First appearance: since this entry features at least three ladies to carry the mantle, it’ll feature the place of debut for all of them as well. Sheira Saunders first appeared in Flash Comics #1 in 1940, and became Hawkgirl two years later, becoming possibly the first woman in comics to take up a role originated by a male protagonist. The second one, Shayera Thal, first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #34 in 1961, and after the Crisis on Infinite Earths, her post-Crisis appearance was in 1989’s Hawkworld miniseries. The third one, Kendra Saunders, grandniece of the original, first appeared in JSA: Secret Files in 1999. She’s said to now be inhabited by the original Hawkgirl, for reasons I’ll try to give below.
Was subjected to the following acts of discrimination: in Action Comics in 1987, in a story written by John Byrne, she was almost completely ineffective against the villains invading a spaceship, and was even smacked across the face by Hawkman (was it an imposter?) during the story. In 1994, during the Zero Hour crossover, Sheira was killed during a kind of merging of the two Hawkmans. (Who were later sent into a limbo-like dimension, where Katar Hol gave up his life in 2001 so that Carter Hall could return.) It was later, as revealed in the pages of JSA, that Sheira had been reincarnated within her own grandniece, who’d tried to commit suicide at age 17.
Kendra herself and her mother had been near-victims of an attempted rape by two racist police officers in their native west Texas, as told in the Hawkman series that spun out of JSA’s Return of Hawkman story. In the JSA: Fair Play story, she ended up in the mere role of a hostage, drugged unconscious and chained to a wall in a makeshift jungle from where Hawkman and Sand could rescue her, and did not play a significant part at all.
What’s wrong with how this was done? The Byrne story from 1987 was simply dreadful, one of the examples of negative attitudes that turns up in his work of yore as a writer. Perhaps Shiera’s de-facto killing off was needless too, just like a lot of Zero Hour itself, which seemed to exist only for the sake of killing off various JSA veterans such as the original Atom and Dr. Mid-Nite. And Kendra's depiction as a pawn rather than a player in Fair Play was pretty lamebrained too. Here, just when they had a chance to show how talented a young lady she could be in figuring her way out of a danger, they turned her into a mere hostage instead.
Was there anything good to come out of this? The background story for how Kendra came to be was well handled, but Rags Morales being the artist of Identity Crisis all but puts a cloud over it – since his role in that miniseries damages his credibility.
In fact, this reminds me of another very glaring flaw in IC – where was Sheira herself when Dr. Light violated Sue Dibny in the JLA space station in orbit? That she herself was absent and that Hawkman may have kept the incident a secret from her is one of the most insulting and offensive things about the miniseries.