I’m pretty excited to announce the release of a new supplement for the Hideouts & Hoodlums tabletop roleplaying game, especially because I had a moderately influential hand in writing it. The new book, Captains, Magicians, and Incredible Men, Part 2: Harvey-Timely completes the two-volume set of Hideouts & Hoodlums character stats and write-ups for various Golden Age comic superheroes. Equipped with both booklets, an Editor (H&H’s term for “Gamemaster”) can add literally scores of actual 1940′s comic characters to his or her H&H campaign, including more than a few characters who are still active in comics today.
I became involved in the project because of my great love for the characters published by Lev Gleason during the Forties: Daredevil, Pat Patriot, Silver Streak, Bronze Terror, and others – I wanted to make sure they were included in Part 2. I was also afraid that Scott Casper (the game’s creator) would leave out Quality Comics’ Blackhawk, another character who is near and dear to my heart (my very first comic book was a 1960′s issue of Blackhawk), so I put in a special request to stat out Blackhawk and do his character writeup (a request later extended to include all of the H&H-appropriate characters who appeared alongside Blackhawk in Quality’s Military Comics in 1940 and 1941). Little by little my role in the project grew to include writing up most of the minor heroes from Harvey Comics, Hillman Periodicals, and Holyoke, a smattering of Quality characters, and the entire Lev Gleason section – a total of approximately 20% of the book by the time I was finished bashing the keyboard. (I wanted to include a few more characters from other companies, but my fulltime job and parttime narration work left me very little free time to work on the project. It’s also the reason why posts to this blog have been a bit sparse for the last few months.)
I didn’t have a hand in any of the Timely Comics writeups, but they’re among my favorite characters in Part 2; now you can add the original (android) Human Torch, Namor, Captain America, Bucky, and their arch-nemesis The Red Skull to your own Hideouts & Hoodlums campaigns.
Captains, Magicians, and Incredible Men, Part 2: Harvey-Timely has already proven itself a hit by the modest standards set by Scott and myself; I’ve been very pleased with the positive response we’ve received. You can purchase your own downloadable PDF copy at RPGNow (and you can even buy both volumes as a single-purchase bundle); Scott and I made sure the book is a fun read even for people who don’t play Hideouts & Hoodlums. Bear in mind, too, that the character stats are also fully compatible with the RPG Swords & Wizardry, and with little modification can be used with any other “old school” RPGs which use the 3-18 scale of characters stats, a d20 combat system, and which involve the mechanics of experience points/“leveling up”.
The classic 1940′s Detective Comics characters were covered by Scott in Part 1, but there was one glaring, unfortunate omission. Hawkman, despite being an iconic Golden Age character, was left out of the volume, and I’ve been busting Scott’s chops about it for a long time. Scott invited me to stat out the Golden Age Hawkman, and I finally carved out enough time to make the “mini-project” happen – no mean feat when one considers that Hawkman made more than two dozen comic book appearances from 1940-41. all of which I had to read to be able to accurately present the character in Hideouts & Hoodlums terms.
First appearance: Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940)
Appearances to date: Flash Comics #1-24, All Star Comics #3-8
Carter Hall was the discoverer of “ninth metal”, a substance possessing strange anti-gravitic properties. Hall was also an avid collector of weapons from antiquity and the Middle Ages. Hall received a package from a friend; upon opening it, he discovered it contained an ancient Egyptian dagger. When Hall touched the knife he fell into a trance and seemed to relive a past life from thousands of years ago. In his vision Hall was Prince Khufu, beloved of the priestess Shiera, and enemy of the sorcerer Hath-Set. The lovers were murdered by Hath-Set, but Khufu vowed to have his revenge in a later, reincarnated, existence. Upon awakening from the trance, Hall went for a walk to clear his head and, by a strange twist of fate, encountered the reincarnation of his lost love Shiera during a madman’s attack against the city’s subway system. Taking Shiera back to his home where she would be safe, Hall went into his laboratory and created a winged harness made of his anti-gravity ninth metal, enabling Hall to fly. Donning a hawk-like helmet, Hall went forth as the hero Hawkman to do battle with the madman who was attacking the city. The villain, Dr. Hastor (the reincarnation of Hath-Set), was defeated and killed by Hawkman.
In addition to his ninth metal harness, Hawkman also armed himself with an assortment of ancient and medieval weapons from his extensive collection. In his early appearances, Hawkman used swords, crossbows, and mailed gloves, among other weapons, although he seemed to favor the quarterstaff (it appeared in several of his 1940-41 adventures). The series’ repeated tag line “Using weapons of the past to fight the evils of the present” referred to Hawkman’s preference for antique weaponry.
Shiera Sanders also shared the same strange visions of a past life as Carter; she and Hall became romantically involved. Their relationship began as a sort of “Nick and Nora Charles” affair, complete with snappy dialogue exchanged by the pair as they solved mysteries of the “locked drawing room” variety. As time went by, their relationship changed; Shiera, fully aware that Hall was Hawkman, became something of a feckless busybody, getting herself into trouble time and again as she attempted to keep up with Hawkman while he battled against mad scientists, gangsters, and racketeers. Although Hawkman preferred to work alone, he finally yielded to the inevitable late in 1941 and fashioned a costume and set of wings for Shiera; as Hawkgirl, she began to fight alongside him. Hawkman also became part of the first superhero team in history when he became a charter member of the Justice Society of America in early 1941. Hawkman went on to become the only JSA member to appear in every single one of the team’s Golden Age adventures.
The characterization of Carter Hall changed a bit over time. Although he was always referred to as a “scientist”, he actually performed very little science aside from fashioning an occasional ninth metal device. Hall was generally portrayed more as a gentlemen adventurer of the “wealthy playboy” variety, a common characterization in books of the era.
In Hideouts & Hoodlums games, Hall would be played as a multi-classed character who quit being a Scientist after achieving Level One in order to switch to the Fighter class. His ninth metal wings give him the Superhero class’ Flight power, although they give him no armor protection; his Armor Class of 7 is derived from his -2 Dexterity bonus. Hawkman should always be armed with a single ancient or medieval weapon (but never more than one weapon at a time), which would typically deliver 1d6 damage to an opponent. In his early appearances, Hawkman was definitely of Chaotic alignment – he had absolutely no code against killing a villain (which was quite common in comics at the time, as there was a tacit understanding between publishers and readers that evildoers deserved whatever dire misfortune befell them). Hawkman developed the ability to communicate with birds; he was able to use and understand their whistling “speech”. He exercized this ability sparingly during 1940-41, although it was a major plot device in at least one adventure; thus he has the ability to use the “Speak with Animals” as a special, but he may communicate with birds only.
Hawkman was an iconic character of the Golden Age. He was a permanent backup feature in Flash Comics (he was introduced in Flash Comics #1, the same issue in which the Golden Age Flash’s origin appeared) and appeared in all one hundred and four issues until the title was canceled in 1949. Hawkman was also a staple in All Star Comics, appearing in every JSA issue from the team’s introduction in All Star Comics #3 until the book was canceled with #57 in 1951.
A revamped Hawkman and Hawkgirl were reintroduced by DC Comics near the start of the Silver Age. In The Brave and the Bold #34 (1961), the couple were reinvented in keeping with the science-oriented focus of the times; instead of being reincarnated Egyptians, the duo were extraterrestrial law enforcement agents from the planet Thanagar, on assignment to study Earth’s police techniques. Disguised as museum curator Carter Hall and his wife, alien cop spouses Katar Hol and Shayera fought Earth crime armed with a mix of antique pre-gunpowder weaponry and super-science devices (including the familiar anti-gravity wings, now said to be made from “Nth metal”). This Silver Age version of Hawkman (written by the legendary Gardiner Fox and drawn by Joe Kubert) still reads extremely well today, due in no small measure to the true partnership between the winged husband and wife, rare for comics of the period: Hawkgirl saves Hawkman’s bacon nearly as often as he rescues her. The couple functions as a true team in every sense of the word. The stories are themselves quite entertaining, and Kubert’s art is hard to beat. (I heartily recommend the pair of inexpensive black and white Showcase volumes featuring Hawkman’s Silver Age adventures, which include his guest appearances in other titles which are described below.)
The 1960′s Hawkman started appearing everywhere (and was a great childhood favorite of mine). In addition to his regular gig in The Brave and the Bold, he also dropped in as a guest in The Atom as well as Mystery in Space (in which he and Hawkgirl teamed up with sci-fi hero Adam Strange and his mega-hot lady love Alanna). Hawkman finally got his own title in 1964 which, in 1968, was renamed The Atom and Hawkman after the two heroes decided to become a semi-permanent team. Hawkman also became a member of the Justice League of America during this period. Meanwhile the original Golden Age Hawkman was still active as part of the JSA on Earth Two, appearing in DC’s popular “alternate World War Two” title All-Star Squadron (one of my all-time favorite comic titles), penned by Roy Thomas. (The first twenty or so issues of All-Star Squadron are also collected in a single Showcase volume which I also highly recommend, especially for Hideouts & Hoodlums players due to the stories’ 1940′s setting.)
The mid-1980′s ushered in the decline of Hawkman. The mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths saw the (temporary, as it turned out) removal of the JSA (and thus the original Hawkman) from the DC Universe. The Silver Age extraterrestrial Hawkman was also eliminated, as DC decided to reboot the character once again as a younger, hipper, more violent (and, dare I say, inferior to his predecessors) Hawkman in the Hawkworld series which began publication in 1989.
When the popularity of Hawkworld faded, DC decided to reintroduce the classic Hawkman but somehow conflated the Golden Age and Silver Age origins. For quite a while no one was quite sure whether Hawkman was a reincarnated Egyptian or a Thanagarian extraterrestrial, and he seemed to bounce back and forth between the two characterizations at any writer’s whim. The confusion in the collective mind of the general public was compounded by the Justice League animated TV series, which featured a Thanagarian Hawkgirl and guest appearances by two different Hawkman versions, one a Hawkworld-inspired Thanagarian, the other an insane archaeologist who believes he’s the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince.
Of course, none of it ultimately matters anymore, since DC (sadly) rebooted their comic universe again in 2011. The “New 52” version of the character starred in his own title, Savage Hawkman, depicted as Thanagarian Katar Hol using the name Carter Hall as a secret identity. The book was canceled about a year and a half into the run, as the book’s writers ultimately failed to make the audience care about a bitter, drunken character with a weak supporting cast (I bailed out after the first half-dozen dismal issues). Hawkman’s latest incarnation continues to appear, however, as a member of the Justice League.
Have fun! — Steve
Copyright 2013, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.