Showcase Presents: Hawkman Vol. 1 by: Gardner F. Fox and Joe Kubert (book review).

March 27, 2014 | By | Reply More

When Katar Hol and his wife Shayera chase arch-criminal Blyth from their home planet Thanagar to Earth there are problems. The first is how to learn about this new planet. Luckily, they have the Absorboscon which picks up the electrical transmissions from human brains and puts it into theirs, thus giving them all human knowledge. This includes knowledge of all human languages, so they can talk to birds. They must have picked up Doctor Doolittle’s brainwaves. The birds sometimes act as look-outs for them, keeping an eye on criminals and reporting back. You might have thought this was beyond their capabilities as did I, but then I recalled that ants used to do the same for Ant-Man, though that was at the other company.

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Katar and Shayera are police officers on their home planet. They have wings but these are only to steer with when they fly. The actual uplift is provided by an anti-gravity device in their belts. As responsible people, they decide to team up with the local police when they come to Earth. But how to convince an Earthling they are from another planet? They pick the right man with Police Commissioner George Emmett, aided by some brilliant writing from Gardner Fox. When two people dressed in outlandish costumes turn up on George’s doorstep and claim they are law enforcement officers from a far distant planet chasing a shape-changer, what does he say? ‘Get lost, you nutters.’ No! He says, ‘Fantastic as all this is, I’m convinced you’re speaking the truth. Come in, please.’ Thus does a great writer handle difficult story problems.

The famous Gardner Fox footnotes abound in these stories. In Brave And The Bold # 42, the Hawks go back to Thanagar and the chief of police tells them to report for duty next Rothan, – the Thanagarian equivalent of a week on Earth says the footnote. Yet they are often informative. When Hawkman and Hawkgirl fought the Abominable Snowmen, I learned that ‘A couloir is a wide gulley on a mountain, often snow-filled’. When they fought the Matter Master, I found out that siderites are iron meteors. When they save the lovely magician Zatanna, I learned that the Shang dynasty of China existed from 1700 BC to 1100 BC. Furthermore, Hawkman uses weapons from Earth’s past to avoid Thanagarian technology falling into the wrong hands, so you get a bit of military history, too. This is Zatanna’s first appearance but she became a decorative addition to the DC Universe for a while.

As with so many characters, Hawkman did not get his own book immediately. His first appearance was in The Brave And The Bold # 34 (Feb/March 1961) and he starred intermittently in that magazine until # 44 (Oct/Nov 1962). He next guest starred in The Atom # 7 (June/July 1963) then appeared for a while in ‘Mystery In Space’, which gave him a chance to team up with Adam Strange. It wasn’t until April/May 1964 that Hawkman # 1 appeared. Outraged feminists will note that Hawkgirl is in the action almost as often as the other Hawk person, despite being his wife, does not appear in the title.

Gardner Fox wrote all the stories so, if you are familiar with him, you know what to expect. There are alien races galore, lots of fantasy posing as super-science and many clever little details. For example, in ‘The Case Of The Cosmic Camera’ (The Atom # 7), a cosmitron powered by earthquakes is used by the evil Thalens to take photos of the Earth. They then stick the photos together to make a globe and anything they do to the globe happens to the Earth. A knife cut in the copy makes a large gash appear in our planet’s surface. This is not science, it’s voodoo but did eleven year-olds care in 1963? In his way, Gardner Fox was a genius of the genre. Comicbook stories, especially his, owed a lot to the super-science, evil alien infested plot driven yarns of thirties pulp Science Fiction, before John W. Campbell changed the game.

The art is generally splendid and the fact that it‘s in black and white adds to the enjoyment in many ways. Joe Kubert did the first few six issues of ‘The Brave And The Bold’, so both pencils and inks and they are great, as you would expect. Kubert is an acknowledged master of the form. The Atom # 7 is a lovely piece of work by Gil Kane with inks by Murphy Anderson, who did both pencils and inks on most of the remaining stories. Carmine Infantino pencilled the Adam Strange team-up. Murphy Anderson is not as good a designer as people better known for their pencils but he’s good enough and his brushwork is very nice. All of the 554 pages of comics herein are very easy on the eye.

At the rate of fifty pages for a single British pound coin this is great value and will give you many hours of low level reading pleasure. If you are too proud, pessimistic, mature, jaded, sophisticated or solemn for a bit of childish fun you can give it to your kids. It was all approved by the Comics Code Authority and will do them no harm.

Eamonn Murphy

March 2014

(pub: DC Comics 554 page black and white graphic novel softcover. Price: £11.76 (UK). ISBN-13: 978-1-40121-280-3) 

check out website: www.dccomics.com

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Category: Comics

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About the Author ()

Eamonn Murphy lives in the west country and grew up reading Asimov, Heinlein, lots of other old SF and Marvel Comics. After many years experimenting with alcohol he has settled down to the quiet life with a nice lady, a big garden and a dog but finds time to write reviews for crowsnest and a few short stories, some of which even get published in obscure magazines. His horror novel 'Arnos Hell' set in a Bristol graveyard is available on Amazon as a kindle book.

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