Batman in space. Just remember that.

24Feb13

Here’s the thing about Hawkman: he’s not my favorite superhero character. He’s not among my favorites, he’s not even that high up if you’re just counting DC. There are whole new characters that I find more interesting than Hawkman, and his continuity is just goofy and insane to me. I don’t know the fine details of reborn Egyptians versus space cops versus just a guy with a mask, mace and wings. I know there are differences, but I could not care less about them.

However, I have never heard anyone else say positive things about Hawkman, either. I’ve heard positive things about Hawkgirl thanks to her turn in the Justice League cartoon, but Hawkman is always discussed as this goofy guy who should have been left behind in the Golden Age, or at most the Silver Age. So the contrarian strain in my mind goes “Hey, why shouldn’t Hawkman get a fair shot? What would it take to make him an interesting character?”

The answer, to me, is that he has to leave Earth. Not because he’s Thanagarian again, or because of some scandal or misunderstanding. Rather, Hawkman is a man of extremes. He has to be, in a sense, to think that the best course in his life is to put on a hawk mask, strap on bird-like wings that somehow allow him to fly, and hit people with a mace (so is Batman, but being a millionaire means he has money to fund and cover up many of his activities). So at first he thinks he’s making a difference in fighting crime, and making his area safer.

Then the first time he runs into someone like the Martian Manhunter, or Wonder Woman, or Superman, he sees his work as a joke. They don’t, because all three of them respect a man who puts himself in harm’s way to stop crime and save others. But to Hawkman, running into a Greek Immortal and two superpowered space aliens means he’s useless. He’s just the crazy guy with the mace compared to them, so what’s the point? No need for Hawkman.

But again, he’s a man of extremes. In his mind, he can either stop being Hawkman forever, or go to a place where Hawkman is useful. Playing backup to others isn’t an option in his mind. So he runs off the planet itself to find out what he’s worth. And where he ends up is Space Station Alpha.

Space Station Alpha used to be one of the grandest, greatest ports in the galaxy. Ships came in every day, cargo changed hands, and it buzzed like a hive. Sure, it was a shaky conglomeration of technology welded together until it seemed sustainable, but it was still the pride of the galaxy, a shining symbol of cooperation across various empires and confederations. But as time went on, faster and more efficient transport engines reduced how often ships needed to stop on their trips, and the maintenance costs started to go higher as the older technology used in Alpha’s construction failed and had to be replaced. All of that cooperation starts to fray both from outside political factors, and the question of who should shoulder which costs. By the present day, Alpha is a crumbling, semi-functional hulk of a station, filled with desperate people and criminals using its faded status and sheer size to operate in secrecy. What little police force remains is either inadequate for the job, factional, or outright (sometimes blatantly) corrupt. Then there’s the governing body, comprised of people running fiefdoms within the station itself and only rarely trying to muster ways to keep the whole of Alpha from shutting down and killing everyone on board that unlucky day.

To Hawkman, this is a place where he matters. He doesn’t understand the politics, the maintenance issues, the different species…but he understands Alpha is on the edge, and he can be the tipping point that brings it back from the edge. He doesn’t know if Alpha can ever regain its former status, and to be honest, he doesn’t care. What he does care about is the chance to save an entire city, in a place no human has ever been before, and be the hero he wanted to be. Of course, there’s the question of whether anyone wants him there, and if he’ll be able to figure out how things work on Alpha before either getting himself or others killed…

Anyway, that’s my pitch for a Hawkman series: A stripped down version (in more ways than one) Batman in Space. I think it works by removing him from Earth, where everyone can do everything he does better, and emphasizing the law and order aspect of the character without making him an actual police officer. It also puts him in a setting large enough where flight matters, but small enough that he doesn’t need to be absurdly fast to cover ground. And part of the challenge for him wouldn’t just be “hit guy with mace,” but trying to help others keep the station working and bring back trade, something that could make for dry reading…unless you have a shirtless man with a mace as your point man to clean up the occasional problem. So you could gradually soften him and make it clear he’s not just a fascist, as he’s sometimes portrayed. Would it work? I’m not sure, but it at least seems like a new starting point. And maybe when he leaves Alpha and comes back to Earth, he can feel that no matter what happens now, he’s accomplished something. There’s no mob of super powered heroes above him that can take that away. And that’s enough to make him feel he can work alongside them as a real team member, with their respect.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that “Batman in Space” is not the most original direction for a reboot of Hawkman. Fair enough. But Hawkman has one advantage/disadvantage Batman does not have: he’s not tied to one location like Batman is. Yes, Batman will help save the world, the galaxy or the universe. Hell, he’ll do something to save Coast City or Metropolis. But ask him to leave Gotham for 3 months, and watch him try to scowl you out of existence.

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