Hawkman is the poster boy of the Continuity Snarl trope for a reason. Mostly this is because his Golden Age and Silver Age pre-Crisis versions were particularly different in concept, to a degree approaching In Name Only, but post-Crisis writers have kept trying to somehow merge the two. So grab your pills and try to follow us as we explain his complicated history.
- Hawkman was first created by Gardner Fox during the Golden Age. He was Carter Hall, an archaeologist, who found an ancient dagger. He discovered that he was the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian prince Khufu. He created his suit with the Nth metal, and fought alongside the reincarnation of Khufu's wife Chay-Ara. The comic book was eventually cancelled, alongside all of DC's comics of the time (except for Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman). Most DC characters were reimagined during the Silver Age, but with new powers, origins, suits and names, and often with a more SF and less fantasy-genre concept. Now Hawkman and Hawkgirl were Katar and Shayera Hol, alien cops from the planet Thanagar who came to Earth in pursuit of a criminal named Byth Rok. They had wings made of Nth metal. The police gave them secret identities as Carter and Shiera Hall. No problems so far: the new Hawkman makes perfect sense, and the old one could be simply considered Early Installment Weirdness. The Pandora's box was opened by Flash, in the "Flash of Two Worlds" story. It established that all the old DC characters were still alive on Earth 2, an Alternate Universe, including Hawkman. Which means, that there are two completely different and unrelated Hawkman and Hawkgirls running around (along with a Flash and Green Lantern, etc; but let's just stick to Hawkman). However, due to the characters living on seperate Earths, it was still pretty easy to distinguish them from each other and keep track of their origins.
- DC attempted to clean up its convoluted continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths, but in the case of Hawkman, it just made things worse. Now we had the two Hawkmen, the alien cop and the archaeologist, on the same Earth. The aliens were briefly members of the Justice League International, and the others were sent to limbo alongside the whole JSA, attempting to subject them to Chuck Cunningham Syndrome. But then things got screwed, with the miniseries Hawkworld. In it, Katar Hol is an alien on Thanagar and ends up partnered with Shayera Thal II. Okay, fine, it could just be a more detailed version of the JLI Katar's origin... then the popularity of the miniseries led to a Hawkworld ongoing, which took place in the modern day, and had Katar and Shayera come to Earth in pursuit of the criminal Byth. This is what started it all. It meant that the original Hawkworld was not a retelling of the origin, but a completely new one: now we had two Katar Hol Hawkmen around.
- Trying to fix that mess, it was established that the Hawkman that joined the JLI was actually the spy Fel Andar from Thanagar, the son of an old spy that once came to Earth, and who took the identity of Carter Hall, Jr. (the son of the reincarnating Hawkman in limbo). Even worse, he brainwashed the mind of his girlfriend Sharon Parker to make her believe that she was Shayera, Hawkgirl, and killed her when she learned of this. And to add to this mess, Hector Hall, the actual son of Carter Hall, was still alive post-Crisis. What can we do to fix this? Answer: a new crisis crossover!
- Let's recount what we have so far: Carter Hall, the reincarnating Hawkman trapped in limbo; Shiera Hall, the reincarnating Hawkgirl trapped in limbo; Fel Andar, the spy Hawkman that joined the JLI and pretended to be Katar Hol; Sharon Parker, the Hawkwoman brainwashed into believing that she was Shayera Hall that joined the JLI; Katar Hol, the Hawkman from Hawkworld; and Shayera Thal, the Hawkwoman from Hawkworld. If you are already having a headache, we can't blame you. This was dealt with in Zero Hour!. It was revealed that Katar's father had landed on Earth at some point and met Carter Hall, and based Thanagar's wings on Carter's and named his son (Katar) after Carter. It was revealed that Katar was also half-human, and all the disparate Hawkmen and Hawkwomen were fused into a single being, a "Hawkgod". Carter, Katar and Shiera do not exist anymore, Fel Andar is a character of his own and Shayera went back to Thanagar.
- Some years later, James Robinson, Geoff Johns and David Goyer brought back the JSA, but how can we have that team without the Hawks? So they established that Shiera's soul escaped from the Hawkgod and reincarnated in Kendra Saunders, the new Hawkgirl, who had no memory of her previous lives, which also allowed them to ignore the snarl. Geoff Johns continued from there, and brought Hawkman (Carter Hall) back. He merged both origin stories: a ship from Thanagar crashed in ancient Egypt, and Prince Khufu and his wife Chay-Ara got access to their tech and the Nth metal. They were killed by the priest Hath-Set and reincarnated several times. Also, since Carter Hall absorbed Katar Hol's memories while they were the Hawkgod, you can just consider Katar an unofficial reincarnation. If we skip the disaster between Crisis and Zero Hour, things mostly make sense.
- Relatively minor example not related to the wider Hawksnarl: Carter and Kendra died in an explosion in Final Crisis. But Johns wanted to use them for Blackest Night, so they were brought back to life again; and even the arts and plot for Kendra's funeral had to be altered in Justice League of America at the last moment to fit this. They were killed by the Black Lanterns and became zombies. They were revived again, and Kendra turned completely into Shiera. They were turned into wind creatures in the climax of Brightest Day, and Shiera disappeared after that.
- Then, all of the DC universe was rebooted with the New 52 and the snarl began anew. In this continuity, Hawkman is Carter Hall again, an archaeologist. He tried to retire for some vague reason (that was never revealed) at the start of his series, but when he tried to destroy his armor, the shards of Nth metal fused into his body and gave him permanent powers. Meanwhile, Kendra was rebooted onto Earth-2 as a completely unrelated character who went by Hawkgirl, and seemed to have some ties to the man who would become the new Dr. Fate but was otherwise unrelated to the Hawkman mythos. And then Rob Liefeld retconned Carter's origin story in a #0 and revealed that "Carter Hall" was actually Katar Hol from Thanagar and had amnesia, and Carter Hall was just a cover identity he somehow whipped up, despite the fact that "Carter" was shown to have knowledge of Earth's history while actually being a renowned archaeologist. Things happened, Shayera was introduced and killed, Katar joined two different Justice Leagues, and then finally died in the Death of Hawkman miniseries... his last words being "see you in the next life", possibly implying that the reincarnation thing was still canon?!
- And then the real Carter Hall Hawkman, Khufu memories and all, was revealed to have existed in Dark Nights: Metal, alongside a Shiera Hawkgirl. Once again, Prince Khufu and Princess Chay-Ara found a crashed spaceship made of Nth Metal and operated as Hawkman and Hawkgirl throughout their numerous lives. One of those lives happened to reincarnate Khufu as Carter and Chay-Ara as Shiera. Both operated as Hawkman and Hawkgirl as usual and died at some point in the past. Both were reincarnated again, this time Shiera coming back as Kendra Saunders — this time recalling her previous lives — both once again operating as Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Carter later disappeared into the Dark Multiverse while Kendra took up the identity of Lady Blackhawk. This could explain how Katar was able to pass himself off as Carter — he just happened to use a name that actually had all the credentials of an archaeologist — but why Kendra would allow this and not get involved remains to be seen. Oy...
- The 2018 Hawkman series fixed some of the post-New 52 mess by revealing that Hawkman didn't just reincarnate through time, but through space as well, meaning he was both Carter Hall and Kartar Hal at one point or another, as well as others like Catar-ol of Krypton, and Katarthul of Ranna. His new origin is essentially a fusion of his New 52 and Earth-2 origins with the tangles brushed out. However, Carter Hall never actually died, so why he reincarnated as Katar Hol hasn't been explained, nor has Kendra's ignoring of Katar or his using of Carter's name.