With the new cinematic DC Universe poised to launch with 2025’s Superman: Legacy, the upcoming film has announced a wave of fan-favorite superheroes poised to join the new Man of Steel on the big screen. Among the characters officially cast for Superman: Legacy is Hawkgirl, with Isabel Merced taking on the high-flying hero role in the movie. This casting announcement has been immediately followed by the launch of a new Hawkgirl comic book series, with Jadzia Axelrod and Amancay Nahuelpan at the helm.
Hawkgirl bridges the gap between the worlds of myth and magic and the science fiction element of the DCU through her use of Nth Metal and numerous reincarnations. An old soul who’s lived countless lifetimes, Hawkgirl is both of Earth and the faraway cosmic world of Thanagar, not unlike the American alien that is Superman. Already a fixture in the comic books and television, Hawkgirl is finally slated to her due on the big screen, in what will be 85 years since her introduction.
Linked to both the Justice League and Justice Society of America, Hawkgirl is a prominent fixture in many iterations of the DCU, from comic books to film and television. However, like Hawkman, Hawkgirl has one of the more convoluted backstories in the DCU, affected significantly by the publishing line’s periodic reboots and reinventions in the 80+ years since her introduction. This includes multiple characters holding mantle of Hawkgirl with vastly differing origins, drawing from mythological and science fiction influences.
Here is everything you need to know about Hawkgirl ahead of her big screen debut in Superman: Legacy, including what she uniquely brings to the DCU, her backstory, and what fans can expect from both her role in Superman: Legacy and her new comic book series.
Who is Hawkgirl?
Hawkgirl is introduced alongside Hawkman in 1940’s Flash Comics #1, with the superhero couple created by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville. The original Hawkgirl is Shiera Sanders, with her and her boyfriend Carter Hall both reincarnations of ancient Egyptian lovers Prince Khufu and Shiera. Sanders takes flight as Hawkgirl the following year in All Star Comics #5 though both her and Hawkman’s backstories are completely retooled 20 years later in 1961’s The Brave and the Bold #34 by Gardner Fox and Joe Kubert.
With DC taking more cues from sci-fi, revamping established characters like Green Lantern and the Flash, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are then reimagined to lean into these evolving sensibilities. In this new continuity, Hawkman and Hawkgirl are Katar and Shayera Hol, respectively, undercover police officers on Earth from the planet Thanagar. The wings and weapons that the two heroes use are still based on the mythical Nth Metal, which now has extraterrestrial origins sourced directly from Thanagar.
After DC continuity is completely rebooted with 1985’s crossover event Crisis on Infinite Earths by Marv Wolfman and George Perez, both contradictory backstories for Hawkman and Hawkgirl are initially retained. This changes with the 1995 crossover event Zero Hour: Crisis in Time by Dan Jurgens and Jerry Ordway, which along with Geoff Johns’ subsequent run on the Hawkman ongoing series, merges the two backstories as different reincarnations of the same characters.
Shayera’s cousin Kendra Saunders is introduced in 1999’s JSA: Secret Files #1, created by James Robinson, David S. Goyer, and Scott Benefiel. Following a suicide attempt, Kendra’s soul merges with Shiera’s before her revival, with Kendra identifying herself as the primary personality but possessing memories of all of Shiera’s past lives. The Kendra version of the character has appeared in most subsequent multimedia iterations of Hawkgirl, including the DC Animated Universe in Justice League and the Arrowverse in Legends of Tomorrow.
What are Hawkgirl’s powers and abilities?
Drawing from the experiences of her past lives, Hawkgirl is highly intelligent and an expert in several different forms of hand-to-hand combat. Like Hawkman, Hawkgirl’s powers are primarily drawn from her Nth Metal belt, which responds to her telepathic commands and summons wings that allow her to fly at the highest altitudes at incredible speeds. Hawkgirl also wields an Nth Metal mace, which is capable of generating electricity, is effective against magic, and powerful enough to strike ghosts.
Due to Nth Metal’s unique properties, the belt gives the wearer an accelerated healing factor, superhuman strength and endurance, and enhanced vision. The belt also allows Hawkgirl to safely survive in colder temperatures at high altitudes and turbulence at high speeds. Later, Kendra discovers that prolonged exposure to Nth Metal causes her to inherit a level of these powers without needing to wear the belt. Hawkgirl’s Thanagarian physiology also allows her to communicate with birds.
Hawkgirl gets a new comic book series
The 2016 publishing initiative DC Rebirth reaffirms that Kendra and Shayera are two separate characters, with Kendra the Hawkgirl of Earth while Shayera rules Thanagar as Hawkwoman. Introduced in this revised continuity as a member of the Blackhawks before joining the Justice League during Scott Snyder’s run on the title, Hawkgirl forms a serious romance with teammate Martian Manhunter. After breaking up with J’onn J’onzz and the Justice League disbanded after the 2022 crossover event Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths, by Joshua Williamson and Daniel Sampere, Hawkgirl finds herself directionless at the start of her new series.
The first issue of the new series opens with Hawkgirl relocating to Metropolis while her former teammates Black Canary and Power Girl are both concerned about how she’s handling herself alone in her personal life. This matter is tabled when Hawkgirl has trouble summoning her Nth Metal wings at a crucial moment in the midst of a high-flying battle, with Kendra saved only by the timely assistance of a new alien superhero named Galaxy. To make matters worse, a mysterious new supervillain begins hunting anyone on Earth connected to Nth Metal, and Kendra finds herself empathetically linked to the supervillain's victims.
What is Hawkgirl’s role in the DCU?
It has yet to be confirmed which version of Hawkgirl is appearing in Superman: Legacy, though in the comic books, Kendra Saunders comes from Latine heritage, like Hawkgirl actor Isabela Merced. Since the casting of multiple superheroes expected to appear in Legacy, filmmaker James Gunn has clarified that the inclusion of other heroes isn’t necessarily intended to set them up with their own spinoff movies. Still, the fact that Hawkgirl and other heroes like Green Lantern and Metamorpho appear in Superman: Legacy suggests that superheroes have existed in the DCU before Superman’s debut.
With Gunn already dismissing the notion that Superman: Legacy will focus on a traditional origin story for the Man of Steel and instead delve into his early years as a superhero, the DCU already appears to have a firm foundation of heroes in the mix.
Hawkgirl #1 is written by Jadzia Axelrod, illustrated by Amancay Nahuelpan, colored by Adrianos Lucas, and lettered by Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou. The story continues in Hawkgirl #2, on sale Aug. 15 from DC Comics.