It's raining (Hawk)men...!
I had one heck of a time finding a good color reference for the helmet on the leftmost Hawkman in this strip. It was worn by the Earth-2 Hawkman only briefly during the mid-seventies, and the JSA wasn't exactly breaking any sales records back then. I finally found an issue of the short-lived All-Star Comics 1976-78 revival which showed him wearing it for the first time (sometimes I'm amazed at what I find buried in my collection).
I've rambled on with a previous strip about Hawkman and the various interpretations inflicted on him over the years, so I won't repeat that territory. This time, I'd thought I'd confuse everyone with a look at the various Earths that make up the DC Multiverse.
We'll start with a historical perspective. For a variety of reasons, the focus on super-heroes diminished significantly during the fifties, in favor of other genres. When DC began to re-introduce many of their old heroes a few years later, the editors and writers took the opportunity to re-invent many of them, jazzing up the powers and costumes, and even giving some of them new secret identities. The golden age Green Lantern, a radio broadcaster named Alan Scott, became a test pilot named Hal Jordan, for example. The golden age Flash, a scientist named Jay Garrick, became a police forensics scientist named Barry Allen. Some of the new versions had only the name in common, such as the Atom. At some point, writer Gardner Fox decided it would be cool to have the two Flashs meet each other.
So they did.
The explanation was that there are an infinite number of Earths, all co-existing in the same physical space, but on different vibrational planes (or something like that). When conditions are right, inhabitants of one Earth can cross over to another. For whatever reason, the Earth with the silver age heroes (i.e, all heroes currently being published at that point) was designated as 'Earth-1', and the Earth with the golden age heroes was designated as 'Earth-2'.
But wait, you cry! What about Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman? Which Earth are they on? Their series were never cancelled!
Easy - there's one of each on each Earth. Same goes for Hawkman (hence the strip above), Green Arrow, and others who were re-introduced without any significant changes.
After that first Flash team-up, cross-Earth match-ups were fairly regular. The Flashes met up often enough, and the Justice League hooked up with the Earth-2 based Justice Society each year as well.
So far, it's not too difficult to keep track of things. Two Earths. Two sets of heroes. Not a problem.
Things got worse. Fasten your seatbelt, because here's a partial list of Earths:
- Home of most of the current super-heroes being published, including the Legion of Super-Heroes.
- Home of the golden age heroes, many of whom have direct counterparts on Earth-1; when DC acquired the Quality Comics set of heroes, they were retroactively implanted into Earth-2 continuity, during which they migrated to….
- Adopted home of the Quality set of heroes, where they fought unsuccessfully to prevent the Germans from winning World War II.
- Home to a group of super-villains, counterparts of Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman.
- Home to the heroes and characters published by the defunct Fawcett Comics, including the Marvel Family, Kid Eternity, Ibis, and the Monster Society of Evil (bwaa-hah-hah-hah…..)
- Originally thought to be our own Earth, in which all of the DC heroes and villains are just characters in a line of comic books. I don't think I'll ever be able to shake the memory of the Justice League needing JLA writer Elliot S! Maggin to defeat the likes of fellow JLA writer Cary Bates, when the two supposedly crossed Earths. Oh, the ignominy…
And then there's the Earth with the heroes that DC acquired from Dick Giordano's old stomping ground, Charlton Comics. And the Earth featuring Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew. And so on. You get the general idea. Heck, spend too much time thinking about, and your head begins to explode.
In an effort to forestall any more such aneurysms, Marv Wolfman and George Pérez (of New Teen Titans fame) pitched a series to be called 'Crisis on Infinite Earths', which would simultaneously collapse all of the Earths together into a single continuity and make DC tons of cash. One Earth, one Superman, one Batman, one Hawkman (which means the above Hembeck strip isn't canon anymore - sorry), etc.
DC is still trying to figure out the continuity ramifications from that one. A subsequent cross-company super-hero slugfest called 'Zero Hour' ended with a 'reboot' of that single Earth's history, and I don't think anyone really knows yet just what the heck 'Hypertime' is supposed to accomplish.
You know something? None of it really matters. As far as I'm concerned, if a story works on its own terms, then it works, and I'm not going to be overly concerned whether it dovetails neatly with everything that's gone before.