HEAT VISION

How Hawkman Could Soar Beyond 'Black Adam'

Aldis Hodge, Hackman
Courtesy of mark Mann; Courtesy of DC comics
Aldis Hodge's casting raises new possibilities for the character.

The Justice Society of America continues to come together as Black Adam continues to cast up. Last Friday we learned that Aldis Hodge (The Invisible Man) had joined the cast of Jaume Collet-Serra’s Black Adam as the hero Hawkman.  As teased during DC Fandome in August, Dwayne Johnson’s Teth-Adam aka Black Adam will face off against Justice Society Members, Hawkman, Doctor Fate, Cyclone, and Atom Smasher (Noah Centineo). While that’s only a small sampling of the team’s comic book lineup, which Black Adam himself is sometimes a part of it, it’s certainly enough to broaden the scope and mythology of the DC Extended Universe.

As with any buzzy comic book adaptation, fans are already dreaming about the future, not only in terms of Black Adam’s inevitable showdown with his comic book nemesis, Shazam (Zachary Levi), and Johnson’s Fandome tease about a future clash with the Justice League, but also the spin-off potential of the JSA and its roster. And when it comes to members who could easily hold their own franchise, Hawkman soars high above the rest.

Hawkman’s comic book history is a complicated one, subject to reboots, retcons, and alternate earths, alien planets, and continuity issues. The character created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville began simply enough as an archaeologist, Carter Hall, who was the reincarnation of Egyptian prince Khufu. But Hall was later rebooted by Fox and Joe Kubert as Katar Hol, an alien policeman from the planet Thanagar. Subsequent publication changes, the introduction of Hawkgirl and Hawkwoman, and Crisis on Infinite Earths created greater confusion about the character’s history and place in DC Comics. For decades, comic creators have sought to simplify Hawkman’s mythology while trying to make sense of the continuity changes. Recently, writer Robert Venditti managed to take all of the various elements of the character and his various lives and synthesize them into one workable mythology centered on the idea that Khufu wasn’t simply reincarnated on DC’s Earth Prime, but across the multiverse as well. And it’s Venditti’s comic series, which began in 2018, spinning out of Dark Knights: Metal, that seems like the perfect basis for a spin-off set in the DCEU.

While there’s no telling yet which elements Collet-Serra will utilize for his Hawkman in Black Adam, the core concept of Carter Hall being an archaeologist is the most interesting place to start. While Disney has struggled to revive the Indiana Jones franchise with Harrison Ford, WarnerMedia may have the perfect alternative, a Black archaeologist who, unburdened by age or the legacy and expectations of an iconic franchise, makes discoveries that not only tap into the character’s history, but the existence of the multiverse that DC is so keen on building across its film and television properties. When it comes to superhero alter egos we’ve seen a lot of different occupations, but few as unique as Carter Hall’s position as an archaeologist, and his role as more of an adventurer than a city-saving costumed crusader.

Another interesting element of Hawkman that could be explored through the casting of Aldis Hodge is what reincarnation looks like for a Black man. Puzzlingly, the Egyptian Khufu is consistently resurrected as a white man in the comics, so his time as the 5th-century knight, Brian Kent, the Old West gunslinger, Nighthawk, and oddly, Captain John Smith (yes, that one), have left the character unaffected by prejudices and social injustices of the time. Even the idea of a Black archaeologist situates the character within a fresh perspective when it comes to talking about stolen artifacts and land, something that could easily put Hall in conflict with Black Adam, ruler of Kahndaq. We’ve seen immortality explored before but never focused through the lens of a Black man. Hancock (2008) did it on a surface level, but never situated the character in a time other than the present. There’s a chance to explore Hawkman like never before, and connect his Egyptian origins to Black Adam’s in a way that focuses on how two men born in the same location have managed to navigate their immortality and morality, with Hall accepting his place in the wheel of timely conventions, and Black Adam seeking to break that wheel.

With spin-offs of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Batman, and The Suicide Squad already planned for either theatrical or HBOMax releases it seems like only a matter of time before Black Adam receives one as well. There’s no better place to start than with Hawkman. And while Hawkwoman won’t be appearing in Black Adam, Johnson has teased that there are other plans for her in the future. Might those plans be part of a Hawkman spin-off series or movie? Hall’s discovery that his ancient love, Chay-Ara has experienced her own eternity of reincarnations and his quest to reunite with her could make for a strong premise. Whatever the case, Collett-Serra has made a casting choice that could have brilliant and illuminating ramifications for the DCEU for a long time to come.

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