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.
- 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 Webber / Black Hammer: The (posthumous) title character who is eulogized annually by the heroes who was super-strong and wielded a hammer to battle.
- Lucy Webber / 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 Cthu-Louise, The Quantum Age, Black Hammer '45, Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil, Doctor Star and the Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, and even a canonical crossover with the Justice League of DC Comics, whom Lemire has written for in the past.
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.
- 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.
- Abraham Slam = Captain America
- Anti-God = The Anti-Monitor/Darkseid/Galactus
- Barbalien = Martian Manhunter
- Black Hammer = Superman/Thor
- 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 Lucys 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.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Black Hammer sacrificed himself to kill the Anti-God. His hammer is all that's left of him.
- 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.
- 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.
- O.O.C. 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.
- Posthumous Character: Black Hammer.
- 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.