Hawkman, the comic book superhero, was apparently created in 1940 by Gardner Fox of Appendix N fame. This post wasn’t originally intended to include him beyond a cursory note, but I found it quite interesting and coincidental that Fox should come up in this context, given my preoccupation in recent years with reading the authors and works that inspired the creators of Dungeons and Dragons. Fox is one of the few I haven’t touched yet.
I’ve been curious about the inspiration for the hawkman that’s shown up in various places. Of course angels are one possible source. But then there are also tengu and all sorts of other winged demihumans in the religions and folklore of various cultures.
Gardner, apparently, drew his inspiration from a bird outside his window. It’s been reported that he saw the bird swooping down to pick up twigs and thought to himself – what if there were a hero who could swoop down a pick up criminals?
I guess that’s cool, but kind of a mundane inspiration. Gardner wasn’t the first to do hawkmen, though.
My first exposure to these cool fantastical people may have been in the 1993 Super Nintendo strategy game Ogre Battle: March of the Black Queen. It had a named “story character” hawkman named Canopus, as well as generic units, which if I remember correctly could be promoted to eaglemen or ravenmen.
I can’t be sure if that’s the first time I came across the cool human-bird-hybrid, though, because I probably also saw the 1980 film adaptation of Flash Gordon around that age, too. I’d really like to read the original Flash Gordon comics someday, maybe when I can find the time and an excuse to buy them. But of course one of the film’s most iconic scenes features the hawkmen.
Their leader, Prince Vultan, appeared in the Flash Gordon comic strips and related media in the mid-1930’s – several years before Fox’s Hawman.
As for where the inspiration for Vultan and his people came from…who knows? If you do, I’d be interested to hear it!