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Friday, October 05, 2007

The Shadow War of Hawkman #3 - July 1985

sgThis will undoubtedly be the briefest Aquaman appearance in any comic selected for a Comic Friday--he appears in just six panels in this issue--but it remains an important little moment in the Sea King's career.

The Shadow War of Hawkman was, as most everybody reading this knows, was one of the many mini-series DC put out in the early-to-mid-80s in their attempt to give their roster of supporting stars--Aquaman, Hawkman, Green Arrow, Atom, The Red Tornado, even--a fresh take and possibly a new direction. Creative teams that had never handled the character(s) before were given a mini-series tryout to see how fans reacted and whether they would support a new ongoing series.

You could argue that of all of them, Hawkman(and Hawkwoman!) was the biggest success, since this mini-series led to a special just a few months later, and then a regular series--by the same writer/artist team of my pal
Tony Isabella and Richard Howell--right after that, the quickest mini-to-regular series timeframe for any of the above JLAers.

First off, I love this cover--whether by accident or design, having Dick Giordano ink Howell's pencils for this JLA donnybrook cover makes it look like a long, lost issue of Justice League of America. I was already buying this series by the time of this issue, but when I saw the cover I got extra jazzed--when titans clash, and all that.

I had the chance to ask Tony a couple of questions about this issue, about some stuff I've always wondered about. First, I asked him about the whole idea of working some of the DCU into this series:

AMS: Was it always your intention to work other DC heroes into the Shadow War or was that something DC asked for? It seems, for instance, that Spider-Man appeared in every miniseries Marvel ever did!

TI: Yes...after the first full year of the war. Early in the ongoing series, I established the Thanagarian Absorbascon didn't work on former police commissioner Emmett. Had I remained on the series, I would've revealed this was due to an injury he'd received during the Korean War. He was shot, fell into icy water, died, and was revived. But part of his brain remained dead and it was this part through which the Absorbascon works on humans. Once Hawkman and Hawkwoman learned this, they would have been able to protect any allies they enlisted...and the scope of their shadow war would have grown.

Unfortunately, the editor who followed Alan Gold on the series felt it was "impertinent" of me to try to write stories that influenced the entire DCU...this despite the original proposal for the mini-series making it clear my intention from the get-go was to broaden the scope of the war. Ideas from my proposal were later duplicated in crossover series like Invasion and Millennium. I guess my ideas were only impertinent when *I* came up with them.

Since there were two issues before this, I won't go into all the details, suffice it to say the mini-series involves a sinister plot by some Thanagarians to take over the universe, with Earth being first on the chopping block. By the end of the first issue, Carter's beloved wife Shayera is thought to be dead, and by this issue he is still on the hunt for her killers.

As Hawkman is beating the snot of out of Fell Andar, one of the architects of the plot, he is jumped by a whole team of them, but just as he begins to get overwhelmed, he is rescued by...Hawkwoman!

They manage to subdue the bad guys long enough to escape and regroup, and there's a tender, almost silent scene of them embracing one another, as Carter explains he thought she had been killed and her body evaporated. It turns out it was not Shayera, but Mavis Trent, a busybody supporting character who worked at the Hall's museum. Turns out she dug out Shayera's costume and put it on, maybe as a practical joke--she'd done it before, as Shayera points out--just as a group of the baddie Thanagarians arrive, who murder her.

As a young lad, reading this series, I knew that Hawkwoman wasn't really dead, but didn't know how she wasn't. Then I remember, when I got to this part, thinking Isabella(who I hadn't met yet, and of course had no idea that I ever would) had really put one over one me--but in a good "oh, you really got me" kind of way. I don't think I ever told him that in person, so, Tony--nice job.

Anyway, the Hawks reunite, and realize that some vital info stored in the JLA's computer could be used against them by the bad guys, so they have to break into the then-JLA HQ(located in Detroit) and retrieve it. And because the other Thanagarians can read into the minds of earthlings, Carter and Shayera can't tell the JLA what they're doing, or why. They sneak in, while Aquaman is on monitor duty:
sg...as you can see, they get the drop on him, and that's about it for the Sea King's role in the story.

Why this is significant to me is because of the second panel, where Aquaman gets a sort of "Spidey-Sense" something is amiss. Reading this story, that struck me as a really cool idea, something you had never really seen much of(Gerry Conway would mine this same territory in JLA very soon after this). I got a chance to ask Tony how he came up with it:

It goes by in a flash, but you have Aquaman "sensing" something amiss in the JLA headquarters, which to me was very memorable. It was one of the first times I ever saw Aquaman's telepathy being extended past sea life. Do you remember coming up with this, or was it something you had seen previously and thought to use?

TI: It seemed a logical extension of the abilities he had shown before. But, really, haven't we all sensed something amiss in our lives without being able to pinpoint it exactly? I wish *I* had heeded my "spider-sense" in my dealings with DC.

The Hawks then take on The Elongated Man, who actually manages to hold his own before Shayera zaps him with their stun-gun. The Hawks are in the middle of retrieving the info when they received a transmission from Fell Andar and his team, who have taken over the Hall's spaceship and are coming after them! To be

The issue finishes off with a two-page editorial by Isabella--a feature I always enjoyed--leading into the final climactic issue. Letting the writer serve as the editorial voice of the series was something DC didn't allow much, but it was a nice window into the creative decisions of the series that I always liked(Neal Pozner would do the same for his 1986 Aquaman mini-series).

So, while this issue is just a footnote in the Sea King's career, anytime a writer thinks outside the box and makes Aquaman just a little cooler, just a little more powerful, I think it's worth celebrating. Thanks Tony!

Shameless Plug Department: I normally don't cross-promote my blogs, but I just opened a new one, called
Hey Kids, Comics! (what can I say? I had an extra twelve minutes a day and needed to fill it)

It's been an idea in the back of my head for a long time--amassing the various stories people have about their first, second, tenth, or even hundredth memorable encounters with the world of comics growing up.

It occurred to me that a the way several generations bought their comics--from their local candy, drug, or magazine stores--is a vanishing(if not already completely vanished) feature of Americana, and it's these experiences that I hope to chronicle on the blog.

Anyone with a good story about themselves and comics is invited to share, whether your a comics pro or just a devoted fan. So please go check it out!


Anonymous said...

The Kelley Empire grows...

And that's a Good Thing - it's one of the neatest, coziest little corners of cyber-space.

(And if you're one of those guys that only visits one niche of that corner, you're cheating yourself!)

Great weekend, all-
-Craig W.

rob! said...

>>The Kelly Empire grows...<<


>>And that's a Good Thing - it's one of the neatest, coziest little corners of cyber-space.<<

thank you very much, sir!

Anonymous said...

I remember The Shadow War of Hawkman very, very fondly. The Hawks were always two of my favorite characters (I just bought the Alex Ross Hawkgirl/woman action figure yesterday, the only one I've bought besides Arthur and Manta), so I looked forward to this series. Then when Arthur and Ralph guest-starred, I was in heaven. Good series, good issue, good comments!

Anonymous said...

Shadow War was a great read. I was really into Hawkman at that time, thanks to Isabella and crew (and honestly, the then-recent Super Powers action figure!). The monthly lost steam pretty fast. Looks like editorial interference strikes again!!!


Diabolu Frank said...

I was reading through the other blog, so pardon my nostalgia, but "The Shadow War of Hawkman" has a special place in my memory. You see, I bought my comic books from a little rack at 7-11, and I was a Marvel kid. However, this was largly due to DC's diminished presence on the newsstand in the early 80's. Since I grew out of Superman and Batman almost immediately, two of the only books I had the opportunity and desire to buy regularly were the New Teen Titans and Son of Ambush Bug.

In books like these, I was always seeing DC house ads for stuff like the Legion of Super-Heroes, Aquaman, Hex and Omega Men that piqued my interest. I didn't get to read most of them until my teens or later, though. One such title was "Shadow War," which featured one of the coolest promotional images of any comic ever. I liked the story, but my favorite aspect was the inks of Alfredo Alcala, whose absent spolied a lot of my interest in the ongoing.

While I was scanning images for my Justice League Detroit synopsis, I came across the image, but figured I'd just dig it up on the net. I couldn't find it, and I still can't believe I couldn't find it. Scanned that baby up right, I did, and made it my wallpaper. If ever there should be a license to swipe not a cover, not a splash, but a freakin' ad-- this was it! I like that image more than I like Hawkman as a character...