Simply two of the most confusing characters in the DC stable. Here goes my attempt to boil Hawkman and Hawkwoman down to simple and understandable heroes.
It begins in ancient Egypt during the reign of Ramesses, and with Prince Khufu and his wife, Chay-Ara. The two happen across a strange vessel that has crashed in the desert and find that the metal it is composed of possesses anti-gravitational properties. The ship is melted down to make a scarab, a knife, and a glove which imbue the user with flight. The metal also seems to link the souls of Khufu and Chay-ara, even in the aftermath of their murder at the hands of the evil priest Hath-Set. For centuries they are reborn and reunited; from the Dark Ages to the times of the marauding pirates to the Old West. Eventually Khufu is reborn in the body of an archaeologist named Carter Hall. Carter is excavating royal burial sites in Egypt in the 1940s when he meets fellow archaeologist Shiera Saunders. The two come to a realization of their past lives and fall in love, using the metal uncovered to form wings and take to the skies as Hawkman and Hawkgirl. They join the Justice Society of America during World War II and eventually have a son together, Hector, who becomes the superhero Silver Scarab. During the 1950s, the JSA comes under fire by House Un-American Activities Committee, led by Joe McCarthy, and decide to disband and abandon their superhero identities.
Decades later, Hawkman would join the Justice League of America to work as a mentor for the new generation of heroes. This tenure would be short lived when he and the newly reunited JSA became trapped in a limbo universe. During this period, a new Hawkman, with a partner named Hawkwoman came onto the scene. During the 1940s, Carter was visited by a Thanagarian, one of the aliens whose culture had made the ship discovered all those centuries ago in Egypt. This Thanagarian was so impressed by Carter’s exploits that he named his first born son after him: Katar Hol. Katar grew up on Thanagar to become a police officer there. On Thangar, the alien immigrant class were treated as slaves and upon coming of age Katar realized the evil in this act. Katar rebelled against his society and found a partner in a lower caste woman named Shayera Thal. Eventually the two convinced Thanagar to grant equal rights to the aliens on the planet, and became ambassadors to Earth. These alien Hawks operated on Earth for a couple years until the original pair returned.
During a major event in the DC Universe that caused time to disrupt, Carter and Shiera’s souls were merged with Katar and that of an ancient Hawk God to form a new being that called itself Hawkman. This Hawkman lasted only a short time until he was driven insane by the combined pain of the souls that inhabited him and was given a mercy killing at the hands of Martian Manhunter. Shiera finds her soul reborn again in the body of her teenaged grand-niece Kendra Saunders. Kendra becomes Hawkgirl and is an active member of the JSA and JLA. Eventually, Carter is reborn in a younger body but finds Kendra has no attraction for him, breaking the cycle of he and his beloved being reunited. The two worked side by side with the Justice Society for awhile and eventually felt a slight rekindling of their feelings, which were snuffed out when Kendra left to join the JLA and started a relationship with Red Arrow. Finally, on the eve of Blackest Night, the two admitting their love for each other, only to be brutally killed by the zombies awakened by the event.
The reanimated husks participated in the battle against the heroes and at the close of the event, when a White Lantern appeared to counteract the evil, Carter and Shiera were reincarnated in their original forms from the 1940s. They have found that their ancient nemesis Hath-Set has also been reborn and he lures them into a parallel universe rules by humanoid Lions and Hawks. The true agenda behind Hath Set’s plan is not yet revealed but he has captured Sheira in his citadel while Carter rallies the Lion people to help him save her.