Why have some characters endured for decades while others have disappeared into the abyss of comic obscurity? It is because some characters have been able to adapt to the changing whims of their readers while others have proven stagnant. For instance, Batman began as a gothic-noir hero in the 40s, changed to a silly slapstick character in the 60s, and, eventually, became the “Dark Knight” in the 80s. Superman always battles the stigma of relevancy. But perhaps there is no character that better exemplifies this idea of rebirth as Hawkman. Hawkman has his roots in the 40s with the initial comic book boom that was ignited thanks to Action Comics #1. This version was an archaeologist, named Carter Hall, who discovered that he was the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince, Khufu. He had also found the mysterious “ninth metal” that allowed him to fly. In the 1960s, DC responded to the popularity of the space race by reintroducing Hawkman as an alien policeman from the planet, Thanagar. Over time, and many restarts, Geoff Johns would introduce the concept that Carter Hall was part of a long cycle of reincarnations that including EVERY version of the character from his extensive history. At times, Hawkman’s stories were written in a silly fashion, but later the character was written to reflect the grittier stories of the 90s. Most recently, Hawkman has received a renaissance thanks to the event series, DC Metal, from DC comics. This series introduced the concept that Carter Hall was part of a long history that centered on nine special metals and multiple human tribes that were in conflict with a dark universe god, named Barbatos. Now, Hawkman will receive a new title, which will be written by one of my all-time favorite writers, Robert Venditti. Mr. Venditti has previously been the genius behind Hal Jordan and the Green Lantern Corps and Green Lantern. He also spearheaded a fantastic creator-owned title, called Damage, which also has spun out of the pages of DC metal.
I had the great pleasure to cross off one name from my interview bucket list when I had the opportunity to interview Robert Venditti. The below interview has not been edited.
Damage is a new series by you. Were there any guidelines or restrictions placed upon you in developing this series? What inspired the creation of Damage?
I first spoke with DC about the concept of Damage years ago. The idea was to take a different look at the Hourman mythology. The plans never really worked out to use the character until DC approached me about including him in the New Age of heroes launch. Opportunities to launch new series with new characters in established universes don’t come along very often, so I jumped at the chance.
The DCU is a vast universe of stories and characters. What does Damage add to thee mythos? What place do you foresee this character occupying in the DCU?
Damage is a giant wrecking ball crashing through all of it. He’s the one-hour weapon of mass destruction. More importantly, he’s Ethan Avery, an average guy who wanted to make a difference in a world where superheroes take care of pretty much everything. Like a lot of people, Ethan felt overwhelmed by powers far greater than him. Unfortunately, his drive to become a hero turned him into a monster. Now he just wants to be left alone. But wherever he goes, he’s hunted by Colonel Jonas, the woman who created him and still wants to control him. Ultimately, the series is about an individual’s right to control their own destiny. And damage. Lots and lots of damage.
How did you get involved with the new Hawkman title? Why do you think this character has endured throughout the generations?
DC approached me about launching a new Hawkman series. It’s exactly the type of project I’ve been wanting to take on, a chance to return a classic character to prominence. I put together my pitch, and DC liked it. The character has had many versions and interpretations over the decades, but running through them all is the basic premise of a winged warrior. There’s something instantly recognizable and aspirational in that idea. People respond to it. It also doesn’t hurt that he has an amazing design.
Which aspects of continuity will remain canon for your Hawkman series? Will his New 52 living armor remain canon? How about the events of Brightest Day or Blackest Night?
Without getting into spoilers, I’ll just say that we’ll be using a lot of aspects of Hawkman from many different eras. I’ve read 200+ Hawkman stories at this point, and just about every version has something to offer.
In DC Metal, Kendra is turned for a short time, by Barbatos, into a darker form of herself. Will this have lasting consequences on Kendra’s psyche? How about Hawkmanas the dragon of Barbatos?
Speaking just to the Hawkman part of that question, I feel that Scott told his story and told it really well in Metal. We’re not looking to dive back into that, at least not in the near term. But where Carter’s story ended in Metal, it begins in our series. He realizes there’s far more to his history and his past lives than he ever understood, and he’s propelled on an adventure of exploration and discovery that’s as much about himself as it is the places he journeys to. A threat is coming to Earth that only Hawkman can stop. To do it, he’ll have to follow the clues he’s left for himself across history.
Interestingly, Metal set-up Hawkman as more of a detective which is a tonal shift from how Hawkman is most often portrayed. How will this tone inform your series?
I consider an archaeologist to be a detective, they’re just a detective of history. We’ll certainly be leaning into that aspect of Carter’s backstory. We’ll have him visiting wild locations unique to the DCU, starting on page one of issue one. It never lets up, really. Each issue is a new place where he makes a new discovery about himself and his past.
What can readers look forward to in future issues of Damage and Hawkman?
In Damage, Ethan will continue to face off against Poison Ivy in the current arc, plus there’ll be appearances by Gorilla Grodd and Swamp Thing. In the next arc, Colonel Jonas catches up to him with her team of specialized hunters. That’s a confrontation readers won’t want to miss. In Hawkman, Carter will continue to reveal secrets about his past—including a big one in the first issue—while racing against the arrival of the threat coming to destroy him and Earth. We have a lot of surprises in store.