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Thursday, February 15, 2007

A blast from the past


The first Hawkman I ever knew was the guy from the Silver Age -- Katar Hol, who along with his wife Shiera, had come to Earth from distant Thanagar, a futuristic planet patrolled by a force of winged 'hawk police', of which both Hols were badge carrying members. (Their 'badges', in this case, being their great big wings that were supposedly made out of 'nth metal', although as Joe Kubert drew them, they looked pretty damned feathery to me.)

The Silver Age Hols were pretty goddam goofy folks, as I've explicated at length in this essay. Somehow or other, these frickin' alien infiltrators managed to snag cushy jobs in Midway City as museum curators, which greatly facilitated their covert careers as masked (and winged) vigilantes, because unlike most other superheroes of the time, they weren't content to simply wade into thugs and criminals with their bare hands and feet, oh no. They literally went all medieval on crime's collective ass, swiping maces and swords and spears and polearms and ancient friggin' crossbows from their museum's exhibits and employing them with insane (but never deadly) abandon against any outlaw injudicious enough to cross their flightpaths.

All of this weirdness came about due to the Silver Age Hawkman and Hawkgirl characters being largely based on their Golden Age forebears. The editors of National Comics at the time wanted to conserve as many of the characterization elements of the original Hawkman and Hawkgirl as they possibly could, and that included the basic costumes, the great big wings, the names, and the penchant for beating the jesus out of their bad guys with medieval weapons. Mind you, all this made a great deal more sense for the first set of Hawk-heroes, who were an archaelogist and his wife who were actually the reincarnations of... okay, never mind, go read the other essay if you want all that.

Suffice to say, the Golden Age Carter and Shiera Hall had slightly more sensible reasons to be whipping around the night skies of Midway City bashing the christ out of anyone who looked at them cross eyed with an arsenal clearly borrowed from the History Channel, than alien cops from a futuristic world who had traveled here to 'learn Earthly police techniques' would.

Despite the Silver Age Hawkman's innate and irrefutable coco-puff level craziness as a character, I liked him just fine, probably because I was something like 9 years old the first time I read one of his adventures, and also because he was generally drawn by Joe Kubert in his solo strip. Also, there's just something very viscerally satisfying to a pre-adolescent comics fan about a guy with great big wings who swoops down out of the sky and clocks the bad guy in the melon with a gigantic spiked club, dude. I mean, that TOTALLY rawks. This was a character whose powers were kind of dumb and pansy-ass (I mean, basically, he flies, and he hits people with clubs, and, well, sometimes he talks to birds, too, I mean, jesus help us all, but yeah, he really did) but he was a member of the JLA and folks like Superman and Batman and Wonder Woman and Green Lantern and the Atom all seemed to have a lot of respect for him, and he looked really cool in his own mag with that insanely bad ass Joe Kubert art, and I wasn't very discriminating back then, and a flame that burns in the heart of a 9 year old can never truly be extinguished, so, yeah... mock me if you must (or even if, y'know, you just find it to be a cheap thrill) but I really like the Silver Age Hawkman.

Now, you can go over here and read Mike Norton's excellent and very thorough write up of the current Hawkman REV that will be coming out in the upcoming ORIGINS set. And if you do that, you will note that every single new version of Hawkman has super-strength somewhere on his dial.

Now, super strength is a wonderful power and certainly, this new prevalence of super strength for Hawkman helps to explain why somebody in the new Justice League comic book referred to Hawkman as a 'tank'. And it makes the character much more something to be reckoned with by the standards of your generally moronic Modern Age fan, who pretty much feels that all male characters should be able to knock down a building and all female characters should wear thongs, fish nets, and halter tops at every opportunity. And I also understand that the character has been ret-conned and we are now supposed to accept that he has always been able to somehow harness the anti-gravity effect of his nth metal wings (or harness, or whatever) to effectively give him super-strength (by letting him negate the weight of huge objects and thus lift them into the air), and nowadays, the nth metal just straight up somehow augments his physical strength itself, making him Mighty, Mighty.

And that's okay; it won't keep me from liking the character when I see him in JSA or JLA, and it wouldn't keep me from reading his own title if they'd just get an actual writer back on it again.

But here's the thing -- this ain't my Hawkman.

My Hawkman doesn't have super-strength.

Now, it should be noted somewhere that the ORIGIN Hawkman is actually the second version WizKids has given us. The first version was so horrifyingly and appallingly bad that, well, we must never speak of it, except to say, his BEST ATTACK VALUE, on his OPENING SLOT, was an 8. An 8. I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ, why not just do a sculpt of him in a pinafore and a sun bonnet and call him Hawbecca of Sunnybrook Farms, if you're going to give him a fucking EIGHT. There are nameless thugs with higher attacks. A Hawkman with an 8 attack is all but useless; on an average dice roll of 7, the best he can hit is an opposing figure with a 15 Defense Value or less. The Penguin could beat this version of Hawkman into unconsciousness with a jelly donut. He's useless, pointless, and stupid... and yet, this version of Hawkman, with no powers showing on his dial besides Charge and Close Combat Expert, is much, much closer to being an accurate representation of Hawkman as he was depicted in comic books throughout the Golden and Silver Ages, than any of the ORIGIN versions will be.

Because, as I've already mentioned, in the Golden and Silver Ages, Hawkman did not have Super Strength. Oh, sure, the folks in charge of the character are saying NOW that, retroactively, they've gone back and given him Super Strength, so in any flashbacks to the 40s or 50s or 60s we might see from now on in a Modern Age comic, the artists can depict him doing superstrengthy stuff and It's All Right, Mama, It's All Right. But this is a ret-con. The Hawkman I read about as a kid did not have Super Strength. He was, as stated, very much like the original Hawkman WizKids gave us, except, you know, he had a waaaaay better attack. And maybe some Toughness. And a little bit of Flurry, so he could pummel someone twice in one turn (since he often carried gigantic medieval weapons in each hand, as he's depicted doing in his original WK sculpt). And I don't know, a range attack, for all those times when he had a crossbow, or ninja throwing stars, or something, would have been nice.

But mostly, for a real Silver Age Hawkman, the first version WK gave us would have been fine, if he'd just had, like, a single slot with an 11 attack, with a steady decline in attack values of 10-9-9-9-8, and then KO. That would have been fine.

Instead, WK gives us a new Hawkman, and, yeah baby, he's heavy duty rock and roll and no mistake. But he's still not MY Hawkman.

This... THIS is my Hawkman.


No Super Strength here, but my Hawkman, the Silver Age Hawkman, didn't pick up Volvos and hit people over the head with them, anyway. This guy has a great attack, lots of Charge, some Flurry, reasonable damage for a mesomorphic medieval maniac with a mace, some Toughness, some range strike... he's pretty much the whole package. And, he's got the JLA Team Ability, so even after he gets knocked down his dial past his best stat values, I can still use my homegrown JLA TA to keep him in there pummeling for a while. He's my guy. The Hawkman the World Awaited, or, at least, that I've been looking for.

And, what is he? He's a stinking prize-only Limited Edition, available exclusively to people who go to tournaments and win prizes at them. Can't get him out of a booster. The best I can hope for is to find him as a single at one of the local shops, where he'll probably cost (if I'm lucky) $10 or $15.

This just annoys the CRAP out of me.

Ah, well. At least WK actually made a version of one of my favorite characters that I actually like.

These days, that in and of itself is very nearly a miracle.

4 Comments:

At 1:29 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

A good, solid, comics-driven overview.

Under your house rules for fliers, how do these newer versions (the four from Origin) hold up in terms of the ability to carry someone?

My first look at the new LE had me focusing mostly on the unexpected TA (I'd presumed it would be JSA) and the Flurry giving him the aggressive feel of the rookie and vet that was lacking on the experienced.

The lack of Super Strength didn't hit me until the second pass, largely because my not having been a big Silver Age DC fan. Hawkman's one of many, many fairly peripheral characters for me; what I'd read was scattered, and were I to pick things apart it might easily turn out that I'd read as many or more Golden Age Hawkman stories as I had Silver Age ones. I had no particular sense of the character beyond what a writer happened to be telling me at the time.

 
At 7:46 PM , Blogger Highlander said...

Here's what occurs to me would be a workable strategy with the new Carter Hall LE -- pair him up with Hawkgirl and some other JLA outwitter... the Atom, maybe. Give Hawkgirl DARKNESS WITHIN. Keep all three back from the main action until a nice sized target from the other side gets wrapped up with one of your tentposts.

Move the Outwitter up to get rid of any damage reducers your target may have on him or her. Now bring in Carter for the quick three click pop. Next, send in Hawkgirl, adjacent to Carter. Have her do a click of damage to Hawkman with DARKNESS WITHIN so she can up her own damage. This moves Carter onto his next click, still with the 10 AV, and now also with Flurry and 2 Damage with CCE. On the next turn, if your Outwitter is still positioned, you can make sure your target continues to have no damage reducers. Carter can now do maybe EIGHT CLICKS OF DAMAGE ON THAT TURN.

The push will put him onto his BEST slot (AV 11, other powers and stats the same). He won't be able to attack because he's pushed, but assuming he gets through that turn unmolested, he's ready to rock out loud on the following turn. And even if he didn't survive, well, between him, Hawkgirl, and whoever you use as an Outwitter, there's potential to take down any fig in the game with this relatively cheap combination.

As to Carter's ability to taxi, he loses half of it on his best clicks, where his unaltered damage value drops to 2. This would only allow him to taxi another figure half his movement. However, for the rest of his first six slots, he's at a 3, although the Battle Fury will also screw most of those completely. So, he'd really only be a good taxi on his first slot... but with No Actions After Taxi or TK in effect, I find taxiing isn't anywhere near as widespread in my home games as it is in official matches.

 
At 11:35 PM , Blogger MJ Norton said...

Playing the pieces as part of a team is essential, especially with low- to no-range pieces in this game, so I found myself looking at the Animal Man pieces in much the same way. The 10 and 11 Attack Values are certainly much nicer, but as mentioned elsewhere I don't mind working with the 9s.

Interesting use of Darkness Within. It's not a card I've worked into use so far, finding the 15 points a good 5 more than I wanted to play. I'd be most inclined to use it on someone with a solid ranged attack or a Hypersonic Speed piece -- either way I'd want it to be on someone I thought I'd get more than one use out of. Preferably I'd want to have someone on the team that needs to take clicks to amp up (which, arguably, this Carter Hall could be seen to fit) or who has ample Regeneration. For the most part working Perplex into the mix, or even spending the 10 points for ICWO. (Okay, 20 since I'd have to apply it to at least two characters.)

One note is that under the official rules (not that that's a factor for you, but it's good to keep in mind when evaluating the designer's work) Close Combat Expert and Flurry don't work together - presumably it's a matter of time and concentration - so Hawkman would have to choose to deal 4 clicks in one attack or making two attacks for 2 clicks each.

I thought I remembered your rules for carrying correctly, but it was easier to ask than look it up again. BTW, technically the Battle Fury shouldn't prevent him from carrying anyone since it really only prevents him from making ranged attacks and, theoretically, being carried if, say, he had been grounded by Crosswinds or Swingline or something similar.

The official game hasn't had actions after taxiing since '02 either, but it's still a biiiig part of the game. Sometimes it's a matter of carrying a shield of sorts (when the one being taxied has Stealth or a high Defense), other times it's a matter of getting a grounded piece into position and fresh to make a move the following turn, and sometimes it's because the piece being carried offers some Free Action (Outwit, Perplex, or something inherent like Enhance or the Hydra/PD TA) that can be used the same turn, all of which I'm happy with.

 
At 10:02 AM , Blogger Highlander said...

I've long been misinformed on WK's rules, I guess -- I think I was told back during one of the Corey sessions that No Action After Taxi explicitly included free actions. So I've always played it that way in my House Rules.

If it doesn't work that way, though, well, I think I'll have to House Rule it. Otherwise, we'll have the Vulture carrying the rookie Black Panther into combat just to get a quick Outwit hit. I find that No Action After Taxi or Telekinesis goes a long way towards keeping the applications of those powers accurate to the source material.

Thinking about it further, I think a JLA squad with a couple of heavy hitters -- an Experienced Icons Superman, maybe the Experienced Green Lantern or a Vet Wonder Woman -- to put up front and draw fire, with a back up force of, say, this Carter Hall LE, Hawkgirl, the Flash, and maybe Elongated Man to close in and bring the hammer down once opposing figures have engaged, could work well.

Yeah, I know WK is morally opposed to allowing effective power combinations, but I'm not. Certainly the modifier from CCE can be explained as coming from skill (although these days, I think Exploit Weakness simulates that better), but with Hawkman, at least, I like to think it's just due to the fact that he's hitting you with a bowling ball on a stick. I have no problem believing he can hit you twice in a turn with it, if he wants to.

 

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