Behind HAWKMAN's New Origin as 'Living Historical Document of the DCU'

Credit: Bill Sienkiewicz (DC Comics)
Credit: Bryan Hitch (DC Comics)

Hawkman writer Robert Venditti calls the lead character the “living historical document of the entire DC Universe,” now that his new origin story has potentially taken him to every corner and known era of the DCU. 

This week’s Hawkman #8, drawn by regular series artist Bryan Hitch, will show how the character even lived on Krypton when that planet was destroyed.

The discovery of Hawkman’s past lives all led to #7’s shocking change to Hawkman’s entire continuity. The character’s history now begins with his life as a killer of worlds who later repented. But after death, he was sentenced to reincarnate across space and time until he saves as many lives as he once killed.

As a result, he’s traveled to places throughout the DCU - even, potentially, throughout the Multiverse - in various eras from DC history. And through his memories of other lives, he’s become what Venditti calls a “living historical document of the DCU.”

Newsarama talked to Venditti to find out more about the character’s new origin story, what might happen during Hawkman’s visit to Krypton, and what readers can expect next from Hawkman. 

Newsarama: Robert, the last issue, #7, revealed Hawkman’s new origin story. How much of this idea came from you, or was it something DC had in mind when we got hints about Hawkman’s story back in Dark Nights: Metal?

Credit: Bill Sienkiewicz (DC Comics)

Robert Venditti: This is the origin that we came up with for this series. I guess I would say it’s an origin that wouldn’t be possible without the events that happened in Dark Nights: Metal, because once that series established that Carter Hall had been reincarnating not just since ancient Egypt, which is what we’d known up to that point, but going back to the dawn of man and beyond, that just occurred to me as a wide canvas.

Where has he been in all that time? What have those reincarnations been about? What is the purpose behind all this?

That was the impetus for the entire series.

We knew from the beginning that issue #7 was going to be the origin story, and that we were going to say these things about Carter Hall and that he’s been reincarnating all this time because, looking into the Deathbringers, this huge threat that’s coming to Earth, he discovers that he was once their leaders and that he’s reincarnating as a way to atone for all the lives that were taken by the Deathbringers under his command. And he’s going to continue to reincarnate until he’s able to save as many lives as were taken.

We knew all that was going to be the case; it was just a matter of wanting to reveal it to the reader as Carter learned it himself, chasing down this mystery and going to these locations, following clues. And all this while, he thinks he’s going to find something about the Deathbringers that’s going to end up helping him beat them, but instead he finds out that he wasn’t just one of them … he was their leader.

So it just seemed like a more impactful way to tell that story, as a revelation for Carter the character at the same time as for us the audience, than to come out and say with issue #1, right at the beginning, that this was his origin.

Nrama: We’ve discussed before how this new origin allows you to include the continuity that’s come before, because they’re just another of his lives. But he’s also been traveling through time and space and collecting these artifacts and even now, this ship he’s traveling in. Was that all part of the goal for this series too, especially keeping the past continuity?

Credit: Bryan Hitch (DC Comics)

Venditti: Yeah, that’s exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to not make readers choose which Hawkman they were going to read about, because he’s had so many iterations over the decades, and ever reader has their favorite.

We wanted to make them all count. But we didn’t want them to just stay in the past. We wanted to examine the past as a way of pushing the character forward, which is really what, in my opinion, Carter Hall is all about as an archaeologist and historian and someone who’s constantly delving into the past. He’s not doing that because he wants to live in the past. He’s doing it because he wants to see how the past can inform his knowledge of the present and the future.

So that’s what we’ve done. We’ve taken this history and the publishing history of the character and used it to open things up and push the character forward so that not only has Carter Hall been a former ancient Egyptian prince who’s reincarnated and is an archaeologist, but a previous reincarnation was also a space cop from Thanagar, and he was a Kryptonian, and he was a Rannian.

This just opens the character up to so many possibilities and really allows him to be someone who is a central figure in the DCU and is really the living historical document of the entire DC Universe, because he’s been everywhere and he’s seen it all.

My hope would be that, after our time is done on the series, creators will continue to pull on those threads and come up with new ways to expand that backstory of Carter. You know, Hawkman was a New God or Hawkman was on Earth 3, or you know, it could be anything.

There’s so much potential there.

Nrama: In this upcoming issue, Carter’s traveling to Krypton. Can you tell us anything about what we’ll see during the visit? I assume he’s going to travel back in time because, obviously, Krypton isn’t there anymore.

Venditti: Yeah, as he’s been doing throughout the series - in issue #2, he encountered Prince Khufu, the ancient Egyptian version of himself; in issue #4, he encountered the Thanagarian Katar Hol version of himself.

He’s slipping through time, reuniting with these pieces of his past consciousness that have been left behind every time he reincarnates.

He’ll do that again in issue #8 and visit Catar Ol, which is his Kryptonian version.

As you said, Krypton is gone now. We all know that. That’s how Superman ended up on Earth.

Credit: Bryan Hitch (DC Comics)

So Carter’s going there because he thinks there’s a weapon waiting for him. Now that he knows his true past as the leader of the Deathbringers, his ship says that it’s taking him to a destination where he’ll find a weapon that will help him defeat these vast winged beings that we’ve seen throughout the series that are going from world to world searching for Carter. And ultimately, they’re going to end up on Earth.

What he’s going to find there is going to surprise him and really put him at a low, because he’s going to witness the death of Krypton, a memory that he didn’t know that he had until he experiences it again.

Someone who’s an archaeologist to witness the death of a world, and the death of all these cultures and all these things that he’d spent his life trying to preserve, it’s just crushing. And it really sets the stakes for him as he’s lived through this once before. He cannot allow this to happen to Earth. And he has to do anything he can to prevent that.

Nrama: Something else that we saw during the origin story, as he was leading the Deathbringers, was this red-haired woman that looks an awful lot like someone from Hawkman’s continuity. Will we learn about that Shayera-looking woman and why she showed up then?

Venditti: There are definitely plans there.

First and foremost, this series is about high adventure and mystery and discovery and exploration, so every time we reveal something, we want to plant some new mysteries so that it keeps that energy in the series going forward. It keeps Carter Hall going forward, wanting to learn these new secrets.

So yes, there is a plan for all those elements. And anybody who’s followed me throughout my career - X-O Manowar, Green Lantern, any of those kinds of thing - you can always go back and read even my longer 50-issue run and see things that were in the first issue that come around in issue #50. I really plan these things out in advance.

We’ve been doing that throughout Hawkman. Now, how much of it we get to tell is up to the readers and things like that. But there definitely are plans there. There’s nothing that we did in that issue that was by accident.

Nrama: You even left open the story of this “Lord Beyond the Void.” So that’s something else you planted a seed about?

Venditti: Definitely. Definitely.

Nrama: Anything else you want to talk about with Hawkman?

Venditti: Just keep an eye on issue #8. Carter Hall’s going to learn something there that’s going to come into play as we move into the final act of this first long-form story.

Issue #9 will send him back to Earth when the Deathbringers finally arrive.

And Bryan Hitch has finished up with issue #9, getting ready to start on issue #10. And we are holding nothing back in terms of the scale and the scope of what we’re doing.

These are beats that he and I are very excited about and we’ve been planning since the first day. And we can’t wait for everybody to see them.

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