Thoughts and observations on Green Arrow, classical liberalism, freedom, comic books and matters of social justice.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Conservative Hawk?

Not unlike Green Lantern, the character of Hawkman has often been portrayed as a conservative; the common denominator being law enforcement. Green Lanterns are a galactic “police” force and Hawkman was a member of his home world’s police (at least in one of the character’s versions). It seems comic book writers view peace officers as right wing and “pro-establishment.” The latter I find especially confusing in that left wing thinkers are consistently supportive of higher taxes and more government spending, which logically leads to bigger government; what could be more “pro-establishment?”

The conflict historically between protestors and police is probably significant. Most recall the events in the 1960’s that lead to student deaths and civilian beatings in America. As I believe most comic book writers lean left, and the left view the 60’s as the halcyon days of their birth, I’m sure those images resonate. Of course there are countless examples of similar violence across the globe, but historically the American left are very distrustful of our own police.

In the pages of Green Arrow, as penned by Kevin Smith, Hawkman is depicted as being in direct contrast to Oliver in political thought. When the two tussle over a completely unrelated matter (the welfare of Dinah Lance) they immediately default to hurling political taunts, like pinko-commie and Limbaugh-lover. It was ill-suited in the context of the story and seemed more of a reflection of Smith’s own takes on political discourse, at least in America; as though under the surface this were the manner both sides dismiss the other.


Brad Meltzer’s Identity Crisis also put the two characters at odds with each other over the “magical modification” to the mind of DC villain Dr. Light, after he committed a horrible crime against one of the JLA’s family members. Hawkman was in favor of the alteration and Green Arrow was opposed. It’s important to note this was not a total transformation but more a dialing down. Dr. Light would retain his proclivity toward illegal activity but the potential severity in those crimes would be lessened; so he might rob a bank but not kill in the process.

If you hold to traditional interpretation, both Green Arrow and Hawkman acted in character. The “conservative” hero favors more extensive means to counteract the criminal, as the republican community apparently supports water boarding and the death penalty. The “leftist” hero (I hate to use “liberal” in the modern sense) contests such tactics, as the democrats largely disagree with capital punishment and “torture” interrogations. However, Green Arrow eventually relents and goes onto be complicit in the “mind wiping” of several villains over the years of the Silver Age (a story point told retroactively). Interestingly, Batman, who routinely tortures people not yet charged with a crime, is vehemently against the mind wipe as well.

Other interpretations of Hawkman have him as a reincarnated Egyptian prince. Royalty lord over the populace in absolute control, I have no idea why this didn’t make Hawkman a democrat.

Catholic teaching holds that capital punishment is immoral as long as a criminal can be safely secured from the populace. Apparently Dr. Light could not be held in prison, as is the case for almost all comic book villains. Neither prison bars nor the icy hand of death can keep a good selling character down. And when you consider the severity of Dr. Light’s crime, while made in the heat of the moment, you can see why someone would make that decision. If we could alter a criminal’s mind to abhor the criminal act would we not do so?

The problem is it didn’t work. In the course of Identity Crisis Dr. Light remembers what happened. I suppose that’s the dilemma with radical penalties, the plausibility of human error. Even a magician is only human and the spell cast from the character Zatanna didn’t stick. How many killed by a death penalty were innocent?

Anyway, I find it interesting how writers cast “conservatives.” Often they are powerful characters who view the world in black and white; another reason I don’t understand Batman’s objection to mind wiping. Is the left so frightened by the right? I’m not sure, but I do know one thing; if Hawkman were a “conservative” he wouldn’t fly around bare-chested and adorned in leather straps!

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