I don’t recall the exact moment I met Hawkman or Hawkwoman, but it’s most likely I met Hawkman first through an appearance on the Super Friends or in the background of some sweeping adventure in comics. Hawkgirl may have been there as well. Whatever the case, it truly does not matter, as my most intense formative memories of the pre-Crisis – er, pre-Hawkworld-somewhat-concurrent-with-Crisis Hawkman and Hawkwoman (at the time) come from The Shadow War of Hawkman and the pursuant ongoing series, both written by Tony Isabella and (mostly) drawn by Richard Howell. Details of the series can be found everywhere and I don’t need to dwell on the finer points here, but the most critical thing that made the biggest impression on me was the relationship the Hawks held.
Hawkman and Hawkwoman – Katar and Shayera Hol or Carter and Shiera Hall – truly loved each other. That’s as attributable to Isabella’s work as the series’ writer as it is to Richard Howell’s art. While neither creator originated the relationship, you would have been hard-pressed to relieve thirteen-year-old Doug of that notion. Howell drew the two characters not only occupying the same space, but physically in contact or always aware of the other’s presence in each panel of the series. When tragedy appeared to befall Hawkwoman, the sorrow and agony Katar displayed was believable. In the ongoing, when Hawkman was at death’s door, Howell sold Shayera as a fierce warrior, set to unleash hell upon those who wronged her.
Isabella brought along dialog to match the art. At times, it bordered on sappy, but who hasn’t observed or even been in a relationship that is so sugary sweet as to threaten diabetes? The dialog may have had those moments, but the message was clear: Katar and Shayera were dedicated to one another until the end of space and time. They travelled from Thanagar to Earth and in between. Their relationship, like all relationships, had ups and downs, sunny days and rainy ones. Days filled with shadowy invaders from their homeworld and days with Justice League meetings that took them away from their curatorial duties at the Midway City Museum.
Except those days were numbered. The ongoing series never hit twenty issues. Howell left before the final issue. Isabella was gone a few issues before his artist’s departure from the Winged Wonders’ adventures. And then came Hawkworld.
The relationship there was different. Pained. Drawn out. Teased along through the works of Timothy Truman and later John Ostrander. Both creators pushed the Hawks to explore new relationships. The Thanagarian warriors were crimefighting partners and even friends. The love was there, but strained, misplaced, misdirected. It could have congealed into something glorious once more, but it just never blossomed. This bled into the third volume of Hawkman. Ostrander eventually gave way to William Messner-Loebs. Neither writer closed the gap between Hawkman and Hawkwoman, with the latter eventually accepting the separate but equal status quo to the point of pushing the title to truly focus on Hawkman.
Yes, all of this (including my own experience with the Hawks) was preceded by decades of relationships between Hawkman and Hawkgirl (or Hawkwoman). The Hawk-couple has been preening one another’s feathers since the 1940s. Introduced by writer Gardner Fox in Flash Comics #1 in 1940, Hawkman flew solo through a number of adventures. The reincarnation aspect that would eventually become integral to modern audiences’ perception of the character was introduced early on, and would come back around in more recent interpretations of the legend of Hawkman. Before the first incarnation of Hawkman experienced a dozen solo adventures, however, his girlfriend, Shiera, took to the skies. Her adventures alongside Hawkman were infrequent, but enjoyable.
The Golden Age adventures gave way to the time between heroic ages. Hawkman and Hawkgirl slipped into limbo, eventually to be rejuvenated by Gardner Fox. Cast as a married couple, serving as police officers from their homeworld of Thanagar, Katar and Shayera came to Earth, were given identities and embarked upon a heroic adventure, making their debut in The Brave and the Bold #34. Their love was present throughout their adventures, eventually earning Hawkgirl a spot on the Justice League alongside her husband. As the only married couple on the League roster to answer the call to battle, the Hawks gave readers and creators alike plenty of opportunity to observe their love for one another and the creators’ wide-ranging affection for couple.
The best relationships are fueled by passion and respect, by strong communication and stronger partnership. Before the powers that be at DC tried to give readers a “younger” set of heroes and relationships, Hawkman and Hawkwoman (she changed her name in World’s Finest #274) were the pinnacle of what heroic couples could be. Other couples had presence in the pages of Justice League of America, including Black Canary and Green Arrow, Flash and Iris Allen (and, eventually, flirtation with Zatanna), Ralph and Sue Dibny (the former as the Elongated Man), and Red Tornado and Kathy Sutton. Around and through it all, the Winged Wonders set an example of what heroic relationships can look like and should be.
Eventually the notion of love, powerful enough to last through reincarnation would bring Hawkman and Hawkgirl back. In 1999, writers James Robinson and David S. Goyer with artist Scott Benefiel brought Hawkgirl into the pages of JSA. This set in motion the events that would lead to Hawkman’s return. From there, Geoff Johns took a concept built on bedrock (and introduced nearly seventy years prior) and found a way to make it better. The tale of Hawkman and Hawkgirl is one of the greatest love stories in the history of comics, and Johns introduced it to a whole new generation of readers. In this latest iteration, Hawkgirl was Kendra Saunders, not yet fully accepting of her long-seeded love for Hawkman.
The new Hawk-couple would work side-by-side to great effect and would garner critical and fan acclaim. In the fourth volume of Hawkman, writers Johns and Robinson looked deeper into the relationship between Hawkman and Hawkgirl. That relationship began in ancient Egypt where Prince Khufu and Princess Chay-Ara celebrated their love and clung desperately to it as their lives faded. The duo would trip through lives and subsequent reincarnations, finding one another in the next life and rekindling the flames of passion, connecting legends of the DC Universe while forging new ones. The Hawks were integral to the tale told in Blackest Night and when time came around to focus on the major returned characters in the pages of Brightest Day, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were among the features. Their love pressed on, held as a symbol of what heroes can achieve and what readers could aspire to. When Brightest Day closed, the love at the heart of the relationship was set to power the future adventures of Hawkman and Hawkwoman. Except then Flashpoint happened and the “could have been” of Hawkman and Hawkwoman never materialized.
As the Valentine’s decorations come down and the Easter displays go up in the retail stores, it seemed like a great time to take a look at the storied romance of DC’s Winged Warriors: Hawkman and Hawkgirl/woman/girl. Well, that and they’ve had a little more exposure to the public of late, despite neither of them commandeering a title since 2013. Appearing on the Legends of Tomorrow show, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are no strangers to the character many comic book fans recognize, but few really know. Hawkman was overshadowed by Hawkgirl’s appearances in the Justice League cartoon, but Hawkman has held the edge in titular adventures from the comic rack. As DC’s Rebirth draws near, with a large number of the titles announced, the noteworthy absence of Hawkman and Hawkgirl leaves hope that the winged couple may take flight once more.