Superhero Spotlight – Hawkman

One of D.C. Comics’ most notoriously confusing characters since the 1990s has been Hawkman. He wasn’t always this way, but some decisions during the Silver Age and the wake of Crisis on Infinite Earths convoluted his history to the point editorial banned him from use in the late 1990s. Hawkman recently ended a run written by Robert Venditti that delved headfirst into his backstory, trying to iron out the wrinkles. More on that when I review the series next week. For now, let’s look at Hawkman’s evolution over the years and how he became such a confusing character.

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Superhero Spotlight – Green Arrow

We’ve looked at some characters with wildly convoluted histories, but Green Arrow remains one of the most simple concepts out of DC. Much like Batman and Superman, Green Arrow’s origins have remained relatively unchanged since the Silver Age, just updated with the times as they go. Wealthy playboy Oliver Queen has always been the Green Arrow (save for one brief instant) from his Golden Age origins to the present day. Despite his roots being kept stable, he has been changed mainly to distance himself from Batman, who he certainly came to resemble in those early years.

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Superhero Spotlight – Adam Strange

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In 1957, superheroes were not the dominant subgenre of comic books. You had horror titles, humor books, and lots of science fiction. The editorial director of DC Comics, Irwin Donenfeld, called his editors Jack Schiff & Julius Schwartz together and wanted pitches for science fiction protagonists. Schwartz’s idea was a play on Edgar Rice Burrough’s classic Jon Carter of Mars character. This would be an Earthman struck by a beam of strange energy that transported him to a distant alien world. Because he was the first human on this planet, Schwartz named him Adam. The protagonists debuted in the pages of Showcase #17; the series was a tryout book for new characters before given them their own titles.

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Superhero Spotlight – The Atom

Ray Palmer was not the first hero named The Atom. However, unlike his Silver Age colleagues, The Flash (Barry Allen) or Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Palmer has little to nothing in common with his Golden Age counterpart. While the original Atom (Al Pratt) was the cliché 98-pound weakling who trained to become a two-fisted powerhouse, this 1960s reinvention was focused on his name’s scientific aspects.

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Superhero Spotlight – Animal Man

Animal Man existed in the DC Universe for twenty-three years before he became a character of considerable note at the hands of writer Grant Morrison. This post-Crisis transmutation created a platform to do a metaphysical examination of what it is like to be a fictional character observed by a nonfiction world. It highlighted the struggles of a working-class superhero with a family. Issues surrounding the environment and animal rights were brought up and discussed at length. Ultimately, Animal Man became a character who still resonates through the DCU today, but he certainly didn’t start that way.

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Superhero Spotlight – Black Canary

Black Canary is the name used by two different women in the DC Universe, a mother & daughter, the partial inspiration for the Silk Spectre in Alan Moore’s Watchmen. She was one of DC Comics’ earliest super-heroines introduced post-World War II. In the New 52 reboot, elements of both mother & daughter were combined into a single version. Black Canary has been part of the Golden Age Justice Society, the Justice League, partnered with Green Arrow and been part of the all-female Birds of Prey. Four different actresses have portrayed her in film & television thus far with some markedly different interpretations. Let’s learn more about Black Canary.

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Superhero Spotlight – Plastic Man

Plastic Man has been a character with extreme popularity in the mainstream culture at points but has an extraordinarily muddled and irregular comic book presence. He started as the creation of another company before being bought by DC Comics. In the 1990s, he experienced a spike in appearances in the DC Universe only to disappear when the New 52 reboot happened. He finally returned but only as part of a pastiche of Marvel’s Fantastic Four in a comic that just recently got canceled.

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Supervillain Spotlight – The Cheetah

Earlier, I looked at Max Lord, one of the villains in the upcoming Wonder Woman 1984. Today, I’ll breakdown the second villain, The Cheetah. Unlike Lord, The Cheetah has always exclusively been a Wonder Woman enemy, but there have been multiple people that worked under that name. In 1985, DC Comics launched Crisis on Infinite Earths, a company-wide event that rebooted the entire timeline and compressed many parallel Earths into one. Before this, there had been two Cheetahs, neither of whom had superpowers and were mainly knock-offs of Batman’s villain Catwoman. With Crisis, these versions were erased to make way for writer-artist George Perez’s overhaul of Wonder Woman and her continuity. This led to a new Cheetah, one who derived her powers from dark mythic gods.

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Supervillain Spotlight – Maxwell Lord

The upcoming Wonder Woman 1984 is set to feature two villains, and I am writing up a spotlight on each. First up is a character who has been both a hero and a villain, and it wasn’t until 2006 that they were even associated with Wonder Woman so directly.

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Superhero Spotlight – Captain Atom

In the summer of 2019, I read through almost every major DC Comics crossover event of the 1980s, 1990s, and up to Infinite Crisis/52 in the mid-2000s. A pattern I picked up on was that in almost every occasion, the character Captain Atom was present and often played a critical role. In particular, he was at the center of Invasion! in command of Earth’s forces against the alien alliance and Armageddon 2001, where he was intended to be the face behind the villainous Monarch until editorial changes. But who is Captain Atom? He’s hardly a household name to people outside of comics fandom.

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