Last week in my essay about the Defenders, I made mention of Nighthawk (aka Kyle Richmond) a lot. For 10 years he was a major part of the Defenders and the Marvel Universe. But today, he is largely forgotten and not familiar with the younger generations of fans and readers. So who is Nighthawk? The short answer is that Nighthawk is Batman!
Now before you chop my head off read further to see why.
As the Avengers approached their 70th issue, writer Roy Thomas decided to do something special to mark the event. So he created a new character: the Grandmaster, a powerful immortal alien who was obsessed with gambling. Usually the Grandmaster’s wagers involve gladiatorial contests where he is betting on or against the Avengers. This time, he was making the wager with Kang the Conquerer, a time traveling analog to Doctor Doom. Kang chose the Avengers as his champions, so the Grandmaster pit half the Avengers (Yellowjacket, Wasp, Black Panther and Vision) against the Invaders. (Captain America, Sub-Mariner, and the original Human Torch) The other half of the Avengers had to fight the Squadron Sinister, four villains that were analogs of the Justice League. So Thor fought Hyperion (Superman), Iron Man fought Doctor Spectrum (Green Lantern), Goliath fought the Whizzer (the Flash), and Captain America fought Nighthawk (Batman).
A couple of years later, Nighthawk returned. But this time it was a different Nighthawk. This Nighthawk was a member of the Squadron Supreme, a group of heroes from an alternate earth that greatly resemble DC comics the Justice League. The members of the Squadron Supreme are greatly susceptible to telepathy. This is what allows for them to be taken over by telepathic villains that use them to attack the Avengers. Eventually Mark Gruenwald wrote a 12 issue miniseries about the Squadron Supreme that he viewed as his greatest achievement.
But the Squadron Sinister were still in the Marvel universe. Doctor Spectrum had a re- match with Iron Man in his own book. Nighthawk would go on to fight Daredevil in his book. In Defenders #13, the Squadron Sinister where re-united as henchmen of Nebulon the Celestial Man who had a scheme to melt the polar ice caps and flood the entire world. (Back then, nobody thought we would actually do this to ourselves out of neglect). Nighthawk turned against Nebulon and his comrades and helped the Defenders defeat the Squadron Sinister. He was then offered membership in the Defenders.
After this, the Squadron Sinister broke up. Hyperion went on to tangle with the Squadron Supreme’s version of Hyperion, becoming the Bizarro to his Superman.
But Nighthawk became, throughout the 1970’s one of the most constant members of the Defenders. So much so, that during the time that Doctor Strange was absent from the book, the Defenders met at Nighthawk’s house. Many people like to compare the Avengers and the Justice League to each other, but with the exception of Hawkeye and Quicksilver, most of the Avengers don’t really resemble the Justice League. On the other hand, many of the members of the Defenders do resemble the Justice League. Sub- Mariner is similar to Aquaman, Valkyrie resembles Wonder Woman’s powers and personality, Hellcat is like Catwoman, and Nighthawk is Batman. At one point both Nighthawk and Moon Knight were in the Defenders. So there were two Batmen!
Sadly after nearly 100 issues, Nighthawk’s run in the Defenders came to end in issue #106, and as we do our best to avoid dropping spoilers we recommend you discover the details yourself. Only a short time later, Nighthawk returned to the Defenders. But this turned out to be the Squadron Supreme’s Nighthawk. Our Nighthawk was well and truly dead. But it should never have been in doubt. A telepath was in contact with his mind at the moment of his death.
In more recent times, Nighthawk has been brought resurrected. But he has not been a major player in the Marvel Universe like he was as a member of the Defenders in the 1970s.
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