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REVIEW:
DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS HAWKMAN
By Thomas Wheeler

Well, after hearing some assorted rumors that Mattel was starting to deal with the quality problems of their superbly-conceived DC Universe Classics line, and after seeing Series 6 turn up, I decided to give HAWKMAN a chance. I've always liked the character, even if he has not been the brightest star in the DC Universe. He has a good look to him, is certainly a classic character, and Mattel really did a superb job of capturing the classic look of the character - who has also had no shortage of looks over the years, some better than others - in this figure.

Here is Hawkman as he is likely best known. Hawk-like helmet, bare chest, yellow straps with the Hawk insignia, feathered wings, and green and red tights.

Hawkman's history is, unfortunately, something of a mess, due in large part to the contradictory nature of the Golden Age Hawkman and the Silver Age Hawkman, technically assigned to Earth-2 and Earth-1, respectively. One was a reincarnated Egyptian prince. The other was an alien lawman. Following the Crisis on Infinite Earths, repeated attempts were made to reconcile these two vastly different backgrounds. Few of these were especially successful. So let's take a look at Hawkman's history...

Hawkman is a superhero in the DC Comics universe. Created by writer Gardner Fox and artist Dennis Neville, the original Hawkman first appeared in Flash Comics #1 (1940).

Several incarnations of Hawkman have appeared in DC Comics, all of them characterized by the use of archaic weaponry and by large, artificial wings, attached to a harness made from the special Nth metal that allows flight. Most incarnations of Hawkman work closely with a partner/romantic interest named Hawkgirl or Hawkwoman.

The Golden Age Hawkman was Carter Hall, an archeologist who was the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince, Khufu. He and Hawkgirl used the same tools displayed in his museum to fight crime.

Like most Golden Age heroes, Hawkman disappeared from print after World War II. In the Silver Age, DC introduced new versions of several characters. The new Hawkman and Hawkgirl were police officers from the planet Thanagar who stayed on Earth to help human police forces, and the Justice League, deal with supervillains.

Since DC's continuity was rewritten in the 1985 series Crisis on Infinite Earths, Hawkman's history has become muddled with several new versions of the character appearing throughout the years, some associated with ancient Egypt and some with Thanagar. These versions of the character have starred in several series of various durations.

Hawkman first appeared in Flash Comics # 1 (1940), and was a featured character in that title throughout the 1940s. This Hawkman was Carter Hall, a reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince, Khufu, who had in the modern day discovered that the mysterious "ninth metal" could negate the effects of gravity and allow him to fly. He donned a costume with large wings to allow him to control his flight and became the crimefighter, Hawkman. An archaeologist by trade, Hall uses ancient weapons from the museum of which he was curator in his efforts.

Hawkman was a charter member of the Justice Society of America, beginning with All Star Comics #3 (Winter 1940). In issue #8 he became the JSA's chairman, a position he would hold until the end of the JSA's run in All Star Comics. He was the only member of the JSA to appear in every adventure during the Golden Age of comic books.

His first three adventures were drawn by creator Dennis Neville (who modeled Hawkman's costume on the hawkmen characters in the Flash Gordon comic strip by Alex Raymond), then by Sheldon Moldoff, and later by Joe Kubert, who slightly redesigned his mask in Flash Comics # 85 (Jul 1947) and then, one year later, replaced the winged-hawk-like mask by a much simpler yellow cowl in Flash Comics #98 (Aug 1948).

Along with most other superheroes, Hawkman's Golden Age adventures came to an end when the industry turned away from the genre in the early 1950s. His last appearance was in All Star Comics #57 (1951).

Later in the decade, DC Comics under editor Julius Schwartz decided to revive a number of heroes in new incarnations, but with the same names and powers. Following the success of the Flash, Hawkman was revived, this time as an alien policeman from the planet Thanagar, though his powers were largely the same. Created by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert, this Hawkman, Katar Hol, came to Earth with his wife Shayera in pursuit of a criminal, and remained to fight crime on Earth. They adopted the names Carter and Shiera Hall and became curators of a museum.

This Hawkman became a member of the Justice League of America, where he often verbally sparred with the iconoclastic liberal hero Green Arrow (a rivalry which continues to this day). In the 1960s it was revealed that the original Hawkman lived on the parallel world of Earth-Two, and that Katar Hol lived on Earth-One. The JLA and JSA had an annual meeting throughout the 1960s and 1970s during which the two heroes often met.

The most distinguishing visual point between the two versions of the character was that the original Golden Age Hawkman from Earth-2 wore the simple yellow cowl, and the more modern Hawkman had the fancier headgear similar to what the original Hawkman had worn.

In the late 1970s in Showcase and World's Finest Comics, Thanagar went to war with the planet Rann (adopted home of Adam Strange). This led to Hawkman and Hawkwoman severing ties with their homeworld, and later fighting The Shadow War of Hawkman as Thanagar tried secretly to conquer the Earth.

The landmark 1985 series Crisis on Infinite Earths resulted in a massive revision of much DC continuity and led to many characters being substantially rewritten. Hawkman was to suffer some of the greatest confusion as successive writers sought to explain his various appearances. In the revised timeline there was a single Earth which had witnessed the JSA in the 1940s and the JLA decades later. Successive revisions sought to establish exactly who had been Hawkman and Hawkwoman at different stages. For the first few years the pre-Crisis incarnations were still used, during which time they were prominent across the DC Universe and joined the latest incarnation of the Justice League.

Then DC decided to reboot Hawkman, in a limited series (which later lead to an ongoing series) entitled Hawkworld. In this series, Katar Hol was the son of a prominent official on Thanagar who rebelled against the planet's status quo. He and his partner Shayera were sent to Earth and rema ined there for some years until Hol was apparently killed.

This created a host of continuity errors as the new Katar Hol was established as having only just arrived on Earth, raising the question as to who had been around previously. In an attempt to resolve the problem it was established through retcons that the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl had also operated throughout the 1940s up to the 1990s, and that Nth metal came from Thanagar. They had remained active and then joined the original incarnation of the JLA. Moreover, yet another Hawkman - Fel Andar, a Thanagarian agent - had been the one who joined the Justice League during the 1980s, pretending to be a hero but secretly seeking to infiltrate it.

The series Zero Hour muddied the waters further by merging the different Hawkmen into a "Hawkgod", who had his own series briefly during the mid-1990s. After the demise of this series, Hawkman's continuity was considered by DC to be too complicated, and he was absent from comics for several years.

In the late 1990s, the JSA series untangled Hawkman's continuity, establishing him as Carter Hall, a man who - along with Shiera - had been reincarnated dozens of times since his life in ancient Egypt, and whose powers were derived from Thanagarian Nth metal. The Katar Hol of the Hawkworld series had also come to Earth during the 1990s, as established. The 1980s imposter spy went back to Thanagar. The Hawkgod was later revealed to be the avatar of the Hawk aspect of the Red from which Animal Man receives his powers.

With this new continuity, Hawkman was again reincarnated and given a new series in 2002 entitled Hawkman. However in 2006, the series was retitled Hawkgirl with issue #50. This series has been cancelled with Hawkgirl issue #66 in July 2007.

Hawkman was a major character in the Rann-Thanagar War series, which stemmed from events in Countdown. During this time his continuity was further changed. At the present time, Carter Hall is Hawkman, operating out of the fictional city of St. Roch, Louisiana. However, he apparently still has some ties to Thanagar, as he has been a major player in events concerning that planet lately.

Personally, I sort of get the impression that DC is hoping that, since the character doesn't presently have his own title, that people will just enjoy the character when and where he turns up and won't ask too many questions...

Although with the re-establishing of the Multiverse, who knows what might ultimately be in store for ol' feather-head here, anyway?

As far as other media is concerned, Hawkman sort of got trumped out of the Justice League animated series, which featured Hawkgirl more prominently, with a distinct Thanagarian bent to her. A character named Hawkman did turn up in Justice League Unlimited, and was introduced as Carter Hall, but he was not a member of the League. One episode of Justice League Unlimited did make an attempt to tie together the Egyptian and Thanagarian histories, making the original "Hawkman" and "Hawkgirl" Thanagarian warriors who crash landed around ancient Egypt and took over the place for a time, but this history was never applied as such to the comic book versions.

Hawkman has turned up as a member in good standing of the Justice League in "The Batman", the animated series that was set apart from the continuity established by the Batman/Superman/Justice League shows, but the character's background has not been delved into extensively. He's been presented in an animated version of his classic look, which is a good thing in my opinion.

Which brings us back around to the DC Universe Classics figure, which indeed lives up to its name in this case, since this Hawkman figure does indeed have a nicely classic look to him, and certainly Hawkman has endured no shortage of wardrobe changes along with his continuity problems over the years.

Hawkman stands about 6-1/2 inches in height, to the top of his head, not counting the feathers to the sides of his helmet. He tends to look bigger because of that, and because of the immense wings on his back.

While Mattel understandably uses as many common body parts as possible between their figures, Hawkman is almost surprisingly distinctive. Because he wears no shirt, Mattel sculpted a distinctive torso and unique arms for the figure, that have somewhat more detailed musculature than most. He also seems to have a slightly more powerfully-built torso than average.

While the trunks and upper legs of Hawkman are, I believe, from regularly used molds, the boots are definitely distinctive to the character. Hawkman has pointed-top boo ts, that are red and have a sculpted yellow stripe down the center, that splays into three at the toe, a sort of "birds-foot" look to them, really.

Hawkman's helmet is orangish-tan in color, and is superbly well done. Hawkman's is not the easiest helmet. One has to keep it from looking comical, and there's nothing comical about it here. The brow has a stern expression to it, the beak is subdued so as to not look silly, and the feathers to the sides are entirely appropriate, and enough to give Thor's helmet a bad case of feather-envy.

Speaking of feathers, there's Hawkman's wings. Greyish in color, with a slight paint-wash over them to bring out the detail. Normally this is not a practice of which I approve, but here, it works. The sculpted detail of the feathers is absolutely amazing, and a real testimony to the skill and talent of the sculptors.

And - the wings are articulated! Now, one would expect the first level of articulation. The wings are mounted on Hawkman's back and held in place with a hinge mechanism. Very nicely done. But more than that, each wing has an individual po int of articulation at the top of the wing, that allows an entire section of each wing to spread outward. And what's especially amazing is that the wings look good in either configuration - either folded down or extended! And at full extension, Hawkman has a decidedly impressive wingspan of 13 inches!

Never mind the slogan from the original Superman movie, you take a look at this guy, and you'll believe a man can fly...!

The overall uniform colors are perfect, and Mattel fortunately avoided the habit they've had on some of these figures of painting some sort of color wash over him, except the wings. Hawkman is wearing his traditional yellow harness, which was molded as a separate piece and then assembled into place. He has a yellow belt with a loop in it in which to carry his sword, red trunks, green leggings, and the aforementioned boots. The colors are perfect across the entire figure.

Hawkman comes with an interesting assortment of accessories, which reflect the character's interest in and knowledge of ancient weapons. These include a nicely made sword, a fairly ornate shield, and a nasty-looking mace, which is gener ally Hawkman's preferred weapon. And given that this guy flies, imaging getting konked on the head by a mace wielded by someone flying at you at a high rate of speed.

Overall articulation is excellent, as one has come to expect from these DC Universe Classics figures. Hawkman is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, waist, legs, above-knee swivel, knees, and ankles.

Now, this DC Universe Classics line has been plagued with quality control problems which I have addressed in previous reviews. Mattel in general has been having quality issues, which have also plagued their potentially excellent Masters of the Universe Classics line. Both of these lines deserve better treatment and consideration than they seem to have been getting. And I (and other collectors, I know) have been increasingly reluctant to purchase these toys.

I have been required to give any and every DCUC figure I purchase a thorough visual inspection before buying. The most common assembly problems have been switch knee joints, and switched arms, either from bicep to wrist, or elbow to wrist. These parts are not interchangeable. I have never before had to carry an assembly diagram with me when shopping for action figures. Obviously this has been a considerable source of frustration for me.

So you can understand why, even though he looked good, I was still concerned when I opened Hawkman. I am very sincerely pleased and delighted to report that the Hawkman that I purchased had no problems whatsoever. He moves well, he's assembled properly, his paintwork is good (although I have seen a few figures in this series with slight glitches, but not as severe as previous assortments) - and nothing was stuck or broke off. In other words, he's as good as he looks. And he looks in credible. The whole line does. I just wish more of the figures qualified for this description.

I have heard a couple of reports that Mattel is aware of the problems and is sincerely working to rectify them. Let us hope that this is true, because this line has a lot of potential. As of this writing, I have also purchased Shazam (Captain Marvel) and Killer Moth from this assortment, and I have my eye on Mister Miracle. I have yet to open Cap or Moth. I sort of have to work up the nerve.

It is my sincere hope that Mattel is indeed dealing with and correcting these problems. But it's also going to take a while to win back my trust.

So, what's my final word here? I am sincerely pleased, and extremely impressed. The overall design of this Hawkman figure is just amazing. The likeness and detail are astounding. One of the things I especially appreciate about the DCUC line, as opposed to DC Direct, is that DCUC isn't trying for any particular "artist interpretation" or presenting a given character "as he appeared" in a certain storyline or whatever. These figures are intended to be the most straightforwar d representations of the characters possible. In this, they succeed superbly. And need it be said, I was just as pleased and delighted to discover that he had no structural problems. I hope that's a real trend.

Obviously, I cannot vouch for every Hawkman figure in existence. But this is a very cool character, a very cool figure, and is well worth considering for any DC Comics fan, Hawk-fan, or anyone who appreciates well-made action figures. The DC UNIVERSE CLASSICS HAWKMAN definitely has my highest enthusiastic recommendation!