Dedicated to the definitive superhero non-team.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nighthawk's Sinister Beginnings

The Squadron Sinister first appeared in Avengers #69-70 as a way for Marvel heroes to square off against members of the Justice League: Superman (Hyperion), Green Lantern (Dr. Spectrum), Flash (Whizzer), and Batman (Nighthawk). Yet when time came to tell Nighthawk's origin, the bird-nosed adventurer had only superficial similarities to the Dark Knight.

Unlike Bruce Wayne of DC Comics, Kyle Richmond spent much of his life unfocused. Kyle's mother died in an accident when he was nine, and he grew up estranged from his wealthy father. When his father later died in a plane crash, Kyle inherited Richmond Enterprises (instead of Wayne Enterprise). His father's top business associate had the last name Pennysworth (a nod to Batman's butler, Alfred Pennyworth).

But money couldn't solve Kyle's problems. Poor grades got him expelled from college, reckless driving almost killed his girlfriend, and a heart murmur kept Kyle out of the military (when he received a draft notice, as originally told in Defenders #32, before the Vietnam War inference dated the hero).

In a reversal of Captain America's origin story, the Grandmaster offered Kyle a secret serum to cure his heart condition and magnify his strength at night if he agreed to battle Earth's mightiest heroes. Kyle agreed to the challenge and joined the Squadron Sinister.

Nighthawk gained a stronger sense of direction after reforming and joining the Defenders. He financially supported the team throughout much of the series and became leader for a time. Nighthawk has resumed these responsibilities in the Last Defenders limited series, with Pennysworth now a hero as well.

Defenders. Vol. 1. No. 32. February 1976. "Musical Minds." Steve Gerber (writer), Sal Buscema and Jim Mooney (artists), P. Goldberg (colorist), J. Costanza (letterer), Marv Wolfman (editor). The illustration at the top shows Nighthawk in his original costume, from the opening page of Defenders #13.


nighthawk said...

It took me a while to get all of these appearances, and they are a great read. One of the first comics I bought as a kid was Defenders #62 (the first part of 'Defenders For a Day'). I was fascinated by the cover with Nighthawk, and all of the other heroes crawling all over him and the rest of the cover. It was great, and I was hooked on the Defenders from that point on.

Brian Reaves said...

Nighthawk was definitely the reason I read the Defenders as a kid, and he's the reason I buy the "Essential Defenders" books now. He had the coolest costume around, and I never noticed the Batman similarities when I was a kid. To me, he was just a cool hero with an awesome name. But reading the Essential Defenders again has made me realize something: he was beaten and/or captured in just about every battle for the first 40 issues or so. You don't realize it until you read the issues back-to-back, but the Defenders had to be the only superteam in history who spent more time rescuing their leader than following him! Still, he was a cool character, and the Bowen Bust series of both the SS and Classic Nighthawk are perfect.

nighthawk said...

I didn't really think about the first 40 issues, and his being captured or defeated in them, but you're right. I also got both of the Nighthawk busts, and I think they're awesome.

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