Released in mid-1993 from Malibu Comics under its Ultraverse line of superhero comic books, Hardcase #1 introduced readers to Tom Hawke who is an actor who went from a wanna-be to a celebrity. The story – written by James Hudnall and drawn by Jim Callahan – is not that simple and took a layered approach to presenting the protagonist’s exploits.
The comic book starts with a deeply hurt Tom Hawke (who was not yet Hardcase) whose three teammates D.J. Blast, Forsa and Starburst (his love interest) were being killed by a large robotic enemy whose head, jaw and color eerily resembled that of Xenomorphs in the Alien movies popularized by directors Ridley Scott and James Cameron.
In a desperate effort, D.J. Blast charged himself up to cause a desperate powerful explosion to destroy the enemy but not before Hawke took Starburst with him and jumped far away to escape the blast.
Unsurprisingly survival became hollow for Hawke as he struggled not only to recover from his injury but also deal with the critical condition of Starburst whose doctor confirmed that she sustained serious brain damage and that she was unlikely to recover.
Filled with grief and even guilt, Hawke struggled to change for the better and by utilizing his superhuman talent he eventually went into showbiz as an actor. In the present he got into making movies (during which he wore the costume that defined him in the comics), earning lots of money and talking with varied showbiz professionals on projects.
While life became more progressive, Hawke still was not at peace with himself deep inside. As he signed an autograph for a policeman’s son, he revealed that he was just lucky being the only survivor when his team – The Squad – met its tragic end and that even as an ultra himself, he felt that he was not any good in a serious crisis. Feeling guilty, he admitted he let his friends down.
Analytically, the creative team did nice a job fleshing out Hardcase from his days with The Squad to the present as an actor in good demand. The approach of showing him struggle with guilt over the tragedy that claimed two friends’ lives and disabling his love interest is pretty unique and at the same time engaging to read. In this way, Hardcase is a superhero who is not exactly the happy and stable figure to the public but one whose life is imperfect and having no choice but to pay the price of life through a major disaster that hurt him physically and on the heart. Not even the success and promising opportunities of showbiz could lift his spirit. Truly this guy really lived up to his name – Hardcase!
Even with his special powers, Hardcase still doubts himself in relation to dealing with big matters.
He said it best on page 11 – “Even if I am an Ultra, that doesn’t mean I’m any good in a serious crisis. I let my friends down…let them down in a big way.”
On other matters, the comic book had plenty of action and that includes some gruesome and bloody scenes. Not only that the transition from one scene to another was smooth and well paced.
Safe to say Hardcase is the flawed and struggling hero that people of different walks of life can relate with. For this concept alone brilliantly done by Hudnall and Callahan, Hardcase #1 is highly recommended for all comic collectors. It is a superhero comic book that succeeds in engaging me each time I read it.
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Author’s Note: This article was originally published at my old Geeks and Villagers blog. What you read on this website was an updated and expanded version. In other words, this newest version you just read is the most definitive version.