The Golden Age Hawkman Archives

The Golden Age Hawkman Archives
The Golden Age Hawkman Archives review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: DC - ‎1-4012-0418-X
  • Release date: 2006
  • UPC: 9781401204181
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Superhero

Although one of DC’s longest-lived characters, the various iterations of Hawkman have always struggled to find enough of an audience to sustain a solo title. Winged Wonder Carter Hall has experienced assorted engaging, exciting, but always short-lived reconfigurations.

Created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville, Hawkman premiered in January 1940 and this hardcover re-presentation of the formative years spreads its wings to October 1941, opening with a fond reminiscence by artist Sheldon Moldoff.

The magic begins as it should with ‘The Origin of Hawkman’. Dashing Carter Hall is a playboy scientific tinkerer and part-time archaeologist with a penchant for collecting old, rare weapons, whose dormant memory is unlocked by an ancient crystal dagger purchased for his collection. Through dreams the dilettante realises that once he had been Prince Khufu of ancient Egypt, who was murdered with his lover Shiera by Anubis’ High Priest Hath-Set. Moreover, with his newly returned memories, Hall realises that the eternal struggle is primed to play out once more.

As if pre-destined, he bumps into the equally reincarnated and remembering Shiera Sanders just as a terrifying electrical menace turns New York City’s Subway into a killing field. The new couple surmise the deadly Doctor Hastor is their ancient nemesis reborn and, fashioning an outlandish uniform and anti-gravity harness of mystic Egyptian “Ninth Metal”, Hall hunts the deranged electrical scientist to his lair. He’s just in time to save mesmerised Shiera from a second death-by-sacrifice and mercilessly ends the cycle – at least for now.

After stories of a gravity-altering machine and insidious slavers who turn brilliant men into zombies for profit, to gather riches and to find the secret of eternal life, Moldoff starts his long association with the feature. He’s received criticism over the years for his frequent, copious but stylishly artistic swipes from newspaper strips by master craftsmen Alex Raymond and Hal Foster in his work of this period. However, at the time the feature took a quantum leap in visual quality.

With exotic locales now a theme, there’s a trip across burning Saharan sands to the African coast, after which Fox further explores the mystical and supernatural underpinnings of the strip, which easily lent themselves to spooky tales of quasi-horror and barbaric intensity. The Eerie Unknown and deluded dabblers in darkness were much-used elements in these early Hawkman sagas.

At this time the Pinioned Paladin usually dispatched foes of humanity with icy aplomb and single-minded ruthlessness, and such supernatural thrillers as ‘The Hand’ gave Fox and Moldoff ample scope to display the reincarnated warrior’s savage efficiency. He tracks down a sentient severed fist that steals and slaughters at its inventive master’s command.

Shiera’s character is already strong, shown exploring Mongolia, aiding starving miners in the Yukon, and witnessing a bloody hijacking and determined to make the bandits pay. Had there been a second volume it would have opened with her at last becoming an equal partner in peril and fully-fledged heroine: Hawkgirl. Sadly, a second volume never materialised.

Exotic, engaging and fantastically inviting, these adventures are a superhero high-point of the era and still offer astonishing thrills and chills. When all’s said and done it’s all about the heady rush of raw adventure, but there’s also a fabulous frisson of nostalgia here to wallow in. Hopefully DC will realise that soon and revive these compelling compulsive collections: either in solid form or at least in some digital editions.