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Hawkman


The Hawkman series begins with a long flashback prompted when Carter Hall examines a crystal knife amid his ancient weapons collection.  Carter sees himself as a young Egyptian prince, Khufu, who has fallen prey to the machinations of Hath-Set, a priest of Anubis.  Hath-Set uses the knife to kill Khufu and his lover, Shiera.

Carter wakes from his reverie, and crafts himself a costume with a hawk mask and large wings, which are held on by straps across his bare chest.  The wings are made of “ninth metal,” which he also learned about in a dream, another secret of the ancient Egyptians, which allows him to fly.  The subway system is mysteriously burning, and in investigating it Carter finds not only Shiera Sanders, the reincarnation of his former lover, but also the evil Dr. Hastor, a reincarnation of Hath-Set.  Dr. Hastor appears to die at the end of the story, but he returns in the 80s.

Hawkman encounters the god Poseidon in an underwater adventure in Flash Comics 9, and Poseidon gives him the ability to breathe underwater, but it appears this was a temporary power, as Hawkman clearly does not have this ability in later issue.  On the other hand, after getting severely wounded in issue 23, he is saved and tended to by hawks in the hidden valley, and taught the language of birds.  He uses this to his great advantage, both for information, and also to train a bird army that he calls upon when needed.

Big Red is the hawk that becomes somewhat of a sidekick, but that role is largely filled by Shiera.

Shiera’s appearances are sporadic at first, and often she gets kidnapped and has to be rescued.  We learn that she is an archeologist in Flash Comics 16, as she heads to a dig on Mongolia and gets captured by a horde of Mongol warriors.  Her aunt and uncle appear in issue 25, searching for a rejuvenation formula.  Despite being captured so often, Shiera is no wimp.  In issue 20 she attempts to prove her equality to Hawkman by going after a mad bomber on her own, using a rope to swing from rooftop to rooftop.

In Flash Comics 24, December 41, Carter makes Shiera a matching costume, though with a red bra, for a costume ball.  Shiera jumps on the chance to try it out, and offers to help a young couple that have fallen prey to a phony accident scam.  She doesn’t fare very well, getting caught again, and Hawkman does the heavy work himself.  In her next outing she gets shot by hoods who mistake her for Hawkman, but she never gives up, and becomes more or less equal partners with Hawkman by the end of the era.  Interestingly, for a very long time she refers to her costume as her “Hawkman” costume, and its not until issue 30 that she is called Hawkgirl.  Her costumed debut also precedes the first appearance of Wonder Woman by two weeks,  making her DC’s first superwoman.

At first she cannot speak to the birds, but somewhere along the way she does learn their language, and even gets her own bird sidekick, Kitty Hawk, though this bird only appears in Flash Comics 37.

Sheldon Moldoff does the art on much of the run, coming on with issue 4, and sticking around until late 42.  The stories after this are signed by him, but clearly are not his art.  That being said, many of the later 1942 stories look partly like his work, but also partly not.  Perhaps he was getting sloppy, even by 1941 we stop seeing the fabulously rendered mythical cities high in the hills and tribesmen of different nationalities in full dress.

There are no villains who make more than one appearance during this era, but a few of them return in much later times.  Alexander the Great debuts in Flash Comics 2, a wanna-be world conqueror with a giant bulbous bald head, he invites Hawkman to a sumptuous dinner and explains all his plans before the two fight it out. Nyola is an Aztec priestess of the god Yumm-Chac, who seeks out perfect young women to sacrifice to her god in All-Star Comics 2.  Like Dr. Hastor, Alexander the Great and Nyola would have to wait until the 80s to be seen again, all of them returning in the pages of All-Star Squadron.

Satana the Tiger Girl puts human brains into the bodies of animals, who act as her slaves, in Flash Comics 13.  She next appears in 2009.

There are many fascinating one-shot villains, who easily could have returned, as Hawkman tends to fight talking alligators, fake mummies, or talking killer plants more often than simple robbers or murderers.  Father Time appears in issue 33, a mad scientist with a mountain castle as his base, he develops untraceable poisons and melting metals, but dresses as the character he names himself for, with a large scythe that he uses in his battle with Hawkman.  The Human Dynamo is scientist Danford March, who gains the ability to shoot electricity from his body after an experiment goes wrong (because his cleaning lady spilled water on the machine).  His powers drive him mad, but his sanity is restored at the end of the story as his powers get drained.

The Hummingbird is noted ornithologist Hester Morgan.  Greed prompts her to develop a pair of wings that allow her to fly and a magnesium flare gun to blind those she is robbing.  Carter uncovers her identity in Flash 52, and tries to reform her.  Shiera gets jealous of the attention she is receiving from Carter, and as Hawkgirl threatens her, insisting that she is still a criminal.  This stresses Hester out so much that she does return to crime, but even after catching her a second time, Hawkman lets her go free again.

Hawkman’s use of ancient weapons in battle is tied to Carter’s collection, but in no story in this period is Carter called an archeologist.  He is independently wealthy, and in one story is credited as the inventor of a new gun.  He is shown to live in Hall Manor, a large estate, but in other stories clearly is inhabiting a high-rise.  Flash Comics 9 has him operating in New York City, issue 37 says Gotham City, and its Keystone City in issue 49.

I prefer to see these not as continuity errors, but reflecting his ultra-rich status.  Carter has his family estate, but also apartments in a number of different cities, which he and Shiera travel to.  I mean, really, if your power is to fly, why wouldn’t you travel a lot?

Hawkman continues in the Late Golden Age

 

Hawkman:  Flash Comics 1 – 55  (Jan 40 – July 44)

All-Star Comics 1 – 2  (Summer – Fall 40)

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Flash


The Flash debuted as the cover feature in the first issues of Flash Comics,  but he was only one of five new characters in that book.  His popularity lead to him getting his own comic, but as Flash Comics already existed, he wound up with the awkwardly titled All-Flash as his solo book.

Jay Garrick was a college student working on a hard water experiment.  He was not the most diligent student, he took a smoke break and unwittingly knocked some of the chemical apparatus over.  The fumes overpowered him, and he passed out, waking in a hospital bed.  Jay discovered that he had gained a speeded-up nervous system as a result of the accident, and in the first issue saves his girlfriend Joan and her father, a retired army major, from Sieur Satan and the Faultless Four.

Jay wore a red shirt with a lightning bolt on it, blue pants, and winged shoes and a winged helmet, making him look like a modern version of Mercury (or the FTD florist).

The series was written by Gardner Fox, and the stories are fairly serious and straightforward, but the art by E.E. Hibbard was critical to the success of the series, adding an almost slapstick feel to it.  There are so many panels of characters with stunned and disbelieving expressions as Flash runs around chaotically.

Aside from running quickly, the Flash can spin so fast he becomes effectively invisible.  Somehow this does not create a breeze, as he stands right next to people while spinning, and they have no idea he is there.  His speed is never clocked precisely, but in issue 9 he runs 2000 miles in 3 hours.  In issue 24 he gets captured and chained up, but rubs his chains together with such speed that the metal melts.

Joan Williams appears in every story, his girlfriend and confidant, aware of his identity from the beginning.  Neither she nor Jay really get developed much though.  We never see her father again after the first issue, and never learn anything about Jay’s life before the accident.  Jay graduates from university, and gets a job at Chemical Research Incorporated, but we never see him at work, or anyone else from the laboratory.  Joan gets a job as Defense Coordination Secretary in Flash 25, investigating gangland influence in the munitions industry, but only for that one story.

In All-Flash 5 he gets sidekicks, in a way.  Winky, Blinky and Noddy are three somewhat shady wanna-be inventors, who accidentally create things that work: a personality-switching ray in All-Flash 6’s “The Ray That Changed Men’s Souls,” and an invisibility vitamin in All-Flash 12’s “Tumble In to Trouble.”  Blinky hypnotizes himself into gaining super-strength in All-Flash 13’s “The Muscleman, the Djinn, and the Flash.”  Most of their appearances, as you may have guessed, were in the pages of All-Flash.  Unlike the Superman and Batman solo books, All-Flash tended to run full-length stories, rather than having four shorter ones, and Winky, Blinky and Noddy helped expand the stories out to their desired length.

The gambler Deuces Wilde would also become a minor supporting character in the Flash series, again appearing in All-Flash, issues 10 and 14.  Deuces Wilde is the only positive portrayal of a gambler I have come across in 1940s stories so far.

The Justice Society of America make an appearance in the first issue of All-Flash, rewarding him with his own book, as Johnny Thunder excitedly points out that he will be taking the Flash’s spot on the team.  The rule at this time was that Justice Society members had to move to honourary membership when they got their own series, but Green Lantern, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, the Sandman, the Spectre, the Atom and Hourman all rejoice at the Flash’s success.

Four of the Flash’s major villains also debut in this era.

The Monocle appears in All-Flash 1, a criminal with upper-class pretensions, he has his men steal jewels that he uses in his “garden of gems.”  He does have the wit to use a strobe light against the Flash, making it easier for his goons to see the hero, though it doesn’t help much overall.  The Monocle does not return until the 1980s.

The Shade debuts in Flash Comics 33’s “The Man Who Commanded the Night.”  He wears all black, with a top hat and black glasses, though in this story he has long white hair.  He had created a machine that spreads darkness throughout the city, a blackness that absorbs all light, but arms his men with special guns that shoot a reflective dust so they can see.

Rag Doll is a circus contortionist who turns to crime in Flash Comics 36, “The Tale of the Treasure Hunt.”  As with the Shade, there is no hint of the character development that would come later, these are just simple, straightforward bad guys.

The Thinker makes two appearances in the era, and even has his true name, Clifford DeVoe, revealed at the end of his first story, All-Flash 12’s “Tumble in to Trouble.”  In this story he has spent ten years working out crimes in elaborate detail, accounting for all possible scenarios, at least until the Flash shows up and messes up his schemes.

He returns in All-Flash 14’s “The Man Who Unleashed the Past,” which is easily my favourite story from this era.  It opens with Winky, Blinky and Noddy at the offices of DC Comics, discovering that All-Flash 14 has not been finished, and taking over the writing and drawing of the series.  The Thinker cons them into believing they have created a machine that pulls creatures from the past into the present, but that’s inconsequential compared to characters escaping situation by breaking panel boundaries, Winky,Blinky and Noddy asking Gardner Fox and  E.E. Hibbard for help in catching the Thinker, and editor Sheldon Mayer freaking out over where the story is going.  Doiby Dickles almost helps them fight the bad guys until Green Lantern pops in points out that they are in the wrong comic.

Those who know the Barry Allen Flash may see some foreshadowing here of the use of editor Julius Schwartz in stories from the 60s and 70s, and there are a number of elements that would return in much later stories – alternate dimensional versions of the Flash and his friends and foes, as well as time travel, but none of it is dealt with very seriously.  Jay Garrick always has a big smile and a cheerful insouciance when fighting crime.

The Flash continues in the Late Golden Age

 

A few of the Flash’s major foes appeared in this early part of his run.  The Monocle, The Shade, Rag Doll

 

Flash:  Flash Comics 1 – 55  (Jan 40 – July 44)

All-Star Comics 1 – 2  (Summer – Fall 40)

All-Flash 1 – 15  (Summer 41 – Summer 44)

Comic Cavalcade  1 – 7  (Winter 42 – Summer 44)

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