The Challenge of Hawk & Dove

I have been following the newest version of DC’s “Hawk & Dove” characters with interest because, well, I just love the Hawk & Dove duo..

Since the 1990s, I’ve enjoyed the pair, all thanks to the series by writers Karl and Barbara Kesel.
The basic premise of Hawk & Dove is this: Brothers Hank & Don Hall are selected by supernatural beings to function as their avatars in the material world.

Whenever danger was near, they would say their respective magic words and be transformed into superheroes. Don became Dove, an agile and adept hero with super senses. Hank became Hawk, a superstrong and super tough brute with the ability to heal his wounds.

Then along came a disaster of interdimensional proportions and in a heroic effort Don died. This left Hawk without a partner for several years until a mysterious new Dove appeared.
This Dove was quite different from Don — most notably she was a woman, and didn’t let Hawk bully her around.

It was upon her reappearance that the Kesel series rolled out with the assistance of up-and-coming artist Rob Liefeld.

The new series dropped the brotherly antagonism from the previous incarnation and inserted a smidge of romantic tension.
From this simple change, a  wonderful series developed. Some times, Hawk and Dove could barely speak to one another. Other times, they worked together seamlessly. There was jealousy and affection. There was pain and caring, humor and heartbreak.

And then DC steamrolled over the whole thing when “Armageddon 2001” needed a fall guy. After that crossover disaster, Hank was unuseable as a hero and Dawn Granger, the woman revealed to be Dove, was dead.

Following that series, there was another attempt to revive the idea, but it was largely ignored since it veered far away from the spandex-hero motif of the previous series.

Once that version was swept under the rug, the old version slowly crept back. Like so many heroes, Dawn got better. And with the absence of Hank, a female version of Hawk eventually appeared. She didn’t last too long though … and she’s since been wiped from existence with the DC relaunch that also scrubbed Hawk clean of his “Armageddon 2001” stigma. (And to be fair: Some pre-relaunch appearances in “Birds of Prey” and “Blackest Night/Brightest Day” also helped clear out these misguided storylines.) So now, with DCnu, the duo is back together again, fighting their way through a zombie-infested Washington, D.C.

Helmed by Sterling Gates and Rob Liefeld, the series is probably doomed to a short life. Why? Because so many comic fans simply loathe Rob Liefeld’s work. Not just dislike it, but they actively deride his output.

Honestly, the work in the first few issues will just add more fuel to their fire, but I’m sticking with it because I find “Hawk & Dove” incredibly appealing.

But if I was doing a “Hawk & Dove” book, would I do some things a bit differently? You bet, and here’s some basic ideas:

The art: First off and regrettably, DC has to push Liefeld off the book. His art is so disliked that it turns off a huge audience right away. DC should entice someone like Kevin Maguire to join the book. His mastery of emotions and action would add immense life to the book.

In fact, he has done a little work for Hawk & Dove — one issue cover (shown at left) that mimicked the “Die Hard” movie poster.

Additionally, it might help Maguire (and his fans) finally move away from his much-loved work on “Justice League International.” Withouth a doubt, he has great talent, as seen in his work with “My Greatest Adventure” star Tanga. However, he needs another truly mainstream run to show he’s more than a guy with one memorable stint as a comics illustrator.

Another “Hawk & Dove” option would be to recruit artist Amanda Connor, best known for her phenomenal work on “Power Girl.”

Art & Romance: While it’s been hinted at here and there,
romantic tension has never been a huge part of the Hawk and Dove
relationship. That has to change. Romantic adventure needs to be the defining aspect
of any “Hawk & Dove” comic. (With that in mind, whatever artist is
selected needs to draw women respectfully, yet interesting enough for
men to want to read it too.)

I’m not saying they should be boyfriend-girlfriend, but there should be
tension present. Heck, they can even sleep together as long as it
doesn’t lead to a “couple” status for too long.

The villains: It might seem quaint or interesting to have Hawk and Dove suit up against other bird-themed villains, but that can only work for a few characters. Right now, for example, we know of the existence of Kestrel, Osperey, Swan and Condor. But really, that’s enough on that idea. If the writers keep adding them, the “avatar” idea just descends into uninspired parody, rather than a complex tale of interstellar justice.

Beyond that, “Hawk & Dove” needs to establish or co-opt some more villians and the 1990s 28-issue run offered up only a handful of recurring enemies.

A writer should mine the original run of “Showcase” for ideas — and not just the Hawk and Dove issues. Instead, look at the entire run of Showcase and consider that as “Hawk & Dove” territory.

Sure, the early issues of the 1960s “Showcase” feature the Flash and Green Lantern, but look beyond those issues. Say from the appearance of the Metal Men in issue 37 through the end of the series. Along with any available Metal Men villains, you then add those created for Creeper, B’Wana Beast and Anthro into the mix. Even more obscurely, you can include the foes of Nightmaster, Maniaks, Dolphin and Cave Carson.

Of course, that’s just a start. This CotB-inspired writer will want to adapt and adjust these characters to their needs. Maybe even consider relocating all these characters — the above-listed heroes included — to the greater Washington, D.C., area just to fill out that void in the D.C. universe and make a non-New York City hub of superheroes.

But the ultimate point is develop enemies, develop themes and develop allies for Hawk & Dove.

Showcase Today: Further exploring the “Showcase” concept, if the 2011 Hawk & Dove series fails, why not give them a lead feature in a  new “Showcase” series? H&D gets 12 pages an issue, and then include two 8-page backups.

Go big: Whatever the publishing format for “Hawk & Dove,” being simple “comic-book characters” doesn’t do this pair justice. DC should step up and try something completely different: an animated series.

Since the duo is such a largely untapped resource, the writers of a Cartoon Network show could pretty much do anything they want with the series as long as they stick to its core concept: Two superheroes bound together through fate who alternately love and hate one another.

With that simple idea, the series could run as a romantic-action-comedy a la “Moonlighting.” For a Cartoon Network show, they could be reverted to teenagers, but all the rest stays the same.

Of course, unlike cartoons about Batman and Superman, the network would need to work a little bit to gain an audience for a Hawk & Dove cartoon — but, really, look at how well-loved “Ben 10” is. A blank slate like “Hawk & Dove” could do just as well. An animated program could push “Hawk & Dove” beyond what anyone ever thought they were capable of doing.

… And that, my friends, is how to overcome the challenge of Hawk & Dove.


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