and good -- in fact, you're a brilliant goddess and I worship at your feet -- but how do you fit him into the DC Universe?

Well, that's easy, because DC has a pulp hero of its very own, one that even has a convenient bird motif:

If you aren't screaming in excitement right now, there is something seriously wrong with you.

For those of you who don't know, Blackhawk is Janos Prohaska, a Polish man who, in the immortal words of Chris Sims, "hated the Nazis so much for conquering Poland that he decided to fight them BY HIMSELF. He doesn't have backing or government. He's just a total badass with an airplane and he wants revenge." Along the way, of course, he creates a multinational fighting force called -- you guessed it -- The Blackhawks, who proceed to rip the Nazis a new one while flying modified Grumman XF5F Skyrockets from his secret base on Blackhawk Island.

But how does this tie in with Hawkman? Again, according to Chris Sims, "In his appearances in Sandman Mystery Theater, Blackhawk pretty much fucks every woman he meets." So we've got a pulp hero, with his own secret island and personal fighting force, who is a complete stud and has adventures across the planet.

Premise #1: Hawkman is the son (or grandson, if you're really worried about continuity vis-a-vis aging) of the original Blackhawk. This ties him -- firmly, I might add -- to DC history, something that has been a problem for Hawkman as late. It also establishes him as a hero with a legacy to uphold, which is always a good thing.

If you're a romantic sort, you could make his mother Lady Blackhawk. I'm partial to the Natalie Reed version, but if you're worried about aging, the time-tossed Zinda Blake makes more sense.

Either way, we need a new name for the fellow, since we're tossing both the Thanagarian Space-Cop Katar Hol and the reincarnated Egyptian Pharoah Carter Hall concept out the window. Let's call him Gavin (which interestingly enough means "white hawk in Welsh") -- Gavin Reed, Gavin Blake, Gavin Whatever-his-mother's-name-is.

Gavin inherited many things from his father: wanderlust, a love for flying, a nose for adventure, and massively all-around studliness. Growing up, he heard all sorts of stories about his father (whose existence is a matter of historical record) but doesn't really believe any of it. Still, he has a passing resemblance, and it's enough to get him laid, so he capitalizes on it as much as he can. He's certainly living the high life as a charter pilot out of Casablanca, until one day...

Premise #2: ... he crashes in the Egyptian desert. It doesn't really matter how, but it really should involve criminals of some sort. Regardless, he's stranded in the desert, and needs to find shelter and water before he dies of exposure. Delerious from the heat, he finds a cave, which turns out to be a lost temple to Horus, the falcon-headed Egyptian god of the sun and sky.

(It's those damn wings, you see. You can't have a Hawkman without wings, and there isn't a rational way for me to introduce them to the character. So I'm using the time-honored pulp tradition of Silly Origins. Deal with it.)

Fun fact: Horus is also known as the Avenger, because he fought Set -- the jackal-headed Egyptian god of storms, the desert, and general nastiness -- after the latter murdered Horus' father, Osiris.

Basically, Horus appears, looks at Gavin, sees he already bears the mark of the Hawk upon him. Horus says, "The forces of Set have grown strong, lo these many centuries past. The world needs an avenger, a champion of Horus. You are that champion."

With that, Gavin becomes the Hawkman, with all the attributes you'd expect of an avatar of the god of sun and sky and hunting and war: exceptional vision, nearly indefinite stamina, skill with weapons, the ability to track prey through the air.... and of course, the wings.

I rather like the concept of the wings being ushabti, existing as a kind of pendant until activated, and which time the pendant disappears and real wings appear on Gavin's back. I envision the pendant looking a lot like this:

The command word for activating the ushabti is, of course, "Hawkaaa!" (Blackhawk's old battle cry.)

Premise #3: Gavin, who is now pretty damn rich, having been given permission by Horus to use the treasure of the temple to fund his war against evil, goes in search of Blackhawk Island. Once he finds it, he searches for other descendants of the Blackhawk Squadron. Together, they fight against pulp-style villainy: pirates and criminal syndicates and such. It's like Punisher, but with more airplanes and slightly less wanton bloodshed.

Some random thoughts that don't really deserve their own paragraph:
  • Gavin names himself Hawkman, not Blackhawk, because Blackhawk is his father and Gavin wants to be his own man. So the title of the book is properly "Hawkman and the Blackhawks."
  • The Hawkman costume stays the same -- from the waist up, anyway. But that green and red bottom half must go. How about the blue-black leather of the Blackhawk uniform? That'd look keen. And of course, the chest detail on the harness would be the Blackhawk crest.
  • Maces? Fuhgeddaboutit. If you're going to give him a badass melee weapon, let's use one that look Egyptian, like the Khopesh. Otherwise, let's stay classically pulp and use Colt .45's.
  • The New Blackhawk Squadron has a variety of different planes at its disposal, but if I had to pick one for general use, it would be an armed version of the V-22 Osprey: it hovers like a helicopter, it flies like a turboprop, and the tail fin looks a lot like the original Grumman Skyrocket.

There you go. That's how I'd save Hawkman: I'd turn him into a pulp-style hero with his own private air corps and an origin that nods at the Golden Age. Wouldn't you read the hell out of that comic?

EDIT: Chris Sims has told me that I've essentially ripped off Moon Knight's origin. All I can say to this is, I've never read an issue of Moon Knight in my life, so whatever I did was unintentional. Alas, I've put too much work into this concept to change it all now. So before you call me a fucking ripoff hack, realize I had no intention of being so.


  1. If nothing else is done but making the wings non-permanent, as you've done, it works for me.

  2. Fortunately being a fucking ripoff hack is part of the pulp writers' tradition, so I think you're on strong ground here. Since I've always thought Hawkman was the most boring/useless/inexplicable of the Justice League, I'm all for this remake.

  3. Aint nothing wrong with Moon Knight. and to be honest, I didnt even make the connection till i read the edit. I like it.


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