If Hawkman Carter Hall is DC's Continuity Error that Walks Like a Man, Sandy Hawkins is DC's Man Without a Continuity. Created in the Golden Age (debut: Adventure Comics #69, December 1941) as the sidekick to the detective hero Sandman, Sandy "the Golden Boy" Hawkins has gone sixty years without anyone bothering to fill out his backstory.
Almost all of Sandy's data has been retconned into a contradiction - including his very existence. Explained in the Golden Age (ignoring his first appearance as a random farmboy) and then in the straddling-the-Crisis All-Star Squadron as the orphaned nephew of Sandman Wesley Dodds's common law wife Dian Belmont, his origins were again thrown into shadow in Sandman Mystery Theatre (1994-99), Matt Wagner's brilliant detective series and not dealt with at all in the current JSA.
In SMT, Dian Belmont was unequivocally an only child. She had no nephews because she had no siblings. If Sandy was related to Dian, it had to be through other means. Arguably more importantly, however, was Wagner deleloping the characters of Wes and Dian to almost preclude there ever being a kid sidekick. The issue of children comes up early and harshly and the couple is initially extremely reluctant to become responsible for the rearing of a child. Also, while SMT is set before Wes had encountered Sandy (1937-39), throughout the series Dodds worked alone, only rarely relying on Dian to help him out. On the only occasion where that help was noticed by another person (#45-48, The Blackhawk), Dian gets nicknamed as his sidekick 'Sandy'. In the next arc (#49-52, Return of the Scarlet Ghost), there is a pulp novel written featuring a fictionalized account of the Sandman's activities and gifting him with a sidekick Sandy "the Golden Boy" Hawkins. In SMT #50 Wes is flabberghasted at the notion of a kid sidekick, asking aloud who could ever put a child in such danger.
Accepting, for the sake of continuity, that Wes and Dian's opinions changed sometime between 1939 (the end of SMT) and 1941 (the canon year for Sandy becoming Wes Dodds's ward), there was a Sandy and he was good. Sandman and Sandy were like Batman and Robin with a more lurid color scheme. The Sandman was a brilliant detective with an odd costume and Sandy was the mouthy, precocious sidekick. Instead of batarangs, the Dreamy Duo carried "wirepoon" guns (think a mini harpoon with a trigger) for climbing and Wes was armed with an ample supply of knockout gas. The differences between the two pairs of heroes only really became delineated post-Crisis, when Sandman was left behind as a Golden Age character and Batman was turned into the perpetually youngish brooding man that he is today.
When the dust settled in 1999, with the end of SMT and imminent return of the JSA, here is where things stood:
Wes Dodds had an avid interest and expertise in Asian arts, language, and culture. The son of a wealthy businessman, Dodds added to the fortune through judicious investment and traveled frequently with his companion, Dian Belmont, the daughter of a former Manhattan District Attorney. By means never explained, he also became the bearer of a small part of Dream's soul. [Neil Gaiman's Sandman and yes, the tie-in is intentional. Wes's first appearance in Sandman is in Seasons of Mist, where Morpheus is shown a glass ball with Wes's image visible inside it and offered it in return for the key to Hell. He subsequently appears in The Wake and is the major star of Sandman Midnight Theatre, which takes place between SMT #56 and #57.] That part of Dream's soul meant a lifetime of usually unpleasant, often metaphoric prophetic dreams and was the impetus for Wes's becoming a constumed hero.
Wes became the guardian of Sandy Hawkins in 1941, at first keeping the Sandman a secret from the inquisitive boy, but later accepting Sandy as a partner once the truth was out. Sandy was not Sandman's 'Boy Hostage' and Wes was apparently a little better about keeping him out of situations he wasn't prepared for than was Bruce Wayne with young Dick Grayson. Wes was an inventor and an amateur chemist of considerable skill, formulating an aspirated truth serum sleeping gas as well as the mechanisms to deliver it (his gas gun). It was this innovation that led to the tragic accident that would become the cornerstone of Sandy's life.
In 1947, Wes was experimenting with a "silicoid gun" (heaven knows what that was) when it exploded during a test run. Sandy was within the blast range and was instantly transformed into a giant, raging sand-monster. Unable to calm the raging creature, Wes resorted to knocking him unconscious with his sleeping gas. Specific details are vague, but Sandy spent the better part of the next fifty years trapped in a glass room with just enough sleeping gas in the air to keep him unconscious.
Sometime before the Crisis (JLoA #113; 1973), Sandy was awakened and broke free of his "velvet cage". One of the effects of his transformation into a sand-creature was that he was now a type of geomancer - he could feel every movement of tectonic plates and it was such a shift that had awakened him from his slumber. After he was tracked down by Wes and the JLA, Sandy explained his new abilities to Wes, who was beyond heartbroken to find out that Sandy had regained his sanity rather quickly after his initial transformation (it was the pain of the change that had driven him mad) and just hadn't been able to communicate that.
The relationship between mentor and sidekick was nearly terminated because of Wes's guilt. The two had one further (mis)adventure [DC Comics Presents #47, 1982]: Sandy was kidnapped by the Shatterer from the STAR lab where he was under examination and his geosensitivity - which in fact included some control over silicon matter - was used to commit terrorist acts. Sandy was again rescued and seemingly cured forever after Wes tried a reversing of the original silicoid accident and he reverted to the biological age he had been in 1947 - mid-late teens.
There is no record of the once-again-normal Sandy's activities after the crisis with the Shatterer was resolved. Wes and Dian - who (courtesy of James Robinson's Starman series) became a Nobel Prize winning writer and a living literary legend - traveled the world, especially to Asia, until Dian's death from cancer in 1998.
Sandy's next chronological appearance was in the 1999 reintroduction of the Golden Age heroes, the JSA. The group is brought together initially for Wes Dodds's funeral, Wes having suicided rather than doom the world when Mordru, a Lord of Chaos, finds out that he knew (via dream) the identity of the new Dr. Fate.
What we know about Sandy from JSA:
A Secret Files report that Sand has improved upon Wes's formulas - and he has been shown tinkering. He has presumably designed his own weaponry.