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The Savaged Hawkman: What latest DC casualty says about New 52

According to recent convention scuttlebutt, DC Comics is apparently canceling its latest Hawkman series, the New 52-launched Savage Hawkman, perhaps as early as May’s Issue 20.

That is not the least bit surprising, really, given the publisher’s historical difficulty in keeping readers interested in Hawkman, and given the way in which the title and the character were served by the line-wide reboot and the accompanying creative-team chaos. It’s too bad, though, given how easily DC could have simply published the sort of Hawkman title the 21st-century super-comic audience would support, rather than The Savage Hawkman.

The series launched in September 2011 along with the other 51 new series comprising DC’s New 52 initiative, featuring a rebooted continuity for the then 71-year-old hero and a redesigned costume featuring more armor and pointed edges (most notably a set of Wolverine-like claws frequently waved in the direction of the reader on the covers). The creative team consisted of artist-turned-writer/artist Tony S. Daniel, who was just handling the writing, and Philip Tan, who was providing the art.

That creative team went more or less unchanged for just six issues (with Daniel welcoming a co-writer by the fourth). In other words, it remained unchanged for about one story arc. The seventh issue featured guest artist Cliff Richards, Tan returned for one more issue and, with the ninth issue, a new creative team was announced: Fading superstar Rob Liefeld writing (and poorly drawing generally hilarious covers), writer Mark Poulton co-writing, and DC regulars Joe Bennett and Art Thibert providing pencils and inks, respectively (space on Liefeld’s schedule opened after his Hawk and Dove was among the very first of the New 52 books to be canceled, after just eight issues).

Six issues later, Poulton disappeared, and veteran writer Frank Tieri’s name popped up in the credits, first credited with dialogue and then as a co-writer. Issue 14 featured a second art team in addition to the Bennett/Thibert one. By Issue 16, Tieri was the only writer credited (as to what happened to Liefeld, anyone who reads any comics news blogs will recall his recounting of his dissatisfaction in an avalanche of tweeting, which drew in other comics creators).

DC’s upcoming solicitations list Tieri as the writer for Issue 17 and Tom DeFalco for issues 18 and 19. All together, that’s four writing teams and two major art teams in less than two years: Not exactly a healthy situation, made no healthier by the fact that none of the creators involved is a top-tier talent with a proven record for putting eyeballs on comics pages, with the possible exception of Liefeld, who seems to bring a die-hard group of fans and rubbernecking haters to all of his projects, but generally only the ones he draws, not writes. (Following the cancellation of Hawk and Dove, Liefeld took to writing Hawkman and Grifter, the latter of which has also been canceled, and writing and drawing Deathstroke, which was selling slightly less than Hawkman as of November).

So what went wrong? According to Liefeld’s Twitter account, what didn’t? But the problem can be traced back to two basic sources: 1.) It was Hawkman; and 2.) It was a rebooted Hawkman, rebooted for rebooting’s sake.

Let’s take a quick look at Hawkman’s publication history first, shall we?

At his 1940 inception, Hawkman was a pretty strong  superhero concept: Writer Gardner Fox and artist Dennnis Neville presented a character whose name, super-powers and basic design were already field-tested in Alex Raymond’s Flash Gordon comic strips. Archaeologist and museum curator Carter Hall discovered he was a reincarnated Egyptian prince and found a mysterious “ninth metal” (which would lose its I and one of its N’s later) that allowed him to fly. He took off his shirt, put on a helmet, a harness with big-ass wings and grabbed something heavy from the museum to go fight crime with. Hawkman was born!

A classic second-, third- or fourth-stringer, that Hawkman never earned his own title, but starred in solo strips in Flash and as part of the Justice Society of America  in All-Star. He disappeared with most other superheroes in the early 1950s, and made a Silver Age comeback as part of editor Julius Schwartz’s science fiction-flavored remodeling of Golden Agers like The Flash, Green Lantern and The Atom.

The new Hawkman was Katar Hol, a policeman from the alien world of Thanagar, come to Earth to study our world’s crime-fighting techniques. This new Hawkman joined the Silver Age version of the JSA, the JLA, and he was thus guaranteed a place in DC history going forward. When Gardner Fox started writing the Justice League, he gradually invented a multiverse, with the current Justice League versions of all of the above living on Earth-1, and the Golden Age originals all inhabiting Earth-2. Things got a little messy when 1986-87′s Crisis on Infinite Earths smooshed both worlds (and all the others) into one, so that now the Silver Age Hawkman followed the Golden Age Hawkman in the same world and timeline.

The post-Crisis reboots and retcons that tried to make sense of Hawkman and Hawkgirl and/or Hawkwoman in DC continuity had an almost opposite effect, with each attempt to make some sense of the characters’ history in the one-Earth context only serving to make the character more and more complicated. Like Power Girl, Donna Troy and the Legion of Superheroes, Hawkman became a trouble spot in DC continuity.

The 1990s fix that occurred in Zero Hour, which merged all of the Hawkmen into a Hawkgod character, may have given birth to one of his longest-running monthly series but also further broke him, ultimately leaving the character “radioactive.” He disappeared for a while, with even a writer as creative and popular as Grant Morrison forbidden to use him. (Morrison had said in interviews that his angel character Zauriel for JLA was intended to become the new Hawkman, but DC didn’t want to use the name at all, so Zauriel just went by “Zauriel.”)

It would take Geoff Johns and his co-writer David S. Goyer to finally untangle the Gordian Knot of Hawkman, in a 2001 story arc prosaically titled “The Return of Hawkman” in the pages of their JSA, a series that took delight in playing with DC continuity, smoothing its rough edges and finding workable ways forward from the most disastrous plot points of the past.

Goyer and Johns’ solution was to essentially blend together the Golden Age and Silver Age characters, using the reincarnation aspect present in the very first Hawkman story: The “new” Hawkman was the Golden Age version, who was once an Egyptian prince who came into contact with Nth Metal on a Thanagarian spaceship that crash-landed on Earth. He and his princess were reincarnated over and over; he was Katar Hol, and now he was back as Carter Hall.

It was a pretty delicate house of cards, but it seemed to work to fans’ satisfaction. Not only did Hawkman stay in JSA for the remainder of the book’s run, he also earned another go at a solo title (also written by Johns, and, for a while, co-writer James Robinson). The 2002 Hawkman series lasted 49 issues — that’s longer than any Hawkman title before or since — the first 25 of which were penned by Johns. When he and the original art team of Rags Morales and Michael Bair left, the writer stated in interviews that his goal had been to make a Hawkman book capable of going the distance, and while he was conflicted about leaving, he was confident they had built a book and a character strong enough to last.

It lasted, but not that long. During the post-Infinite Crisis refurbishing of the DC Universe, branded “One Year Later,” Hawkman was replaced with Hawkgirl, a Walter Simonson-written, Howard Chaykin-drawn book that kept Hawkman‘s numbering (Hawkgirl launched at Issue 50). It lasted just 17 issues. Meanwhile, DC started to pick at the scab of Hawkman’s healed-over continuity wound, and, ultimately, Johns killed off Hawkman in Blackest Night only to resurrect him in the final issue.

From there, Hawkman was one of about a half-dozen or so characters Johns spent a year writing in the biweekly Brightest Day — along with Martian Manhunter, Aquaman and Mera, Hawk and Dove, Firestorm, and Deadman — seemingly repositioning them all for new directions at the series’ end.

Instead, DC rebooted its entire line, leaving the year-long build-up of Brightest Day to evaporate. Hawkman got his new title, but because of the accompanying continuity reboot, Johns and company’s years of work on the character naturally needed to excised and forgotten or ignored.

Theoretically, the New 52 reboot would have given new creators a chance to ignore the 30 years or so of continuity tinkering, but after so long, weren’t retcons and reboots part of Hawkman’s core character, part of his appeal? (Certainly Johns, Goyer and Robinson integrated them directly into the character). Sure, it was an opportunity to start fresh, but, like much of the New 52 reboot, DC’s editorial staff didn’t seem particulary interested in seeking out new talent or new creators with bold, new ideas about taking their characters in exciting new directions.

Most of the “new” creators came from those working for DC’s Vertigo imprint, or from 1990s talents who haven’t worked with the company or characters before. The rest of the talent pool consisted of those who were already making DC books, and so Detective Comics writer/artist Tony S. Daniel and The Outsiders artist Philip Tan got the task of starting Hawkman over for the first time since Julius Schwartz had Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert do so in a 1961 issue of The Brave and The Bold.

It probably shouldn’t come as much surprise that it didn’t work, and that the book didn’t make it two years. If it is indeed canceled with May’s 20th issue or June’s 21st issue, then that would mean it lasted just a few issues longer than Simonson’s Hawkgirl and the 17-issue 1986-87 Hawkman series launched by Tony Isabella and Richard Howell, and not quite as long as the 27-issue,  1964-1968 Fox/Murphy Anderson Hawkman, and nowhere near as long as the so often dissed and dismissed 33-issue 1993-1996 series initially written by John Ostrander and Timothy Truman and drawn by Jan Duursema and Rick Magyar (which, perhaps notably, changed creative hands at a New 52-like rate).

So what’s the lesson here, exactly?

Nothing that most sensible readers and observers probably didn’t already know before DC released the solicitation for Savage Hawkman #1. (So, I guess everyone who didn’t edit Hawkman …?) Creators matter, and they matter a lot, a lot more than the characters do, especially if the characters aren’t Batman but are instead, say, Hawkman.

If one looks at the all of the New 52 titles to get canceled so far, there are some obvious patterns, and not just the presence of Rob Liefeld and/or WildStorm-originated properties. Here’s what DC has canceled so far: Blackhawks, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E.,  G.I. Combat, Grifter, Hawk and Dove, Justice League International, Legion Lost, Men of War, Mister Terrific, OMAC, Resurrection ManStatic Shock and Voodoo.

Now, I like the DC Universe, its characters and its history, so I’ll be quick to point out that many of those books radically reinvented their characters or concepts and departed from the pre-reboot continuity. I’ll also be aware that I’m somewhat biased, so maybe re-doing books like Blue Beetle for no reason or back-tracking all of Johns’ work in Brightest Day for a new Hawk and Dove makes some amount of sense I’m just not seeing, due to my so enjoying the previous volume of Blue Beetle or liking Brightest Day OK.

But many of them had a great deal of creative-team chaos as evidenced by the rapidly changing credits, and tweets, interviews and blog posts revealed an awful lot of disagreement among creators and editors. A lot of those books were assigned to those already working for DC — some of them on poorly selling pre-New 52 books — seemingly with little time for the creators to think of new or interesting takes on the characters.

Meanwhile, if you look at the New 52 series that have been selling the best for DC, and/or the ones that are most critically acclaimed, books like Justice League, The Flash, Aquaman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (and its three sister books) and Batman (and its many related titles, but most notably Batwoman, Batman and Robin and Batman Inc.) you see other, opposite patterns. Creative consistency, for example, with many of the above books featuring the same writers and/or artists for most of their runs to date. (I could also note that not rebooting seems to be a sales boon, given that the Batman and Green Lantern franchises mostly just picked up where they left off before the New 52 relaunch, and are outselling just about everything not drawn by Jim Lee and/or written by Geoff Johns, but, again, maybe that’ s my continuity bias showing.)

And I suppose it’s always possible that Savage Hawkman was just a consistently poorly made comic book, and readers don’t like to read bad superhero comics. At least not for too long, not when DC offers 51 other choices, and when Marvel provides at least that many (and that’s just counting the corporate super-comics!).

And I suppose people might just really not like Hawkman, no matter how many pointy edges he’s given.

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Comments

42 Comments

It’s not just the laughable merry-go-round of creative teams…it’s also that all the writers sucked, which led to generally bad comics.

The addition of generally unknown co-writers is beside the point….the problem is that in 12 issues, we went from Tony Daniel writing (terrible) to Rob Liefeld writing (even more terrible).

For a lot of fans, both those guys are short-hand for “stay the hell away from this book” as far as writing is concerned.

By the time Frank Tieri showed up, the damage was done. Nothing short of bringing Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison onboard with lots of marketing fanfare would’ve saved the book.

DC opened up the book by putting a guy widely considered to be one of its worst writers on it….then followed that up by replacing him with one of the most infamous names in comics. And Hawkman isn’t Batman: it’s not a comic that can get by on name value of the character alone. If the comics suck, the readers will bail. Putting Daniel and Liefeld on a book like Hawkman was basically ensuring that it was doomed from the get-go.

I like continuity, too. Iconic takes on classic heroes where every story ever is at least SLIGHTLY canon is my dream DCU. Also: chain Mark Waid to his desk and make him write everything.

AWESOME PIECE!!!

I am still pissed that I spent a years worth of comic book budget on Brightest Day, only to have it wiped out immediately after issue 24!

Word is that FIrestorm will be following Hawkman as well, due very much similar factors as you describe.

The sad this is this: If DC can’t make awesome characters like Hawkman, Firestorm, Captain Atom, or Blue Beetle work with all the marketing & press of the New 52 behind them — what chance do they ever stand of making a comeback in the future?

When I got rid of virtually all my DC comics, one of the few to survive the cull was Hawkworld—the three books, the series (including the annuals), and the first six (?) issues of Hawkman that immediately followed. Truman, Ostrander, Nolan, and Duursema killed on that book. Also, that first annual and the Escape from Thanagar storyline answered virtually all the continuity questions. Then Zero Hour came and created new problems that didn’t need solving. As characters go, I really loved that take on Katar Hol and Shayera Thal. Sigh.

Good article. I especially appreciated your point that comic lines that were not rebooted seem to be selling better than most others. I would be interested to see how well DC’s sales figures compare between titles that exist now and existed prior to the New 52. I know the New 52 garnered DC a sales boost, but I wonder how much of that boost was temporary, due to marketing and unrepeatable renumberings.

Rebooting for rebooting sake is right. Hawkman is actually my favorite DC hero. I’m not a fan of the new 52 and this is a big reason why.

The last Hawkman series by Johns, then Palmotti and Gray was excellent. That reboot finally found a happy medium (as did the entire DCU post Zero Hour).

Speaking of Mark Waid…Wally West…*sigh*

thinking twice about the new 52, it´s a terrible idea, it completely destroy everything that a lot of writers have worked in some characters that aren´t Batman or Green Lantern, and try to give them a new direction only to fail miserably, i know some titles are really good, but it is only because they have a good creative team, except for Superman, he also have a really inconsistent creative team, but he still sells.

@Ryan Joseph

I was pissed about buying all of Brighest Day because it sucked. That ending was so weird and nonsensical that it ended up just being a kick in the balls. And I have no one to blame but myself. why did I keep thinking it’d get better right till the bitter end?

At least I didn’t pick up Search for Swamp Thing.

May’s issue would be the 20th, not the 19th. The first wave books’ 19th issue is the WTF Certified month.

The book was set up to fail after DC decided to disregard Johns’ stellar work on Hawkman that encompassed his run on JSA, Blackest Night, and Brightest Day. He finally brought the character into focus, reconciled his past, and set him up with a direction for the future. Honestly, outside of Morrison, Snyder, or Lemire over at DC, I’d like to see the ego on the writer who thinks they can just disregard Johns’ work over the years.

The new 52 Hawkman reboot got a couple things right:

1. Hawkman is Katar Hol, a Thanagarian.
2. Shayera is his girlfriend from Thanagar and is alive.
3. Archaeology is Hawkman’s cover on Earth.

I for one absolutely HATED the reincarnation thing. Just plain stupid and tedious. It might have been the only good solution to the continuity pretzel, but it wasn’t a good idea and it didn’t lend itself to good stories. “We are Fated to be together” is a very tired cliche.

I am not saying the new 52 was great by any means. Phillip Tan’s art was murky and dark, Liefield’s writing was corny at best, and the villains were one dimensional.

But still.

The Tim Truman/John Ostrander “Hawkworld” and “Hawkman” run is still one of my favorite in all of comics. But, it was such a break from the “classic” Hawkman that I could see where longtime fans didn’t buy in. But, as a mostly Marvel guy before, the character work in Hawkworld, the Spectre, and Green Lantern (grey-templed Hal) of that era brought me into my first every month DC reads.

Honestly, I don’t think there is a Hawkman title the 21st century audience would support.

Hawkman is one of my favorite characters, and always has been. I stuck with 52 series even though the dialogue was horrible, and the art almost as bad. And that was mostly due to the really bad new concept look with all the gold and shiny, sharp parts. He looked like one of those old italian guys who still think wearing 30 lbs of gold rings and necklaces is attractive.

I completely disagree that a Hawkman series can stay viable and profitable. He just needs the correct writer; I remember reading Andy Diggle’s awesome Adam Strange mini from a few years back and thinking “give this guy Hawkman! He’d kill with that character”. They just need to make it more simple and basic; much like Marvel has done with DD and Hawkeye.

The easier to understand backstory in the new 52 is a good start. Hopefully, Johns puts the character’s look and personality back on track in JLA, and maybe when DC gives Hawkman another shot at a solo, they do it right.

The only times that I’ve liked Hawkman was when he was writthen by Johns/Robinson and Johns. And the sales on those books indicate that most people agreed with me.

I guess I was the only one who moderately enjoyed Liefeld’s run on Hawkman. It wasn’t anything to write home about, but I never regretted spending 3 bucks a month on it. I’ll admit, a lot of it had to do with the art, which I thought was pretty good, and I did like the direction Liefeld was taking. It really petered out by the end of the GA/HM/DS crossover though.

Of course, Caleb, there’s a chicken-and-egg, direction-of-causation question: were sales floundering because of the deck chairs being constantly shuffled, or vice versa? (The answer is probably “yes”, i.e. it was a vicious circle)

I can’t believe this title lasted so long, considering #1 truly sucked the fat one. I actually judged it ‘doomed’, following Tony Daniel’s pre-new52-launch comments that he was dismissing Geoff John’s groundwork.

I regard DC Editorial as not fit-for-purpose. I don’t blame Daniels for making his pitch, bad as it was. However, DC Editorial choosing to buy into it, was a shockingly bad decision.

I still feel this is one of the many symptoms of a totally rushed, poorly executed re-launch. This title would have been low on the list of editorial priorities and wasn’t paid any respect. This article illustrates that very clearly.

What a terrible waste of resources, producing 20 x crappy comics. Ironically, it probably costs the same to produce 20 x good ones.

DC Editorial has been at the root of this & many other failures over the past couple of years. In the media, no-one seems to be pulling them up on this. Well, not in CBR ‘interviews’, that’s for sure.

Couldn’t agree more with this article, though it may be a bit harsh on Liefeld give the circumstances what he and others seem to be dealing with. If you take everything good about Hawkman’s backstory, no matter the iteration, you get a great foundation to build on. It seems DC went into this relaunch without any kind of long term plan for the future given their willingness to change writers every few issues. Its really a shame what keeps happening with this character. This isn’t just a book that was cancelled because it isn’t selling well. Its a complete blunder by DC

Truman’s Hawkworld/Hawkman series was also my favorite incarnation of the character. I definitely would not mind a return to those concepts. None of what has followed has really captured the same sort of excitement for me.
And I completely agree with the line of thought that the titles that have failed have been those that clearly didn’t have a strong direction to begin with, and thus they were the ones to have defections and creative team changes early and sometimes often. DC just has not had their act together with the relaunch for a number of titles.

I think there could have been a simpler way to ‘save’ Hawkman going all the way back to the early Post-Crisis days (BTW, Crisis was from 1985-86). Here’s what I have in mind (NOTE: many sentences come from the wiki article on the Silver Age Hawkman, but see if you can spot what I added…):

Hawkman Saved–What could’ve been done in the late 80s

“Following the events of DC’s miniseries, Crisis on Infinite Earths, the histories of Earth-One and Earth-Two are merged together. As a result, both Golden Age and Silver Age versions of Hawkman and Hawkgirl/Hawkwoman live on the same Earth. Here’s how the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman could be kept in continuity unchanged, while still allowing the Golden Age versions to exist as well.

Silver Age Hawkman’s beginnings
Katar Hol was the imperial prince of his home planet of Thanagar. His father was Paran Katar, renowned ornithologist and inventor. When Katar Hol was eighteen, an alien race called the Gordanians invaded Thanagar and began looting the planet. Paran sent young Katar Hol to infiltrate their nest and bring back information on the aliens. Using this information, Paran created devices capable of containing advanced technology like his “Nth metal”. Katar used this hawk-suit and Paran’s advanced weaponry to drive the Manhawks away from Thanagar. That, however, was not the end of the problem. Some Thanagarians had learned the concept of stealing from the Manhawks. Due to the amount of crime, the Thanagarian government created a police force. In honor of Paran Katar and his achievements, the new police force began using his hawk-suit and equipment. Paran headed this new police force, named the Hawk-Police (or Wingmen), and his son became one of the first recruits. Katar soon became one of the most skilled of the Hawk-Police. When a group called the Rainbow Robbers began committing crimes, Katar was teamed up with rookie Shayera Thal to track and apprehend the criminals. During the case, Shayera saved Katar’s life, and the two soon fell in love. A few weeks later, Katar proposed to Shayera and the two got married, working together as partners-for-life in the Hawk-Police.
After ten years of marriage and in the force, the pair were sent to Earth to capture the shape-shifting Thanagarian criminal Byth. During their mission, they meet George Emmett, commissioner of the Midway City Police Department, and told him their alien origin. With Emmett’s help, the pair took over his retiring brother Ed’s place as museum curators. They adopt the identities as Carter and Shiera Hall. After capturing him and sending him back to Thanagar, they elected to remain on Earth to work with authorities to learn human police methods.

Meeting their Golden Age predecessors
Katar (black-haired) and Shayera (redhead) meet Carter Hall (sandy blonde-haired) and Shiera Sanders Hall (brown-haired) at some point before Barry Allen meets Jay Garrick, and before they were dubbed Hawman II and Hawkgirl II. He learns that his father came to Earth during World War II, under the alias “Perry Carter”. The Golden Age Hawks, Carter and Shiera Hall, were friends with Paran, and were the inspiration of the Wingmen. In one adventure, Carter took an injured Katar to be healed by an old friend, a Cherokee shaman named Naomi (“Faraway Woman”). Katar discovers that she had known Paran Katar, his father. She and Paran fell in love, and the two eloped with the Halls serving as witnesses. Thus, Naomi is his birth mother and Katar is a hybrid Human-Thanagarian. With Carter and Shiera’s blessings, they are allowed to take up the mantles of Hawkman and Hawkgirl (later Hawkwoman).

Further Adventures
The rest of Hawkman’s supporting cast consist of Mavis Trent, museum naturalist and diorama artist who flirts with Katar; Joe Tracy, the museum’s publicist; his commanding officer Andar Pul; a large red hawk named Big Red who lives nearby Hawk Valley; and teenage orphan Charley Parker, Golden Eagle. Katar gained a variety of unique villainous opponents such as the Shadow Thief, Matter Master, Ira Quimby (I.Q.), Konrad Kaslak, Chac, the Raven, the Criminal Alliance of the World (or C.A.W.), Lion-Mane, Kanjar Ro, Hyathis, the Fadeaway Man, and the Gentleman Ghost. Katar joined the Justice League of America in the early 1960s, where he befriended the Atom and frequently sparred with Green Arrow with whose “question authority” outlook the lawman frequently disagreed.
Hol left the Justice League for a time when Thanagar was hit by the Equalizer Plague, which caused all Thanagarians to change so that their physical and mental talents, and even their heights, became the same. With the help of the JLA, he was eventually able to reverse the effects of the plague. However, in the wake of the plague, Thanagar adopted an expansionist outlook, and went to war with the planet Rann, which orbits Alpha Centauri. This forced Katar and Shayera to choose to fight for or against their own planet, and they elected to oppose Thanagar, becoming exiles on Earth. Around this time, Shayera herself joined the JLA, and took the name Hawkwoman. Following the truce between Thanagar and Rann, Thanagar began to secretly try to take over the Earth. Hol opposed their efforts in a furtive “secret war” for several years. They took Superman to Krypton (now a gas planet), briefly joined Justice League International, teamed-up with Atom, and helped Animal Man defuse a Thanagarian bomb during Invasion.

Return of the Golden Age Hawks
When the Invasion ended, Katar and Shiera decide to return to Thanagar to help bring up a more peaceful rule on the planet. The JSA returns from Limbo around this time, and the rejuvenated Carter and Shiera Hall return to their crime-fighting careers.”

With that, they could’ve used Hawkworld as was originally intended–as a retelling of the Silver Age Hawks’s origins. They wouldn’t have needed a Hawkworld ongoing then.

Honestly, the Hawkman book had a great premise built around xenoarcheology and superheroics that just fell flat in the execution. Hawkman’s not a brand like Batman is, there was no star power on the creative end of things, and the book was just awful. Or at least the first six issues were. That’s a recipe for a failed title.

Poor Hawkman. Another great character raped and mutilated by a company that has very little insight into their own characters.

Imagine Didio’s editorial edict: “Hey, let’s make Hawkman another savage, violent, grim & gritty anti-hero, and fling it at the wall and see if it sticks!”

Yeah I’m sure that’s exactly what he said. What a ridiculous statement.

I don’t have much to add here except that I, too, was bummed that they spent a year building up storylines in Brightest Day (a mostly good story with an out-of-left-field ending) only to see it lead to nothing with the New 52 three months later. Which is probably clear evidence that the New 52 was slapped together at the last minute–why build up a bunch of storylines if you’re going to drop them completely?

I’m also somewhere between humored and annoyed that pre-DCNu, they killed Garth and replaced him with a new Aqualad to tie in to the Young Justice TV show. Then they never used the new Aqualad, and the show gets cancelled anyway. But then, I get the feeling that Garth was intended to be a 90s casualty along with Damage and Wally West.

I LOVED Tim Truman’s “Hawkworld” mini-series/collected edition. I re-read it about two years ago and it still holds up. Interesting characters, great plot twists, beautiful artwork. Kinda wish they would reissue it as a “Deluxe Edition” hardcover.

Yeah, the Truman mini and the follow up series Ostrander were both great and, alongside the Kubert stuff, my favourite Hawkman stories. I tend towards the alien Hawkman over the Egyptian reincarnated one, but for the most part I even enjoyed what Johns did with the character in JSA and the eponymous title.

The set up for the New 52 Hawkman sounded really promising, it was the execution that was lacking.

Blaming Didio for Hawkman’s “Wolverine” persona is ridiculous – he’s been written that way since Ostrander came on board and made him a hawk avatar. That was long before Didio was around. Why not blame Didio for cancer as well while you’re at it.

Hawkman SHOULD be a massive success. Visually he’s a striking character (not the New 52 version though.) He’s an archetype character that many other characters are based on. He’s got a rich history to draw upon, whether you prefer the Thanagarian version or the Ancient Eygpt version – they’re both as good.

I don’t know why he’s never been as big as Wolverine. He’s just as relatable and badass. Personally I think he’s a helluva lot more interesting and three dimensional. But for some reason he rarely attracts the sort of talent, long time, that can do the character justice. If you can make Aquaman A list, you can make Hawkman too.

“It’s too bad, though, given how easily DC could have simply published the sort of Hawkman title the 21st-century super-comic audience would support, rather than The Savage Hawkman.”

That’s where you lost me.

There is no Hawkman title that the current super-comic audience will support. Hawkman is a dull character. He is a failed concept, that is given many more chances that he deserves, because the character is ‘classic’. I wish he was the only such character, but no. He gets a lot of chances, and occasionally one of them hits, but that has more to do with how good many comics creators are at the art of polishing turds, than it has to do with any ‘inherent’ greatness in the character himself. The Philip Tan art with the ‘painted’ style was very attractive, though.

It doesn’t take a genius to analyze why certain books succeeded and others failed. Blackhawks, Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Frankenstein: Agent of S.H.A.D.E., G.I. Combat, Grifter, Hawk and Dove, Justice League International, Legion Lost, Men of War, Mister Terrific, OMAC, Resurrection Man, Static Shock and Voodoo were cancelled?

Well, yeah? Major Characters sell, Minor characters don’t. If a book is written by Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison, or drawn by Jim Lee, it’s probably going to sell well. I wish things weren’t so predictable, but they are.

It’s not surprising that Frankenstein, Legion Lost, and Mister Terrific failed. They may have had great stories (I know Frankenstein did) but it’s more notable to look at the fact that books like Animal Man, Swamp Thing and Wonder Woman did NOT fail. I applaud DC for putting so many books out that were off the beaten path.

“featuring a rebooted continuity for the then 71-year-old hero”

I think the real problem was “Featuring ANOTHER rebooted continuity”. Johns had finally gotten Hawkman settled down, a convoluted, but solid history of the character. The curse, the history, the connection to so many other heroes; it WORKED. And they chose to start over again. I tell you right off, that put me off the book. I wasn’t interested in reading ANOTHER new version of a character I’d invested a lot of time getting to know.

James Robinson was originally supposed to do the book, and I’ve no idea why that didn’t happen. I have a feeling his book would have been better. Likely not the old Hawkman, as it was pretty much dictated across the board that the old order would be changething, but it would have been a more interesting book. His work on Earth 2 is a perfect example of that.

Another New 52 book that has had a consistent art staff from the start, SUPERGIRL…

I think the choice to reboot continuity, to start fresh, was a reasonable one. I don’t think it was the ONLY choice that might have been made, but I think it was about as viable as any other; the whole ‘tortured, doomed lovers’ angle was getting heavily played out (though I maintain that a book about a character who was completely in touch with all of his many past lives would have made for a very productive story engine).

Given that they seemed to want to go in the direction of “Alien” rather than “reincarnated prince”, I still think it could have been pulled off with great aplomb, had they picked a better creative team with a clearer vision of what they wanted to accomplish.

The general feeling I got from “Savage Hawkman” was that James Robinson was meant to be writing a Hawkman series that played with the past lives, and with past continuity, until the New 52 Reboot was announced. His plans dashed and irrelevant, he begged off the title (notably absent from that first wave launch) and they struggled to find a quick replacement; which they did, in Tony Daniel. But Tony Daniel under the best of circumstances has a ways to go on craft, and here clearly went in with no idea what he wanted to accomplish, with only vague editorial edicts on where to go.

To say what came before was, conceptually, more palatable than the very simple mythology that could be at the heart of this is, I think, wrong headed. Had it been me tasked with turning the ‘alien’ Hawkman into a popular franchise, I might have done an inverse Adam Strange, started him off on Earth then brought him to Thanagar and given us a “Dune” style imagining of the world.

But more than that, having just read through the first 16 issues of Hawkman, I think it’s still very salvageable (not to say resources couldn’t be put to better use, of course).

What we have now is; Carter Hall of Earth is in fact Katar Hol of Thanagar, first Prince of the ruling Thanagarian family, an outlaw fleeing justice for the crime of regicide, a crime he didn’t commit. We have some very vague information about the structure of the class and social structure of Thanagar, and a lot of room to play with this world.

Lets say the book gets a stay of execution, and I’m given the book; treat your first issue of the book (21, presumably? Pretty close to when Alan Moore started his Swamp Thing run, I can’t help but notice…) like the first issue of the series. Establish, very basically, who Katar Hol is, his place on earth, introduce his female support/love interest (Emma, as the current one is), give him a one off villain to fight to show his powers and his schtick….and then, on the very last page, turn it on its head.

Katar Hol, you are wanted for high treason and sedition, etc etc.

Bring him to Thanagar once again, along with Emma (either caught up accidently, tried as his accomplice, or as a character witness for his time on Earth).

Once on Thanagar, reveal; a new Royal family, desperate to cement their power by returning to Thanagarians their lost wings; the 12-floating city structure of Thanagarian society, and the unexplored world-surface, long abandoned; the religion and and myth of the Thanagarians, especially the legendary 13th city; the basic structure of society, heirarchy, and language of the Thanagarians (currently, unbelievably, it looks as though they all speak english…absurd).

Send Katar on a quest to find the mythical 13 city, and in it the salvation of Thanagar. On his quest, as outside observer and our POV character is Emma (also a scientist, who can put things in terms we can understand).

Once there…well, I can’t reveal all my ideas, but lets just say I see a lot of parallels between a good Aquaman story and a good Hawkman story; one the infinite wonder of the seas, the other the boundless possibilities of an alien world.

There is nothing inherently radioactive about this character. That books like Animal Man and Swamp Thing made it just prove that, with the right combo of creative magic and publisher support, medium tier writers on medium tier characters can produce sustainable monthlies.

Horrible stories, horrible new design.
It’s a shame what they are doing with that character.

I would have picked up Hawkman initially if it hadn’t been written by Tony Daniel. But I also surely would have dropped it when Rob Leifield took over.

I think that the new 52 really sucks balls. Yes, not my best answer, but it works just as good as anything.
I put about just as much thought into that, as DC did in their reboot of the entire dcu.

I think they will continue this merry-go-round until it is blatantly clear that they will need to switch back.

They will be left, with only one option…

Reveal that the old DCU indeed still does exist, and some sort of battle between the two for survival needs to happen.

This could mean, that the new 52 universe is, now, slowly turning into an “evil” universe, where the familiar Justice League characters, turn into those seen, Superman turns into Ultraman, Batman into…what was his name? Owlman? Etc. All those “Evil counterparts.

Have that catalyst be that when this new 52 Darksied appeared, he “poisoned” reality, as was his plan, causing the change, and heralding the return of the “REAL” DCU.

just my thought for the end of all this. Make it quick. I’m waiting to pick up right where I dropped all DC books.

Faithful DC fan, signing off.

I didn’t read the latest volume of Hawkman. Making him a savage, barbarian type character just didn’t work for me as a concept and the creative teams that were working on the book didn’t give me any confidence that I’d enjoy it. But I don’t believe that the character is a lost cause. I am certain that Hawkman could be molded into a successful concept and would appeal to today’s readers.

Poster Desaad’s pitch is good. It would turn the book into a science fiction/fantasy story and, with the right team, could be very good.

Myself, I’d suggest that DC really go back to the core of the Silver Age Hawkman and run with it. His costume design as imagined by Joe Kubert is both elegant and strong. Use it or slightly modify it. But keep it elegant with bold lines. This guy can fly away from danger if need be, so he doesn’t need to have armor and claws. The core of the character: He is smart (works as an archaeologist) though perhaps not brilliant, has the advantage of Thanagarian science (which he probably understands as much as any of us understand basic Earth science), and HE CAN FLY! Who doesn’t have dreams of being able to FLY under our own power? So, why not use him as a detective WHO CAN FLY! And with the power of flight, there must be a constant feeling of freedom and joy. So… no “grim and gritty” Hawkman here. This is a guy who enjoys his power and puts it to good use. Which is not to say that he shouldn’t take things seriously and occasionally have a tough time. But I don’t want to see a Hawkman who is angry all the time.

I can easily see Katar Hol in adventures all over the world, but based in Crescent City, using his brains, science, and wings to solve mysteries, overcome death traps, and defeat villains. Think Doc Savage (brains, science, superb physical shape), or the Rocketeer (but smarter), set in the contemporary DC Universe. You could have Hawkman in exotic locales on earth; coming from Thanagar he’d be comfortable in space; or he could be used in a manner similar to the Planetary team, investigating and exploring the stranger corners of the DCU. Really, there’s quite honestly nothing you could not do with Hawkman. How can a concept like that not be a winner?

Like with many of the New 52 titles that have come and gone Savage Hawkman suffered from a variety of things. One being the ever evolving door of creative teams (which is why I’m glad Gail Simone is back on Batgirl cause it is a title I like and hate to see go down that road). The failure of New 52 lies in a seeming lack of long-term storylines. Is any reader feeling safe about the direction of a lot of books without top-notch writers like Johns, Snyder and company? Creatively I feel more secure when a writer I respect stays on a book which is why Marvel Now seems to be really stable because they built their titles around the writers whether it is Waid on Daredevil & Indestructible Hulk or Bendis on All-New and Uncanny X-Men (along with GOTG) or Gillen on Young Avengers and Iron Man or Hickman on Avengers/New Avengers or Remender on Uncanny Avengers & Captain America. They also have one voice for the biggest brand titles as you see with Hickman on Avengers or Bendis on the X-Titles. Marvel has picked up the ball from DC as far as diversity and ran with it giving us titles featuring women (Captain Marvel & Red She-Hulk or the all-woman X-Men and Fearless Defender titles or mostly woman Uncanny X-Force). They still lack a bit in racial diversity in lead titles but helped make titles with characters like Storm or Black Panther featured with other characters as solo titles of them might not work but team titles often last longer (outside of Defenders which usually has a year or so shelf-life). You get Black Panther in the lead on New Avengers and Storm in the lead or co-lead on X-Men and Uncanny X-Force.

Unfortunately DC lost a lot of it’s diversity due to bad creative choices and DC being a mess in the editorial department with editors being worse than if you put fanboys in charge. DC being an artist-based company (with Jim Lee in charge) has the fault of lack of long-term story-planning for a large part outside of characters that sell on name like Batman or Justice League. Readers know when a company is really behind a project or not in how they promote it and how they handle creative teams. A title with a fast evolving creative team like Savage Hawkman is not deemed important by the company otherwise you have a top-notch team on it and keep them on the title. It’s why Aquaman (an inferior character to Hawkman) is still around and Hawkman is getting the axe. Johns being on Aquaman makes all the difference. For me once I saw Hawkman was going to be in JLA I knew it was death for the solo title as he is more interesting in a team setting than a solo setting. He’s best used when playing off a character like Green Arrow. Speaking of, Green Arrow finally seems to have found a direction. I’d have to say Jeff Lemire’s one issue so far has been better than everything done before it on this New 52. It even has a Green Arrow feel to it (and this from a fan who could care less about Green Arrow in the past). DC needs to follow Marvel’s example and get stability in their writing teams and get one voice for the main titles of each brand as Johns will be for the Justice League titles (not including Dark). To me this is part of Superman’s problem. You got Morrison on Action Comics (not for much longer) and an evolving door on Superman so there’s too many voices on Superman and too many different takes on him that it feels like a Superman with multiple personality disorder. If Marvel handled Superman it would be someone top-notch like Bendis writing both his titles. Unfortunately Johns can’t write every title. Even his Justice League seems to lack something but his Aquaman and Green Lantern are tops and looks like he got exciting things in store for JLA.

DC needs to have stability in the writing department. As much as I love good art I think I am not alone in preferring good writing be a stable factor on a title I collect. Chris Claremont was why I stuck with Uncanny X-Men for so many years despite the changing art over the years. Yeah it would be ideal to have the perfect union of good writing and good art but I like to know a title is in the hands of a writer capable of planning long-term on a title and actually going somewhere instead of in circles which many already canceled New52 titles seemed to do. It’s funny but as much as I like Hawkman if he had a Jeff Lemire on it rather than the evolving door of writers I’d much rather have a Hawkman title than a Green Arrow one. Maybe DC should have planned long-term with it’s characters instead of throwing $hit at the wall and seeing what sticks and what doesn’t. You can bet if DC keeps switching up Stormwatch that title is eventually going to get the axe. So much potential with New 52 as far as characters and titles and a lot of it wasted….

“Well, yeah? Major Characters sell, Minor characters don’t. If a book is written by Geoff Johns or Grant Morrison, or drawn by Jim Lee, it’s probably going to sell well. I wish things weren’t so predictable, but they are.”

You’re right. The reason things are so predictable is the price of a comic book. In the days of the 35 to 75 cent comics (my pre-teen and teen years), you could take a chance on a character or concept because you weren’t paying $3 to $4 for it. Never mind the fact that they were in places other than a comic book shop (I love my LCS but my first comics were bought at Drug Fair and 7-11). So basically, Marvel and DC take a comic with a $2.99-$3.99 price tag on it and gamble that it will find an audience.

Hawkman is one of those characters who is D-lister because he has always been a D-lister.

On paper, Hawkman is an ideal candidate for a re-boot. He has great bits that are spread over 2-3 different versions. Keeping the good bits and building a sustainable story-telling engine should not be that hard. He has a great visual look, an excellent Golden Age origin, a unique relationship with his love interest (partners!), an interesting setting (a museum), a couple decent villains (Blyth, Shadow Thief), a couple underused supporting characters (Mavis Trent) and has some thematic depth added in Tim Truman’s HAWKWORLD mini.

Hawkman has never been a great character, but he has a lot of great pieces. Instead of assembling those pieces into something worthwhile, DC dumped the property onto lesser talents who did what lesser talents do. It is a shame.

Just a quick thought – OMAC doesn’t really fit with the other failed books (possible also Franksenstain) because it actually DID have both a consistent set of creators and a surprisingly degree of critical acclaim – I know I enjoyed it more than almost all the Nu52 books put together, excepting Red Lanterns. But even the best OMAC book possible is still going to be an OMAC book, and it really should come as no surprise that the book couldn’t find a receptive audience – if it had launched as BATMAC or something, it would probably still be going.

Can we all agree now that the New 52 is a mess and flops hard as countless books are cancelled and others like THE FLASH, GREEN LANTERN, BATMAN INc. etc. etc. now sell LESS than pre-reboot?

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