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Comic Book / Black Hammer

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Black Hammer is a Dark Horse Comics series created by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston.

Described by Lemire as his tribute to the superhero comics he grew up reading, Black Hammer follows a group of former superheroes who, upon saving the world from a multiversal crisis, were trapped in a sleepy rural town from which they can't escape. Forced to pose as an average family, the heroes eventually settled into their roles and began functioning as though they were actually related, further complicating things.

The main cast of Black Hammer includes:

  • Abraham Slamkowski / Abraham Slam: A Golden Age brawler and grandfatherly patriarchal figure of the family.
  • Gail Gibbons / Golden Gail: A middle-aged woman forced in eternal youth as a by-product of the the superpower given to her as a child.
  • Mark Markz / Barbalien: A shapeshifting (gay) alien warlord from Mars fulfilling the role of cool uncle.
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  • Colonel Randall Weird: A cosmonaut desperate to return to his old life; the weird uncle to Barbalien's cool uncle.
  • TLK-E WLK-E / Talky Walky: Col. Weird's chatty robot sidekick, and the only one who can't pass for a human.
  • Madame Dragonfly: A green-skinned swamp witch with questionable motives who sometimes masquerades as Gail's mother.
  • Joe Weber / Black Hammer: The (posthumous) title character who is eulogized annually by the heroes who was super-strong and wielded a hammer to battle.
  • Lucy Weber / Black Hammer II: Joe's adult daughter who finds the lost heroes and takes up her father's mantle.

In true superhero fashion, Lemire has expanded the scope of Black Hammer to include side stories and tie-ins set within the same world, featuring titles like:

  • Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil (2017-2018)
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  • Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows (2018)
  • Black Hammer: Age of Doom (2018-2019)
  • The Quantum Age (2018-2019)
  • Black Hammer: Cthu-Louise (2018)
  • Black Hammer '45 (2019)
  • Black Hammer/Justice League: Hammer of Justice! (2019): A canonical crossover with the Justice League of DC Comics, whom Lemire has written for in the past.
  • Skulldigger + Skeleton Boy (2019-2021)
  • Colonel Weird: Cosmagog (2020-2021)
  • Barbalien: Red Planet (2020-2021)
  • Black Hammer Visions (2021)
  • Black Hammer Reborn (2021-2022)
  • The Unbelievable Unteens (2021)

In November 2018, it was announced that Lemire signed an overall development deal with Legendary Pictures, which includes potential television and/or film adaptations of the Black Hammer universe, of which he will be closely involved with.

This series provides examples of:

  • Ambiguously Evil: Madame Dragonfly. Most notably when Lucy, Black Hammer's daughter, somehow teleports into the dimension the heroes are trapped in, Madame Dragonfly wipes her memory.
  • Artistic License – Religion: In Age of Doom #11, as Anti-God returns to the now-hero-less Spiral City, the news reports that The Pope says the strange events may be the beginning of the Rapture. Catholicism explicitly does not believe in a Rapture; that's more in line with Evangelical Christianity.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: In the first issue of Visions, Gail stops Madame Dragonfly from wiping the memories of Eunice, a teenage outcast who figured out her identity, because Eunice went out of her way to befriend Gail when she first enrolled at the local school.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Anti-God returns to Spiral City, so to stop him the heroes decide to seal themselves back in the farm and wipe their memories so they can never break out. It works, but they are a lot happier now that their issues are removed with.
  • Cast of Expies:
    • Abraham Slam = Captain America/Wildcat
    • Anti-God = The Anti-Monitor/Darkseid/Galactus
    • Barbalien = Martian Manhunter
    • Black Hammer = Superman/Thor/Steel
      • The New World is a pantheon of god/aliens akin the Asgardians and New Gods. There are direct expies of Mister Miracle and Lightray in particular and the leader of the New World is a mix of Highfather and Odin. Another member (who doesn't have an obvious counterpart) also has a blatant stand-in for Lockjaw as a pet.
      • Black Hammer foes Jackhammer and the Demolition Squad are pretty much Thor villains The Wrecking Crew.
      • His backstory of a normal man receiving a powerful weapon from dying alien in a back alley is a combination of how Hal Jordan and Kyle Rayner got their powers.
    • Colonel Weird = Adam Strange with shades of Dr. Manhattan from Watchmen.
    • Golden Gail = Shazam!
      • Gail's old nemesis, Sherlock Frankenstein, is basically a Zombie Lex Luthor.
    • Madame Dragonfly = An EC Comics-style host of a house.
      • Her monstrous love interest from before the farm is one for Swamp Thing.
    • Doctor Star = Starman. Like with the Quantum League below, this example was so obvious that, as of Black Hammer Encyclopedia, his name was changed to Doctor Andromeda.
    • During Lucy’s journey through Dreamland, Lonnie James is a loose expy for John Constantine and the family in the land of Nod is a pretty obvious pastiche for The Endless.
    • The Quantum League is blatantly meant to be the Legion of Super-Heroes, being a group of teenage heroes in the future whose name all featured variants of "Boy, Girl, Lad," and "Lass." That The Quantum Age focuses on the League 25 years after most of them died serves as an homage to the infamous "Five Years Later" Legion arc. However, this was so blatant that in the trade collection of The Quantum Age the Leaguers all had their names altered except for Hammer Lass.
    • Sherlock Frankenstein features more homage characters.
      • Wingman is one for Hawkman, made blatantly clear by his appearance in his youth, which one could easily mistake for Hawkman.
      • Concretestador is a burly Rock Monster hero with blue eyes, suggesting influence from Ben Grimm/The Thing.
      • The villain Manaconda, while not featured in person, is shown to have clear visual similarities to Batman foe Killer Croc.
    • Doctor Star/Andromeda and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows introduces the Star Sheriffs, an organization of aliens inspired by James Robinson's exploits. They are shown to be a diverse group of aliens in close to matching uniforms who all wield the same signature cosmic tool to travel through space and protect the innocent. Hmm, why does that sound familiar?
    • The "Pulp Age" heroes each take inspiration from Proto-Superhero characters.
      • Doc Steele is blatantly a stand-in for Doc Savage.
      • The Crimson Fist is less obvious, but he clearly fills the role of characters like The Shadow.
      • Tazara is a Jungle Princess a la Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, with elements of Tarzan, such as her name. The obvious divergence is that she's actually a Congolese woman instead of a Caucasian woman.
    • Skulldigger is a controversial, non-powered violent vigilante who kills criminals and wears something depicting a skull (though in his case it's a mask instead of on his shirt, which has a skeleton pattern). His costume really does look like an alternate take on Frank Castle or his brief successor Carlos Cruz. Unlike them though, Skulldigger forgoes guns in favor of a weapon themed after his symbol and has a sidekick/helper in Skeleton Boy, giving him some Batman elements.
    • Mr. Grizzly, for what little we see of him, is very reminiscent of Wolverine.
    • In the first issue of Visions, Eunice and Barbara are blatant expies of Enid and Rebecca from Ghost World.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Colonel Weird
  • Deconstruction: Of superheroes in general. Each issue of the opening arc tackles the psychological and emotional effects of being a superhero.
  • Dysfunctional Family: Played with, since the cast is not family per se. Since the heroes are trapped on the Farm, they decide to disguise themselves as a family. Unfortunately, their personalities all strongly conflict with one another's, making them this.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Black Hammer sacrificed himself to kill the Anti-God. His hammer is all that's left of him.
    • Also the decision made by the heroes in the series finale.
  • Incompatible Orientation:
    • Barbalien made advances to his former partner in the police, who reacted very negatively. When he attempts again with a priest he thinks is closeted, the exact same thing happens.
    • Gail has feelings for Barbalien, which he's oblivious to. Unfortunately, when he does pick up on them, he attempts to lightly turn her down by pointing out her physical body - a sore spot for her - and his sexual orientation, but she leaves before he finishes.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Lucy wants to find out what really happened to her father and the Spiral City heroes.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Black Hammer died almost instantly after being transported to the farm by immediately ramming the force field before Talky could get an idea of what they were dealing with.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: When Colonel Weird actually manages to pull himself together and act coherently in the present timeline, the rest of the cast notably freaks out.
  • Pocket Dimension: the farm and the town.
  • Posthumous Character: Black Hammer.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Gail.
  • Shout-Out: Doctor Star (the Starman Expy) is named James Robinson.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Played with. Gail exhibits this, but she's a 55-year-old woman trapped in a 10-year-old's body.