Untangling The History Of Hawkgirl And Discovering What Makes Her One Of DC’s Greatest Superheroes

In mainstream comics it’s common for a character to be updated for a modern audience in order to keep them interesting. Their backstory might be altered or they may gain a new ability. A character with a history of being altered is Hawkgirl. Created in 1941, Hawkgirl is one of DC’s oldest superheroines, and having served with The Justice League and The Justice Society of America, she’s a premiere hero, but her history and identity have become muddled. From Ancient Egypt to an alien planet called Thanagar, The Comic Vault is tracing Hawkgirl’s story to see what makes her such an intriguing character.

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The original and most well-known version of Hawkgirl is Shayera Hol, who was introduced alongside Hawkman. Her story is based around Ancient Egypt and the idea of reincarnation. Carter Hall, the modern day Hawkman, was an Egyptian prince called Khufu. He was in love with a woman called Princess Chay-Ara and the couple were doomed to die together and find each other again through different life times. The curse stemmed from Chay-Ara being murdered by an Nth metal knife.

Lives that Shayera lived included Lady Celia Penbrook in 5th century Britain, an Old West gunslinger named Kate Manser and a Pinkerton agent called Sheila Carr. This story was developed during the Golden Age of comics.

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During the Silver Age, Hawkgirl’s story was changed to that of an alien police officer who inhabited the planet Thanagar. This version of Shayera was a part of the Justice League and comic fans may remember her from The Justice League cartoon that aired through the ‘90s and early 2000s. After the DC multiverse was established, Golden Age and Silver Age Hawkgirl were said to be from two different realities, with the former being from Earth-Two and the latter hailing from Earth-One.

Things became more complicated when a modern Hawkgirl called Kendra Saunders was introduced in 1999. A descendent of the Golden Age Hawkgirl, Kendra went on many adventures with the Justice League and Birds of Prey, though her spirit eventually passed on and Shayera came back to life and inhabited the body.

All incarnations of Hawkgirl have a similar powerset. As a user of Nth metal, Hawkgirl has superhuman strength, speed, durability and an advanced healing factor. Her wings grant her the ability to fly and perform various acrobatic manoeuvres. The Nth metal helps to regulate her body temperature, meaning she can withstand high altitudes when she’s flying.

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Hawkgirl is known for carrying an Nth metal mace that disrupts magic and generates electric currents. Hawkgirl is so skilled with the mace that she was able to defeat Doctor Fate, arguably the most powerful magician in the DC Universe. Hawkgirl’s creativity with her mace is to be admired because she’s used it as a shield as well as a makeshift defibrillator. Due to her living many lives, Shayera has centuries of fighting experience, making her an exceptional fighter as well.

In my opinion, Shayera Hol is the greatest version of Hawkgirl because her story carries resonance. Through all of her reincarnations, she’s never lost sight of trying to make the world a better place.

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Author: thecomicvault

Short story writer, comic geek and cosplayer hailing from Manchester, England. Find my pop culture ramblings on The Comic Vault.

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