Hawk & Dove: The Karl Kesel Interview

The co-writer/inker espouses on the 1988 Hawk & Dove mini-series
and the ongoing series that followed it.

© 2018 Glen Cadigan

Originally posted on www.glencadigan.com on October 19, 2018

Rob Liefeld and Karl Kesel's cover art for Hawk & Dove # 1. © DC Comics.

[The following is an excerpt from an interview with Karl Kesel that was conducted by Glen Cadigan on January 16, 2007. Originally intended for The Titans Companion 2, it was cut due to a lack of space. In it, he covers how the Hawk & Dove mini-series came about, as well as the birth (and death) of the monthly series that followed it.]

GC: Would you consider Hawk and Dove to be your big breakout as a writer?

KK: Oh, yeah. Definitely.

GC: Were you always fans of those characters?

KK: Yeah, I always was. I seem to have an affinity for second-string characters. There's something about those characters, because it just seems that they have to work a little harder to win, and they have to work a little harder, not to just win against the villains, but to win the hearts and minds of the readers. There's something about that that really appeals to me, and Hawk and Dove certainly fell into that category. I always thought there were some really interesting things about them as characters; you know, the magic word that changed them only when danger was present, and stuff like that. I found all of that really fascinating, and I had a great time working on them.

Steve Ditko covers for Showcase # 75 and The Hawk and the Dove # 2, respectively. © DC Comics.

GC: Do you think you became fans of them because of their connection to the Teen Titans?

KK: I do remember them from the Titans, yes. And I know in my years of collecting, I had gotten some, if not all, of the original run of their series. DC, at that time in the late sixties when Hawk and Dove came out, and Creeper, and Bat Lash... DC just put out a whole bunch of really interesting semi-forgotten characters, and I found almost all of those characters really fascinating. But I do think the idea that they did show up from time to time in Teen Titans was a way to keep reminding me of them, yeah.

On the left, Hawk and Dove in the Silver Age Teen Titans. On the right, they returned for the '70s revival as members of Teen Titans West. © DC Comics.

GC: What was the origin of that mini-series?

KK: As I remember it, the origin was that I was inking the History of the DC Universe, and I was inking the "Crisis on Infinite Earths page" -- a double page spread -- [and] George [Perez] had drawn a little sidebar of all of the heroes who died. Of course, one of the heroes was the original Dove. There's some point where I was inking that page [that] I thought, "You know, this costume - the soft curves, the light blue coloring - would work a lot better on a woman." And then I thought, "Well, why don't we create a new Dove, who's a woman?" And I ran into the next room, and told Barbara [Kesel] about it, and she got really excited. We started throwing ideas back and forth, and that's the kernel of the idea that became the original mini-series.

Says Rob Liefeld, "These were my early designs for Dawn Granger/Dove. I favored the first sketch on the left. I always campaigned for more hair. Eventually they decided on the pony tail look, sans the stripes down the side of Dove�s legs in the middle sketch." Source: www.robliefeldcreations.com.

GC: How did Rob Liefeld get involved with that series?

KK: I know I was at San Diego, and I believe Barbara brought him over and introduced him to me, and showed me his work. I know Barbara had contact with him before that through, I believe, a Titans fanzine of some sort [Titan Talk - Ed.]. And I really liked what I was seeing, and I could be wrong, but I believe we, or perhaps just Barbara on her own, introduced the idea to Mike Carlin about using Rob as the artist on the mini-series. But I know Barbara was very instrumental in getting him involved with the mini-series.

Three years before the 1988 mini-series, a seventeen year old Rob Liefeld drew the characters in Titan Talk, the Teen Titans Amateur Press Association (APA). © DC Comics.

GC: When was the decision made to launch an ongoing following the mini-series?

KK: I'm a little foggy on that. Obviously, at some point, it was decided that the mini-series was successful enough to warrant an ongoing. I can't remember the exact timing. I don't know if we were still writing the mini-series at the time, or if it had ended already. I certainly don't remember campaigning for a regular, ongoing series. Barbara was still on staff, [so] she might have pushed a little bit; I really don't know. As far as I know, Carlin gave us a call one day and said, "They'd like to do a regular!" and I said, "That would be great!"

A pair of house ads for both Hawk & Dove series co-written by Kesel. © DC Comics.

GC: So what kind of an experience was it, working on an ongoing series instead of working on a mini-series?

KK: Well, the biggest difference is a mini-series has a beginning, middle, and end, so it's much more like a novel or a short story, where an ongoing series is like a soap opera. And I have to admit, those things are very different. I think, at the time, going into it, it was almost good that I didn't know that, because I might have been more frightened of it than I was. But it certainly was a learning experience. There's a whole different sense of pacing, and developing subplots, and keeping things moving forward that's very different between a mini-series and an ongoing series.

Kesel drew the cover of the Hawk & Dove trade paperback, released in 1993. Next to it is a sample page drawn by Liefeld to secure the original assignment. Says Liefeld, "I was 19 years old and had done 3 jobs for DC before I won the starting gig on Hawk and Dove. Very exciting times for a young artist. The Kesel�s story was amazing from start to finish." Source: www.robliefeldcreations.com.

GC: Did you get to do everything that you wanted to do on the monthly book?

KK: No, not everything, because it was cancelled, unfortunately. We got up to issue thirty, or was it twenty-nine? I forget exactly. I know we were trying to get to thirty, but I have this feeling we were cancelled at twenty-nine. I think there was a lot more that could've been done with the characters. A lot more. So we got to do a lot, but we didn't get to do everything.

A few covers of the monthly Hawk & Dove series, with art by Chris Wozniak, Greg Guler, and inks by Karl Kesel. © DC Comics.

GC: How much say did you have into what eventually happened to those characters?

KK: Nothing. DC owns the characters, so we were given them as toys to play with for a while, and then DC took 'em back. I have great fondness for them, but I certainly understood those were the rules. At the end, our editor was Jonathan Peterson, and Jonathan did give us a call and asked if we had any future things we'd like to do with Hawk and Dove, and while we certainly would've liked to do things with them, with the series just cancelled, I didn't see what the likelihood of that was. In retrospect, of course, I know Jonathan was asking us that because there was already talk of making Hawk into Monarch, but no one asked us if they could make Hawk Monarch. DC was trying to keep that very quiet, obviously.

The mini-series that sealed Hawk's fate: Armageddon 2001, with both covers by Dan Jurgens. © DC Comics.

GC: Was the decision made to cancel the book first?

KK: I think it kinda went hand in hand. I know Hawk and Dove was limping around for a while, and I think once the word got out that Captain Atom was going to be Monarch, and they wanted a different character just to keep the sense of surprise in there, I think they looked around and saw Hawk and Dove limping along and said, "Here's a character we could use." I think it kind of went hand in hand, but I don't know. I wasn't in on those decisions.

GC: So what's your take on the current Hawk and Dove?

KK: I haven't seen a lot of them. I've only seen a few times [that] they've appeared in the Titans. I think it's very interesting. I don't know what plans Geoff might have for them. I'm very anxious to see. When I read it, maybe it's just because the new Hawk has a British accent, but for some reason I keep thinking of Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap when I read it now. I'm not sure if that's what Geoff has in mind or not, [laughs] but that's what I keep thinking of. I think it's very interesting. I am going to keep my eyes and ears open and see where he takes them.

The all-female Hawk and Dove duo that debuted in Teen Titans # 27, back in 2005, during a pair of fill-in issues written by Gail Simone and drawn by Rob Liefeld. © DC Comics.