Thursday, April 30, 2009

Hawkman's Villainous Tarot

In my post about the Power Of The Atom issue the other day, I made mention of Scipio's (of The Absorbascon) Villainous Tarot.  In short, it is a matrix one can use to classify a superhero's foes.  So, inspired by a similar post by Frank over at the Idol-Head of Diabolu, I am going to try to run through the Tarot for Hawkman, who is often accused of having no viable villains.  This is just a first pass, and really want to get your input about my choices and what other choices you would make.

Mocker: Shadow-Thief

I put Sands here because he always seems ready to just screw with Hawkman, and taunting that there is no way Hawkman can touch him.  His main gimmick is a gadget, yes, but the way he handles it I think he fits more in this category.

Crime Lord: CAW / Kristopher Roderick

This one could go either way.  CAW, as far as I am concerned, is criminally (no pun intended) underused.  It's nebulous enough that you can go in pretty much any direction you want, like SPECTRE from the James Bond novels and films.  As for Roderick, well, even putting aside the fact that he is Hath-Set reborn, this evil collector of antiquities fits the role pretty nicely as well, what with his hiring of other villains to do his dirty work.

Opposite Number: Golden Eagle

This one seems pretty straightforward, yes?  

Twisted One: Byth

I think the idea of Byth as the opposite number works better in a Silver Age, uptopian Thanagar setting, but the idea of Thanagarian criminal who commits crimes for the sheer thrill of it still holds weight.  The shape-shifting alien monster forms also helps add to the "twisted" motif.

Mental Challenger: Gentleman Ghost

The Ghost, besides being easily the most popular of Hawkman's foes, is also one who seems to play the long game with him.  Gentleman Ghost has lots of time on his hands, after all.  Dealing with the Ghost is just as much about figuring out what he is up to as it is actually stopping him, and I think that fits this category nicely.

Physical Challenger: Lion-Mane / Copperhead

Lion-Mane is a bruiser, through and through.  An encounter between Hawkman and Lion-Mane should be a knock-down, drag-out.  And Copperhead, well, what's a better physical match-up than a raptor and a snake?

Gadgeteer: I.Q. / Matter Master / Fadeaway Man

I first put only I.Q. here.  Building gadgets to help commit crimes is his schtick, and he is very good at it.  Reading over Scipio's post, and his comments about Flash's Rogues, I decided to add Matter Master and Fadeaway Man on here as well.  Neither one is too tremendous a threat on their own (Matter Master mainly because of his own incompetence, it seems, as you'd think someone with his gimmick would be better at his job), but they fit the motif.  Matter Master and Fadeaway Man make good foes, but I.Q. has stronger standing as a long term threat, in my opinion.

Sexual Challenger: Tigress

Tigress is more of a rival to the current Hawkgirl, but of the very few female foes of Hawkman, she gets the nod here.  There is the potential for sexual tension in combat with this tough cookie.  Plus, red hair.

Evil Genius/Manipulator: Hath-Set

I combined these two together, mostly because they were the last two on the list and they both had the same character.  No matter what body his soul is inhabiting, Hath-Set is the ultimate manipulator.  Everything he does is part of some grander scheme to gain his revenge on the Hawks.  Obviously this does not fit as well for a Thanagarian Hawkman, but I think you can swing it, still.  

Well, that's what I came up with -- what do you all think?  I'd really like to hear other suggestions or what characters belong in what categories.  If nothing else, I think this demonstrates that Hawkman does have a pretty decent set of basic enemy types, and that with a little thought and care, one could very easily plot lots of stories using these villains.


Diabolu Frank said...

My browser (IE8) crashed after I spent hours researching and writing a reply to your Tarot. I need to install Firefox here on my girlfriend's computer, but I figured I'd finally give Chrome a test drive instead.

The short version was that in the final analysis, I didn't see Hawkman as having anything resembling a Tarot.

Only Byth kinda/sorta worked as a Mocker.

Kristopher Roderick makes for a pretty lame Crime Lord.

Golden Eagle has to overcome sidekick stigma to halfway work as an Opposite Number, while Fel Andar is more a forgotten footnote than Rival Twin.

The Monocle is one of the few Hawk foes with a sympathetic enough origin to allow for his being a Twisted One.

Helena Aster, Tigress, Blackfire and Hyathis are all women, but breasts alone won't qualify any of them for Sexual Challenger.

Sans an annoying '60s alien sidekick like Itty, there's no strong candidate for Unhelpful Helper. Likewise, pretty much all Hawk foes are too plainly evil to be Misguided Idealists, Friends-Turned-Foe or Personal Foes.

Physical Challenger should be a home run, until you think about it. Lion-Mane? The Wingors? The Manhawks? Byth? Most of the options are bestial, simplistic, and silly in nature.

Pretty much every villainous foe Hawkman has falls into a handful of categories.

Gadgeteers include Matter Master, Shadow Thief, the Fadeaway Man, and many more featured elsewhere in this post and not. Technology and sorcery versus the gravel in Hawkman's guts seems a common motif.

Likewise, the tough-minded Winged Warrior typically faces Manipulators like Count Viper, Kanjar Ro, Neron and others. Onimar Synn makes a good evil genius. Mental Challengers are mostly limited to I.Q. and the Gentleman Ghost. I'd qualify neither as a Manipulator, so this is their berth.

In conclusion, there's nothing wrong with the Hawks themselves, as there's inherent appeal in most every incarnation. Ditto a surprisingly broad supporting cast. Talents like Joe Kubert, Tim Truman, Geoff Johns, Gardner Fox, Murphy Anderson, Rags Morales, John Ostrander, Bill Loebs, Tony Isabella, and many more are tough to deny. It seems to me the primary fault is a lack of powerful conflict in the form of diverse villains.

Luke said...

First off, I'm sorry to hear about your original post getting eaten up by IE8. That really, truly, and epic-ly sucks.

Now then:

I'm sorry you didn't care for my attempt to fill in the blanks of the Tarot for Hawkman. As I said, it was a first pass.

Much like in my comment on the post of yours I linked to, my take on it is a hypothetical, "wishlist" approach. Essentially, I think that with a little care and creativity you could use the characters I have listed to fill up the roster of bad-guys for Hawkman and work out plots and stories based on them -- not that previous writers have demonstrated this skill on a regular basis.

Shadow-Thief is definitely a Gadgeteer insofar as his schtick relies on a gadget, but how he uses it changes him in my mind. Several times in the first Showcase volume, when Shadow-Thief pops up, he is having a grand old time making the Hawks look foolish -- including when he traps them in the Shadow Dimension and basically spends the rest of the story making fun of them. In this regard, the Thief works as a Mocker -- with a character based as strongly on physicallity as Hawkman is, a foe who cannot be touched and then laughs at the hero's futile efforts hits the mark for me.

I'd agree with you about Golden Eagle needing to overthrough the Sidekick Stigma except I don't think he ever had it -- he was so little known that most would never even consider the connection. I still think he can work as an Opposite Number. Same with Roderick as Crime Lord; just because he is "legit" doesn't mean he can't serve the same purpose. Similarly CAW was never developed enough, but it doesn't take a lot of brainstorming to see how the worldwide crime cartel could be a SPECTRE (or if you prefer, VULTURE) style entity.

Much like the argument about Professor Hugo for the Manhunter, where does I.Q. go? I put him in Gadgeteer because while a genius, his motif involves building crazy stuff. An Evil Genius plays some long game to destroy his foes; I.Q. builds a new ray gun to rob a bank. (I.Q. has quickly become a favorite of mine.) If you want an Evil Genius, it's a simple matter of resurrecting Alexander The Great from the Golden Age.

Sexual Challenger was tough. I went with Tigress mostly because of the visceral aspects of the character -- she not a seductress, she's like Grace Jones in A View To A Kill except actually somewhat good looking. "A rough start, but I got off eventually." Much as if, for example, Lion-Mane has a lot of potential as a sparring partner to rampage through some museum of antiquity, I can see Tigress pinning Hawkman down with her thighs and taunting him ala Batman Returns.

I stand by Copperhead as a Physical Challenger. He made an impression on me at the start of Volume 4, especially in his Neron-ified form.

Onimarr Synn is a great choice for Evil Genius. I didn't even think of him. Same with The Monocle, although part of that is that 1) I have not read anything with him in it, and 2) I wasn't entirely sure how to categorize Twisted One.

I'm glad you at least agreed with me about Matter Master, Fadeaway Man, and Gentleman Ghost. (And is it me or has Gentleman Ghost's profile gone through the roof the last few years? He's practically recurring on Batman: The Brave And The Bold at this point.)

I won't argue your point that a primary problem with the Hawks holding down a long narrative is the lack of strong threats. I think Tim Truman did a decent job of addressing that in Hawkworld by simply re-imagining all of it, as did Geoff Johns in Volume 4 by revisiting all of it. But clearly those did not last. But my point is that the potentiality of good enemies is there, just not tapped into at this point.

Diabolu Frank said...

Luke, I wasn't dismissing your Tarot, but pointing out my not seeing Hawkman's having a Tarot to begin with. For instance, I can't think of better choices for Crime Lord than what you gave, but that doesn't make Kristopher Roderick not lame to date. As you say though, there's room for improvement.

You make good points about Shadow-Thief as a Mocker. I never read the stories you reference, so that's my bad.

Having been a Titans fan, I expect I associate Golden Eagle with lameness more than most modern readers. It's not like he was really a sidekick to the Hawks, but for me that lessened him all the more.

I liked the Copperhead redesign, but since they whacked and replaced him, the argument is moot.

Scipio was a bit vague concerning the difference between Twisted One and Personal Foe. My take is that the Twisted One isn't/wasn't necessarily a bad person to start out, but circumstances drove them to do bad things. They seem to encompass the mutated, the mentally unstable, the coerced, and so on. In the case of the Monocle, he turned to crime after being victimized and seeking revenge.

I've always liked Gentleman Ghost, except for the brief revamp during the Bill Loebs run where he was a living thief. Wasn't he on Super Friends or the Batman/Tarzan Hour back in the '70s? I'd swear he was one of the first super-villains to make an impression on my youth. I'm not much for Matter Master, but I always saw potential in the Fadeaway Man. Still, the Hawks could use some brand new threats to liven things up, or at least some different retreads. Maybe revisit the rivalry with Deathstroke or something?