by Simon Brown
in World's Finest
When I was a lad, a local publishing company used to reprint American comics in 80 page black and white issues. Both DC and Marvel were reprinted, often collecting story arcs from many issues, but just as often with collections of single stories culled from anthology titles. On holiday one year, I came across a small store that had two of these comics, one with Hawkman, and one with the Justice League, focusing on Red Tornado. I agonised for days over which to spend my dollar on, but eventually chose Hawkman. I didn't know Red Tornado, and even though it had a lot of other heroes in it, I couldn't go past the winged majesty of Hawkman.
Eventually, I sold the comic to a second hand book shop, preferring to have "proper" comics. When I overcame my snobbery and decided a good story was a good story whether it was in black & white or colour, I had no idea where to find those stories again. By a stroke of pure luck, I came across those issues a few months ago in some old copies of World's Finest, and thoroughly enjoyed reliving these stories. Happily, Hawkman fits in with this issue's "all flight" issue, and I can cover them here.
OK, to begin we'll start with some brief background (which I hadn't
the benefit of my first time around). The Thanagarian Armada has
been sent to attack Earth, under the instructions of a bogus Thanagarian
ruler called Hyathis. Hawkman and Hawkwoman try to stop the attack,
and during their efforts, the Armada is lost. Hawkman and Hawkwoman
return to Earth, which leads up to the beginning of my tale in World's
Katar wakes to find Shayera gone and a note on her pillow explaining that she is suffering a personality crisis. She says she finds herself unable to act decisively when she disagrees with Katar's decisions, so she is going to search for the armada on her own, to try and find them, and sort out her own feelings. Cater dons his Hawkman costume and takes to the skies, heading for the closest JLA teleporter tube. Beaming up to the satellite, he finds Hawkwoman has taken their rocket, and headed into hyperspace, where he can't follow. On duty in the satellite are Superman and Green Lantern. Hawkman asks them to help, but Superman declines, saying that there's no way to find her in hyperspace. Lantern says that he wouldn't help if he could, as Hawkwoman is his friend, and he has to respect her wishes. Hawkman returns to Midway City where his old friend Commissioner Emmett visits to tell him that the museum where Cater is curator is being burgled. FBI agent John Small is investigating the robberies, as other museums across the country have also been burgled, and with Shayera's sudden disappearance, she has become a suspect.
In the next issue, Cater takes some of the forgeries from the museum to the JLA satellite. There Flash analyses a statue and finds it is made of 100% aluminum, strange because it would cost more to refine than the artifact was worth. It turns out that the artifacts are not forgeries, but the originals, and they are being altered by The Matter Master. He is waiting until they are moved to the police compound, and then stealing them from there, turning them back, and selling them. Hawkman catches him in the act, and he is taken in, but not before naming Shayera as an accomplice.
In World's Finest #277, Hawkman's day begins by stopping bank robbers on his morning patrol. Upon returning home, he finds Mavis Trent , waiting to move in to take care of him. He throws her out, only to have Agent Small knocking on the door. He wants to know if Shayera has returned home, and Cater throws him out as well. The Commissioner then calls to say that there is a message for Hawkman at the observatory. The telescope is picking up a message for Hawkman to come and help them against Hyathis. Hawkman vows that he will not return to Earth until he has freed his people, found his wife, and returned the Thanagarian Armada. Beaming to the satellite, he enlists the help of Batman and Superman.
This leads into the main story of issue #278, where Superman flies himself and his two companions through Hyperspace to get to Thanagar. Superman fights to end the conflict in the streets, and Batman plants explosives, while Hawkman tries to stop Hyathis. He has the 'Gamma Gong of Kanjar Ro', said to paralyze everyone on Thanagar if hit. Hawkman is only bluffing, waiting for the time to be right for his friends to do their jobs, but Hawkwoman appears, and thinking him in earnest, tries to stop him. He rings the gong to signal Batman and Superman that he's ready, and while Batman sets off his explosives, Hawkman and Hawkwoman defeat Hyathis. While Hawkman is explaining her defeat to the Thanagarian people, Shayera leaves to continue her search for the missing armada.
Issue #279 sees Hawkman returning to solo duty, and back in his regular 9-page slot. Batman and Superman return to Earth, while Hawkman equips a Thanagarian ship with a hyperdrive engine. He heads into hyperspace, and sets his tracking equipment to search for signs of Shayera. He comes across a 'reverse whirlpool' which is spitting out rocks and rubble. While examining the phenomenon he picks up a distress signal from the center of the whirlpool. He heads in to investigate, and finds an old battered ship, unable to escape. He leaves his ship in a safe orbit, and travels to the other ship with the aid of a space suit. Upon landing he is attacked by an unruly crew - a wolfman, a snake, a blob, a mist, and a one-eyed captain who takes nautical stereotypes to extremes. Hawkman defeats the snake-like Veneer, but is attacked by the slimy Drekk. Karniss Gorr tears Drekk from his prey to stop him destroying the space-suit with his mucoid acid, and Hawkman uses the diversion to overcome them both. He then turns his attack on the captain, Czemm, but is distracted by an apparition of Shayera. In the confusion, Karniss Gorr knocks Katar unconscious, and Czemm gloats that they will be able to use Hawkman's ship to return to plundering!
Next issue, the space pirates lock Hawkman away with their other captive, a small timid alien called Plert. When their jailer calls with food, Plert sees her as a female of his race, but Hawkman sees Shayera. This image then turns to Mavis Trent, and Superman. Hawkman deduces that this is an alien who hypnotically appears as someone the person likes, or would want to see. This alien is the gaseous Qwesjun, and Hawkman defeats him by concentrating on people he hates. Qwesjun takes the form of many, including Hyathis and John Small, and Katar turns his frustration against him. Hawkman then defeats Karniss Gorr, Veneer, and Drekk, but Czemm has used the space-suit to fly to Hawkman's ship, leaving him and Plert stranded on the wreck
In #281 we find that Katar and Shayera have developed a skin-coating that will allow a body to survive the cold of space for a few minutes. This allows Hawkman to fly to his ship, and he makes his way to the airlock, overcoming Czemm's attempts to move the rocket away from him. Inside he sneaks up on Czemm, who uses a laser-sword to attack. Katar maneuvers himself to the control panel, and behind his back fires the turbo drive rockets, throwing Czemm off balance long enough to deliver a knockout blow. Katar takes the pirates out of Hyperspace, and drops them at a local outpost. The inhabitants mention that Hawkwoman has passed through, and Hawkman continues on with Plert as his companion.
To show his gratitude, Plert wants do all he can to help, but a tired and irritated Katar loses his temper, as shown in #282. Struck by meteors, the ship loses control, and Katar must make quick repairs, but Plert again gets in the way, causing Hawkman to lose his temper severely. He hits Plert, which enrages the little alien, and causes a transformation. Plert swells up, becoming incredibly strong, and very savage. He attacks Katar, and starts damaging the ship. Hawkman tries to reason with him, but to no avail, and the battle only ends when Plert puts his fist through the hull, and they are both sucked out into hyperspace. Katar catches a line and pulls himself back in, but weariness overcomes him, ad he loses consciousness. When he wakes, Shayera is sitting next to him on a bed in her ship. She says she has returned the Armada, and they are going home together.
The next month, World's Finest became a 32 page book, only leaving room for one backup feature, which ended up being Green Arrow. Hawkman was moved to Action, with his returned wife Hawkwoman.
Credit where credit is due, this great tale was written by the master of the backup feature, Bob Rozakis. The only real problem with the story is the rushed ending, but I suspect that this was something out of his control, and the downsize came with little warning. The series also had some excellent artwork from greats Alex Saviuk and Carmine Infantino on pencils, and Frank Chiarmonte and Rodin Rodriguez providing inks. All in all, the story was great fun, and the sort of unpretentious escapism we could benefit from in comics today.
So, there's the end of my childhood reprint, and recalling those cheap comics I used to pick up when I was a kid reminds me how much I'm looking forward to the Green Lantern reprints coming up next month. Hopefully, this will be the start of something DC will carry on for years to come!
All characters are DC Comics
This piece is © 2000 by Simon Brown.
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