I'm beginning to think that 1940 was a banner year for DC's forerunners in creating new super-heroes. In addition to the Flash and the Spectre, 1940 saw the first appearance of Hawkman, created by Gardner Fox (writer) and Dennis Neville (artist). Note, however, that the version of Hawkman in the above strip might instead be the silver age Hawkman, introduced in the 1961, who looks exactly like his predecessor, but is very different. Well, mostly different. Confused? Strap yourselves in, folks, because we've only just begun.
Every so often over the years, comics publishers have re-invented their characters, either to keep up with new publishing trends or just out of desperation for increased sales. The so-called Golden Age of comics began with Superman, and the success of the Superman feature inspired - you guessed it - a whole lot of imitation goin' on. Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Spectre, Hourman, Starman, Green Lantern, Ma Hunkle, etc., and Hawkman, too, the hits just kept on coming. Remember, just because it was sixty years ago doesn't mean that the publishers weren't smart enough to recognize an upwards profit swing when they saw one.
The original Hawkman was a reincarnation of a long-dead Egyptian prince, whose flying powers came from an anti-gravity belt fashioned from a mysterious "ninth metal". He fought crime using an arsenal of ancient weapons including axes, spears, maces, crossbows, and shields. His significant other Hawkgirl was the reincarnation of his wife from Egyptian times, which unfortunately (for me) has spontaneously evoked memories of the song "Love Will Keep Us Together" by the Captain and Tennille. Ick. The risks I take for you people, I tell you....
Comics' Golden Age ended in the fifties, as the popularity of the super-hero titles declined, and Hawkman was among the features that were retired. In the super-hero revival of the 1960s, DC reintroduced Hawkman and Hawkgirl, this time as visiting police officers from the planet Thanagar, neatly exploiting the surging popularity of all things science-fiction. Oddly enough, they still used the old weapons. You'd think that a race capable of interplanetary travel could come up with some effective hand-held rayguns, but noooooo.
Since then, dark forces (i.e., editorial) have reinvented Hawkman approximately 37 times, trying out a virtual smorgasbord of origins. To be honest, I'm not really sure where things stand now with the character. Does anyone want to throw me a quick synopsis of the current situation? Bonus points if you can do it without mentioning the words "crisis", "zero hour", or "hypertime".
Oh, and the "Adam" guy referenced in the strip? That would be Adam Strange, an earthman with the longest commute you've ever seen. Created by Gardner Fox (did Gardner ever sleep?) and Mike Sekowsky, Adam Strange was a scientist struck by a communications ray that teleported him to the planet Rann in the Alpha Centauri galaxy. Fell in love, got married, decided that Rann was a pretty cool place, dressed up in red and white spandex, got himself a rocket pack, became a hero. The wrinkle was that once the radiation from the teleportation ray wore off, he'd bounce back to earth and have to wait for the next beam. And you think you had problems with public transportation.
Actually, this strip does raise some interesting questions. Just what do super-heroes talk about when they're not out fighting for Truth, Justice, and general have-a-nice-day-ness? Do the Flash and Johnny Quick compare notes on economical grocery-shopping, out of concern for their mutual metabolism issues? Do Black Canary and Zatanna discuss ways of staying warm in winter, despite their predilictions for fishnet stockings? Did Jimmy Olsen, upon becoming Elastic Lad, ever hoist a beer with Plastic Man and the Elongated Man, and ask them for dating tips the likes of which would make Alex Comfort blush? Inquiring minds want to know.
Special bonus science section!!!!!!
The mysterious "ninth metal" which gave Hawkman the ability to fly may be a reference to the seven metals known to the ancients: gold, silver, copper, mercury, iron, tin, and lead.
Special bonus reader commentary section!!!!!!
Letterhack (email-hack?) at large Dave Potts points out that Fred drew the silver-age Hawkman here, based on...oh, heck, I'll let Dave tell you:
"The Hawkman in the strip is definitely (no "might be" about it) the silver age
version, as can be determined by the Hawks' masks. The original Hawkman's
mask had a lower beak as well as an upper, at least for most of the golden
age. He did wear one with just an upper beak for a brief period in the late
forties (just prior to the yellow cloth mask he would retain for his silver
age JSA appearances), but this was more rounded-looking, without those
spikey things sticking down at the sides of his face. (Of course, various
'70's-to-current artists have on occasion depicted the golden age Hawkman
with the silver age mask, apparently unaware of the difference, so you have
no reason to feel ashamed yourself.)
Even more significant in identifying this as the silver age version
is Hawkgirl's mask, which was radically different from her golden age
counterpart's. (Her shirt was also considerably different than the
original's midriff-baring top, but this can't really be determined from
these pictures, other than by the color, for which you have correctly used
the silver age yellow rather than the golden age red.) Once again, some of
today's artists apparently aren't aware of the differences, as DC's recent
"The Justice Society Returns" mini-series featured the silver age Hawkgirl
costume on the covers. (You'd think an editor would be expected to catch
things like that, but I guess that wasn't the case.) Inside the comics, the
costume was more-or-less correct, except that her top was colored yellow
instead of red, and her mask was a late forties model, rather than the
proper WWII-era one (but, hey, what's four or five years off, compared to a
couple of decades on the covers?). And, of course, in keeping with the
manner in which most of today's comic artists portray women, her
anti-gravity belt was apparently supplemented by anti-gravity breasts.
There you have it.
Dave also pointed out that Mike Sekowsky, and not Carmine Infantino, handled the art chores on the first appearance of Adam Strange in 1958. Infantino picked up the artistic reins for the subsequent run in 'Mystery in Space'.