Every time I hear someone talking about how you can’t possibly separate the character of Wasp in the Avengers from that of her far-less-interesting husband Hank Pym (Ant Man/Giant Man), I want to throw Hawkgirl at them. Hawkgirl and her mighty spiked mace.
In the dim mists of DC continuity, Shayera (or Shiera) Sanders/Hall came as a pair with her husband Carter/Katar Hall who is, you guessed it, Hawkman. They have wings, and they hit things. Sometimes they’re aliens, sometimes they’re cops, sometimes they’re reincarnated Egyptian gods, but mostly they have wings and hit things.
I missed the Golden Age years (characterised largely by the reincarnated Egyptian backstory) and first came across the feathered husband-and-wife duo in the 70’s-80’s pre-Crisis Justice League, otherwise known to me as “Godiyeva’s Black and White Comics Collection.” This comics collection belonging to my friend & comics enabler of 20+ years (now the mother of 3 superhero-obsessed boys who are my daughters’ closest friends) is also the reason that I thought Poison Ivy was blonde for the longest time, and why I will always ship Barry Allen with Zatanna. BUT I DIGRESS.
The main point of Hawkman, as far as I could see back in those Silver Age comics, was to argue with Green Arrow. He was set up as conservative to Green Arrow’s rich boy liberal and yes, they argued about politics. A lot. It was their thing. Shayera, meanwhile, got to roll her eyes and sometimes would fly around and hit things, alongside her husband. They were a pair of intergalactic cops from the planet Thanagar, though I didn’t see much of that in the Justice League comics where I mostly came across them. As well as not being able to settle on a first name, Shayera/Shiera often switches between Hawkgirl and Hawkwoman, depending on the sensibilities of the production team of the time, and not (of course) the actual age of the character.
I next came across the characters, still as a Married Super Couple™ in the mid-90’s era of Let’s Confuse Everybody Justice League where, prior to Zero Hour, one of many DC Universe Reboots, dozens of different versions of various characters poured out of the woodwork, arguing with each other and wearing slightly different costumes. Hawkgirl and Hawkman were the poster children of this madness, shifting through so many possible alternative versions that it made the reader (me) both dizzy and bored. Apparently Hawkgirl died in that storyline, which I didn’t even remember! I *do* remember that it was far less about her than it was about him, and that the comic of the time was called Hawkman, not Awesome Married Hawkpeople or anything along those lines.
BUT THEN something wonderful happened, and that wonderful thing was the animated series Justice League. Recognising that it would be utterly stupid in this day and age to have a superhero team with only one female character (Wonder Woman) on it, (NOT LOOKING AT ANYONE, CURRENT JUSTICE LEAGUE), they decided to reboot Hawkgirl without her boring husband, with a snarky attitude and a really big electrified spiked mace.
This Shayera, free and clear of the tangled weight of decades of DC continuity, was just plain awesome. She was an angry, tough warrior woman, in contrast to the slightly calmer but similarly ruthless Wonder Woman. And yes, she was not only an alien from the planet Thanagar, but also a reincarnated Egyptian goddess, which worked just fine.
Carter/Katar Hall turned up in one story, which flirted with the idea of matching her up with her reincarnated/destined husband, but twisted the tale by showing that actually, they were never that good together. Booyah! (Sorry, past Shayera, but your taste in men wasn’t that great)
Hawkgirl’s most significant storyline, in which she has to choose between her own people and the Justice League, then has to suffer the consequences of her choice, was probably the most interesting and characterific thread in this early Justice League series. Shayera was later one of the regulars in the expanded Justice League Unlimited series, which continued to explore her damaged relationships with her colleagues, and her on again off again relationship with John Stewart (AKA the black Green Lantern, whose role in the animated series makes him one of the best known characters to hold that title outside the comics).
John Stewart at one point meets his future son, Warhawk, which is a bit of a giveaway that he and Shayera will get together again someday, but they hadn’t got there yet when the show ended. She and her mace were always the best couple of them all, in any case. HAWKGIRL SMASH!
In fact-checking for this post, I discovered another Hawkgirl, Kendra Saunders, who not only had her own series but was written at one point by Jimmy Palmiotti and Justin Gray, who are up there in my shortlist of awesome male writers who write superwomen extremely well. Apparently she has the memories of Shiera Hall (Golden Age Hawkgirl, the one who’s all about the reincarnations) which made for awkward tension and a kind of twisted romance with Hawkman. I was intrigued right up until until Wikipedia told me that Kendra was killed off in the Blackest Night storyline so that Hawkman and the *real* Hawkgirl, Shiera, could be resurrected together. Boo! Then after all that Shiera got killed off again, to add to Hawkman’s manpain. BOOOOOO!
There’s a happy ending. I hope? The Justice Society, formerly the original 1940’s super team, then the Earth 2 super team, then the old fogeys super team, now back to being the Earth 2 super team now that WE HAVE EARTH 2 BACK (aww, DC, don’t ever change…) has been revamped and rebooted. The various members are being reimagined as hot, contemporary young characters. Alan Scott is gay, Jay Garrick is a hapless teen on the run, and Hawkgirl is back as a black Kendra Saunders. Her nationality isn’t established yet, but I’m kind of hoping for Egyptian…
So far in Earth 2, Hawkgirl hasn’t done much more than snark at Jay Garrick’s ineptitude as a superhero and shoot at him a bit (he had it coming) and in fact we only have Wikipedia’s word for it that she’s Kendra at all since she has only introduced herself by her alias, but she has awesome metallic wings and is drawn by Nicola Scott, which is enough for me to think that this particular Hawkgirl is worth paying attention to.
As long as, you know, she’s not the ONLY woman on the team. Because that would be beyond stupid in this day and age, right, Justice League? RIGHT?