A Tribute to the of

1964 could arguably be known as the year of the Hawkman.

Following his debut in the pages of Brave and the Bold #34 in late 1960, he proceeded to appear 5 more times in that magazine, rivaling the Suicide Squad with their six times as headliners.  Finally and at last it was decided to give the winged wonder his own title, (something the Suicide Squad didn't pull off until the Silver Age was a fond memory) so with a cover date of May of 1964 (on sale February 20th) Hawkman #1 hit the newsstands.  The main difference between this and it's Brave and the Bold predecessors was the great Murphy Anderson taking the place of Joe Kubert in the art department.  Murphy also did that beautifully detailed cover art.  Gardner Fox continues as scripter with Julius Schwartz as editor.   Our first story is entitled"Rivalry of the Winged Wonders!"

The tale opens with Hawkman and Hawkgirl reporting to a council on Thanagar, their home world, about their mission on Earth studying police methods.  The husband and wife team are in uniform with the exception of their helmets and they begin their report with a nice historical recounting of their work in the Brave and the Bold series, first by recalling their first adventure on Earth tackling the Thanagarian criminal Blyth.  They next mention their battle with the Shadow Thief of Midway City and finally mention taking on a criminal who used a super-powered motorcycle to commit crimes.  Then it is on to the recent past when the duo, in their civilian identities of Carter and Shiera Hall, museum curators, discover that the most prized possession in the collection, a necklace of black pearls made for Queen Emma of Hawaii in 1955 and given to an American adventurer who saved her life, are gone.  The piece was valued at two million dollars, which is a chunk of change today, but remember this magazine is from 1964.  Due to the historical and cultural value, not to mention monetary, the two heroes decide to attempt to recover the jewelry as Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but with a twist:  Each will use Thanagarian and Earth police methods respectively, to see which is more effective.  Hawkgirl chooses the former while Hawkman decides on the latter.  Soon Shiera is winging her way to the upper atmosphere where their spaceship is in orbit, hidden from prying eyes by advanced anti-detection devices.  She collects a Thermotector to pick up the thief's footprints and a Lustrometer which will allow her to locate the hidden necklace.

Soon both winged wonders are hard at work, with Hawkman dusting the display case for fingerprints while Hawkgirl uses the Thermotector on the floor to ferret out the heat of the most recent footprints.  She soon follows the trail while Hawkman pays a visit to Commissioner George Emmett, the only man who knows the dual identities of the Thanagarian couple.  Emmett pledges the support of the entire department to Hawkman and soon they're analyzing the fingerprints.  When that comes up dry they try feeding the facts on hand into a machine that uses punch cards to reveal information about how a criminal's modus operandi may work.  The data input included the fact that a museum was robbed at night by way of a display case from which glass was cut in a perfect circle.  He also left no fingerprints.

Shiera, meanwhile, is flying away from Midway City as she continues along the trail with the aid of the Thermotector.  Even though it soon becomes apparent the thief entered a car, the sensitive instrument can be adjusted to compensate for that occurrence.

Back at police HQ, the machine has come up with responses to the punch card inquiry, revealing a half dozen "possibles."  Five of the suspects are promptly eliminated leaving a man known as Hal Parker.  Information on file about Parker gives only one clue:  After pulling a job he relaxes by going hunting in the north woods.

Late that night we join Hawkman as he flies into the wooded wilderness.  Snow is falling and with the brief nature of that uniform I'm sure he's suffering a bit.  He then spots his wife and lands to check on her progress.  As it turns out the weather is wreaking havoc with her instruments, keeping the Thermotector from functioning.  She laments the fact that on Thanagar, where they have the ability to control the weather this never would have happened.  Hawkman offers to join forces, but Shiera is adamant that she'll finish what she started.  Her husband comments that it's interesting that she started with a trail that has now gone cold while he started with nothing and now has a trail to follow.  Hawkman takes again to the skies and decides to do some intelligence collection via the special talent he has for speaking with bird life when Part I draws to a close.

Part II begins with dawn breaking and Hawkman lands near a group of quail and pheasant, the local game birds and begins his questioning with the obvious inquiry as to whether they've been hunted lately.  A pheasant responds that two men are hunting by the edge of a nearby lake.  Hal Parker and a companion are on their way to a hunting blind (which our editor explains thusly:  "A 'blind"—or 'Sneakbox'—is the term given to the stand where the hunter waits for birds to pass overhead.")

Soon Hawkman is making a beeline for the two hunters, but they somehow discover he is coming up behind them and turn and fire their shotguns at him.  Hawkman describes his descent into the lake as diving like a grebe, which the next editorial note explains is a bird noted for its exceptional diving ability.  He swiftly emerges from the water and takes advantage of the shotguns not being reloaded yet, swooping down and with the use of wings and fists taking the two hunters down.  Unfortunately he didn't count on a third man who snuck up behind and felled our hero with a blow to the back of the head.

The unexpected third man then reached for a shotgun to finish off the Thanagarian.  Hawkman, revived but too groggy to do much, improvises by grasping a nearby aluminum skillet.  Using the highly polished surface as a reflector, he manages to temporarily blind the malefactor with the rays of the rising sun, and then rolls into the hunter's legs, allowing our hero to subdue him.

The three thieves are now cuffed, but unwilling to admit defeat.  They sneer that Hawkman will never find the pearls.  Hawkman replies that he has used deductive logic, as any good detective, to determine that the third man is a collector with a history of dealings with jewel thieves.  Therefore, he had come to this rendezvous point to purchase the stolen necklace.  They continue to scoff that he'll never find the stolen piece, but the winged wonder responds that he noted Parker had fired only the right barrel of his shotgun and reloaded only that one while his companion used both barrels.  His hunch is correct when he shakes the stolen necklace from the left barrel of the weapon.  With the case closed, Hawkman delivers the men and the jewels to the local authorities before flying back to Midway City where he finds his wife in waiting.

Shiera reports that she's heard of her husband's success and that she was again thwarted when trying to use the Lustrometer to track the pearls.  It seems the device was working well enough until another unique Earth phenomenon halted her progress.  The Aurora Borealis, caused when a stream of ions and electrons from the sun hits the gases in the Earth's atmosphere, interfered directly with the tracking of the pearls.  By the time she finally reached the campsite, using other Thanagarian methods, it was too late.

Andur Pul, the lead councilman says that their report is very valuable and they'll soon install a computer similar to the punch card machine to tell the Thanagarian police about operation method's of their on file criminals.  He also sends the duo back to Earth with the council's blessing to continue studying Earth police methods.  The tale ends on that happy note.

And now onto the second story, which is also the tale depicted on the cover, "Master of the Sky-Weapons!"

This story kicks off with Carter and Shiera Hall receiving a telegram (remember those?) from a museum field team in Yucatan.  The team mentions some "sensational finds" and will be arriving by plane the next morning.

The Halls are waiting for their colleagues at the airport, but when the trio arrives, they are apparently suffering from amnesia.  They don't recognize Carter and Shiera, know nothing of their expedition and cannot even recall their own identities.  Once the team is taken to the museum and made comfortable, the Halls decide the only way to get to the bottom of matters is with the help of the Absorbascon, safely stored in their orbiting spacecraft.  The Thanagarian heroes don their uniforms of Hawkman and Hawkgirl and make their way to the ship to retrieve the device.  Unfortunately even the amazing Absorbascon fails to trigger any memories in Mavis Trent or her companions, so the winged crime fighters decide the only way to get to the bottom of things is to go to Yucatan to investigate.  The team is taken to a hospital for safe keeping and the winged wonders make their way south to the jungles of Central America and the field diggings in Tikal.  Hawkman comments that this was once the country of the Mayans.  They learned about the advanced but mysterious civilization from the Absorbascon.

Down below the flying figures, we see a ruddy faced man observing their approach from the portals of a temple ruin.  He thinks that here are more visitors come to interfere with his work.  He had apparently caused the archaeologists to have the delayed memory loss, but now has other weapons for the new interlopers.

He emerges from the ruin, fully dressed in period garb as seen on the cover and he lifts a forked stick above his head.  To the stunned surprise of the Winged Wonders two massive columns of water appear in the sky above them and are hurtling straight for them.  They manage to fly out of the path of the pounding columns, a bit dazed but undamaged and promptly begin a counterattack.  Hawkman uses a sling to hurl a stone at the dowsing rod, splitting it in two.  The Mayan then grabs for another weapon that he mentally refers to as his thunder-box.  The small box at the end of a metal-strand rope is swung around by Chac, whose name is only now revealed and its effects are immediate:  the sound created from the circular motion is creating a virtual wall between the Mayan and Hawkman.  So powerful are the shock waves from the device that Katar is nearly driven into unconsciousness.  Meanwhile, Hawkgirl hurls a boomerang that removes the thunder-box from Chac.  She retrieves both the boomerang and the device then joins her husband while he recuperates from the onslaught.  The Mayan Chief then strides toward them, laughing derisively:  "Ha!  Ha!  I have you both—right where I want you!  Watch the powers of Chac, whom you have foolishly chosen to defy!"  Then the feathered rod in his grip erupts with golden flares of lightning that strike the serpent column above them, moving it to one side and revealing an opening beneath.  A second burst sends the duo plummeting into the opening beneath the standard of the Mayan god Kukulcan.  The column is then restored to its original resting place, entombing the winged warriors.

Hawkman soon discovers a storehouse of pictured history in the vault of Kukulcan and thanks to the ability they've gleaned through the Absorbascon to read the ancient Mayan languages, they begin to decipher the story:  "In the days of the founding of Tikal, our mightiest city, Chac was our Chief.  One day out of the sky a strange sphere fell.  After it crashed to Earth, Chac alone ventured into the sky-sphere.  From an injured sky-being inside the sphere, Chac learned many things by reason of a voice that spoke inside his mind.  Mighty was Chac before the coming of the sky-sphere—but mightier by far was he afterward!"  We also see that Chac helped himself to the alien technology aboard, which included the weapons he used on Hawkman and Hawkgirl, along with an elixir that prolongs life.

The Thanagarians are interrupted by a sound and turn to spot Chac descending a staircase in an adjoining chamber they can see through a small portal.  His rod erupts again with lightning, but this time to make more records on the stone wall:  "Long did I rule the Mayans, becoming a deity in their eyes after I took those strange objects from the sky-sphere.  Then the people rose up against my rule, calling me a tyrant.  In a surprise attack, they captured me and took away my weapons."

Realizing their former Chief is now immortal, they settle for administering herbs that cause amnesia, neutralizing the threat of Chac.

"For untold moons after that, I roamed the jungles of Yucatan.  I saw the Mayan culture fall and its cities collapse into ruins.  Then one day people came from distant lands and began to explore the ruins of Tikal recently."

These people from distant lands were, of course, the archaeological team and they hired the erstwhile Chief to clear the jungle from around the ruins.

"As I worked, my memory began coming back to me.  I flung myself into the work with even greater enthusiasm, as my memory kept returning.  When the work was done, the archaeologists left for Midway City.  They had not found all the weapons of the sky-sphere, but I would—and with them make myself ruler of this modern world."

Chac, of course, managed to slip some of the "herbs of forgetfulness" to the team before they left for Midway City.  Now that he's finished making his record, Chac ascends the staircase, intent on retrieving the other hidden weapons and completing his mission of conquest.

Now that they've heard the rest of Chac's story, the Winged Wonders are even more determined to escape their prison and put a stop to the threat of the Mayan Chief.  After futile attempts to move the column and break open the port window, Hawkman remembers that Shiera has one of Chac's weapons, the bullroarer.  The device works, but unfortunately in an unexpected way as the heavy stones of the ceiling begin to crumble and fall, threatening to crush our heroes.  Hawkman scoops up Shiera and flies toward the stone bars of the window, noting that they have been affected by the sound vibrations as well.  He flies at great speed and rams through the crumbling framework to freedom and safety.  Pausing but a moment to regroup, the husband and wife team swiftly take flight and follow the footsteps of Chac in the ancient dust of the temple.  They catch up with the Mayan just as he's about to grab the fourth weapon in the form of a mask that seems to be made of green jade.  Chac quickly holds the mask to his face and from the mouth hurricane force winds emerge, blowing Katar and Shiera backward at great force.  In order to resist the powerful force, the duo removes their wings.  Hawkman then crouches and rushes forward, tackling the Mayan and sending the menacing mask shattering to the stone floor.  More determined than ever, Chac reaches for a final weapon, this time a stucco head, but before he can use it a mighty left hook from Hawkman fells him while Hawkgirl grabs the weapon, whose use they cannot guess and of course the Mayan isn't talking.

They turn Chac over to the authorities and then search the ancient writings once more, this time in search of an antidote for the herbs of forgetfulness.  They manage to find the information and armed with it return to Midway City to restore the memories of their colleagues, closing the final loophole and ending the story. Chac returned for another round with Hawkman as one of "The Deadly Dreams of Doctor Destiny!" in Justice League of America #34 dated March 1965.

Something struck me as I was reading through the second story.  Does anyone remember that book called "Chariots of the Gods?"  I can't help but wonder if Gardner Fox inadvertently inspired it since the book came out a few short years after this story was published and by all accounts was equally as fictional.  I'll leave it to your own conclusions, but the similarities are rather striking, wouldn't you say?

I commented at the beginning of this review that this was the year of the Hawkman.  Not only did he have his solo debut as recounted above, but six months later he managed to be inducted into the Justice League of America in issue #31.  I've decided to tackle that story next time around, so be sure to join us in about two weeks for a look at that issue.

Meanwhile, it's rating time again and I believe we have a classic on our hands, so this one gets a 10 on the 10-point scale.  Murphy Anderson's work was a tremendous complement to Gardner Fox's stories on many efforts in the Silver Age, to include the Doctor Fate and Hourman team-ups, the Spectre series and the Starman and Black Canary team-ups.  One more home run from a formidable creative team.

The readers of this feature are part of the equation and we're always interested in your remarks, questions and requests, so feel free to drop me an e-mail with any or all of them at:  professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you next time and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2006 by B.D.S.

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