Search This Blog

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Cover Story - Top 20 Hawkman Covers

There’s really no need for a thesis at this point is there?  We’re in that dull part of the year where there’s not a lot of geek media to talk about and Legends of Tomorrow is still on so that’s what we’re talking about today.  I mean, this is the first time we’ve ever seen a big, live action, multi-hero team show come out of one of the big American comic companies so it’s a pretty major deal this show is still happening.  

Given that, I’m probably going to get around to dedicating a Cover Story to every member of the team and this week the character selection wheel has landed on Hawkman.  So, let’s dive into the shallow end and get the cover story on the top 20 Hawkman comic covers. 

We open in the Silver Age, as evidenced by Hawkman’s adorably dopey helmet.  In all seriousness, the silly design of Hawkman’s hawk helmet is a big part of what I like about him as a character; he was always kind of weird and hilarious.  This cover is a great example of the unique zone Hawkman filled in the Silver Age.  He was one of several characters DC revived in the ‘50s and ‘60s after an initially popular run in the ‘40s.  

However, unlike The Flash or Green Lantern, who were heavily informed by the growing popularity of schlocky B-movie sci-fi, Hawkman was more of an adventure character.  As such, he tended to throw down with weird representatives of pulp sci-fi like the mezzo-American priest seen here throwing him off balance.  Even as an example of Hawkman’s Silver Age goofiness this is actually a very unique Silver Age cover, emphasizing large scale figures and a fairly static image compared to the busy nature of most covers from the era. 

We jump forward in time now to the ‘90s, with a Hawkman that was heavily informed by the “hardcore” trend in comics that spun out of Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen.  Most notably, this Hawkman was a follow-up to the Hawkworld series I already reviewed, hence his black and gold armor and costume.  What really sells this cover is the sense of hell and defeat and it evokes.  The hanging chains are a nice touch and the way they bind Hawkman is a good way to entrap a character whose entire power is flight.  

What’s more, I like that his metal wings are left hanging in the foreground, it’s a very creepy element especially with all the inhuman skulls.  The big problem with this cover is that annoying sidebar image, which is something comics used to do for a while when big multi-book events were the norm.  It’s not a deal breaker but it’s out of place and hurts the flow of this cover big time. 

Now this cover comes directly from the ‘80s and was part of the follow up Hawkworld comic that spun-out of the groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name.  What I really love about this cover, aside from the great Hawkman/Hawkgirl costume redesign, is how much it digs into one of the forgotten facets of these characters’ identities.  While nowadays most folks focus on the Hawks as a married couple or Indiana Jones type adventurers or aliens but everyone tends to forget they’re supposed to be cops.  

That’s the original story of why the Hawks came to Earth during their first revival, they were alien police officers hunting down a fugitive who fled to Earth.  Throwing them up I uniform, heavily armed and armored in front of a wanted poster takes them right back to that law enforcement origin in a great way. 

Ah the ‘90s, you were a beautifully terrible time for comics.  In all seriousness, as incredibly bad as this cover is, and it is bad, there’s something oddly compelling about it.  The anatomy of everyone involved is completely ludicrous, I especially like Hawkman’s MASSIVE thigh, seriously that thing’s as big as his head and longer than his entire arm.  

It’s also pretty great that the Extreme Dinosaur he’s fighting as a leg that joins his torso right at the pectoral muscle.  Incidentally I have no idea why Hawkman is fighting a dino-man on some random red sun planet but I’m sure it all makes sense in context.  I also really love the Wolverine-claws on Hawkman’s costume, furthering my point that this is easily Hawkman’s worst costume. 

Another Hawkworld cover, I hope it’s starting to become clear how Hawkworld is the actually successful version of the stuff the ‘90s Hawkman book is trying to do.  Where the ‘90s book gets bogged down in the trappings of “EXTREME” storytelling the scrappy ‘80s bone cruncher that is Hwkworld dives in without second thought or apology.  

Seriously, if there was a version of Hawkman that I’d want to see on the big screen it’s the brutal space cop who burns suspects alive, it’s like Judge Dredd but somehow harsher.  What really sells this cover, aside from the content, has got be the color work, that sickly orange glow coming off the burning corpse and illuminating the entire subway platform is just so perfectly eerie.  Additionally, the fact we can’t see Hawkman’s face adds a lot to his detachment and mystique as he watches his victim slowly burn to a crisp. 

Ah the ‘70s, what a weird and glorious time in comics.  The ‘70s was actually a pretty great time for Hawkman as he had always occupied a slightly more mature place in comic book form, though not necessarily in content.  During his relaunch in the ‘50s and ‘60s his comics employed a visual and storytelling style that was already more inclined towards older readers while still telling stories about man-hawks and winged apes.  

So, by the ‘70s everyone was copying Hawkman’s approach of deliberate pacing and more static images that emphasize artist detail in addition to crazy content.  Simply go back and compare the design of this cover to the #20 spot and you’ll see how similar they are in terms of focus and scope.  That’s what’s going on here, with a cover courtesy of the titanic Joe Kubert.  Kubert was a giant of comics for a reason and it totally shows here in his use of shading, scale, and putting a speech balloon in the cover.

Technically speaking this cover doesn’t feature Hawkman but Golden Eagle, however, given that nobody will ever care enough for me to make a Golden Eagle list we’re going to count it.  This is from the mid-2000s Hawkman comic that spun out of his re-emergence in Geoff Johns’ phenomenal Justice Society comic.  The book was a weird amalgam of pulp adventure quest and violent voodoo vigilantism.  This issue comes from the tail end of the run when they resurrected fellow Thanagarian hero Golden Eagle to bring some tension to the book. 

It’s Golden Eagle’s obscurity that makes this cover so great.  He was a no-name hero, almost completely forgotten by the world at large and this cover makes that obscurity its focus.  In case it’s not clear what he’s doing, he’s tearing apart the entry of DC Comic’s universe guide book Who’s Who that pertains to him.  It’s a great visual metaphor for the character through his own obscurity by destroying the myth of his own past.  This is core modern day cover construction and it’s absolutely great. 

Something that’s going to become clear over this list is how much I absolutely love the Hawkworld comics.  They were a weird series that emphasizes such a unique part of the Hawkman/Hawkgirl mythos that there’s never been anything even remotely similar.  This cover is a great example of that, featuring Hawkwoman rescuing a child from a burning building.  It’s a classic superhero move made all the more compelling by just a few tweaks and additional elements.  

Having it be Hawkwoman rescuing the child is a perfect twist as, during the Hawkworld run, Hawkwoman was meant to be the champion of the protecting the innocent, especially the poor and lower classes, while Carter was more about punishing the guilty.  The cover isn’t perfect as Hawkwoman’s right elbow seems to have compressed in a really weird way and it looks like her lower half is on fire but this is still a great image to work off of. 

Jumping all the way up to the New 52 with this cover, taken from Hawkman’s most recent solo comic The Savage Hawkman.  I never read the book but this is a great cover.  I’ve got a real affection for covers with skulls and cowls.  I actually have no idea where this random skull is meant to be or why someone put Hawkman’s helmet on it but it’s a striking image none the less and I really like how creepy it is.  

There’s something primal about the visual of heads on sticks, a sort of instinctual dread, as if it’s been there since the dawn of time so when covers adopt that aesthetic it’s always really powerful.  I also really like the billowing smoke in the background, that adds a lot to the chaos and destruction of the cover.  Throw in the excellent use of digital coloration to complete the the picture.  Seriously, the use of reflective shading on the metal of Hawkman’s helmet in this cover is absolutely spectacular. 

Another ‘90s Hawkman cover but one that’s substantially more risky than the usual.  This is a better version of the ‘90s Hawkman comic, ditching the full body stalking for his standard shirtless look and I really like the shurikens strapped to his body.  Also this costume featured a return to the feathered wings that always look much better.  Anyway, the big reason I like this cover is easily the content and tone of the central image.  The graveyard setting is a spook touch, complimented by they great violet sky and the blowing grass implying a cold war drifting through the headstones.  

Then you’ve got the creepy image of Hawkman holding a crumpled paper airplane next to that dead hand and the ‘Childhood’s End’ inter-title, that’s a great piece of quadruple juxtaposition.  Hawkman himself is being held against his own origin as a childrens’ character through the toy while also highlighting his core fantasy of flight, all of which is being brought to bare against the very chilling dead body looming in the foreground.  It’s a damn creepy image and a great use of symbolism and Hawkman’s identity as a character. 

Fun comic cover tip: that black and white checkerboard atop this cover gives it away as a product of the Silver Age in the ‘60s.  Actually, this comic isn’t even a Hawkman book but a Brave and the Bold comic.  Brave and the Bold was the comic that relaunched DC as a superhero company in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s by publishing the first Justice League stories and later became a team-up vehicle where Batman joined forces with various superheroes.  As for this cover…well, where to even start?  

Batman and Hawkman have actually been rivals for a long tme so I’m not surprised tat their fighting but I love the amount of destruction they’ve managed to one another.  Batman’s costume is in tatters and in the background his car is crashed really badly.  Meanwhile, Hawkman’s wings are fraying and his own uniform’s in bad shape too.  It’s honestly one of the most realistic and junky depictions of fighting I’ve ever seen in a comic.  I can only assume this whole situation is a result of whatever weird purple dimension the two have been dropped off in. 

Hawkman fights a bear, that is the whole reason this cover made it on the list.  Heck, it’s actually more than just “a bear,” that bear has laser vision and what looks to be big steel claws.  Additionally, the bear seems to be 3X the size of any normal human man so I’m going to assume the bear can shape shift as well as having laser eyes and metal claws.   Even putting aside the awesomeness of Hawkman v. Bear this is actually a superbly well-rendered image.  Hawkman’s wings are very well proportioned and his stance fits with the situation nicely.  

His thighs look a little thin in this particular image but that’s more than made up for with the great background work.  You’ve got the looming fog and billowing grass of a horror movie and the layers of color work are amazing.  The close up green of the grass gives way to the sickly yellow of the foreground before dipping into the deep blue and black of the background.  Add in the creepy mist from the bear’s mouth and this is actually a really quality rendering of a very dopey concept. 

Another Hawkgirl centric cover but it’s a damn good one.  This cover comes from the mid-2000s series, which was itself focused on both of the Hawks after hawkgirl’s return in Justice Society.  The cover’s obviously a visual reference point to the Hawkworld cover that featured the Hawks standing in front of a wanted poster of their own that informed the #18 spot on this list.  More than that, the cover highlights the differences between this version of the Hawks and their classic identities.  

Kendra Sanders, this Hawkgirl, wasn’t a cop or an alien but a young woman from a broken home with a sketchy criminal past trying to live anew as a hero, hoping her good deeds would wash away the bad.  This cover brings that subtext right into the text in a great way while also paying homage to the character’s history. 

Another intense cover from the New 52 Savage Hawkman comic and by far my favorite Hawkman cover.  While I’m not a huge fan of Hawkman’s New 52 costume I actually think it works in this particular context.  The armored look is a mixed bag but it fits this really creepy crucifixion set-up.  I’m really not sure why or how Hawkman ended up nailed onto the face of the statue of liberty but I can only assume that a villain did it, I mean most good guys don’t nail people up to landmarks. 

Something I really like abut this cover design is the combination of detail and coloring.  The visual design of the wings in this cover is just great, with that feather rendering looking incredibly unique while the brown coloring makes it almost seem like fur.  Additionally, I really like the deep crimson color work on the blood splattering on the statue of liberty’s face.  It implies a greater level of organic connection on Hawkman’s wings that makes the spikes through them even creepier. 

Going way back to the ‘70s again for another great Hawkwoman cover.  In case you’re wondering who the white suit guy from spot #15 is that’s Gentleman Ghost, the ghost of a highway man from the 1700s who returned to pester the Hawks as one of their major reoccurring foes.  I don’t know exactly what limbo hell the two are trapped within but it’s beautifully rendered here.  

The visual design is one of those really excellent and unique aesthetic approaches that comics sometimes rely on.  Doctor Strange relied on a similar trick back in the ‘60s, using surrealist imagery and a neon, mauve inspired pallet to avoid drawing from any specific denominational mystic visual design.  I’m a sucker for that kind of big crazy surrealism and filtering it through the slightly more mature approach of ‘70s comics is absolutely great. 

Another classic Hawkman cover wherein he’s been horribly dismembered, that really is his signature look.  This is another cover from the mid-2000s comic back when it was being written by Geoff Johns, the author who resurrected Hawkman in the pages of Justice Society.  It’s a really creepy image that, much like the Savage Hawkman cover, gets into the uncomfortable question of how connected Hawkman’s wings are to his body.  That question has always varied between adaptations but the implication that these wings are just part of his body that’ve been cut off is just terribly gruesome. 

I really love the photorealistic look of this cover, it adds to the bloody design of the cover and Hawkman’s agony.  My favorite part of the cover though, is the way the blood creates Hawkman’s logo.  I love it when people do tricky stuff with superhero logos so having Hawkman’s blood paint upwards to paint his name is very disturbing.  The whole series ended up thoroughly grounded in the realms of horror and supernatural storytelling so this cover fits that tone perfectly. 

This is probably the busiest Hawkman cover on the list but damn this is a great image.  This is part of that Hawkman as a cop thing that informed the Hawkworld comic that was so great.  The whole visual has this great SWAT/urban pacification look and includes the appearance of the Manhawks, one of the classic Hawkman enemies.  If you’re wondering why there are multiple Hawkmen on this page cover it’s because Hawkman’s visual design was meant to be a uniform rather than a costume.  

The idea was that the police on Thanagar, Hawkman’s home planet, wore this uniform, hence the set-up of the Hawk cops in this firefight on a Thanagarian rooftop.  What I love so much about this cover is the way it manages to be full without being busy.  Each of the various segments of the visual is afforded space and definition without ever blurring the picture as a whole, which takes real skill. 

And now we jump way back to see the origins of those man-hawk creatures from the previous cover.  Crazy nonsense like this is part of why the Hawkman books of the Silver Age managed to endure and why the character ended up such a stalwart part of the DCU that he’s appeared in 3 separate live action iterations.  Much like cover #20, this is another great example of earlier material pioneering the cover approach that would eventually become standard.  

The size of the two main figures and their place as the focal point of the cover’s action is incredibly unique.  Most covers from this era tended to be large exterior shots of a lot of action and scenery, so a cover that emphasized the detail and interaction of characters was extremely rare.  That’s not to say the content is completely divorced from the beautiful insanity of the era as a giant hawk with laser eyes wearing a man costume is pretty crazy, just that it’s better rendered than a lot of similar craziness of the time. 

Another Savage Hawkman cover that I just absolutely love.  Seriously, Savage Hawkman may not have been the best comic and that Hawkman costume redesign left a lot to be desired but this cover perfectly nails the idea of Hawkman, which is doubly impressive given there’s no background.  Usually I come down hard on that kind of thing but I’m completely willing to forgive it here.  Firstly, this makes great use of the heavily armored look by putting Hawkman on the prowl, hunting for his archenemy and girded for war.  

That’d be great on its own but it’s the design of Shadow Thief that sells me on this cover.  His creepy, Nosferatu esc design as he lurks behind Hawkman, preparing to strike at any minute, it’s just such a great visual.  It honestly feels like a film storyboard, a great snippet of a larger moment.  Part of that is my love for Shadow Thief as a villain and a great Hawkman arch-foe but mostly I think it’s just that the cover really gets the idea of Hawkman as a savage warrior, like something out of barbarian fantasy. 


And one last Silver Age cover to close out this list.  Look, as much as I love the mature experimentation of the ‘70s, the grit and iconography of the ‘80s, or the metaphor of the 2000s, I’m always going to be a complete sucker for ‘60s free form mania.  There’s just something so incredibly charming about the insanity that was the Silver Age, the complete lack of restriction that led to stories we just can’t really come up with now they’re so weird and different.  And that’s what I love about this cover, also the fact that is has thought balloons is no bad thing.  

Actually, fun fact about this winged ape species, they were actually reoccurring Hawkman foes of the time.  It’s all thanks to a simple but direct maxim handed down from Julius Schwartz, one of the most important comic editors alongside Stan Lee and Paul Levitz.  This is a guy who basically invented comics so his word is pretty much gospel and as he said on many occasions: apes on comics sell comics, who am I to disagree. 
If you liked this article, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

No comments:

Post a Comment