THE HAWK AND THE DOVEMedium: Comic Books
Published by: DC Comics
First Appeared: 1968
Creator: Steve Ditko
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A familiar by-word in late 1960s and early '70s America was "relevance", which usually meant paying close attention to political issues popular on college campuses of the time. Such relevance became a trend at DC Comics, a well-known example being the series in which Green Lantern and Green Arrow teamed up in an open-ended road trip for the purpose of Finding America. But DC's first "relevant"
comic book was a considerably less prominent one, Steve Ditko's The Hawk & the Dove, which translated the pros and cons of violence (meaning the Vietnam War, tho that wasn't directly cited) into the superhero idiom.
Tho Hank and Don Hall were brothers, they were about as different in temperament and abilities as human beings can be. Hank was strong, outgoing, a star athlete, and an advocate of settling disputes by direct, often physical confrontation. Don was nimble, relatively shy, an excellent scholar, and an advocate of settling disputes peacefully, through rational discussion, often leading to compromise. Tho they loved each other as brothers generally do, they clashed repeatedly, causing occasional disturbances at the high school they both attended.
They were united in family loyalty, however, and when the life of their father (a strongly principled, law'n'order-style judge) was threatened, both wished fervently for the power to save him. They were answered by a disembodied voice, the source of which was unidentified, which granted them that power, manifest according to their individual natures. Hank became The Hawk, wearing a blood-red superhero costume, super-strong, and more aggressive than ever. As The Dove, Don's costume was light blue, and his physical powers not as pronounced, tho he was more agile than his brother. Together, they quickly dealt with the threat — but the judge, tho glad to have been saved, deplored the extra-legal methods of his rescuers. Afterward, Hank and Don found they could transform to their super-selves whenever necessary, simply by saying their superhero names.
This occurred in the 75th issue (June, 1968) of Showcase, the DC title where new series from The Flash (October, 1956) to Angel & the Ape (September, 1968) were introduced. Creator Steve Ditko, whose stellar career includes Spider-Man, Doctor Strange and a host of lesser creations such as The Blue Beetle, Mr. A and Speedball, was also responsible for an earlier Showcase alumnus, The Creeper. He both plotted and drew the story, but the dialog was provided by writer Steve Skeates, who also wrote, among other things, The Spectacular Spider-Ham.
Hank and Don immediately moved out into their own comic, with its first issue cover-dated September, 1968. But like most features that got their own titles after a single Showcase try-out (e.g., Bat Lash, Anthro), it was short-lived. It ended with #6, dated July, 1969. That was just after their first appearance with The Teen Titans, where Robin, Aqualad and other kid sidekicks hung out. Hank and Don were, in fact, the Titans' first teens who hadn't previously been tied to adult heroes. But their participation with that group didn't last very long either.
And as this particular concept of "relevance" came to seem more and more like a period piece, their prospects as continuing characters grew dimmer. They were back with the Titans in the mid-1970s, but only as part of a crowd of minor members, so their personalities didn't get very deep exploration. The Dove was killed off in DC's first big crossover event, Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), where a lot of loose ends were cleared away. Without him for balance, The Hawk got even more aggressive. He made a few appearances in a reconstituted version of The Teen Titans, but eventually, they kicked him out for going too far with the villain bashing.
But old superheroes not only don't die very permanently, they tend not to completely fade away, either — especially when there are unanswered questions about them, such as who was behind the mysterious voice that powered them up. In the late 1980s, it turned out, typically, to be something related to other denizens of the DC Universe. It was an amalgam of one of the Lords of Order with one of the Lords of Chaos, who had been introduced in connection with Doctor Fate. United in love despite the fact that their species were bitter enemies, they were out to prove that Order (The Dove) and Chaos (The Hawk) could work together productively. But Don's passitivity had made him a poor vessel for their power, which retroactively explained his death — they'd chosen to de-power him at a crucial moment and give the power to someone else. The new Dove (unrelated and female) joined The Hawk for a couple of mini-series and guest appearances here and there.
Also, Hank was a major player in another big crossover, Armageddon 2001 (1991) a time-traveling adventure involving an alternate future in which a superhero went bad and become a world conqueror. Tho there was a widespread rumor the villain, Monarch, was the future of Captain Atom, it turned out to be The Hawk, his chaotic nature unleashed when The Dove was killed again. Another time-traveling crossover event, Zero Hour (1994), rendered the entire personal history of The Hawk/Monarch (now re-named Extant) utterly incomprehensible.
But DC doesn't give up on a trademark. The second Dove got de-killed, and associated herself with the most recent incarnation of The Justice Society of America; and The Hawk, under one name or another, is back in action as a bad guy. Maybe they'll manage to wring new life out of the dated old concept.