Friday, March 15, 2013

Ka mea nona ka moʻolelo

Just about seven years ago, I was vacationing in Hawai'i and made this blog post back on what I believe was then still called The Last Shortbox. My more recent trip to Maui got me once again thinking about Hawai'ian superheroes - or more precisely, mainstream superheroes in Hawai'i.

Through Google, I found a PSA that appeared in DC Comics right after statehood (see here) but this is the earliest image I could find that has a major costumed character in the Aloha State - the Batplane flying across the islands. Unfortunately, I don't have anything more than the image: the panel appears on the DC Wikia page and in several aviation-oriented galleries of Batplanes, but I have no idea what Batman and Robin were doing in Hawaii. (They must have brought the Batplane over on a boat or in a bigger plane, right?)

Speaking of Wikia, both the DC and Marvel crowdsource databases have entries on Hawai'i - and neither one is very informative. The Marvel page has some details about WW2 era adventures around Pearl Harbor and name-checks Captain America, Sub-Mariner, and Nick Fury; the only other reference is a note that the Black Widow spend some time in a hospital on an unspecified island.

The DC page doesn't have much more to offer. There are some almanac facts and a lot of references to people and places from the Superboy series. It doesn't explain or even mention that Batman visited there. The links page, though - "Appearances of Hawaii" - contains some promise. The first link, Detective #29 seems a little too early for the Batplane story have appeared there, and the summary doesn't help clarify at all. Wonder Woman #15 from 2008 is listed, and counts Hawai'i among the locations of the story, as does Aquaman #5 from 1995. There are a couple of issues of Wildcats and Green Arrow in the mix, and even a Comedian from the new 'Before Watchmen' series. It does seem that a lot of DC characters have made trips to Hawai'i.

My search did turn up one great Hawai'i sequence with a well-known DC Character: from Swanderful, a tumblr dedicated to the art of Curt Swan (and the tumblrator's perceived homoerotic content therein), comes this episode of Superman himself intercepting a space whatsis that is heading toward Honolulu. My guess is that this page is emblematic of most such visits to Hawai'i: some background images and few local geographic references layered over whatever crisis or combat comes next in the plot. Although to be fair, I guess that's not an uncommon treatment of any real-world locale in the DC Universe, or in the Marvel Universe outside of New York.

The main island hero, of course, remains Superboy, who was based in Hawai'i for issues 1 through 48 of his series, from 1994 to 1998. I tried searching the awful, awful DC Comics site to see if this series had been collected in a TPB; as far as I know, it hasn't. I'd like to give these issues a look-see, but I am torn: the Hawai'i connection intrigues me and it would be interesting to find out how this new Superboy (about whom I know next-to-nothing) went from the faux-punk, leather-jacket, earringed, little wiry dude from the Death of Superman to the squared-away, tight-tee-shirt, buff-bro Teen Titan he appears to have evolved into. However, from what I read on Wikipedia and such, his continuity seems way too confusing for a poor ol' Bronze Ager like myself to follow.

Anyway,  the Superboy series apparently did showcase what sounds like some predictable Hawai'i/DCU features: KONA Broadcasting, S.T.A.R. Labs Honolulu, Kulani Prison (to provide escaping super-villains, naturally), and the Silicon Dragon gang in the (real) Mamala Bay neighborhood. And readers did get to meet some Hawai'ian supporting characters - or at least characters who were from Hawai'i - Tana Moon, a KONA reporter, and Sam Makoa, a federal agent.

Superboy also got his own Hawai'ian nemesis: Silversword, the superpowered identity of Arnold Kaua, a museum curator who accidentally bonded with some "animetal" that gave him silvery shape-shifting super powers. I find this character (the bit that I know of him without seeing the comics themselves) a bit problematic, especially as he is apparently presented as an overzealous defender of Hawai'ian culture (a lot of DC villains are overzealous would-be good guys, aren't they?). First of all, a silversword is indeed a rare Hawai'ian plant, but its name is a Western construct. To native Hawai'ians, it is āhinahina or "very gray" - neither silver nor swords having any place in traditional Hawai'ian culture. So while the character design for Silversword is meant to call to mind King Kamehameha, his very silveriness and the fact that uses his animetal powers to create European-style weaponry instead of spears or shark-tooth clubs weaken the character concept for me. I might have gone with some living koa super-wood instead of alien animetal for Kaua to bond with.

Man, I do hope there is actually a TPB of this Superboy series so I can fill in all my imaginings. I'd even struggle through the tangled continuity.

Wandering away from mainstream superheroes for just a little bit, it seems that lots of comic folks do like to vacation in Hawai'i, usually creating the opportunity for a cover that features aloha shirts, bathing suits, or both.

Of course, we should look at homegrown Hawai'ian characters as well - and there are some. But that's a post for another time. Aloha.

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