Although he may not be as famous as Superman or Batman, Hawkman has been a major DC Comics superhero since the Golden Age of comics. Not only is he a great character visually, he sports an interesting history, too.
I’m not going to spend hours explaining Hawkman’s history. A great place to read about it is here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hawkman
However, I need to sum up Hawkman a little. Hawkman first appeared in Flash Comics in 1940. He was Carter Hall and, later in the series, his fiancée Shiera became Hawkgirl. They flew using wings and a metal—called ninth metal in the Golden Age and Nth metal in the Silver Age—harness that defies gravity. This was all courtesy of ancient Egyptian secrets. They were reincarnated Egyptians. In the 1960s, Hawkman and Hawkgirl were reintroduced as Katar Hol and Shayera Hol (Thal was her maiden name). They were alien police officers who came to Earth from the planet Thanagar. Although they have a different history, their costumes look almost exactly the same as the original hawks. There are twists and turns to the history of Hawkman and Hawkgirl, but basically these are the four main hawk characters.
Growing up in the 1980s, I was most familiar with the alien hawks. It was Katar and Shayera who were on the SuperFriends and featured in DC Comics at the time. Carter and Shiera Hall were still around in DC Comics, too, but not as prominently in the 1980s. In the 1990s, the entire Hawkman franchise was revamped, in a way, through the Hawkworld miniseries and the Hawkworld ongoing series. Although fans were split on some decisions made with the Hawkworld stories, I loved them. The Hawkworld ongoing series was excellent. Some issues featured all four hawks, which made for some great tales.
Hawkman was once again reintroduced in the early 2000s. Nowadays, Carter Hall is back as the main Hawkman and Kendra Saunders (grandniece of the first Hawkgirl) is Hawkgirl. Carter is my number one choice for Hawkman. The reincarnation angle of his character makes for some good stories. His adventures are a mix of Indiana Jones and Mummy movies with science fiction thrown in.
Haters who say Hawkman is pointless because all he does is fly are missing the point. Sure, he flies. And while Superman can fly and do a hundred other things, Hawkman is unique. Hawkman is about adventures in ancient worlds, lost civilizations, and even on other planets. Also, unlike other heroes who fly, Hawkman embodies the idea of flight. His wings are a symbol of man’s dream of flight. And they just look darn cool!
Another important aspect of Hawkman has also been the equality and partnership between Hawkman and Hawkgirl (sometimes called Hawkwoman). But, that is fodder for another blog.