June 20, 2024

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #196: Thanagarian Hawkwoman

Hawkman's female partner's history isn't quite as messed up as his. They just shove her aside and make a new one as needed.

It occurred to me after writing up last week’s entry on Ray Palmer that he isn’t the only Silver Age Justice Leaguer to get shoved aside by newer versions.

That happened to the Hawkwoman of Thanagar as well.

So, here’s the thing:  as much as Hawkman’s history can be rightfully seen as really messed up, his longtime partner of Hawkwoman or Hawkgirl actually isn’t so confusing.  As near as I can make out, while DC keeps trying to “fix” Hawkman from the various messes they’ve made of the character’s history over the years, they tend to just create a brand new Hawkwoman that is separate from the previous one while Hawkman is generally always supposed to be the same guy.

Now, the Golden Age Hawks were Carter Hall and his girlfriend Shiera Saunders, later his wife.  Carter was an archaeologist who discovered he was actually the reincarnation of a long dead Egyptian Pharaoh and Shiera was his queen.  The two were reincarnated and Carter was able to use a special metal, forged into wings, to defy gravity.  Shiera became his partner/sidekick Hawkgirl.

OK, that seems pretty straightforward enough.

Later on, when DC revived various Golden Age heroes in the Silver Age, Hawkman went from being a reincarnated prince to an alien policeman.  Here, Hawkman was Katar Hol from the planet Thanagar.  Hawkgirl, later Hawkwoman, was Shayera Hol, his wife and partner on the Thanagarian military police force, the Wingmen.  Originally, Thanagar was a utopian paradise where the only criminals broke the law for the thrill instead of out of actual greed.  Hawkman and Hawkwoman followed a shapeshifting criminal to Earth.  Once there, the pair decided they liked the idea of studying Earth’s law enforcement techniques and took jobs as museum curators under the names…Carter and Shiera Hall.  Sound familiar?  Anyhoo, the pair would use the weapons of the past and their anti-gravity gear to fight the crime of the present.

You know, I used to read a lot of old DC Silver Age reprints, and I gotta say, Hawkwoman was actually treated pretty well in those stories.  Unlike a lot of female co-stars from that time period, she was often treated as a full partner and equal to Hawkman.  About the only time I can recall where she wasn’t were a pair of stories.  One had the two decide to compete and see whether Earth or Thanagar’s crime fighting techniques could catch a crook first.  Hawkman chose Earth’s and easily found a criminal before Hawkwoman could.  The other time had Hawkman asked by one of the dozen or so secret spy organizations back in those days to investigate another evil spy organization with a human woman agent only to have him reveal he knew all along it was his wife in a wig.  Seriously.

Oh, and why was Hawkman allowed to join the Justice League long before Hawkwoman?  Well, they later let her in with some BS about having to relax a “no duplicate powers” rule.

Oh, what powers did the Hawks have?  Well, they could fly with their gear, they were good with all manner of weapons, they could talk to birds (sort of), and they were a bit hardier than humans in that they could survive short periods of time in the vacuum of space.  That and I think Hawkwoman had a cooler helmet.

Now, time passes and that means the Crisis on Infinite Earths happened and here’s where Hawkman’s history gets screwed up.  After the Crisis, DC did a lot of origin revamps for various characters, and Hawkman was no exception.  The mini-series Hawkworld set up a new backstory and overall look for Hawkman, making Thanagar a lot less happy and peaceful and making Hawkwoman Katar’s partner on the force only and not his wife.  Going by the name Shayera Thal, the pair traveled to Earth and from what I understand, the intention was for Hawkworld to end with the Hawks getting to Earth and having their Silver Age adventures.  Instead, someone said they only just arrived which led to a lot of questions like “Who the hell were the Hawkman and Hawkwoman on the Justice League?”

The answer that DC eventually came up with was it was the Golden Age Hawks were the Hawks in the Silver Age Justice League.

Now, seeing as how prominent Hawkman is in the DC Universe, there have been multiple attempts to fix the character’s history, often making it worse.  In Zero Hour, the “hawkgod” came from somewhere, destroying Nth metal along the way.  Shayera was forced to destroy her wings while Katar absorbed all the previous Hawkpeople (including both Golden Age Hawks) and became something really weird.

Shayera?  She just became a cop in Detroit or something.

But not a winged one. She lost her wings.

Then Katar was killed off, and since the original Hawkman was reincarnated, Carter came back to life.  And Shayera?  Completely forgotten.  There was a new Hawkgirl in form of Kendra Saunders, and Kendra was supposed to be a reincarnation of Golden Age Shiera.  Thanagarian Shayera was killed off in one of the mini-series leading up to the Infinite Crisis.

So, what happened?  DC has flipped back and forth over whether or not Shiera or Kendra is Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman or whatever name she uses.  Where did Shayera go?  She was the version used for a long time and was even the most likely inspiration for the animated Justice League  character except that one had wings as part of her body and not some metal she strapped on to fly.

She was the team’s berzerker. No joke.

Now, Hawkman is still a confusing mess, so whether or not or how Thanagar connects to anything depends on what’s going on.  The New 52 Hawkman seems to be from Thanagar, and he apparently met Shayera, who was a princess on Thanagar, only for her to sacrifice herself to stop a greater evil.  Kendra and Carter seem to be the Hawks right this second in the post Rebirth world, so I can’t say how much we’ll be seeing of any Hawks from Thanagar for the time being.

Then again, they’ll probably just replace Kendra with another brand new Hawkwoman at some point and call it a day.