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Batman vs. Hawkman vs. The Silver Age vs. You, the Reader – The Brave and the Bold #70

August 12, 2013

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If you had to pick two DC characters who you might not normally picture having a knockdown, drag-out, throwdown fight, but who you’d nevertheless like to see battle one another, Batman and Hawkman might rank up toward the top of the desired pairings. They’re two of the most dour, grim characters that comics have to offer, though in different ways. Batman’s “get away from me” bona fides are well-established. He’s not the kind of man an autograph hound would approach for his John Hancock — unless he wanted a batarang crammed where the sun don’t shine. He dwells in a cave. He’s the very definition of badass, the Dirty Harry of his Technicolor peer group.

And Hawkman? You don’t see a whole lot of smiles beaming out from beneath that hawk cowl of his. Yes, he’s married, which means that someone’s able to put up with his icy, arms-across-the-chest personality, and that there has to be something else underneath all that tireless vigilance (granted, his wife is a superhero as well, but still…). Nevertheless, he’s one of the more unapproachable classic Justice Leaguers — the sort of guy you wouldn’t want to get in the annual Secret Santa drawing. Maybe it’s just the hawk head. Maybe it’s the bare chest, with the aggressive nipples. Whatever — he’s not a Hawkman to be trifled with.

All this means that any confrontation between the two — Batman vs. Hawkman, Hawkman vs. Batman — has some built-in drama. Two pent-up titans clashing at last! This should be great! I mean, look at the Carmine Infantino/Joe Giella cover to this mag! Yet, like many things in Silver Age DC, said showdown is utterly ruined by the silly ethos of the time. And the people putting the story together couldn’t even be bothered to, well, keep their story straight, as it were.  

Our villain for the piece (written by Bob Haney, penciled by Johnny Craig, and inked by Charles Cudeira), the man who’s the gravitational force that draws Batman and Hawkman together to duke it out (let’s hope the upcoming Batman/Superman movie uses a similar conceit, and isn’t a straight conflict between those two), is someone we may or may not have seen before: the Collector. Recall the main villain in a surprisingly fun Atom story profiled here not so long ago — a gang smart-guy called (surprise!) Smarts. They don’t really look exactly alike, and their names aren’t the same (our villain today has the only-in-comics moniker of Balthazar T. Balthazar), but they have the same perspiration problem, the same bug-eyed avidity, and, most importantly, the same lust of acquisition. If it is the same guy — hey, maybe he changed his name, you know? — he’s moved on from the more mundane items sought in the Atom tale, and onto a variant on The Most Dangerous Game — superhero secret identities:

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Yes, once the Collector figures out the secret identity a great hero of Earth, a statue of that hero will go in the display, and the real name of said hero will be chiseled in below. First up: Batman. You might guess that piecing together the alter ego of the Dark Knight might be a taxing, time-consuming affair, one involving a lot of legwork and a bushel of dead-ends. Not if you’re a wannabe super-villain, though — then you can just plug some data into your handy-dandy supercomputer and — voila! — out pops the Caped Crusader’s real name:

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I’d like to personally thank the Adam West TV show for even infecting the verbiage of comic book supercomputers. (Also: Would a computer use ellipsis?) So the Collector has the real name — but that doesn’t settle it. He needs real-world proof. To that end, he concocts a series of elaborate schemes to confirm the computer’s conclusion. One involves faking a break-in at Bruce Wayne’s doctor’s office and surreptitiously snapping a radiograph of Batman’s skeleton to compare to one of Wayne’s that he’s stolen:

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One of us mere mortals might settle with this level of confirmation, but the Collector is of a different breed. (The kind that raises his arms in cackling triumph while looking at x-rays.) He plants a tracking device on the Batmobile so that he can trace Batman’s movements, hopefully all the way back to Wayne Manor. It’s then that Batman gets suspicious, figures out what the tracking device is, what’s going on, and decides to get some help. Oh and also to do a little peeping:

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So what do you think the over/under is on how long Batman was lurking outside the Halls’ window? Or maybe we should be asking: How long would he have lurked outside the Halls’ window? Five minutes? Ten minutes? Until they had completed their nightly round of marital intercourse? Bat-Voyeur.

Anyway, Batman explains his problem, and he and Carter decide to pull an old switcheroo: Bruce Wayne becomes Hawkman, and Carter Hall becomes Batman. (How Batman is such a natural at flying with wings is left unexplained.) This infuriates the Collector when he manages to nab both heroes and inject them with a truth serum, and they completely muck up his previous work:

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This prompts the Batman/Hawkman fight, which is brief, and is summed up succinctly by what you see on the cover. But the heroes aren’t done screwing with the Collector quite yet — though we aren’t going to get into that. Why? Because the comic doesn’t care, so neither should we. And why doesn’t the comic care? Because it doesn’t even bother to keep its central conceit straight. Immediately after the identity switched Batman and Hawkman finish scratching each other’s eyes out, they come to their senses thanks to Shierra’s intervention. Keep in mind that in this panel Bruce is Hawkman, and Carter is Batman  — or they’re supposed to be:

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I realize that this is nothing more than a misfired word balloon (or a wrong name used), but when you’re wading through a story this silly, this is a fatal mistake. If you’re going to craft something so fluffy and inconsequential, the four corners of the work should at least be square and accurate. If the people putting it together can’t be bothered to keep it straight, why should we? You know? And that’s all you can really say about this. That’s all that we probably should say about this. (But one more thing: WHERE’S MY NO-PRIZE?)

So ends — abruptly — our disappointing foray into a Silver Age Batman/Hawkman dustup. If you’re curious to read it yourself and you don’t want to track down a back issue, it’s been reprinted in one of the (appropriately dreadful black and white) Showcase volumes. You have been warned, though.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 13, 2013 5:39 am

    I never read this first time round, and now I don’t want to; excellent article

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