Monday, March 10, 2008

Even though he's ripping off Batman's costume and Deadshot's origin here, Nighthawk would go on to better things. Eventually.
Nighthawk's pretending to be a hero, while running a protection racket for crooks...which may have been a new plot then, but it's iffy.

The other day, I mentioned Nighthawk, but didn't have a scan for him up, which didn't seem fair to me. So, I went down, got my pile of old Defenders comics, and started flipping through them, so we can take a brief overview at some of Nighthawk's history. (Before we get into it, we're going to mostly stick with the regular, Marvel universe one, not either of the Squadron Supreme versions.)

Without getting bogged down in his origin, let's see how many words it takes me to recap Nighthawk's character arc over like 90 issues: Nighthawk joins the team, gets his brain removed and body stolen, feels bad for being a wastrel millionaire do-nothing who got his girlfriend killed driving drunk, except she eventually comes back in a U.S. secret agency psychic weapon program. Eventually Nighthawk gets indicted for financial reasons, the Defenders burn down his house when he's not there, he ends up in a wheelchair during the day and mobile at night, then dead, for a couple decades, until in 1998 when he's not.
This page sums up the last annual, and they were pretty tied in to the regular issues at the time.
It may sound like I'm being glib, but I'm not.

As it stands, the story in Giant-Size Defenders #4 is a chilling stab at the banality of evil: when Trish, a successful model, won't loan money to her uncle, failed super-villain Egghead; he leaves a car-bomb in her boyfriend Kyle (Nighthawk) Richmond's car. The horrible part, is that Egghead deliberately drains the gas tank, under the rationale that he doesn't want to kill her, just maim her. (And Kyle assumes the bomb must have been meant for him, which puts the Defenders on his estranged teammates, the Squadron Sinister.) I almost think Gerber may have missed an opportunity to make Nighthawk stand out: if he and Trish had stayed together, it would've gone a long ways towards differentiating him from Batman.

Much, much later, things would go even worse for Nighthawk: the issue after his 'death,' Valkyrie is shot in the back, which leads to her 'death' and a big thing with the Enchantress and Valkyrie's origin and about as far away from poor Nighthawk as possible. I'm not sure if Nighthawk was being written out of the regular 616-Marvel Universe, to clear the decks for Mark Gruenwald's Squadron Supreme down the line; or if someone at Marvel decided that they didn't need a Batman wannabe with an even worse dating history.

Writer Jim Krueger was responsible for Nighthawk's 1998 limited series that brought him back, probably planning ahead for using him as one of the narrators in Universe X, where the events of this series would come into play. Allegedly just in a really, really long coma, Nighthawk returns, but he's been given the gift of precognition from an 'angel.' Yeah, turns out that was Mephisto, and his precog-vision is a trap: he can see crimes before they happen, so Nighthawk's beating the hell out of people before they do anything. Which leads to a fight with Daredevil, where Nighthawk accidentally kills him. Oops. Nighthawk then has to fight his way, through hell, with Daredevil on his back, and resisting further temptation, as to avoid damnation.

Convoluted, isn't it? Nighthawk's not an A-list character...all right, he's not B-list either. Keep going...but is he not popular because of his tangled history, or is his story switched back and forth in at attempt to become popular? Chicken and egg. Either way, Nighthawk's costume can look pretty sharp.

Sometimes. Nighthawk's cape either covered, or was, a jetpack, depending on artistic interpretation. And sometimes, his cape had lasers. Lasercape! I don't think that's been a Batman action figure yet, but I could see the execution on that being either pretty cool or utterly craptacular. Now that I've opened that can of worms, I had damn well better find a picture with the lasers...

Coincidentally, Nighthawk makes an appearance in The Last Defenders, due out this week. There's a preview over at Newsarama, so see if it grabs you. For good measure, here's a link for a sharp-looking custom over at Fwoosh! Wouldn't be hard to make, Hasbro, no, not hard at all. Lasers not withstanding, of course.

Even though we were talking #4, everything today's from Giant-Size Defenders #5: The first scan from "Quoth the Nighthawk, 'Nevermore!'" Originally from Daredevil #62, written by Roy Thomas, art by Gene Colan, inks by Syd Shores. The second's from the main story, "Eelar moves in Mysterious Ways!" Written by Steve Gerber, with plot assists from Conway, Slifer, Wein, Claremont, and Edelman; drawn by Don Heck, inks by Mike Esposito.

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