The newest Avenger Nighthawk – the strange history of Marvels Batman

On April 20, the current version of classic Marvel Comics anti-hero Nighthawk, known as Marvel’s homage to Batman, joined the Avengers in Avengers #55 (opens in new tab).

But the somewhat convoluted history of Nighthawk has fans asking which version of the character is on the team, and where the other versions are.

Nighthawk is one of Marvel’s oddest characters, with a backstory that crosses Multiverses, and even in some ways comic book publishers, as his entire team, the Squadron Supreme, started out as a way for the Avengers to slyly fight DC’s Justice League without the red tape of an actual crossover.

There are at least five well-known versions of Kyle Richmond AKA Nighthawk, including the one who just became one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and many of them have existed in the core Marvel Universe at one time or another.

So when it comes to asking “Where are they now?”, Newsarama has all the answers about each of the most prominent Nighthawk ‘Variants’, including how the most recent Nighthawk came into the picture.

Nighthawk of the Squadron Sinister

Nighthawk of the Squadron Sinister

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Unlike most other versions of Nighthawk, the very first incarnation of the character to appear in comics in 1969’s Avengers #69 (opens in new tab) is from the core Earth-616 Marvel Universe. Born into a wealthy family, dilettante Kyle Richmond uses his wealth to become the Nighthawk of the Squadron Sinister, a group of villains manipulated into lives of crime by the cosmic being known as the Grandmaster. 

Though the Squadron Sinister version of Nighthawk was the first version of the character to appear chronologically, later stories revealed that the Grandmaster had copied the Squadron Sinister’s appearances from the heroes of the Squadron Supreme, who live on the Multiverse world of Earth-712 –  meaning that the Squadron Sinister Nighthawk is not technically the original Nighthawk in terms of the in-story timeline. 

(And, in a meta sense, the Squadron Sinister/Supreme are based on the heroes of DC’s Justice League, with Nighthawk himself being a pastiche of Batman).

This version of Nighthawk eventually turned his back on the rest of the Squadron Sinister and on villainy altogether, joining the heroic Defenders as a long-term member in their heyday of the ’70s until his apparent death. He’s since returned to life, even training a successor named Joaquin Pennysworth before retiring.

Neither Kyle nor Joaquin have appeared since Kyle’s retirement, though a Skrull imposter impersonating Kyle did later appear before being exposed.

Nighthawk of the Squadron Supreme

Nighthawk of Squadron Supreme

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

As we said, the Squadron Sinister was created by the Grandmaster in the image of the heroes of Earth-712, the Squadron Supreme. A kind of parody/homage to Batman of the Justice League, Nighthawk is one of the founding members of most versions of the Squadron.

Just like on Earth-616, the Nighthawk of Earth-712 is Kyle Richmond, a multi-billionaire whose riches were built through his father’s criminal enterprises, leading him to choose to use the money for good instead of evil.

After years alongside the Squadron Supreme, this ‘Variant’ of Richmond retires as a superhero to enter politics, even being elected president of the United States of that Earth – though his mind was temporarily taken over by an alien consciousness before being restored, leading to his eventual departure from politics and return to super-heroics. 

However, when the Squadron Supreme of Earth-712 decide to conquer their world and turn it into their version of a utopia, Nighthawk balks at the idea and quits the team, becoming a freedom fighter against the tyranny of his former allies.

Nighthawk of Supreme Power

Nighthawk of Supreme Power

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

In the early ’00s, Marvel Comics relaunched the Squadron Supreme in a new, mature reader title called Supreme Power (opens in new tab). Written by J. Michael Straczynski with art from Gary Frank, Supreme Power picked up some of the complex themes of the ’80s Squadron Supreme (opens in new tab) limited series (the aforementioned story about the team taking over the 712 Earth) through a more violent lens as part of Marvel’s MAX imprint.

In this reality – later dubbed Earth-31916 of the Multiverse – Kyle Richmond is a Black man whose parents were murdered by white supremacists, leading him to become the anti-racist vigilante Nighthawk. He eventually helped found the Squadron Supreme of Earth-31916, though their entire reality was destroyed in the lead up to 2015’s Secret Wars (opens in new tab), which demolished and rebuilt the entire Marvel Universe.

In the aftermath of Secret Wars, this version of Nighthawk found himself in the core Earth-616 Marvel Universe, where he co-founded a new version of the Squadron Supreme (opens in new tab) alongside refugee survivors of other dead realities, as well as starring in his own Nighthawk (opens in new tab) title.

He also took on a protégé named Tilda Johnson, who first operated under the codename Nightshade – though when the Earth-31916 Kyle Richmond was killed during the events of Secret Empire (opens in new tab), Tilda took up his costume along with the mantle of Nighthawk.

Tilda has appeared in her civilian identity since the end of Secret Empire but hasn’t shown up as Nighthawk.

Nighthawk of the Ultimate Universe

Nighthawk of the Ultimate Universe

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Like most Marvel heroes at this point, Nighthawk has his share of ‘Variants’ from the many worlds of the Multiverse, as seen across this list.

Though his story is a bit different from most of his other counterparts, there was even a Nighthawk in the ill-fated Ultimate Universe, which was destroyed in the lead up to the Multiverse-remaking Secret Wars event that also destroyed the world of the Supreme Power version of Nighthawk. 

In the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610), Kyle Richmond is a member of the Defenders, a second-rate super-team who eventually gains souped-up powers in a bid to take on their world’s version of Thor.

This version of Nighthawk is less of a Batman-esque vigilante than most of his counterparts, instead wearing a winged armored suit full of weaponry, not unlike Iron Man.

Nighthawk of the Squadron Supreme of America

Nighthawk of the Squadron Supreme of America

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

The most recent and current incarnation of Kyle Richmond is also from an alternate reality – but in his case, his home of Earth-TRN852 is not a regular part of the Multiverse, but a magical creation of the devilish villain Mephisto.

As seen in the 2021 event Heroes Reborn (opens in new tab), Earth-TRN852 is a world where the Avengers never formed and many of Marvel’s other prominent heroes never got their powers, with the Squadron Supreme of America taking the Avengers’ place as Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – although with violent, authoritarian methods similar to their previously mentioned Earth-712 counterparts. 

In Nighthawk’s case, his heroic history is full of bits and pieces taken from the Earth-616 adventures of Spider-Man, including encounters with Venom, the Green Goblin, and even taking on Miles Morales as a protégé.

Though little is known about his history as a magical creation of Mephisto, this version of Kyle Richmond combines elements from the backstories of the other Nighthawk ‘Variants’, including his resemblance to the Supreme Power version, the anti-authoritarian nature of the Earth-712 Nighthawk, and the common thread of turning against his teammates when they go farther than he’s willing to follow them.

Avengers #55 page

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

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As such, the Squadron Supreme of America’s Nighthawk eventually discovered Mephisto’s role in the team’s creation and in the very existence of their world, turning on his teammates to help the Avengers break Mephisto’s spell and return to the core reality of Earth-616.

Since then, Nighthawk and the rest of the Squadron Supreme of America have stayed in the core Marvel Universe, though Nighthawk remains estranged from his former teammates. Most recently, in April 20’s Avengers #55, this version of Nighthawk joined the Avengers to help take down Mephisto once and for all, as the devilish manipulator seems poised to be one of the biggest threats to the Marvel Universe in 2022.

And on that note, read up on the rest of our picks for Marvel’s Most Wanted – the Marvel supervillains to watch out for in 2022.

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