DC’s Hawkman has a history that is, to be kind, really screwy. Which Hawkman is who is confusing to long time readers and in the grand scheme of things, Donna “Wonder Girl” Troy is probably the only noteworthy character in DC’s stable that rivals Hawkman for confusing backstories.
But then you get to Hawkgirl Kendra Saunders, and it gets just as weird.
Despite being a bit more popular today due to the Justice League animated series using Hawkgirl to add a bit more gender diversity to its original line-up, Hawkgirl has mostly been little better than Hawkman’s sidekick for most of her existence. The original Hawks were Carter Hall and his fiancee, later wife, Shiera Saunders. Carter was an archeologist who believed he was the reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who had developed a set of wings that let him fly around and whack people with a heavy mace. Shiera was his reincarnated wife. And that was that.
As Hawkgirl, Shiera didn’t get to join the JSA with Carter.
During the Silver Age, Hawkman was Katar Hol from the planet Thanagar who came to Earth following a criminal with his wife Shayera. They were Wingmen, the Thanagarian equivalent of cops, and after successfully catching that first crook, they opted to stay on Earth and learn its police methods, using the weapons of the past to fight the crime of the present. Oh, and Katar felt they needed cover, so they took the profession of archeologist/museum curators named…wait for it…Carter and Shiera Hall.
As Hawkgirl, Shayera did not get to join the JLA for the longest time, due to some sort of “no doubles” rule for powers. In fact, in one storyline, she stayed behind while a bunch of the male Leaguers blasted off to fight other-dimensional bad guys, and the League took Snapper Friggin’ Carr while Hawkgirl stayed behind.
Also staying behind from that fight was Aquaman’s wife Mera, who could make water into solid projectiles, for the same baffling nonexistent reason.
Fast forward past the original Crisis, because I don’t think I have the time, inclination, or desire to recount the Hawks’ history from there, but let’s just say that something really weird happened with the Thanagarian angle due to editorial screw ups and the Golden Age Hawks were supposed to be the ones in the JLA. Then along came Zero Hour and a few of DC’s original Justice Society heroes were killed off for no good reason. But the Hawks were merged with Katar Hol (again, very confusing) and so, Carter and Shiera died. Or something. It didn’t make a lot of sense. The thing was, she was dead and gone, or part of the combined consciousness of Katar Hol, or maybe something else.
But then someone came up with a new Hawkgirl named Kendra Saunders. She was the granddaughter of Golden Age adventurer Speed Saunders, who was Shiera’s cousin. Kendra joined a new incarnation of the Justice Society and everything was going smoothly.
Oh, but then we learned her dark secret. Kendra had committed suicide at some point prior to her first appearance. Shiera had reincarnated by moving into her grandniece’s body.
So, that Kendra character? Not Kendra. Shiera with Kendra’s memories. Kendra didn’t really exist anymore. Or she never did. Oh sure, she thought she did, but she didn’t. Stupid reincarnation.
Point is, you probably shouldn’t have gotten too attached to Kendra as a character, because it wasn’t really Kendra.
Oh, and then Carter came back and figured his wife would want him again.
You know what? It doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Kendra was actually popular, though. Howard Chaykin took over the Hawkman book at one point and just redubbed it “Hawkgirl” and made it about Kendra’s solo adventures, and she got the call up to the Justice League at one point when Nightwing formed a substitute League. She certainly was more independent and interesting than most previous incarnations of Hawkgirl, which wasn’t much of a hurdle in the case of the Golden Age version, and the Thanagarian version’s depiction until after the first Crisis, since the post-Crisis reboot of Thanagarian Hawkman and Hawkgirl made her into a more independent character, Hawkwoman, who was Katar’s partner and not his wife. But still, when that character got shoved aside it was for an interesting take on the original Hawkgirl in the form of Kendra Saunders.
Except she wasn’t Kendra. She was Shiera. Every appearance in a comic had been Shiera’s soul in Kendra’s body.
Just before the New 52 reboot, Kendra was killed in Blackest Night alongside Carter, just as she was deciding she did love Katar like a good, reincarnated wife should. They were revived at the end as two of the revived 12 dead characters. But not really, because instead of the brunette Kendra, it was the redheaded Shiera under Hawkgirl’s helmet.
Who then died again in the Brightest Day mini-series.
These days, in the New 52 Earth-2, Kendra is the official Hawkgirl, but really, she was originally dead the whole time, and her history might actually be more screwed up than Hawkman’s.
Maybe when I haven’t just returned from a weekend away, I’ll tackle Hawkman.