A Tribute to the of

Among the terrific resources I have at my disposal is a collection of stories titled very simply "Hawkman."  It's a splendid compendium of the Winged Wonder's first several adventures after his resurrection in the Silver Age, all taken from the Brave and the Bold magazine with scripting by Gardner Fox and art by Joe Kubert.

Before I get into the story I've selected, though, I thought I'd share the introduction by Julius Schwartz, editor extraordinaire, entitled "A Little Bird Told Me," which allows we the readers to get a glimpse not only of these important architects of the Silver Age, but to also get a feel for just how the creative process unfolded.  I hope you'll find it as interesting as I did: 

The thing I remember best about bringing back Hawkman in the early 1960's was the people who made up the creative team. Gardner Fox, the writer, always picked up the tab at lunch, and Joe Kubert, the artist, spent lunchtime driving my wife around the park.

Gardner Fox was a lawyer.  I don't recall whether he ever actually practiced law, but he had a lawyer's mentality about him.  He was organized, meticulous; he never walked into a room without knowing what he was going to say there, and he never sat down to write a story without knowing every twist and turn it would take.  Gardner was always prepared.  He might have been more Boy Scout than lawyer.

Gardner had written the original Hawkman strip back in the 1940s, so naturally I asked him to write the revival.  Whereas the original Hawkman was Carter Hall, the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince named Khufu, the recreated Hawkman would be Carter Hall, nee Katar Hol, a lawman from the planet Thanagar.  I don't know which of us came up with the name "Thanagar," but I think it's one of the best place names around.  If ever I discover a planet, I'll call it Thanagar.

Gardner came in like clockwork at 9:30 in the morning, first of the week.  We plotted stories in great detail.  At 11:45 I would look at my watch and declare that since every element of the plot was done except for bailing the hero out of the last plot trap, it was time for lunch.  Actually, I had usually solved the story, but I was pulling a con job on Gardner.  I wanted to get Gardner to lunch because he always paid.  Over lunch, Gardner and I would talk about the news or the weather or the Cuban Missile Crisis, and we wouldn't think about the story.  As soon as we got back in the office, I made a great show of snapping my fingers and saying, "Got it!" and the whole plot was locked up tight.  And like clockwork, Gardner was there at 9:30 the next week, ready to plot the next story.

Joe Kubert was another matter.  He was wholly unlike Gardner in character, but every bit as meticulous.  Very often you got the impression that whatever you saw on the page was burned into Joe's brain before he drew it and he was just transcribing it, tension and all.  Joe was the best war story artist anywhere, and his background in super-hero type stuff was thin.  But with Hawkman's new origin, Joe's style worked just right.

Carter Hall the Thanagarian was a classicist, a museum curator, an expert on earlier historical periods.  Especially classical weaponry.  So here we had this futuristic crimefighter wearing wings and feathers and going after bad guys of the present with maces and lances and weapons of the past.  So who was better at drawing fantasy weaponry in action than Joe Kubert?

That's a rhetorical question.  The answer is "nobody."

But I guess the most important element we added to the new Hawkman series was Hawkgirl's sunset-colored hair.  Of course we call her "Hawkwoman" now, but we didn't then.  Sometime in the mid-Forties, there was this gorgeous gal named Jean Ordwein who came and worked at DC, with whom everyone wanted to go out.  We used to say "gal" then, too; we really did.  Jean had hair the color of sunset, just like Hawkgirl's, and Joe was apparently impressed with it.  Joe was practically a teenager at the time, but he had this little red sports car and he sweet-talked Jean into going for a ride with him in Central Park.  I guess that made me decide to ask her out myself.  The happy ending was that Jean and I got married not long afterward.

Hawkgirl has Jean's hair.  I guess it's a present from both Joe and me.

And now the moment you've been waiting for.  As promised last time, (and at least once prior) I'd like to introduce you to one of Hawkman (and Hawkgirl's) most intriguing foes in his debut appearance contained in the June/July 1961 edition of Brave and the Bold (#36); "Shadow Thief of Midway City!"

The splash page gives us a good idea as to just what the winged wonders face as they attempt several methods to stop the shadow to no avail.

The story starts with a bang inside a the Midway City Bank squarely during the noon rush when a shadow bearing a satchel, also seemingly of the shadow variety, walks right through the revolving door and makes directly for the teller's cage, calmly loading bales of cash into the bag and ignoring security and everyone else.  The bullets from security sail harmlessly through the apparition and he calmly walks through the wall of a nearby building, making good his escape.

We shift the scenery now to the Midway City Museum where the curators, Carter and Shiera Hall, better known to us as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, are preparing to answer a summons to return to their home world of Thanagar to make their latest report.  It is then they notice that a pigeon is hovering outside the window of the museum.  It bears a message from Police Commissioner Emmett.  Call it his version of Commissioner James Gordon's bat signal.  Soon in uniform and in flight, our heroes are on their way to be briefed by Emmett regarding this new super criminal, armed with a crossbow and, oddly a camera.  The Commissioner says they're cordoning off the city and Hawkman replies that he and Hawkgirl will patrol the skies and ask that his men fire off a flare if they spot the Shadow Thief.  The duo then makes a quick stop at their invisible spacecraft to alter the crossbow bolts carried by Hawkman.  Soon they see a flare and wing their way to a private residence that happens to contain the only known complete collection of American coins.  As they enter, they encounter for the first time the bizarre shadow that isn't cast by a corporeal body.

Taking a page from the Green Arrow's book, Hawkman wastes no time in putting to use his customized crossbow quarrels, beginning with bolts tipped with glass knobs containing tear gas.  They have no effect on the dark marauder, so he switches to shafts with combustible materials, ringing the creature in fire.  The figure hesitates, but then moves through the flames unscathed.  Finally Hawkman brings to bear thick plumes of smoke, but once again the being is unaffected and with another shadow bag filled with rare coins in tow, escapes into the sidewalk below, disappearing altogether.

A short while later by the light of the full moon we spot the same shadow entering a small travel trailer on the outskirts of Midway City.  Once inside, an object on the shadowman's wrist is turned.  The air shimmers and he returns to human form.  He says that with the dimensionmeter turned off he is no longer in shadow form.  He then muses about the irony that this all began by his shadow being the cause of his apprehension during a burglary many years ago.

The man continues to reminisce, recalling that his own shadow seemed to mock him as it could go outside the cell he was imprisoned in, but he could not.  He began to be obsessed with shadows, imagining what he could do if he could merely control it.  Later, after he'd been released, he read up on legends and facts about the shadow, ultimately learning how he could cast his shadow and leaves it in place with the help of special light filters.  Then one night in the midst of his experimenting he heard a faint cry for help from the vicinity of the lamp and colored disc assembly he'd been using.  The voice belonged to a creature in an adjacent dimension that was in distress.  The alien asked for some iron filings.  The filings were placed under the revolving disc at the being's request and soon provided the fuel he needed to power his ray-gun, freeing him and his ship from a confining rock.  In gratitude, the blue-skinned creature, learning of the man's interest in animating shadows, sent over the dimensionmeter via the revolving disc, which had somehow opened a portal between the dimensions.  With great excitement the thief quickly learned how to use the device, partly with the instruction of the alien.  Once activated, he found himself in another dimension, a geographical duplicate of our own world, but his shadow was cast in our 3rd dimension.  Soon another arrival from the adjacent dimension; a set of ebony gloves that allowed the criminal to reach from the other dimension into his own world.

The crook wasted no time in using this new ability to rob the Midway City bank, but upon returning to his trailer, the being made contact again with a dire warning:  "Carl Sands!  I've made a terrible mistake!  You must return the dimensionmeter at once!  My instruments show that every time you turn on the dimensionmeter you affect the magnetic lines of Earth!  If you use it a few more times, you will cause—another Ice Age!  Great blizzards will rage across the surface of the globe!  The very oceans will freeze solid!  Men will be unable to grow food!  All animal life will die out because of the awesome cold!  Then it will be the turn of man himself…"

This information, of course, has no impact whatsoever on Sands.  What, after all, is the fate of the world and mankind in the face of his ability to rob at will?  He promptly smashes the color disc that bridged the two dimensions and plots his next caper.

Meanwhile, back at the Midway City Museum, Shiera and Carter Hall are stumped about how to deal with this unique menace.  After all, even if they can locate the robber, how can they apprehend a shadow?  Carter asks his wife to bring the motion pictures she took of the thief to study in another room.  Later, back in their guise of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, they take a profile of the Shadow Thief to Police HQ and check it against a book of mug shots.  They match the profile with that of Carl Sands, who the Commissioner confirms was recently released from jail.  He suggests a city-wide search, but Hawkman says that with his ability to become a shadow they need to find another way.  Emmett says the case is in their hands.

A short while later, the Thanagarians are conversing with the birds and asking their help in locating Sands.  Minutes later he is spotted in his trailer by a cardinal, who gets word back to our heroes.  Hawkman and Hawkgirl arrive at the trailer and using their wings, their strength and their anti-gravity belts at maximum, they lift the small structure high up into the air, reasoning that even if Sands changes himself into shadow form, the fall would harm him.  Hawkman then calls to the criminal, advising him of his situation and demanding surrender.  Carl realizes the fix he's in.  The fall would indeed do just as much damage to him in the other dimension as here, so he's in a tight spot.  He decides to bluff by agreeing to surrender, but plans to bolt once the trailer is back on terra firma.  He monitors the situation through a window and when the structure touches down he activates the dimensionmeter and bolts through the door, only to discover it's been placed on a ledge and he begins to plunge downward.  The thief cries for help, but Hawkman reminds him of the obvious fact that they cannot save him in shadow form.  The panicked villain rips the dimensionmeter from his wriest and tosses it away, causing his body to return to its natural state.

After Sands has been safely placed with the authorities, the Winged Wonders observe that the device will never again work properly as its delicate mechanism was damaged when Sands tore it off.  Hawkman says it's time they left for Thanagar to make their report at last and they are soon airborne again.

The final panel reveals a relieved thought from an adjacent dimension:  "Whew!  That was close!  If Hawkgirl had been able to turn the dimensionmeter one more time—she'd have brought on the Ice Age that would have ended all life on Earth!"

Oddly, my DC Comics Encyclopedia makes no mention whatsoever of the Shadow Thief, but I knew he made a return.  The Overstreet Comics Guide tells me that his second appearance was in Hawkman #5.  I have no doubt that wasn't the last we heard of Carl Sands, either, but don't have the information at my fingertips.  If things go as they often do, though, you kind and faithful readers will e-mail me to fill in the gaps.  It's always appreciated.

I found the concept of the Shadow Thief to be quite fascinating and a real dilemma.  Once again the imagination of Gardner Fox at it's finest.  I hope someday in the not too distant future to see how he was able to come back without the original dimensionmeter.

While this was a short tale I found it quite satisfying and think you will, too.  I've got to admit that while I've never disliked Joe Kubert's art, it never was one of my favorites.  I think in my mind his natural genre was the war epics he illustrated like Enemy Ace and Sgt. Rock.  I find I'm learning to appreciate him more as time goes by, though.  I'll give this issue a rating of 8 on my 10-point scale.

As mentioned above, I welcome your information, feedback and other comments, so don't hesitate to drop me a line at professor_the@hotmail.com.  My regular readers (and you know who you are) will confirm that I'm reliable with my responses.  Don't forget that the next effort will hit the web in about two weeks.


Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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