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The first thing people will tell you about Hawkman is that he has a complicated history. Unfortunately, that is largely true and there isn’t really anything I can do to uncomplicate it for you. Sometimes you just have to look past the jungle that is DC Comics continuity and enjoy the good stories and characters for what they are.
Hawkman is one of DC Comics oldest characters dating back to the golden age of comics. Like most of the golden age heroes, Hawkman’s powers were not very well defined nor that impressive. In the golden age he could fly, which is actually something very few super heroes beyond Superman and Captain Marvel could do in that era. He could also speak to birds and while that may bring up visions of Aquaman jokes it was actually quite a helpful talent in the golden age of comics.
The thing that I like best about Hawkman is his character’s design. He looks like a super hero. He is powerful and impressive and colorful. This is everything a kid that starts reading comics is looking for. I grew up in the 1970s and learned to read from comic books. Also, the 1970s was the era of the Saturday morning cartoon series the Super Friends and Hawkman often appeared on that show. It’s no wonder I became a fan of Hawkman as I could follow his adventures when I was reading and when I was watching television.
Hawkman was created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Dennis Neville, and the original Hawkman first appeared in Flash Comics issue 1, published by All-American Publications in 1940.
Hawkman has gone through several incarnations, most of them featured the use of archaic weaponry and artificial wings attached to a harness made from the special Nth metal that allows him to fly.
Hawkman’s backstory is extremely complicated and, depending on the era, his alter-ego could be archaeologist Carter Hall, alien police officer Katar Hol from the planet Thanagar, or some amalgamation of the two.
All the various incarnations of Hawkman used the fictional "ninth metal" or "Nth metal" to allow him to fly and he has often been accompanied by an assistant or love interest in Hawkgirl (whose back story is equally complex).
Hawkman has seen his power set vary over the years. In the golden age, Hawkman was also granted the ability to breathe underwater by the sea god Poseidon and learned to speak to bird through a secret bird society. Like most golden age heroes he showed an aptitude toward having detective skills, some ability as a scientist, and as an archaeologist.
The silver age Hawkman also had enhanced senses comparable to a hawk's. He was also able to converse with birds. He wore special contact lenses that allowed him to detect beams and radiation and also possessed a Thanagarian police space ship and a variety of science fictional weapons.
Hawkman has also shown enhanced levels of strength. The golden age Hawkman was said to have the strength of twelve men but that power was seldom followed up on. The silver age Hawkman stated that the Nth metal enables its wielders to carry great weights. The Nth metal also allows so some degree of temperature adaptation and some incarnations of Hawkman had the ability to heal quicker than a normal person.
Hawkman’s incredible design and variety of backstories actually make him a very interesting character to study and his current Hawkman comic book series by DC Comics is again trying to rectify the numerous apparent conflicts in his back story and is a great jumping on point for comic book fans.
After several costume alterations since the silver age of comics, Hawkman returned to a more basic design in his 2000 series. It would, however, be altered again multiple times over the next eighteen years.
Hawkman as he appeared in 2005 alongside Green Lantern and Adam Strange.
Hawkman along with Adam Strange again in his 2008 comic book series.
In 2011 Hawkman underwent a major costume redesign with the Savage Hawkman series.
Hawkman once again alongside Adam Strange in the 2016 Death of Hawkman series. (Spoiler: He didn’t stay dead)
Hawkman in his current 2018 DC Comic book series is trying to make sense of the various past depictions of the Hawkman character.
Hawkman as he appeared in the 1970s Super Friends cartoon series.
Hawkman as he appears in the 2000s Justice League Unlimited animated series.
A modern sculpted Hawkman action figure from the DC Unlimited action figure line.
Hawkman from the 1980s DC Super Powers action figure collection.
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