The Brave and The Bold Index Part 6
Showcase: Of Strange Suicide Squad Stories Inside Earth, Part 3
Continuing the index/history of the greatest comic magazine ever! 😉
Showcase was too busy with other things, so Schwartz and Fox invaded B&B for three more issues to see if lightning would strike four times. With Flash, Green Lantern and the JLA proved rousing successes, there really was only one Golden Age giant left.
Hawkman made his Silver Age debut in Brave & Bold #34 on March 1961. He also appeared in issues #35, #36, and later in #42, #43 and #44. The original Hawkman appeared twenty-one years earlier in Flash Comics #1 (January 1940) and co-starred in the magazine with the original Flash for over 100 issues. Hawkman never received his own magazine – although he did appear in every adventure of the Justice Society in All-Star Comics. Still, it had been thirteen years since there had been a solo Hawkman tale.
The revised Hawkman kept his 1940s name of Carter Hall, but his real name was Katar Hol from the planet Thanagar of the star system Polaris. He and his wife Shayera were police officers on Thanagar, and the hawk costume was their official uniform.
Unlike Flash and Green Lantern, the new Hawkman’s costume changed little from the original. Hawkgirl’s mask was redesigned. The new mask must have worked; the Hawkgirl from Cartoon Network’s “Justice League” cartoons still wears that same style forty years later!
Although Hawkgirl also starred in these features, it is still considered a solo Hawkman-centered series!
Three of his (their?) six Brave & Bold try-out issues were “novel-length” and three issues contained two stories:
1) (#34: Creature of a Thousand Shapes) Tracking a dangerous Thanagarian criminal named Byth, who can assume the shape of any creature; Katar and Sheyera Hol come to Earth. After capturing Byth, they decide to stay on Earth to study police methods. His powers: flight, can talk with birds, can live in the vacuum of space for five minutes.
2) (#35: Menace of the Matter Master) The Matter Master debuts! Hawkman develops super-smell and can dive and swim for a short time.
3) (#35: Valley of the Vanishing Men) Carter’s assistant Mavis disappears while tracking the Abominable Snowman. The Hawks investigate to find the Yeti are really aliens marooned on earth for eons and devolved back into savages. This story has the debut of the Absorbiscon – Hawkman’s shortcut in lieu of investigation. He has all of earth’s knowledge, so he knows the Yeti’s teleportation weapons are invulnerable to wood. This saves a few pages of him finding this out for himself. New powers: can speak all languages (even Yeti) and can communicate with all creatures, not just birds.
4) (#36: Strange Spell of the Sorcerer) The Hawks defeat an archeologist who steals Babylonian and other artifacts to evoke sorcerous powers. Hawkgirl defeats a medusa by removing her compact from her belt and using the mirror against it. If the series were more enlightened, they’d still be stone statues by now. A letter writer requests they change her name to Hawkwoman, but Julie says that name is too awkward – they do it anyway years later.
5) (#36: Shadow Thief of MidwayCity) The debut of the Shadow Thief, one of Hawkman’s most enduring foes. Forty-one years later, the two still battled in Hawkman’s fourth series. This was selected for an all-Kubert issue of DC Special as one of Kubert’s best–drawn stories.
6) (#42: Menace of the Dragonfly Raiders) Resuming his police duties on Thanagar, Hawkman wins his helmet wings (making his helmet look more in line with his golden age counter-part) by again defeating the shape-changing Byth.
7) (#43: Masked Marauders of Earth) The deadly Manhawks debut! Their attacks on Thanagar led to the formation of the hawk-winged police corps; now the Manhawks are on earth stealing Terran rubies to perfect laser weaponry to get their revenge against Thanagar.
8) (#44: Earth’s Impossible Day) “Earth’s” July 4thcelebrations coincide with Thanagar’s “Impossible Day”. So after the traditional Impossible Day picnic, the Hawks perform three impossible tasks: Make it rain up, throw lightning to capture an escaping convict and dodge invisible bullets from an invisible gun. New powers: supersonic speed (enough to create a water spout), wings that can flap at hundreds of miles per hour to create hurricane-force winds (it was explained that the American Peregrine Falcon can dive at 160 miles per hour).
9) (#44: The Men Who Moved the World) Once Earth was in the same solar rotation with Venus. The city of Lansimar ruled the planet. When Earth was pulled to its present orbit by a huge planet-sized asteroid, Lansimar froze under the Arctic. Three revived Lansanarians try to pull Earth back to its original rotation. New powers: Can see in the dark.
The series is a pleasant mix of superhero plots in the early sixties – from scientific mumbo jumbo to magical mumbo jumbo. And the art … the art…
Joe Kubert’s work on Viking Prince (last seen in #24, thirty-two months before) is the best art B&B has ever produced. Until now. Only Kubert could top himself. Average people looked real; the villains looked real; Hawkman’s muscles looked as hard as steel; and Hawkgirl was beautiful. Oh that hair …
The Viking Prince is what Kubert’s Prince Valiant or Tarzan would have looked like. Hawkman is what his Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon would have looked like – high flying science fiction. Kubert was really at his prime here and in the next few years. The Shadow Thief has a thin beard, the Matter Master had a beatnik’s chin stubble, the police commissioner had a thick droopy mustache; everyone looked different! His detail to the individuality of even the secondary characters was phenomenal – how did he stay on a deadline?
Hawkman had a letter column in his first issue, including reaction to the rumors of a Hawkman revival and an interview with Gardner Fox (who requested that Hawkman join the JLA – he would in November of 1964 – come to think of it; Gardner, you write the JLA, youmake him join! Like Julie Schwartz would tell you no!). The letter column also had a letter by Roy Thomas, applauding Hawkman’s revival – but only if Joe Kubert draws him and Hawkman’s helmet is a specific design. Because of his foresight, the Rascally One got his letter published.
A letter from Roy also appears in B&B#35 again discussing the new Hawkman’s helmet. Forty years later in his All-Star Comics Companion (2002) Roy spends a whole page discussing the evolution of Hawkman’s helmet. And you think I’m obsessive! There was also a letter from well-known professional fan Jerry Bails and an autobiography of Joe Kubert!
After the first try-out Hawkman and Hawkgirl left Earth to return to Thanagar. To National’s credit, a blurb at the bottom of the last page requested fans to send in their letters if they want to see more of the Winged Wonders. Apparently it worked!
The lesson of hyping themselves must have stuck – with Hawkman’s second go-round B&B was littered with house ads. Even in the Viking Prince days, Batman and Superman magazines were advertised, so were Mystery in Space, My Greatest Adventures and the Flash. But now we see ads for the Atom, Metal Men, Aquaman, even Bob Hope and Jerry Lewis’ comics!
Hawkman didn’t launch into a solo series of his own for some time after his two B&B try-outs. He did share the bill with Adam Strange in Mystery in Space for a while, but he was eventually awarded his own comic for the first time ever and did join the JLA. Another Julie Schwartz-Gardner Fox success! Lightning struck for the fourth time. <Wheet!>
In between Hawkman’s two three-issue stints B&B dusted off more Suicide Squad and Cave Carson try-outs. Perhaps the publishers thought the previous low sales of these characters must have been a fluke! It wasn’t.
So now what? After Hawkman left Julie Schwartz remained as editor and allowed Gardner Fox to try an experiment – and create one of the most unusual series the comic book medium has ever produced.
Copyright (c) 2012 Michael G. Curry