Friday, December 20, 2013

The Dark Night....Hawk

Years ago…Marvel comics released an interesting set of books called the Marvel Universe Book of the Dead. Now the Marvel Universe ‘series’ was basically Marvel’s version of an encyclopedia (Wikipedia to all you young’uns) where one could learn all they needed to know about their favorite Marvel character. The Book of Dead was pretty self-explanatory, it was also a source of information to Marvel characters who had one thing in common…they were all dead (or at least they were at the time of printing).

I don’t know what exactly it was that got my attention to this series but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about all these dead characters’ stories. One character in particular that got my attention was this dude called Nighthawk. With his dark muted colors, long flowing cape and pointy ears, he seemed to remind me of another superhero from a rival comic book company….

So it turns out that Nighthawk was a superhero from an alternate universe. And in his world, he was a member of the Squadron Supreme, that world's premier super team. Now looking at the roster of members of the Squadron, one could easily surmise that Nighthawk’s resemblance to a certain Dark Knight wasn’t just a coincidence. Other members of the Squadron included their leader Hyperion who aside from being super strong had the powers of flight, invulnerability and could should lasers from his eyes (oh and he also had a cape)….sound familiar? It didn’t stop there. Power Princess was also a warrior woman with super strength. Dr. Spectrum was a hero who could make constructs from his power ring. They also had their resident speedster called the Whizzer, along with an aqua dude, a woman who projected sonic screams, a highly skilled archer who had the hots for her, and a winged warrior, really, the list goes on and on.

Despite their obvious similarities to the Justice League, the Squadron Supreme was more than just an attempt by Marvel to rip-off its rival company. Their story is told in a very well written 12 issue mini-series that to this day I count as one of the best stories Marvel ever came up with. As the story goes, Hyperion and most members of the squadron come to the conclusion that the only way to fully achieve peace and order in their world is for them to establish a utopia wherein the Squadron serves as the ultimate ruling body. In order to achieve this, one of their members, inventor Tom Thumb creates this device that basically brainwashes and reprograms people. They use this device to “rehabilitate” criminals into more useful members of society.

Naturally, not all members of the Squadron agree with this method, seeing it as a violation of free will. Nighthawk quits the team over this and secretly forms his own team of “heroes” composed of other disgruntled Squadron members and villains. The series concludes with a climactic battle between the Squadron and Nighthawk’s crew, dubbed the Redeemers. In the end, the Redeemers are victorious with the Squadron ultimately surrendering. But the victory is bitter sweet as numerous key members of both groups are killed, including Nighthawk himself, a victim of a double cross by one of his members trying to prove her ultimate loyalty to the Squadron.

Although, his story didn’t last that long, I thought it was very well told, and his character and simple (but slick) costume design left a lasting impression on me. So I was pleasantly surprised when an actual Nighthawk action figure was released by Hasbro. Unfortunately it wasn’t the exact Nighthawk that I had hoped for. It doesn’t take an expert to realize that this figure looks NOTHING like the Nighthawk I just talked about. Instead, this version of Nighthawk is part of the MAIN Marvel Universe. Although I don’t find this Nighthawk’s story as interesting as the alternate one, I still do find this design just as cool (less Dark Knight-y) so getting a figure of this mainstream version is still an unexpected treat.

And for those curious, THIS Nighthawk’s story starts out more villainous. He, along with a bunch of other super villains are recruited by this evil mastermind to form a “Squadron Sinister” to battle the Avengers. Eventually though (after being defeated) he breaks off from that group and turns over a new leaf, becoming part of another super team, the Defenders. Now I’m not really an expert in all things Defenders, but I hear he has been a rather constant member in their ever changing ranks, and from time to time does pop into other comic titles here and there.

Anyway, because of its long history, the Marvel Universe is filled with all these unexplored and untapped obscure characters. Many of them are never really destined to be a part of anything ground breaking story wise in the Marvel universe any time soon, and in fact most will probably end up forgotten. But for me, Nighthawk will always be one of MY favorite obscure characters and I am happy that he gets some decent representation on my toyshelf!