The Hawk and the Dove

The Hawk and the Dove

(pop culture)

The Hawk and the Dove could only have sprung from the tumult of the late 1960s, and the pair encapsulated the conflicting ideologies Americans felt about the Vietnam War. The strip was the brainchild of the great comics maverick Steve Ditko, who dreamed up the concept of an aggressive superhero (the Hawk) teamed with a pacifist partner (the Dove). Ditko both plotted and drew the feature’s first appearance in Showcase #75 (in 1968), but DC Comics paired him with writer Steve Skeates, who dialogued the strip. The first story introduced readers to brothers Hank and Don Hall, students during the time of the Vietnam War, who are transformed into a pair of superheroes by a voice in their heads (later revealed to be the Forces of Order—whoever they might be), the twist being that, while Hank/Hawk is more than happy to weigh in with both fists flying, Don/Dove refuses to fight.

In a delicious irony, the Hawk and the Dove conflict was mirrored by the strip’s creative team. Staunch conservative Ditko plotted the stories with the idea that the Dove was essentially a useless weakling, while arch-liberal Skeates sympathized with pacifism and effectively rewrote the tales to favor the Dove. The feature was a hit in Showcase, and five months later was given its own title, aptly called The Hawk and the Dove. However, Ditko quit after two issues, unhappy with the direction the comic was taking. The dilemma of what to do with a superhero who will not fight eventually came to a head when Ditko’s successor, Gil Kane, finally bowed to the inevitable and had the Dove batter some hoods into submission, mistakenly believing them to have killed his brother. Despite this, the public seemed unsure of what to make of the team and the comic was canceled with its sixth issue (in mid-1969), but editor Dick Giordano believed in the concept and took the heroes over to another of his titles, the Teen Titans. After five issues as team members, the Hawk and the Dove were cast aside by an incoming editor and fell into obscurity.

With the exception of a brief return to the Teen Titans in 1978, the duo’s next significant appearance was in DC Comics’ house-cleaning exercise Crisis on Infinite Earths. Among the various heroes killed off in this miniseries was, inevitably, that perennial whipping boy, the Dove—crushed by a falling wall. Surprisingly, the Dove’s death seemed to remind DC that it had a good concept going to waste and so, soon after, the husband-and-wife team of Karl and Barbara Kesel revived the strip with a five-issue miniseries in 1988. It seems that the ever-vigilant Forces of Order had noticed the Dove’s demise and promptly gave his powers to a new hero, this time a girl: young student Dawn Granger. After his brother’s death, the ever-volatile Hawk had become more violent than ever, but eventually he accepted the new Dove, who was a bit more proactive than the original had been.

The miniseries contrasted crunchingly violent action with some zippy dialogue, and led to a regular series in 1989, but the fates were against it. DC had plans for a title called Armageddon 2001, which was to involve Captain Atom turning bad and becoming a villain called Monarch, but at the last minute word got out to howls of fan protest, and in their search for a replacement the publishers settled on the Hawk. As Monarch, the Hawk was supposed to have killed just about all of DC’s heroes, but a character called Waverider traveled back from the future to stop him, in the nick of time. Perhaps inevitably, Armageddon 2001 was followed by yet another earth-shattering miniseries in 1994: Zero Hour. Once again, the Hawk/Monarch was back, this time as the even more villainous Extant. In the ensuing battle, Extant killed or maimed various members of the Justice Society in a manner that would surely have horrified his creators.

Never a company to abandon a concept for good, DC revived the The Hawk and the Dove title once more in 1997, for a five-issue run with a completely different duo. Once again, the Forces of Order bestowed their powers on two young people, but this time the genders were reversed, with the Hawk being army cadet, Sasha Marten, and the Dove a laid-back rock musician called Wiley Wolverton. Another new twist was that, on shouting out the name “Hawk” or “Dove” (the traditional method used by previous Hawks and Doves to transform themselves), the pair sprouted wings and developed piercing shrieks. The inevitable personality clashes were tempered by a growing romance, but the amiable strip did not lead to any further starring appearances from this unique superhero team.

Dawn returned in 2003 in the pages of JSA and subsequently, as the Dove, teamed up with her sister Holly Granger, who became the new Hawk in Teen Titans. In Blackest Night (20092010), Hank Hall, the original Hawk, was resurrected as an evil “Black Lantern.” Holly too becomes a Black Lantern and is destroyed. At the end of the Blackest Night series, Hank is restored to life as his true self. Hank and Dawn, as Hawk and Dove, subsequently join the team Birds of Prey.

In September 2011, DC Comics launched a new Hawk and Dove monthly comics series, featuring Hank Hall and Dawn Granger in the title roles, written by Sterling Gates and drawn by Rob Liefeld. The original Hawk and Dove, Hank and Don Hall, have appeared in animation in both Justice League Unlimited and Batman: The Brave and the Bold. —DAR & PS

The Superhero Book: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Comic-Book Icons and Hollywood Heroes © 2012 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.