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The Brave and the Bold
These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number. They were edited by Julius Schwartz.
The Golden Age Hawkman stories of the 1940's have their own article.
Gardner Fox's Silver Age revival of the Hawkman shows similarities and differences from the original Golden Age Hawkman character, who he also created. The costumes of the two characters are virtually identical - a good idea since Hawkman's wings and anti-gravity belt are wonderful ideas. Both characters are crime fighters based on Earth. Both go after criminals with a "variety of ancient weapons" - in most tales, Hawkman is coming up with some new historic (pre-firearm) weapon, with which to swoop down and attack criminals. Both characters have a secret identity of Carter Hall. By contrast, the Golden Age Hawkman is not an alien being: he is a ordinary Earth human. Nor does he have all the alien technological devices from Thanagar that the Silver Age Hawkman employs for crime detection.
Creature of a Thousand Shapes (1961). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Joe Kubert. Hawkman and Hawkgirl journey from Thanagar to Earth to chase the shape-changing criminal Byth; they adopt new Earth identities of Carter Hall and Shiera. The origin of the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
This story is most notable for its introduction of most of the features of Hawkman's Silver Age mythos. Aside from these, it is a routine crime tale, in which the Hawk couple pursue and eventually capture Byth. Byth is a menace resembling those of 1950's monster movies; he runs amok and nearly destroys the city before the Hawk couple capture and subdue him. Fox does show a certain logic in his treatment of Byth. He uses his shape changing ability intelligently both to pull off ingenious crimes, and to evade the Hawk couple's traps. The shape-changing is not just a gimmick exploited for color; its logical consequences are woven into the construction of the plot. This is typical of Fox's looking at the deep science fiction implications of his ideas.
The Silver Age Hawkman is a science fictional character, like Adam Strange. He gets most of his properties by visiting Earth from another world, Thanagar, just the reverse of Adam Strange, who visits Rann from Earth. He is even called "The Policeman of Two Worlds", just as Adam is "The Man of Two Worlds". However, we tend to see little of Thanagar in the stories. Instead, the main consequence of Hawkman's alien origin is the flood of scientific devices he and Shiera have brought from Thanagar. Carter Hall also resembles Adam Strange in that he is a museum curator and Adam is an archaeologist, who works for a museum. Also, various objects in the museum trigger Carter's trips to many exotic places in the world, just like Adam's trips to meet the zeta-beam. Both men seem deeply cultured. Thanagar is a planet of the pole star, Polaris; it is due North from Earth. This is the exact opposite of the Southern star Alpha Centauri which contains Rann. Hawkman's adventures on Earth will also be oriented towards the Northern Hemisphere, just as Adam Strange's are concentrated in the Southern half of our globe. This gives a certain symmetry to the two characters.
The series also has scientific information, frequently conveyed in footnotes, just like Fox's The Atom. Hawkman forms a direct contrast to the Atom, in several ways. Hawkman is involved with the arts, at Midway Museum, whereas the Atom is a physics professor. The Atom frequently solves mysteries about non-science fictional crooks, whereas Hawkman and Hawkgirl tend to battle openly science fictional menaces. Hawkman rarely gets involved in the Weird Menace crimes often tackled by the Atom, either. Hawkman frequently goes to other planets, while the Atom is a time traveler. Hawkman is from another planet; the Atom is an Earthman. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are married, while the Atom is courting Jean Loring. The Atom's cases often involve the plant world, while Hawkman talks to birds, and meets other animals. The Atom is an amateur whose accidental origin gave him no clear mandate; Hawkman and Hawkgirl are professional police with serious responsibilities. All of these distinctions help Fox give the two series their own distinct personalities and flavors.
This story is notable for the origin of the Absorbascon, although it is not given that name till two issues later, in the otherwise minor "Strange Skills of the Sorcerer" (The Brave and the Bold #36, June-July 1961). The Absorbascon is a high tech machine from Thanagar, with the ability to absorb all knowledge in the minds of a planet's inhabitants, and pass it on to Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Fox introduces it right away at the start of the tale, and he treats it with sweeping logic right from the beginning. After using it in this tale, the Hawk couple know all Earth languages, and everything about Earth life. Fox gives it the ability to gather not just human knowledge, but those of animals; Hawkman and Hawkgirl's ability to communicate with birds will be one of the most charming elements of the series. Even here, the Absorbascon leads to knowledge of a whole planetary group of creatures. The Absorbascon is the most interesting scientific idea of the Hawkman series.
The story is the origin of Midway City Police Commissioner George Emmett, beautiful museum naturalist Mavis Trant, and museum publicity man Joe Tracy. There are some problems with these characters, and Fox did not use them much in the series. Emmett is decent but colorless; he seems mainly there to give the Hawk couple an official police contact, and to assign them cases. Such nice but dull and recessive authority figures show up in other Fox series, such as Sardath in Adam Strange. Mavis Trent is a home wrecking Other Woman who has set her cap on Carter Hall. She is an entirely unsympathetic character. Fox has basically nowhere to go with her: he has no intention of getting Hawkman actually involved with her, and she is not sympathetic enough to feature in adventures. Basically, Fox can exploit her for brief bursts of comedy relief. When Hawkman got his own magazine, she tended to drop nearly completely out of sight. Joe Tracy is a lot more likable character, but Fox mainly used him just once more, in "Wings Across Time" (1964).
The Menace of the Dragonfly Raiders (1962). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Joe Kubert. Hawkman and Hawkgirl return to Thanagar, where they hunt down a gang involving giant dragonflies; a feminist flashback shows how they first met, when Hawkgirl joined the Thanagar police. Origin of Andar Pul, the head of the Thanagar police. Rich, delightful story that is the first look at Thanagar in the series, and one of the few Hawkman tales principally set on that planet. This is the best of the early Hawkman stories.
Thanagar is in the Silver Age Utopian tradition of planets with advanced scientific civilization, and a decent life for all. Krypton is the most famous such planet, and in many ways, Thanagar seems to be in its tradition. Such planets represent the idealistic real life dreams of people, what we hope the future of Earth will be like. The example of such planets in fiction helps people visualize them, and work towards such a life as a real future for us all.
While Thanagar is more advanced than 1960's Earth, it seems less super-scientific than Krypton. Fox is very specific about the scientific advances that affect daily life there. Many of these seem oddly prophetic of today's high tech world. We see direct deposit of paychecks, electronic funds transfer, videotape, and video shopping. Many of these are ideas that were already being discussed and partly implemented in 1961 America. They were not so much futuristic inventions, as inventions that already existed, but were waiting mass implementation. Thanagar looks a lot like the Internet-enabled world of today. We are used to hearing jokes about how 1950's depictions of a high tech future have not come to pass, with cleaning robots doing all the work in the home, and a space ship in every garage. By contrast, here is a depiction of an advanced futuristic society that looks startlingly accurate.
Later Thanagar inventions in the series also tend to stress information technology. Hawkman and Hawkgirl's space ship is full of high tech devices. These tend to give information to the couple; for example, there are chemical analysis devices that tell the Hawks the chemical composition of trace compounds left behind by crooks. There is also the remarkable Absorbascon. All of this suggests the sort of information technology rich world, towards which we are headed today. Fox was clearly a prophet of such a world.
As on Krypton, one type of menace that still survives on Thanagar are giant, marauding alien animals. Such animals are staples of 1950's monster movies, and the comics would not want to be without them! Also, the survival of such animals does not contradict the status of Thanagar and Krypton as advanced, humanistic civilizations.
Menace of the Matter Master (Brave and Bold #35, April-May 1961). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Joe Kubert. The Hawk couple track down the Matter Master, a man who can control metals and make them become animated and do his bidding. The origin of Carl Sands, the Matter Master, a continuing villain in the Hawkman and Justice League of America stories. The name Carl Sands reminds one of the real life poet Carl Sandburg.
This is a very minor crime story. It is mainly notable as the tale in which the Hawk couple renounce the use of their Thanagar weapons on Earth. Hawkman uses only prehistoric weapons, different ones in every tale. This is already part of his Golden Age characterization. In the Golden Age, the rationale for this is that these strange weapons scare gangsters, who flee in terror from them. Such attempts by a hero to scare the underworld were common in 1930's pulp and comic books. The Shadow's maniacal laugh and invisible presence were designed to terrify crooks. So were Batman's bat persona and costume. I confess I've always found all this a little dubious - after all, gangsters are pretty ruthless people, and probably don't scare easily. However, such terror inducing attributes were a standard feature of many heroes of the era.
By the Silver Age, Fox has given Hawkman a new reason for using his antique weaponry. He and Hawkgirl are afraid to use the high tech Thanagar weapons they have on their space ship, fearing that if such a weapon escaped, it could upset the balance of power of Earth society. This ingenious idea reflects Cold War anxieties about new and terrible Atomic Age weapons. So Hawkman only uses antique weapons, ones with which our culture is deeply familiar. Most of these weapons are actually obsolete by Earth standards.
In both eras, Hawkman's approach allows Fox to introduce a lot of obscure devices into his tales. Fox loves such asides, viewing them as educational for his young readers. One really sees the whole world of culture in Fox's 1960's comic books. There are also all the unusual artifacts stolen from Hawkman's museum, as well as the scientific and legal facts in The Atom, and the exotic Southern Hemisphere locales in which Adam Strange meets the zeta-beam.
Rivalry of the Winged Wonders (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. Hawkman and Hawkgirl have a contest while hunting down crooks: she will use Thanagar police methods, and he Earth's, and they will see who finds the crook the fastest. The rivalry here between detectives recalls those in Fox's Star Rovers tales. However this story is serious in tone, and has no shaggy dog features, unlike the Star Rovers.
This is the first story in Hawkman magazine, finally launched three years after Hawkman's trial run began in The Brave and the Bold. The tale looks back on ideas contained in "The Menace of the Dragonfly Raiders" (1962), the best of the early Hawkman tales. The story is partly set on Thanagar, and we have the return of Thanagar police official Andar Pul, who debuted in that tale. The story also echoes "Dragonfly" ideas about the contrast between Earth and Thanagar police methods. Both stories also deal with Thanagar weather control.
Much of this story takes place outdoors in the snow. Anderson excels at his snowy landscapes (p5,6). The splash panel of Part 2 shows snow on trees; the alternating levels of snow and bare evergreen branches make ring effects on the trees - not unlike a cyclanthus fruit. The landscape is full of beautifully curved hills, with trees on them. Also notable: a snow covered rock (p8).
A frame story takes place on Thanagar. We see Anderson's version of the City of the Future. It is not quite Art Deco in any strict sense of the term. Anderson likes round buildings. These can be low and broad, or high towers. A building can contain a series of stages: the lower parts can be broad and squat, the upper parts tall towers. Often the buildings have windows that curve along their sides. These buildings always look majestic. Anderson's illustrations have tremendous dignity. The buildings look like the formal plazas of a people who are proud of their advanced civilization. There are often circular ramps weaving around the high towers, hanging high in space. These connect up different regions of the city, and are presumably roads for vehicles. They are distinctly different from the tilted Art Deco rings around single buildings, often found in the Art Deco cities of Carmine Infantino and Jim Mooney. I love such rings as design, but their functionality has never been clear to me. Anderson's ramps, by contrast, look like roads, floating high above the city. Other illustrations here (p13) show span bridges linking towers, high above the city. These too look as if they support aerial roads.
Secret of the Sizzling Sparklers (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson.
This tale contains three small sf mysteries. Fox frequently included such mysteries in the Hawkman tales. A moderately puzzling event will occur; Hawkman and Hawkgirl will deduce some logical explanation of the events. Fox always has a clue embedded in the story. These mysteries are not jaw-dropping surprises on the Agatha Christie level, but they tend to make pleasant reading.
The splash panel is full of curved lines. They make a geometric pattern.
Wings Across Time (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. An archaeologist finds an ancient pair of wings that belonged to Icarus; Hawkman experiments with them while hunting down crooks who have developed a new kind of gun.
This story is a favorite of mine for two reasons. 1) Hawkman has more adventures here under his secret identity as Carter Hall than in most other Hawkman stories. I find his life as a curator fascinating, perhaps more interesting some times than his Hawkman work. 2) This story concentrates on Hawkman's flying, in a pure form. It is not just an accessory in this tale, but the central element. The aerial adventure here reminds one somewhat of Adam Strange, and things his space suit did.
Museum PR man Joe Tracy is a good character, but unfortunately he did not return much in later issues. His name recalls that of actor Lee Tracy, who often played fast talking publicity agents in 1930's Hollywood comedies.
Anderson includes a classic image of Hawkman flying on his back (p6). Hawkman is oriented so that the viewer sees him upside down. He is in distress at this point, and the picture's unusual staging conveys this.
Anderson's version of Carter Hall is very realistic and detailed, as is all of his art. The dark-haired Carter Hall looks distinctly Middle Eastern in appearance. He is one of the few Arab looking heroes in all of American popular culture. Hall is always handsome, sophisticated looking, and well dressed.
The Girl Who Split in Two (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. The origin of Zantanna, a magician who is looking for her missing father. Hawkman goes after bandits who steal a Shang dynasty Chinese statue, while Hawkgirl goes to County Meath, Ireland on a parallel case of a Celtic cup. As Julius Schwartz pointed out in a letters column, Hawkman and Hawkgirl once again split up and work independently here, just as they did on "Rivalry of the Winged Wonders". However, there is no rivalry or contest here; the demands of the situation simply make it necessary for them to work on the two problems at once. Fox loved exotic settings, and they are part of the sense of adventure and romance in his work. Both China and Ireland are in the Northern Hemisphere; his Adam Strange tales were concentrated in the Southern Hemisphere, and Fox clearly relished the chance to get to these two locations at last in Hawkman.
Fox often liked double characters, or those who split into two parts. The Dust Devil can do this in Adam Strange, and there is also the Shadow-Thief in Hawkman. Zantanna's story has a mysterious, poetic feel. This is enhanced by the exotic settings in which the Hawks encounter her, and Murphy Anderson's atmospheric art.
Murphy Anderson's art is beautiful. Especially notable: the panel showing Hawk bending over the frozen Zantanna, listening to her heartbeat. This classically drawn image suggests someone listening delicately for life itself in another human being. It reminds one how important life is, and how we all have to stay in contact with each other and support each other's existence. The rich feeling, nobility of sentiment, and classical beauty of form are all typical of Anderson's work.
The Machine that Magnetized Men (1964). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. Hawkman and Hawkgirl go after robbers who try to steal using time travel.
The time travel experiments here remind one of the Time Pool series in Fox's The Atom. As in that tale, the time travel starts out with small experiments, and builds up to more elaborate journeys. The time travel here is a cycle, in the Fox sense. People from the future go back into the past, then return to the future. This sort of circular journey recalls the dimension travel tales Fox wrote for the Flash, and the teleportation from Earth to Rann and back in Adam Strange. As in the Adam Strange stories, there are restrictions here on animated versus non-animated objects passing through the cycle. Fox once again uses such restrictions to construct ingenious stories, just as he did in Adam Strange.
Anderson's cover shows an aerial view. It contains the magnetized dome that attracts people. Its circular form is also echoed in the circular sweep of Hawkman's wings.
The crooks in this tale are some of Murphy Anderson's tough guys. They remind one of Gardner Grayle in Anderson's Atomic Knights. Like most of Anderson's men (and women), they look really grown up. So does Carter Hall himself.
There is frequently a fairy tale quality to Anderson's Hawkman art. Partly this is because of the classical beauty of the images: they look like the idealized, beautiful world in which one imagines fairy stories taking place. Hawkman and Hawkgirl seem like the prince and princess of a fairy tale. Their bird-like masks and wings also recall the enchanted denizens of such tales.
This fairy tale feel pleasantly plays against the actual subject matter of the stories. These are all pure science fiction tales, not fantasies, and they mainly take place on contemporary Earth. Most are detective tales of police, albeit interplanetary ones, hunting down crooks. Fox does frequently travel to exotic locales; Anderson's fairy tale feel gives such locations an especial, wistful glamour. One always feels that one is encountering something very precious and rare. One is having an experience in which one is heightenedly sensitive to the beauty around one. The heightened feeling can be compared to the world after the rain, when the sun comes out; and also to the Japanese concept of mono no aware.
Anderson's is a style in which delicate nuances combine with vigorous composition. The images look both robust, and wistfully unique.
Amazing Return of the I.Q. Gang (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. Ira Quimby, head of the I.Q. Gang, breaks out of prison using a pinwheel machine that bends light and makes him invisible. Fox liked physics-based machines, and frequently included them in his Atom tales. As is often the case with Hawkman, this story includes a full series of variations on the machine. The most complex of these, which shows up on the splash panel and the finale of the tale, is quite ingenious. Fox's manipulation of light and vision here recalls a little bit the effects in Edmond Hamilton's "The Incredible Eyes of Arthur Geil" (Strange Adventures #77, February 1957). However, Fox's ideas are quite original; he and Hamilton simply have developed the same kind of physics-rooted story. Fox also changes the scope of protagonists in the story, in his best traditions: at first only Quimby is affected by the pinwheels; at the stories' end, its whole cast is. Fox also includes some nice ideas about Hawkman and Hawkgirl's anti-gravity belts.
Anderson's lava basalt cliffs (p7) are majestic. They make a spectacular background for the tale. He also excels at the crook uniforms in the story (p11), a continuing source of interest for him in Hawkman.
Attack of the Crocodile-Men (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. CAW (Criminal Alliance of the World) is a powerful crime syndicate that plays on superstitious locals by impersonating the ancient Egyptian gods.
The biggest appeal in this tale is Murphy Anderson's costumes. The crocodile-god outfits are unutterably cool. Most guys would love wearing them. The crocodile-gods have the heads of crocodiles and the bodies of men. They have big crocodile head masks, with huge, aggressive looking snouts. It is unusual - and a lot of fun - to see a mask with this sort of protruding part. The snouts also open wide when the "gods" speak, revealing a huge mouth full of crocodile teeth. The whole effect is very realistic. The crocodile heads and mouths look anatomically realistic - they are not stylized or schematic. I suspect guys would love wearing these in real life for Halloween. With today's technology, they could be realized with lavish detail. Anderson also includes other Egyptian "gods", who are also mob agents in disguise. These tend to have bird mask heads, and are almost as appealing as the croc-gods. These bird masks remind one of those of Hawkman and Hawkgirl themselves.
Also cool in the tale are the gods' wands. These are shaped exactly like tradition Egyptian mages' wands. But in fact, they are high tech weapons of the mobsters, that shoot out colored flames and rays. These wands are power symbols, symbols of the ancient gods' power. The fact that they have high tech capabilities is a neat concept. This aspect of the story is probably a collaboration between Fox's script and Anderson's art.
Fox is on to something here with his mix of mob villains and exotic adventure. Most gangster movies take place in an urban underworld. Here, Fox has used gangsters' capabilities - unlimited funds, lots of manpower, high tech weaponry - and used them to construct a hoax set in traditional Egypt. Many of the Hawkman tales have this sort of exotic location.
Fox employs another Hawkman staple here: machines that can teleport objects and people. Fox always establishes a distinction between these two categories, living beings and inanimate objects, and has the two categories serve different roles in the tale. He also in interested in limited ranges of exotic, alien machinery, and how such ranges can affect a plot's construction - see "The Machine That Made 'Miracles'" (Atom #4, December 1962 - January 1963).
This story is an example of what might be called a "technology detective story". There is a gang of high tech crooks whom Hawkman and Hawkgirl are trying to track down. The Hawk couple uses plenty of Thanagar inventions of their own to trail the crooks. They also talk to their friends, the birds. Often, various kinds of teleportation machinery show up in the tales, at the heart of the plot.
Hawkman Clips the Claws of CAW (#10, October-November 1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. CAW returns, stealing valuable objects from enemy spies, who have in turn stolen them from the US Government; Hawkman works with a talented woman agent of the CIA to defeat them.
In its first tale, CAW was a high tech crime syndicate, but here it is a not very interesting part of world espionage. This is a routine spy tale, except for its clever ending. It is contemporaneous with other DC stories, such as "The Swinging Superman" (Jimmy Olsen #88, October 1965), trying to get on the bandwagon of the 1960's spy craze. The spies and CAW-men here are always dressed in neat suits, just like the TV show The Man From UNCLE. There are also airline pilots in formal uniforms (p 10), an Anderson specialty.
Anderson's art includes some good portraits of Hawkman. A tall vertical panel shows a flying Hawkman far above men on the ground (p3). There are also shots of Carter Hall without mask, but with his wings and costume on (p12). The tale's beautifully designed last panel shows Hawkman with his wings in a circular arc.
The Magic Mirror Mystery (#10, October-November 1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. Hawkman solves the impossible crime of emeralds that disappear from a room that has been sealed and guarded for 10 years. Pure detective stories without sf elements were rare in Hawkman; this tale reminds one of the mystery stories that regularly appeared in The Atom. The splash panel explicitly invokes the great mystery tradition of locked room mysteries and impossible crimes. As in The Atom, the impossible crime here is an impossible theft, not an impossible murder; murder mysteries were not considered suitable for kids' entertainment during this era. This is a fairly clued but minor story. It somehow lacks the sparkle of the Atom's best crime cases. Fox also includes an interesting legal twist at the end, about the statue of limitations; such legal ideas regularly appeared in The Atom. This same issue contained the spy story, "Hawkman Clips the Claws of CAW". It was clearly an experiment to see if readers would like a pure mystery approach to Hawkman. Unfortunately, neither tale is all that good.
The splash panel is beautifully composed, with Hawkman and Hawkgirl swooping down on crooks standing on either side of the title mirror. The image involves both symmetry, with the four people balanced on either side of the mirror, and pleasing asymmetry, with different postures of the flying Hawk couple. Anderson continues his exploration of 1960's suited men with the heir, who is blond and buzz cutted.
Treasure of the Talking Head (#14, June-July 1966). CAW returns, trying to steal an ancient computer in the form of a statue of a human head. Fox tries for a glamorous history of a secret band of scholars that stretch back to the Ancient India of the Emperor Asoka here, in 273 B.C. Unfortunately, nothing here is very inspired.
Anderson has changed costumes for the CAW men again. Here they are arrayed in traditional comic book uniforms, for the first time. These show black trousers and tunics with militaristic red stripes down the sleeves and trousers, as well as red boots. These are suitably macho looking.
Shadow-Thief of Midway City (The Brave and the Bold #36, June-July 1961). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Joe Kubert. The origin of the Shadow-Thief, a crook whose body is in one dimension, with a shadow image of that body committing crimes in another dimension.
Aside from the character and sf explanation of the Shadow-Thief, this story seems quite perfunctory. Fox would use these ideas to build a much more complex plot four years later in the tale's sequel, "Steal, Shadow -- Steal" (1965).
Steal, Shadow -- Steal (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. The Shadow-Thief returns, after breaking out of prison.
The Hawkman tales are different from other Fox series such as Adam Strange or the Atom. Those series tend to have "Fox cycles" which return in story after story, always with new variations. By contrast, Fox cycles in Hawkman tend to appear in just one or two stories. The variations in the cycle are richly explored in the context of a single story. Here Fox explores many of the permutations possible from the Shadow's method of living in two dimensions at once, with a physical body and a shadow deeply linked.
Fox often wrote about two dimensions, and travel from one to the other. He also often wrote about doubles. The Shadow tales ingeniously combine the two themes, into the Shadow's method of inter-dimensional travel.
The telepathy that comes with the paralyzer beam is exploited by Fox and Hawkman ingeniously. At first, it looks like just a small wrinkle in the situation, but Hawkman slowly leverages it into his freedom. This is typical of Fox, using a small edge to interrupt what looks like an unbreakable cycle.
Murphy Anderson's art for the dimension of Xarapion is beautiful. The second splash is especially terrific. It shows a Xarapion landscape, with red globes on plants (fruit? flowers?) and a beautifully curved zigzag path. Anderson frequently creates variations on this landscape, as backgrounds for smaller panels. The four sided dome reminds one visually of the dome in "The Machine that Magnetized Men" (1964).
World Where Evolution Ran Wild (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. Hawkman and Hawkgirl track crooks to a deserted mansion where a room has strange properties; these use it to teleport themselves to a world where radiation has caused beasts to evolve, and men to de-evolve into winged gorillas.
Several of the Hawkman tales involve Hawkman and Hawkgirl meeting alien beings, creatures from worlds other than Thanagar or Earth. These stories have some common properties. Most of them unfold a whole series of developments that affect the aliens. A great deal of alien history has already happened before the tale opens; this is typically seen in flashback. Many more large-scale events that deeply affect the aliens take place during the tale itself. These usually complete a large-scale historical pattern. These histories form plots that are richly complex, in the best Silver Age style.
The Absorbascon is an unusual, but logical invention. It collects all knowledge possessed by everyone on a planet, and conveys it to Hawkman and Hawkgirl. On one level, this is terrifically useful in terms of plot. When the Hawk couple go to a new world, they can immediately learn all its languages and customs, and blend right in. Even at this level, there are some formal consequences, showing Fox's usual logic and ingenuity. When Adam Strange went to Rann, he had to be trained by the Menticizer in Rann languages. The Menticizer was a Rann invention; Adam Strange had to be given sessions in it by a Rann native, in this case Alanna. Even here, the Menticizer only taught languages; he needed on-going tuition in Rann customs by Alanna. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are completely independent of the need for any such contacts. They can go to a planet, and learn all about it by themselves. Secondly, the degree of adaptation, enabled by the Absorbascon, to another planet's customs is unusually vast. When Hawkman and Hawkgirl operate under their secret identities, they seem completely functional and successful at living a full Earth life style, with jobs, a house and knowledge of Earth police procedure and society. They are among the most acclimated of all aliens in fiction. They have not given up their Thanagarian science or social position. But they have also completely absorbed Earth life.
Fox did not stop with this. His Hawkman tales repeatedly work the Absorbascon into the science fiction plot. The scope of the Absorbascon is vast. It encompasses a whole planet and its knowledge. Fox builds his plots so that the Absorbascon can have logical implications at this level. There is something Borges like about all this. Such Borges tales as "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" (1940), "Funes, the Memorious" (1942) and "The Aleph" (1945) deal with vast, planet wide systems of knowledge. Both Fox and Borges have a feel for the unusual aspects and logical implications of dealing with such vast bodies of knowledge.
This also recalls Fox's treatment of his cycles. Fox cycles often start out with a solitary person as their protagonist. The, later on in a story or series, Fox will create a tale in which a whole planet full of people are the protagonist of the cycle. The effect is often breathtaking. Fox often develops unforeseen but logical consequences of a planet of people undergoing such an experience. The Absorbascon tales have something of the same planetary scope as his planet as protagonist stories. They also show some of Fox's same imagination and logic in treating such large scale events.
Fox rarely built a whole story exclusively around variations using the Absorbascon. Instead, he tends to employ it to create a key episode in a story. It serves as one further, crucial thing driving the plot forward. Often, it allows something unique to happen, something that might not easily been done in any other way.
Battle of the Bird-Man Bandits (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. Alien Bird-people who resemble the harpies of Greek mythology go on a sinister mission to Earth. Aliens in the Hawkman tales tend to be winged, much like the Hawk couple themselves. This allows for aerial sequences in the tales.
This story differs from the other alien history tales in that it deals with a group of aliens who live on Earth; Hawkman does not visit another planet. The aliens are also much less sympathetic here than in most Fox tales, being almost entirely villainous. Fox makes clear that this is due to their militaristic culture - there is nothing inherently or biologically wrong with them. Rather, they are in the grip of a militaristic ethos like that of the Soviet Union or Nazi Germany, one that involves conquest of other planets. Fox and the anti-racist Schwartz sf magazines in general were always very careful to show that all peoples everywhere had choices between democratic and dictatorial societies, and that all peoples and races had a full potential for good.
Fox develops a very complex society for the aliens. There are strong and unusual feminist aspects to this story. Fox's ability to create another planet's entire society and world is in evidence in this tale. Fox's fiction in the 1964-1965 period often included such planets; see also his work for Green Lantern. The planets are very diverse; each one has its own customs and properties.
The story contains a giant, page-size image of Hawkgirl, narrating a story that stretches across the panels of a whole page. Carmine Infantino had done something similar with Adam Strange and Alanna in "Riddle of the Runaway Rockets" (Mystery in Space #85, August 1963).
Master Trap of the Matter Master (1965). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. This story guest stars the Atom; Hawkman had previously guest starred in "The Case of the Cosmic Camera" (Atom #7, June-July 1963), so the Atom is making a reciprocal appearance in Hawkman's magazine.
The Matter Master breaks out of prison; his Metachem rod mysteriously improves, and succeeds in shrinking Hawkman and Hawkgirl down to a subatomic world. The behavior of the Metachem rods is an sf mystery, one that is fairly clued and with a logical solution, within the framework of Fox's world. It also follows Fox's Hawkman approach, in that the story offers variations on an invention (the Metachem).
This story has the structure of many of the "alien history" tales in Hawkman. There is an outer frame story, set on Earth, and then an inner tale that takes us to another world or dimension. The frame story occurs at the beginning and end of the tale, and has the format of one of Hawkman's "technology detective stories", with the Hawk couple chasing crooks, and the plot turning on variations on a technical invention. The inner story is a pure science fiction tale, set on another world, and has only the most tenuous connection with the outer frame plot.
The mix of modes here - two kinds of plot combined together - is typical of Hawkman. Many of the Hawkman tales are eclectic, with little episodes of all types and genres making up the finished work. There will be a little detection, a visit with the birds, another planet, etc, all in one story.
The subatomic world is organized into city-states, like Rann. Also like pre-historic, but not modern Rann, the city-states are in a balance of power war against each other. Such a set-up reflects Cold War era problems of the stand-off between the United States and the Soviet Union. Fox also develops a sophisticated view of the use of science, where inventions intended for good are mis-used into weapons - also like 1960's Earth and atomic energy.
This story contains some of Murphy Anderson's best futuristic cityscapes. The city floats in the air, and contains Anderson's patented circular buildings and towers, intermixed with spiral ramps.
The Shrike Strikes at Night (#11, December 1965 - January 1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. The first half of this tale has some pleasant if not very unified sf ideas, before it runs out of steam. Fox manages to get to a number of exotic Northern Hemisphere locations, in the Hawkman tradition. These include what TV host Robin Leach always referred to as "glamorous Monte Carlo", as well as the Yucatan and its Comoc Indians. The idea about the views of different times, with light refracted to different eras, recall the ingenious use of bent light by the pinwheel machine in "Amazing Return of the I.Q. Gang". It also recalls Fox tales about people becoming suddenly isolated. The three characters who undergo the experience remind one of the trio of the Star Rovers.
The Star-Puter is another of the fascinating Thanagar information inventions on the Hawk couple's space ship. In its combination of star maps and computer technology, it recalls the star databases in Fox's "The Dreams of Doom" (Strange Adventures #32, September 1961). Fox explicitly links it to the Zeiss projectors used in real-life planetariums. Fox was always very well informed about modern day advanced technology.
The letter column of this issue contains one of Julius Schwartz's nuttiest puns. A reader suggests that the long married Hawk couple might have a baby; Schwartz quips it might be called Kiddy Hawk.
Anderson does a good job with the Shrike's blue and gold costume, with the cover especially notable. The Shrike has claws on his boots, a nice bird like touch that seems quite original.
The Million-Year-Long War (#12, February-March 1966). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Murphy Anderson. Two evil dictators, having destroyed all life through warfare on their own planet, take over the minds of everyone on Thanagar, and set them battling with each other.
One can see political allegories in this tale. The warlords turn Thanagar into two battling hemispheres, North Thanagar and South Thanagar. 1966 readers would have been instantly reminded of North and South Vietnam. The two hemispheres also remind one of the East-West conflicts of the Cold War. Fox does not depict either side as good; instead, both dictators are completely sinister, and just out for military power. Fox points out that neither is content just to rule half a planet. Fox wrote many spy stories in the 1960's in which US agents are considered good, and Soviet agents bad. But when it comes to armed conflict, he is far less enthused. This story is plainly negative about the Vietnam war, and war in general. Fox stresses the destructive nature of war, and the selfish search for power which causes it.
The take over a planet by aliens to fight a contest for power was an idea that Fox had previously used in his "The Origin of the Justice League" (Justice League of America #9, April 1962). In that tale, the planet that was invaded was Earth. In both cases, the takeover is seen as completely sinister.
Politics aside, this is not a very good story. The long awaited return to Thanagar is a dud. We see very little of this fascinating planet. Mainly everyone is fighting under the dictators' mind control, so there is little depiction of Thanagar's regular life. The opening has some mild interest, with two archaeologists from Thanagar exploring the nearby world of Marrakor, 15 light years away. Such space archaeologists remind one of Adam Strange. Fox sometimes had a second planet such as Marrakor put in a one story appearance near a continuing planet such as Thanagar. The set-up reminds one of the one-shot visit to Anthorann in the second Adam Strange story, "The Planet and the Pendulum" (Showcase #17, November-December 1958). Anthorann is near the continuing planet of Rann in the Adam Strange tales.
One can see Fox's familiar cycle construction in this story, with its related techniques. First the two archaeologists are put under mind control by the dictators, and set to fighting each other - the basic cycle. Then there is a change of protagonist on a large scale, with everyone on Thanagar mind controlled. Finally, the Hawk couple are immune to the cycle, due to their special circumstances, allowing them to interfere with it.
Fox is still coming up with catchy epithets for his characters. This story refers to the Hawk couple as "The Married Manhunters".
Scourge of the Human Race (#15, August-September 1966) Hawkman deals with Makkar, the last survivor of the Terravitans, huge, intelligent prehistoric beings who are foes of humanity. This story is pretty minor. It includes a complete history of the Terravitans, in the Fox tradition of providing histories for beings. Best idea: Hawkman consciously decides to use Thanagarian devices against the Terravitan, reasoning that this will not cause harm. This is an interesting variation on the Hawk couple's decision not to introduce Thanagar technology to Earth.
Murphy Anderson's art has some good images. There is a good landscape showing prehistoric Earth (p6), with volcanoes, lava, meteors and the sea. The Army corporal (p2) is one of Anderson's uniformed macho men. The human denizens of the legendary lost Pacific civilization of Mu are implausibly but splendidly arrayed as Roman soldiers.