Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Secret Origins: Nighthawk

Ol' Groove always had a soft spot for Nighthawk. Maybe it was 'cause he was Marvel's (twisted) version of Batman. Maybe it was the cool costumes he wore. Could'a been the jet pack. I really dug the jet pack. Or maybe it was the fact that Nighthawk--aka Kyle Richmond--was created and always seemed to be...a loser.

Introduced as a member of the villainous Squadron Sinister (Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema's mad-house mirror image of Justice Leaguers Batman (Nighthawk), Superman (Hyperion), Flash (Whizzer), and Green Lantern (Dr. Spectrum) in Avengers #69 (July 1969), Nighthawk was born to lose. In his first full appearance, Avengers #70 (August 1969), he was soundly defeated by Captain America, and we were given the briefest glimpse of his (and the other SS members') origin at the hands of the mysterious Grandmaster.

Nighthawk's next appearance was also a losing proposition as he battled Daredevil in the Man Without Fear's sixty-second issue (December 1969). Roy and artist Gene Colan fleshed our Nighthawk's origin a little more, but the main attraction was seeing him get his tail-feathers handed to him by Ol' Hornhead.

(Roy also created a heroic version of the Nighthawk and his pals who lived on a parallel earth in Avengers #'s 85-86 (November-December 1970). I'll rap about that version some other time, Groove-ophiles.)

It would be a few years before Nighthawk would appear again, this time it would be in the pages of the Defenders, the mag he would call his home for the rest of the Groovy Age (and beyond). Writer Len Wein (teamed with Our Pal Sal) brought Nighthawk back in Defenders #13 (February 1974). Again, a member of the Squadron Sinister, and again, duped by a cosmic being (this time it was Nebulon), Nighthawk realized that his alien master and his teammates were all nutso and switched sides.

He nearly paid for his heroic change of heart with his life in ish 14 (March 1974), but thanks to Dr. Strange, he was able to pull through and replace Sub-Mariner on the non-team supreme.

In Defenders #15, Nighthawk got a new costume--and in Ol' Groove's humble opinion it's one of the all-time coolest sets of super-threads.

Steve Gerber eventually took over writing the Defenders (with Sal Buscema remaining on the art) and continued adding depth to Nighthawk--while still keeping him a perennial loser. Besides revealing that the evil Sons of the Serpent (a Marvel-U hate group) was actually being financed by Nighthawk's Richmond Industries, our hero literally had his brain scooped out of his skull by the villainous Headmen so that they could put one of their own member's brain in Nighthawk's body (talk about the ultimate under-cover cover, baby!). It was during this game of "musical minds" that Gerber (and Sal, and inker Jim Mooney) finally gave us an in-depth origin for Nighthawk. Here it is in all its glum glory from Defenders #32 (November 1975)...

Eventually Dr. Strange would leave the Defenders and Nighthawk would try to replace him--fail. Eventually, our loveable loser of a superhero would die, come back, die again...but that's post-Groovy Age. We'll let someone else worry about that!


  1. I also loved the later NIGHTHAWK costume. Reminded me of yet another cool minor character--Stingray!

  2. Wow, I love it! I'm a huge fan of all things Squadron Supreme! Those early Avengers appearances by the Buscema brothers are some of my favorite comics. I also love the later appearances by Shooter/Perez!
    You are a guy after my own heart. When I like a character I want to know all the appearances. And those Thomas characters usually had the most interesting histories! I also love Valkyries, Red Wolf, and Scorpion and the Zodiac!
    Great stuff! Thanks!

  3. Always loved The Defenders and Sal Buscema.

  4. Add me to the list of Nighthawk fans. I agree that when he donned those dark blue threads in Defenders, he was at the time one of the slickest looking heroes in the MU. Alas the costume was very subject to artistic reinterpretation and it didn't always work in everyone's hands.

    As for Kyle Richmond, he was like the anti-Richie Rich. The rich kid who had not a Midas touch, but seemed destined to always come out on the short end.

    Rip Off

  5. Nighthawk was a very cool looking character. I loved the colors & that jetpack rocked. Sal buscema on the Defenders was great as well as his Nova & Spidey.Klaus Janson & Tom Palmer both gave their books a gritty & almost real world look to them. The Hulk actually looked scary!



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