Friday, February 01, 2013


Why We Love Detective Comics

#500: Hawkman and Hawkgirl

So, continuing our tour of the wonderful dumbness of Detectice Comics #500 (March 1981), we turn to the Hawkman and Hawkgirl story, "The Strange Death of Doctor Erdel," written by Paul Levitz and drawn by Joe Kubert.

I know. Joe Kubert. That always equals AWESOME!

I guess I should say a few words about Hawkman and Hawkgirl. I will try to make this as brief as possible as they have something of a convoluted history and every desperate attempt to streamline the DC Universe only makes it worse for these two.

Hawkman first appeared in Flash Comics #1 where he was Carter Hall, an archaeologist/millionaire playboy who was also a reincarnated Egyptian prince (or something) who discovered an anti-gravity thingie called the Ninth Metal that he fashioned into a belt that enabled him to fly and he donned a winged costume with a hawk mask and called himself Hawkman and flew around and fought crime and was, for a long time, the chairman of the Justice Society. Eventually, he shared the secret with his girlfriend Shiera Saunders and she became Hawkgirl. (They could also talk to birds.)

In the Silver Age (i.e., around 1960), a new Hawkman and a new Hawkgirl were introduced. They were human-like aliens from a planet called Thanagar who wore hawk costumes because they were policemen on their home world and they had come to Earth to study police methods of other planets. (Or maybe they were chasing an extraterrestrial thief or something and they got stranded on Earth. I've never read the origin of the Earth-1 Hawkman and Hawkgirl, so I'm relying on my memory of information I got from other sources. So that's why this story looks like it was cobbled together from the scanty data on the backs of sugar packets.)

Their alien names are Katar Hol and Shayera, but they become known as Carter Hall and Shiera and they also become curators at a museum where they had access to all sorts of ancient weapons that they frequently "borrowed" to subdue the bad guys, who were usually guys with crocodile heads or winged gorillas. And the Shadow Thief.

This is Hawkman:
And this is Hawkgirl:

(HAWKGIRL!? They oughta call her HAWTGIRL!)

They've had a very chaotic publishing history and, because  they are policemen, they have appeared in Detective Comics from time to time as a backup feature. So that explains why they are in Detective Comics #500.

So Katar and Shayera are flying out of a spaceship, on their way to the next mystery. It seems that Hawkman has heard of a very old mystery, the death of a scientist, and, all these years later, the police still don't know if a murder was even committed.

They go to the isolated laboratory where Dr. Erdel was found dead. It might have been a weak heart or it might have been ... murder!

They seek out Dr. Erdel's heirs, his niece and his lab assistant. It seems Erdel was wealthy and these two split his fortune when he died.

Hawkman quickly decides that these two are innocent, and he flies back to the laboratory with Hawkgirl to further investigate the scene of the crime. They are quickly attacked by a big pink alien monster!

As they fight the monster, the computer Erdel had been using when he died admits that it killed Erdel and summoned the big pink alien monster. (You see, the computer was being used by Erdel to search the universe for alien life and the computer wanted to be free to search the universe on its own. Or something. So it killed Erdel. This computer, by the way, was the same device that brought J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter to Earth back in Detective Comics #225 in 1955, thus (some say) starting the Silver Age!)

Hawkman and Hawkgirl destroy the computer and the beast disappears and they head home satisfied with the knowledge that they have solved the very last great mystery of the origins of the Silver Age!

Or something.

It was nice to see a little tip of the hat to J'onn J'onzz in Detective Comics #500. He usually gets left out of anniversary issues despite his 100-issue run in the 1950s and early 1960s.


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