A Tribute to the of

Hello again faithful readers in cyberland. The Silver Age Sage, alias The Professor, bids you welcome. I hope your holiday plans are bearing fruit and that the season brings it's best to you and yours as I attempt to bring you some of the best of the Silver Age of DC comics with this edition of the Sage.

In my continuing quest to profile new characters or at least to show a different side of them, I'm bringing forth a hero that we've not examined before, but another very important member of the Silver Age gallery. By now you know very well that the Silver Age was all about reintroduction of the classic super hero genre. To that end, many of the creations of yesteryear, or the Golden Age if you prefer, were established characters that were brought back, usually with some updates or other changes. Now I'm working at a bit of a disadvantage this time around as I know next to nothing about the original upon which he was based other than the fact that he looked physically different, as did his contemporaries when they made their respective debuts. Contrast, if you will, the Jay Garrick Flash of the Golden Age to the Barry Allen Flash of the Silver Age. Ditto Green Lantern and especially The Atom. Big changes when some of the key members of the Justice Society of America morphed into the Justice League of America. About the only constants in the DC universe were Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as the shifts occurred. It became necessary later to distinguish the heroes as Earth 1 and Earth 2 were hatched so that the Golden Agers could co-exist, opening the door for some pretty spectacular team-ups as you've seen in a few of my past reviews.

So, enough ambiance. On to the main course, as we go through The Brave and the Bold #34 (and original cover art + back cover) from February/March of 1961(on sale December 29, 1960) and the launch of a police officer from the world known as Thanagar of the star system Polaris whom the Earth knows as Hawkman.

The name of the tale is "Creature of a Thousand Shapes!" and the splash page shows Hawkman and Hawkgirl, his wife, firing arrows while hovering in mid-air at a creature on the ground that is firing lightning bursts from it's antlers at our heroes. The storyline comes courtesy of Gardner Fox while the art details are provided by Joe Kubert with the great Julius Schwartz in the editor's chair.

As the story opens, we see a dog limping along outside Midway City when a passing car stops to try and help. The dog then changes shape and becomes a bear before the incredulous driver. The bear knocks him silly, then thinks to itself, "Changing from my true form to an earth-dog--then an earth-bear--has gained my first objective--the clothing of an earthman! Now I can masquerade as a being of this planet and fulfill my mission here!" After that dramatic event, we are suddenly 250,000 miles out in space with a rocket ship. It's headed toward our own moon and the inhabitants are none other than Katar Hol and his wife, Shayera out on a surveillance mission. After some preparations that are, in effect, a good ol' Star Trek cloaking device for their vessel, they head into orbit in the atmosphere and then begin to monitor things on terra firma. After about an hour they feel they've collected enough data to know how to proceed. They decide to visit with a local police commissioner in their own police uniforms. Pretty progressive for 1961 to have a policewoman, eh? Now, for those of you who haven't seen Hawkman and Hawkgirl, they look fairly ordinary, if you can call people with large wings on them ordinary. The wings aren't there at all times, by the way. They're part of the costume which once again favors bright reds, yellows and greens. Is Batman the only one who tries to be subtle? The hawk effect is completed with the cowl-like masks that cover their heads and faces with the exception of their mouths, chins and necks. It is also explained that in addition to the functional wings they have belts constructed of an anti-gravity metal assisting their staying aloft.

As they visit the commissioner's home, they explain their presence on earth. It seems one of the scientists on Thanagar perfected a pill that enabled mind control of the body. It was subsequently stolen by Byth, a master thief who, like all his ilk on the planet, robs for the thrill rather than for gain. Byth consumed the pill, became a bird and took off, leaving the defeated scientist in his wake. Katar and Shayera, as the investigating officers, learned of the crime before the scientist died and began their manhunt for Byth which, of course, led them to Earth. Anticipating a dragnet to end them all, they tell the commissioner that they could use his help in assuming secret identities while they search for the changeling thief. The commish agrees and sets the duo up as Carter Hall and his wife Shiera, the new director of the city museum. Soon, as part of their search, they enlist the aid of the birds, with whom they can somehow communicate. They instruct them to be on the alert for any strange-acting birds.

Part two begins with our friend Byth attending a society wedding at the Midway City country club. One of the gifts, a large diamond, catches his eye and he transforms himself into a magpie and flies off with the bauble. He is spotted, however, by one of the local stool pigeons (sorry, couldn't resist) who reports back to Hawkman. As he and Shayera prepare to chase down Byth, they decide to try using some of the museum's weaponry in their effort. Katar selects an ancient Roman Gladiator's net and they take to the skies, following the robin who gave them the report (as depicted on page 9). As they close in on the houseboat where Byth lurks, he changes himself into a Thangarian Kasta bird, which looks to this earthling a heck of a lot like a pterodactyl. They wrap him up in the net and begin spinning him around in an effort to disorient him so that he won't be able to transform. Unfortunately, he manages just that and as a small insect, slips out of the trap. He flies for the body of water below with the winged police in hot pursuit until he morphs again into a fish and is soon lost among a school of other fish, making good his escape.

Part three finds Byth-fish suddenly caught in a vortex that leads him to a subterranean waterway in a strange underground world. He changes again, into a wolf this time, to scout around and discovers strange animal life unlike anything on the surface.

Back on the surface, Carter Hall busies himself with learning the museum biz when a clue appears via a diorama prepared by a naturalist who's somehow included a species of bird from Thanagar (as seen on page 14). After she throws herself at the new museum director, right before meeting a less-than-thrilled Shayera, the winged wonders go in search of Hawk Valley, where the photograph that inspired the display was taken. They soon arrive and see a creature unlike any other on Earth. Correctly deducing it must be another disguise of Byth, they soon engage in battle, using longbows. After fighting for a long time with no end in sight, Byth transforms yet again into a termite, burrowing into the wooden shaft of one of the arrows to once again escape detection.

Part Four of our story has Byth armed with a new scheme. He plans to steal the bi-state tunnel, for heaven's sake, as he takes the form of a Thanagarian Brontadon, which resembles a large winged dinosaur. With his brazen action, he also plans to attract the attention of his fellow Thanagarians and to defeat them once and for all. Katar and Shayera don their uniforms yet again, arming themselves with maces and cestuses, which were worn by ancient Roman boxers. As they approach Byth, their plan is revealed. The only known way to defeat a Brontadon is to hit it's twin brains, contained in the sacs beneath both eyes simultaneously. The maces are brought into play, but ol' Byth is too quick and manages to eat them both. Byth, still able to speak through the creature's mouth, begins to take off with the tunnel around his body while taunting the couple with his upcoming victory. As he gloats, the winged duo puts on the spiked cestuses, making mention that the hollow maces consumed by the Brontadon contained chemicals designed to slow down the creature's reflexes, allowing them to move in for another shot at the brains. They are successful and finally place the criminal into a hibernation chamber to ship him home to Thanagar. The story ends with the duo agreeing to stay on assignment on Earth indefinitely to study police methods.

So there you have it. The first appearance and origin of the first married crimefighters in DC comicdom. The formidable Hawkman and Hawkgirl! Since this is, of course, a landmark issue it is deserving of the maximum 10 point rating.

What do you think? Feel free to let me know at professor_the@hotmail.com. Thanks again for joining me and be sure to check back in two weeks for the next review.

Long Live the Silver Age!

2000 by B.D.S.

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