“The Peculiar Olympians” is a series of blog posts about my most favourite fictional characters. They are each here for some combination of sympathy, empathy, inspiration, humour, quality, staying power, and/or significance to my relationship with fandom. These are not all the characters that I like, but they are the ones that have stood out to me the most. The list is also alphabetical and nothing more.
Superheroes are one aspect of popular culture that I'm mostly dead towards. I don't hate them, just that it's hard for me to get into them for various reasons: they don’t excite me that much visually or conceptually, so that I can’t look past the infinite and ultimately shapeless storytelling for the majority of them. The one exception is the Justice League and Justice League Unlimited portrayal of Hawkgirl, aka Shayera Hol. She didn’t open any floodgates, but she is a great character in her own right, and I am content with her.
Shayera is a winged humanlike alien from the warrior planet of Thanagar. She claimed first to have been accidentally transported to Earth when chasing a criminal, but in truth was an advance scout for her people, sent to evaluate Earth's defences. Supposedly this was to precede a Thanagarian protection of Earth, but in fact Earth was to be made a link in the chain for a Thanagarian hyperspace bypass.
The process would destroy the planet, while giving the Thanagarians advantage in a war that had nothing to do with Earth. When she discovered the truth, Shayera decided to betray her own people to save the planet. This was despite already regarded as a traitor by the Justice League for initially aiding the Thanagarians, even when they began to use force to ensure cooperation.
A heroic character must conquer something inside themselves in order to seem truly heroic. For this reason, Shayera's harrowing experience turning against her own people in the three-part Justice League finale “Starcrossed” was what made her completely click with me as a character. Before that, however, her sense of humour and take-no-crap attitude had already won me over, although she was a character with a sense of balance, in that whatever trait she expressed, Shayera never took it to excess, never became abrasive or berserk.
Pairing this with a strong central conflict and a compelling love story (in which Shayera must choose between men representing her past and future) pushed Shayera to the A-list. Her further adventures once returning to the League were somewhat lacklustre, but even with the salad days of her characterization over, Shayera never lost her appeal.
I must also add that it's only this particular version of Hawkgirl, rewritten and streamlined, which appeals to me. I have tried several times to become attached to the various DC comics characters that she was based on, but none of it took. Part of it is that the Hawk characters have many different iterations and backstories, being notably convoluted in an already convoluted hero universe. However, the major issue is that Shayera’s appeal depends mostly on circumstances and personality traits unique to the animated Justice League. Thus, only animated Hawkgirl really counts for this.