In the Silver Age of Comic Books (the late 1950s-early 1960s), when DC Comics was retooling, revising, and reintroducing their significant characters from comics’ Golden Age (the early 1940s), Hawkman was re-imagined as an alien (like Superman and most of the Legion of Superheroes), from a world called Thanagar, where life just happened to evolve in such a distinctly Caucasian Humanoid way as to be indistinct from White People Earthlings. Sent to Earth in 1961 to study American police tactics (sure, that made sense to kids in the ’60s and ’70s, the Age of Dragnet, Kojak, and Columbo), Hawkman went on to become a notable member of the Justice League. His new outer-space alien, undercover-agent origin, however, was simply a cover to continue telling tales about the modern world’s first winged Super-Hero (later followed by Marvel Comics’ Angel and Falcon).
However much the original inspiration for Hawkman may have been a super-powered human combined with the flight of birds- an avian skill legendarily envied by mortals- and however much he is credited to the example of the “Hawkmen” from Flash Gordon: I like to think that Hawkman’s Golden Age incarnation was inspired by the original Being to combine Humanity and the Spirit of a great Bird: the Egyptian God Horus (He of the emblematic Eye). Hawkman’s more metaphysical origins in 1940 appear to signal something of the sort: before his ’60s sci-fi reinvention, he was an archaeologist (metaphorically someone who unearths the past), the reincarnation of an Egyptian prince named Khufu (the Pharaohs of Egypt were said to be the God Horus-on-Earth), treacherously murdered by an evil priest named Hath-Set (and here we may see the inclusion of the great Super-Villain of Egyptian mythology: wretched Set, who killed Horus’ father Osiris, here also reincarnated as Hawkman’s greatest nemesis). It seems that in the Golden Age comics, we see a reinvention of Egyptian mythology in Hawkman’s legend, as surely as his later Space Age reworking; it is maybe notable that Hawkman is the one Golden Age Super-Hero to look “modern” even in the 1940s. So popular does Hawkman remain, he made a memorable cameo in TV’s Smallville, representing admirably the show’s fictional Super-Hero past. (Although the big, fluffy, Las Vegas showgirl wings behind him just so, so did not work.)
It is interesting that when the Egyptian Pantheon is invoked, reincarnation comes into play. When a TV production company that specialized in children’s Saturday morning programming wished to develop a female character to have super-powered adventures, and to impart moral lessons to kids who made poor choices, they turned to one of the Mightiest Goddesses of the Ancient World, a Being whose cult not only dominated Egyptian culture for several thousands of years, but which came to be stretched across the Roman Empire (with temples, for instance, in both Rome and London). According to the opening of The Secrets of Isis, which seemed pretty awe-inspiring if you were in grade school between 1975-1977: a young Junior High schoolteacher from suburban LA was participating in an archeological dig in Egypt (sure, it could happen), when she uncovered a fabulous amulet. In a burst of Past-Life insight, she discovered that she was descended from the Egyptian Queen Hatshepsut, whose Royal Wizard had fashioned the talisman in order to endow the Queen and her descendants with: the Powers of Isis!! Thus, with command of the abilities of animals and control over the Elements of Earth and Sky:
The schoolteacher somehow smuggles the amulet out of Egypt, past Customs authorities (maybe she just turns into Isis and flies it home), where she begins a career rescuing kids from tight-spots and delivering homilies intended to provide direction for wayward youth. It helped that the actress playing Isis, in addition to being very beautiful, in a feline sort-of way, possessed a screen presence somewhat more vibrant than that which otherwise tended to be found in Saturday morning TV. Watching Isis was a sublime affair, for your budding future-Pagan, as the show was premised around a Pagan Goddess, and the process of transformation into Mighty Isis seemed subliminally like Worship (pull out your Magickal amulet; spread your arms wide; intone with fervor: “Oh Mighty Isis!” Cue rolling clouds.) The fact that she possessed the powers of animals and the Elements boosted the Pagan picture; although it has to be noted that, in Isis’ Flight Spell (recognized by anyone who remembers the show): “Oh Zephyr Winds that blow on high- Lift me now, that I may fly!”: “Zephyr” is actually Greek, although hey, it SOUNDS Egyptian. One wonders if the Isis Saturday morning show was not actually a brilliant effort of the Zeitgeist to prep a generation of kids for later Pagan Goddess-Consciousness.