Warner’s DC Extended Universe films continues navigating an unconventional era, having premiered Wonder Woman 1984 as a day-and-date HBO Max streaming exclusive (until Jan. 24) in lieu of a prospectively profitable wide theatrical release. However, a grandiose return to theaters is eyed to start in 2022 with a barrage of DCEU movies, which will eventually yield the Dwayne Johnson-starring Black Adam. Auspiciously, that film will also debut the DCEU’s version of winged hero Hawkman, as played by Aldis Hodge, who comes into the role with extensive comic book research and the weight of being a black superhero on the big screen.
For the acclaimed actor, Hodge, whose casting as Hawkman was reported this past September, the role will finally yield a long-sought chance to play a major superhero, and he’s clearly excited to rock the signature wings. Yet, while Hodge has been showing visceral joy over this appearance for director Jaume Collet-Serra’s cold-intro Shazam spinoff, Black Adam, his awareness of the ongoing responsibility that a black actor must bear when fielding such a culturally influential role is made quite clear in an interview with Geeks of Color.
“I think about the representation aspect of that, because I didn’t grow up watching superheroes that look like me.” He explains, “I remember in my early-teens maybe we came into [African-American heroes] Spawn and Blade, and that was awesome. So, to know that young kids are going to be able to see that and see opportunity, and have an awareness that I didn’t have at a young age about what they can accomplish, that really is fantastic.”
The topic of representation has obviously been prevalent in the widespread comic book movie conversation for some time now, and Hodge is certainly not saying anything out of left field regarding the responsibilities attached to his Hawkman role. Yet, it comes in the aftermath of what was arguably the most poignant representation character, Marvel’s Black Panther, as played by the late, great Chadwick Boseman. After a debut in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, the character’s solo debut in director Ryan Coogler’s 2018 Black Panther movie became a global cultural milestone. Besides being a $1.347 billion worldwide smash, the film redefined the uplifting representation of black actors; an accomplishment attributed not only to Boseman’s performance, but supporting players like Letitia Wright’s Shuri, Danai Gurira’s Okoye, Lupita Nyong’o’s Nakia and, of course, Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of tragic villain Killmonger.
Ironically enough, the financial success and zeitgeist-dominating nature of Black Panther might mitigate the immediacy of the aforementioned representation conversation, leading to a belief that the proverbial pump for the “grand responsibility” to which Hodge refers has already been properly primed. However, Hodge clearly does not want to fall into a state of complacency, stating of the positive influence he intends to bring to children, “That’s the greater goal of this, so it’s a grand responsibility—still a responsibility—and I’m gonna take care of it. But, I’m very grateful, very excited. “
Indeed, Hodge’s landing of the Hawkman role is the fulfillment of a superhero wish that he’s publicly voiced going back to at least 2012, the era of Marvel’s first megamovie, The Avengers, during which Hodge embraced widespread dream-casting by the fandom calling for him to play Black Panther. Interestingly, said fandom started to toss his name back into the mix for said role upon Boseman’s passing last year—a notion that seemed especially feasible even after he landed Hawkman, since the pandemic derailed Black Adam’s production plans, which resulted in Warner pulling the film from its previously slated December 2021 premiere. That development left the film without a release date, even as Marvel’s untitled Black Panther 2 still holds firm for Jul. 8, 2022, despite a recent announcement indicating that Boseman’s vacant starring role as T’Challa will not be recast. Consequently, make no mistake about it, Hodge is firmly in Hawkman mode.
In describing the call he received upon landing the Hawkman role, Hodge—a self-confessed “geek” who grew up on graphic novels—enthusiastically recalls, “That call was just insane.” Further explaining of his current progress, he exclaims, “Research is done! Research been done! At this point, research is now just eating as much as I can to put on the weight.” While public details on the long-gestating Black Adam remain scant, leaving very little wiggle room to go into the film’s plot or setting, Hodge did provide what could prove to be a crucial tease about his performance, describing of the character, “He’s not just the average regular superhero. This is Hawkman, he’s a savage.” It’s certainly an intriguing prospect, especially considering the fantastical, metaphysical and overwhelmingly circuitous backstory iterations attached to the aerial hero throughout the history of DC Comics, going back to his debut in Flash Comics #1, dated Jan. 1940.
As mentioned, Black Adam remains without a release date, which has been the case ever since one of Warner’s major reshuffles this past October. However, the film is clearly moving forward, and we’ll get to see Dwayne Johnson’s role as the titular antihero Shazam nemesis joined by Hodge’s Hawkman and Noah Centineo’s villain role as Atom Smasher, along with Sarah Shahi, who has been cast for a crucial mystery role as a university professor and freedom fighter leading a resistance in the Egypt-esque fictional DC nation of Kahndaq. In the meantime, you can catch Hodge’s latest role, as football legend Jim Brown, in director Regina King’s quasi-historical ensemble piece, One Night in Miami, on Amazon Prime Video.