DC’s Legends of Tomorrow just started filming its first season, which will debut next year on The CW. Earlier today, the network released its first official image of Ciara Renee as Kendra “Hawkgirl” Saunders and Falk Hentschel as Carter “Hawkman” Hall in costume, although we briefly saw Saunders as a pedestrian on the street in The Flash season 1 finale. These reincarnated Egyptian lovers (or winged aliens, depending on which continuity you go with) are seemingly impossible characters to pull off in live-action without seeming at least a bit goofy. They wear helmets which appear to have wings, sport actual wings on their backs and are protected behind shiny gold-plated chest plates and various pieces of armor. Plus, they usually have a mace to swing around at their enemies.
Here’s how they’ve looked in live-action and animation, limited to the shows I’ve personally seen:
Superfriends (1973-1974, 1977-1983, 1984-1986)
Ah, Superfriends, Hanna-Barbara’s infamously kids-friendly Justice League with Superman, Batman and Robin, Wonder Woman, and Aquaman along with sidekicks the Wonder Twins and Wonderdog. By the third season, it was rebranded Challenge of the Super Friends, and added more characters, like The Flash. By my count, Superfriends went by at least 6 different names during its 13-year-run.
Legend of the Superheroes (1979)
Based upon the success of Superfriends, Hanna-Barbara ran two one-hour live-action specials called Legend of the Superheroes which generally co-opted the then-popular variety show format to do live action versions of Superfriends. The first special involved the Legion of Doom plotting against the Superfriends, and the second special included various bits including an extended roast of the Superfriends. It’s as camptastic as you’d expect, and you can see Hawkman in the above picture behind Batman and next to Captain Marvel.
Designed to fill the recently created Buffy the Vampire Slayer-sized hole in the WB’s schedule, Smallville was Superboy without the cape and flying. Over time, Tom Welling’s unfailingly dimwitted Clark Kent practically became a supporting character in an ensemble of D.C. heroes as opposed to the center of his own show. They went full-on Justice Society/League toward the end there.
Let me tell you about when I decided to sop watching Smallville. I had made it through some truly insane plot twists, character turns, and an alarmingly long line of costumed heroes taking on their superhero identities while Clark Kent was stuck with being Superman in every way but name and costume. Then in the final two seasons Hawkman came around, telling Lois all about how he was actually a reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian prince forever seeking the reincarnation of his ancient lover, Shayera, aka, Hawkgirl. At that point, I had never read a comic book nor had I watched the animated shows Justice League/Justice League Unlimited, which featured Hawkgirl as a central character. I didn’t know anything about Hawkman and Hawkgirl. I just knew that a reincarnated Egyptian prince wearing a remarkably silly looking chest plate and wings apparatus was the final straw. Oddly, I had no problem with it when Shayera turned out to be one of my favorite characters in…
Justice League/Justice League Unlimited (2001-2006)
Existing within the same continuity as Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: TAS, Batman Beyond, and Static Shock, Justice League has been rather accurately described by Bruce Timm as starting as “Superfriends but played straight.” The superhero roster consisted of both traditional (Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Martian Mahunter) and non-traditional (Hawkgirl instead of Aquaman) founding members of the Justice League. This is really where I first took notice of Hawkgirl, who started out as ally, turned into an enemy and then charted a rocky path toward redemption, dropping her traditional helmet and Hakwgirl name and seeming even more badass as a result. She forged a touching bond with the simple-minded villain Solomon Grundy, fell in love with Green Lantern, couldn’t stand Wonder Woman and eventually met some random guy claiming they were both reincarnations of deceased Egyptian lovers, a troubling contention since while that’s been true in the comics in the JLU universe Hawkgirl was undoubtedly an alien.
Young Justice (2010-2013)
Inspired by disparate eras of both the Teen Titans and Young Justice comic books, Young Justice was not a direct adaptation of any one source but instead a general interpretation of the entirety of D.C. comic book superheroes. Set in a present day time which has only just recently become aware of superheroes, the Young Justice squad of sidekicks functioned as the B-squad to the Justice League. The heroes were initially the Dick Grayson Robin, a new version of Aqualad, the Wally West Kid Flash, Artemis and Speedy (Green Arrow’s sidekicks), Superboy, and Miss Martian (Martian Manhunter’s sidekick) but expanded to include many, many more, especially after it jumped ahead 5 years in-between its first and second season.
Honestly, I don’t remember Hawkman and Hawkgirl being significant characters, more like occasional cameos. That’s because the show as not about the Justice League; it was about the junior varsity Justice League.
And now here’s how they’ll look on Legends of Tomorrow:
As io9 joked, “A male superhero showing more skin than his female counterpart? A welcome surprise.”
Honestly, my first reaction to that picture was an involuntary laugh. Something about those helmets does not translate well to live action, in my eye. Minus those helmets, they look like fairly standard Arrow/Flash universe superhero costumes. When I first saw a picture of Grant Gustin in costume as The Flash, I argued, “When viewed out of any scene-specific context Gustin just looks goofy in that costume, an inherent problem to most comic book superheroes. They should drop those lightning bolts on the arms and hips, even though its faithful to the comics. Right now, he looks like a cheap-grade version of Ben Affleck’s Daredevil.”
I think I’m someone who needs to see these superhero costumes in action before I really make any kind of judgement as to whether I like them. Because once I saw The Flash in action I was cool with the costume, barely noticed it really. At this point, I can at least say that this Legends of Tomorrow Hawkman is a vast improvement over Smallville‘s.
Legends of Tomorrow premieres some time next year.