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NUM-INOUS COMICS PT. 2

This essay is a very belated response to a " part 1 " published in February 2015. The gist of that essay was a response to a corre...

Saturday, August 27, 2016

ANNOTATIONS TO [HAWKMAN'S ORIGIN]

Proceeding page by page:

PAGE 1-- The reader is told that Carter Hall is a "collector of weapons and research scientist." This, as noted earlier, was Gardner Fox's conceit for uniting the magical charisma of the past and the scientific gimmickery of modernity. Although the time-frame of the story is very fragmented-- as I said, like a "fever dream," one must presume that by the opening of the story, Hall has already constructed his Hawkman outfit, prior to having the vision. Perhaps Fox's original intention was that he'd done so following his discovery of the "ninth metal," more on which later.

"a glass knife-- to offer ancient sacrifices"-- Fox may not have known anything about archaic Egyptian sacrificial customs, but I suspect he's crossbred another tradition here. The god Set, whose name appears later in the story, was sometimes represented as a stone knife, but of course early Egypt did not have glass. However, another culture with strong sacrificial traditions did: the Aztecs of Mexico, who reputedly used knives of volcanic glass for the purpose of slaying victims. No other Aztec-like references appear, and it's impossible to know if Fox knew anything of the Set-like deity most associated with ritual sacrifice: Tezcatlipoca, whose name means "smoking mirror."

PAGE 2-- "the hawk-god Anubis"-- it seems unlikely that a mythophile like Fox would not have known that Egypt's most consistent use of hawk-imagery appeared in the mythos of Horus. I suspect that Fox tinkered with the mythology because he wanted his villain allied to a darker deity than Horus, so that later in the story, he would become rattled by his enemy's assumption of the image of "Anubis." In the course of the story, Fox manages to pull together aspects of four Egyptian deities into his Anubis: (1) the actual jackal-god, who tended to rites in the afterlife, (2) Horus, for the hawk-image, (3) Set, whose name appears in that of the villain, and (4) Osiris, the judge of the dead, whose worship (in tandem with that of Isis) ruled over Abydos.

"Shiera, betrayed of the hawk god Anubis"-- the wording may have meant that Shiera was betrayed in the sense of being marked for sacrifice to Anubis, though the point is left vague.

"Hath-Set"-- This is an ingenious piece of phony etymology. Anyone reading extensively in Egyptian myth probably would have encountered the etymology of the goddess Hathor, translated as "House of Horus." Fox simply made his priest the "House of Set," for all that there are no other direct references to Set in the story.

PAGE 3-- "blackness at noon of day! More of Hath-Set's ancient magic!"-- since this eclipse-like blackness only appears in one panel, one must take for granted that Khufu is correct. It's an odd choice for Hath-Set's only literal act of magic, since it doesn't serve any purpose in the story. Usually "darkness at noon" signifies the triumph of evil over good-- which does transpire on the next page.

PAGE 4-- "Shiera shall die with me in my arms"-- it's not clear what fate Khufu thinks he's saving Shiera from, by charging at her with a sword, before an enemy arrow hits him in the shoulder. It may be that this was the closest Fox could come, in a kids' comic, to suggesting the "fate worse than death."

"the older sciences"-- aside from the darkness-spell, there are no direct references to what "sciences" Khufu had access to, or how they would have helped Hath-Set conquer the world.


"Then die, Khufu! And after you-- Shiera!"-- one wonders how long after. Fox does allow the reader to believe it's "immediately after" if he so pleases, but Shiera's death is not shown.

"I die-- but I shall like again"-- it was a common notion in the early 20th century that ancient Egypt was awash in traditions of reincarnation.

PAGE 5-- "We have been reincarnated"-- Like Shiera, Hall does not for a moment doubt the underlying truth of his vision.

"the rails-- they're turning blue"-- the villain's attack on the city's subway system loosely coheres with his alliance to a deity of the underworld.

PAGE 6-- "clad, as a grim jest, in the guise of the ancient hawk-god Anubis"-- more pertinently, it had been a tradition, at least since the 1936 "Phantom" comic strip, for heroes to assume aspects of whatever powers have harmed or threatened them.

"the ninth metal"-- probably taken from one of Edgar Rice Burroughs' "Mars" novels, who in his turn may have taken such arcane references from the writings of Madame Blavatsky.

PAGE 7-- "the home of Doctor Hastor"-- while "Hastor" just barely sounds like "Hath-Set," Fox was probably just indulging in his affection for the H.P. Lovecraft pantheon, also seen in the contemporaneous "Doctor Fate" feature. "Hastur" is a vague deity-figure in Lovecraft, who borrowed the name either from Ambrose Bierce or from Robert W. Chambers.

"the lightnings of the heavens"-- like the composite deity Anubis, Hastor commands aspects of the heavens-- including the earlier "darkness at noon"-- as well as the underworld.

PAGE 8-- "It must be Anubis"-- Hastor mistakes Hawkman for his own god, whom he apparently remembers in modern times.

PAGE 9-- "t'is Khufu, reincarnated"-- explicit evidence that Hastor remembers his whole past history with Khufu and Shiera.

"the attar of myrrh, to call those of the ancient blood"-- there is no "attar of myrrh," so Fox was just riffing on the more familiar perfume "attar of roses." Myrrh, obviously had a strong underworld association, having been used in the embalming of mummies.  It's interesting that Hastor can summon persons of the "ancient blood" with a perfume. The "ancient blood" phrase appears in a different context in the 1932 horror-film "The Mummy." This film contains two scenes wherein the titular fiend calls his many-times-reincarnated female lover to him.

"Anubis calls the ancient blood"-- Shiera responds to the call in a way that suggests a prior familiarity with the "hawk-god."

PAGE 10-- "Hastor (Hath-Set) has her in his power"-- though Hastor is mostly identical to Hath-Set save for the former's red hair, Hawkman doesn't remark on the resemblance when he sees the electrical villain on page 8.

:"the altar of Anubis"-- not only does Hastor still know about Khufu and Shiera, he apparently still worships Anubis, keeping an altar to the ancient god in his laboratory.

"the betrayer comes"-- there's no knowing from the text who betrayed who. Here Hastor speaks of Shiera as a betrayer, while back on page 2 Khufu said that she was the one whom Anubis betrayed.

PAGE 11-- "the consummation of the sacrifice"-- interesting that Hastor tries to destroy Shiera with "lightning waves," in contrast to the mundane knife his earlier self used. This contrivance does give Hawkman the chance to use "ninth metal" in a different way, protecting Shiera with a "cloak" of the metal-- though there's no knowing how he guessed he would need this item.

PAGE 12-- "the Hawkman's arrow speeds to its mark"-- although Khufu dies by the knife, prior to that he takes an arrow from one of Hath-Set's soldiers, so this is definitely a case of transmigrational "tit for tat."

"this time, Anubis, god of evil, we won!"-- though "god of evil" may be mere rhetoric, of all the major Egyptian gods Set comes closest to fulfilling such an office.

"Follow the further adventures of the Hawkman against the powers of ancient evil"-- not all of Hawkman's subsequent exploits involve "ancient evil," but Fox did invoke such powers often enough that it can be considered a relevant trope.

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