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In the 1980 cult classic Flash Gordon, a race of winged Viking-like warriors called Hawkmen feature heavily in the story. Flash is stranded on their homeworld, which actually seems to be a single floating palace, when the evil Emperor Ming attacks it. The Hawkmen fly away, because they have wings and stuff, and Flash is left behind.

Just before the Hawkmen's kingdom is destroyed, Flash crawls into the underbelly of the palace and finds a rocket cycle - basically a flying jet ski - and escapes just in the nick of time.

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I have never understood why the Hawkmen, who can fly under their own power, apparently with little or no effort, have rocket cycles. They don't need machines to fly, so why bother buying/building, maintaining, and storing them?

I would understand if they had something like an airplane - it can carry more weight than a Hawkman alone, and possibly travel faster than a Hawkman could. The rocket cycle is slow, and it can't carry much more than a person or two plus a backpack or something. We never see the Hawkmen using a rocket cycle, and as far as we know, they only have one or two of them. Hawkmen fly fast enough to mount an attack on the War Rocket Ajax, and their wings don't move in flight, so it would appear that they can fly without expending any effort or energy. The rocket cycles don't seem to offer anything that the Hawkmen themselves don't already have.

So why do the Hawkmen have these particular vehicles?

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    Beats me! Sort of the same way that humans, who can walk the Earth with their own feet/under their own power, would never develop a method of terrestrial locomotion... like all those far-fetched "cars," "buses," "trains," and "bicycles" you read about on the spectulative fiction sites: totally unbelievable!
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 2:08
  • @Lexible - The difference is that the Hawkmen seem to fly without even moving their wings, and they fly fast enough to attack the War Rocket Ajax. The rocket cycle seems to move slower than the Hawkmen, and there is no evidence that the Hawkmen themselves ever use the rocket cycles. If we could walk as fast as cars drive, and without expending any significant effort, we probably wouldn't have cars.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 2:10
  • And endurance? How long can the Hawkmen fly? Freightage? How much can they carry? Wounded or disabled Hawkmen? How do they get about?
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 2:12
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    @WadCheber Very fair, friend. :)
    – Lexible
    Commented Sep 20, 2015 at 4:30
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    Are we sure that this is actually a Hawkman craft, and not some foreign equipment that got impounded and stored for breaking flight regulations near the palace?
    – Zoredache
    Commented Sep 21, 2015 at 20:14

3 Answers 3

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This is (partially) answered in the film's official novelisation.

Flash surmises that they're for use by visitors to the Kingdom:

The chute took him to a dock. Holding onto the sill he had grabbed to break his fall, Flash realized he was seeing a rocket cycle, probably used by friendly visitors of the Hawk Man Kingdom. He had never before seen this invention, and consequently he had no idea how to fly it. But he thanked the Fates he was a fast learner.

It appears that the cycles are sufficiently well-known that they're recognisable as a Hawk Man device:

Consequently, she became extremely deflated when the colonel from Battle Control appeared on her telescreen and said, “General Kala, Flash Gordon is approaching!”

“What?” she exclaimed.

“Yes, on a Hawk Man rocket cycle. Shall I inform His Majesty?”

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Fun.

Why would a human own an electric skateboard, or jumping shoes? Because its fun. Its not useful and you wouldn't want to use one when you flee from an attacker or when you attack his rockets but on your day off - why not?

Its also possible that a hawkman with a rocket cycle can do stunts he can't do without (flying upside down without stalling, flying through a storm, ...) that were never shown on screen because it wasn't important to the story.

Unfortunately I have no canon evidence (except that they sure look like they like having fun!) for all of this, but its a plausible explanation.

Also, they do flap their wings (even though only slightly) in the movie, so it could also be a "wheelchair" style of thing.

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  • Consider adding to your answer: Range - We don't know how far a Hawkman can fly on his own. Their rocketcycles could add considerably to that distance traveled. Fatigue reduction: A Hawkman on a flying machine is much better rested than one flying on his own. Like horses, the machine is doing all the work. These are two additional answers which round out your reasoning. Commented Oct 10, 2015 at 18:49
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The kingdoms were not isolated. Why wouldn't there be cycles at the hawkman's palace moon? What if an entourage of people show, the transport leaves but there are one or two people left behind.

The real question you should ask is why is there breathable air between all the moons and planets of Mongo? And why can I get from one planet or moon to the other in just a few minutes yet my hair barely gets blown at top speed.

And what's with all the colored clouds?

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  • The colored clouds are pretty.
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Sep 29, 2015 at 20:10

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