Inspector Erskine Hawkins
Inspector Erskine Hawkins
A canny and brilliant Scotland Yard detective—described as "the finest sleuth in Europe" (Act No. 100, Sep 1946: "The Sleuth Who Never Failed!")—who, between 1946 and 1952, makes a series of attempts to prove, beyond any doubt, the truth of his long-held conviction that reporter Clark Kent is secretly Superman. Clark Kent has described Inspector Hawkins as "the world's greatest sleuth," and a fellow Scotland Yard inspector has described his renowned colleague this way: "That man [Hawkins] is incredible! The Yard's never had a sleuth to equal him! Imagine! Hawkins hasn't a single unsolved case on his record in 17 years!" (S No. 69/3, Mar/Apr 1951: "The Man Who Didn't Know He Was Superman!").
In the words of the textual narrative of Superman No. 69/3:
Watch out for the mild-looking little man in the bowler hat, for he's not so mild as he looks. In England, he's known as the scourge of the underworld, for no greater sleuth has ever come out of Scotland Yard [Mar/Apr 1951: "The Man Who Didn't Know He Was Superman!"].
Some uncertainty exists regarding Inspector Hawkins's first name. In the first text in which he appears, no first name is given (Act No. 100, Sep 1946: "The Sleuth Who Never Failed!"). In Superman No. 69/3, he is referred to as Erskine Hawkins (Mar/Apr 1951: "The Man Who Didn't Know He was Superman!"). In Superman No. 79/3, however, his first name is given as Ernest (Nov/Dec 1952: "The Revenge That Took 300 Years!"). Throughout this article, he is referred to as Inspector Erskine Hawkins, since Erskine is the first of the two given names provided for him in the chronicles.
In September 1946, Inspector Hawkins accosts Clark Kent at the Daily Planet and quietly informs him that he has deduced that Kent is secretly Superman. Seven years previously, Hawkins had retired from his post at Scotland Yard in order to devote himself full time to solving what he regarded as his greatest case: the mystery of Superman's secret identity. Day after day, for seven long years, Europe's finest sleuth had labored at his self-appointed task. He had obtained photographs of Superman and casts of his footprints, subjecting these and other accumulated evidence to careful anatomical study and painstaking scientific analysis. Finally, after seven years of dedicated sleuthing, Hawkins had concluded that Clark Kent is Superman. The famed detective felt, however, that he could not be completely satisfied with the results of his exhaustive investigation until he had gone to America to interview Kent personally and obtain some form of final, incontrovertible proof.
Confronted by Hawkins, Kent nevertheless manages to blurt out a denial that he is secretly Superman. And so, in the days that follow, an elaborate game of cat and mouse ensues, with Inspector Hawkins laying one trap after another for the Man of Steel in an effort to obtain that one final scrap of evidence that will establish conclusively that Clark Kent is Superman, and with Superman using every ounce of his super-ingenuity to outwit the sleuth from Scotland Yard and convince him that his seven years of painstaking deduction have somehow led him to an erroneous conclusion. Finally, unable to obtain the proof he seeks any other way, Hawkins breaks into Clark Kent's apartment in hopes of finding irrefutable evidence linking Clark Kent with Superman. In the apartment, however, Hawkins finds a bogus, artificially aged will, surreptitiously planted there by Superman, in which Clark Kent bequeathes the contents of his personal library "to my friend Superman." The phony will successfully tricks Hawkins into believing that he has made a mistake, and he promptly returns to England, where he confides to a colleague that his trip to America has convinced him beyond the shadow of a doubt that Clark Kent could not possibly be Superman (Act No. 100: "The Sleuth Who Never Failed!").
Inspector Hawkins apparently rejoins Scotland Yard following his return from America, for by March-April 1951 he has solved the last of the Yard's outstanding unsolved cases and has decided to embark on a short vacation during which he hopes to remove the one blemish on his otherwise perfect record as a sleuth: his failure to solve the secret of Superman's identity. Arriving in Metropolis, Hawkins once again becomes embroiled in a battle of wits with Superman, but a series of complex coincidences—combined with an elaborate ruse devised by Superman—have the effect of convincing Hawkins that Superman is secretly librarian A. Noggle of the Metropolis Public Library. Indeed, Superman cleverly capitalizes on Hawkins's erroneous conclusion by "admitting" that he is really librarian Noggle and begging the Scotland Yard sleuth not to betray his "secret."
"The satisfaction of having cracked this case is enough for me," declares Hawkins reassuringly. "I therefore promise you on my word of honor that your secret shall never pass my lips!"
Soon afterward, Inspector Hawkins returns to Scotland Yard, convinced that he has solved the secret of Superman's dual identity, but vowing never to betray it to anyone else (S No. 69/3: "The Man Who Didn't Know He Was Superman!").
In November-December 1952, Inspector Hawkins finds himself only three days away from achieving one of his "life's ambitions" by being named the first winner of the renowned Standish Award, an award offered to any Scotland Yard detective who can successfully solve every single case assigned to him over a ten-year period. In an effort to thwart Hawkins's ambition and deny him the award by presenting him with a case within the three-day deadline that he cannot solve, picklock Roddy Greene and other criminals with long-standing grudges against Hawkins carry out a series of bombings in England, leaving behind, at the scene of each bombing, a rhymed note signed with the name of Guy Fawkes, an English conspirator involved in an abortive attempt to blow up King James I and Parliament in the year 1605.
Hawkins ultimately solves the bombing mystery and apprehends Roddy Greene in time to win the coveted Standish Award. In the interim, however, Clark Kent, who has been sent to England by the Daily Planet to cover the "Guy Fawkes" story, has been placed in the difficult position of having to work surreptitiously as Superman to prevent further bombings while covering the story openly as Clark Kent, so that he will not betray the fact that Kent and Superman are both in England and thus revive Hawkins's dormant suspicions concerning his secret identity. Indeed, despite the fact that Superman contrives to remain unseen when he defuses a bomb at London Bridge and makes it appear that a falling water tower has been responsible for dousing another bomb with water before it can blow up Big Ben, Inspector Hawkins does begin to suspect that Superman is at work behind the scenes preventing the bombings. Ultimately, however, a clever ruse by Superman succeeds in persuading the canny Scotland Yard detective that reporter Clark Kent could not possibly be Superman (S No. 79/3: "The Revenge That Took 300 Years!"). (TGSB)