Growing up Kyle Richmond felt alone and angry at his workaholic father for having him sent away to boarding school after the death of his mother. He was given him an easy pass in life and attended the finest schools and universities on account of his father's money. While studying at college, he began dating a girl named Mindy Williams whom his father didn't approve of. Tragedy strucked when Kyle crashed a car while driving drunk and was led to believe he had killed his girlfriend in the accident. In actuality, his father had paid the girl to disappear believing he wasn't good enough for his family.
Following his father's death, Kyle inherited control of Richmond Entreprises and his father's fortune but was largely uninterested devoting his time instead to the playboy lifestyle. He quickly became bored with the lifestyle and when offered an opportunity by the Grandmaster for a life of excitement as a superhero, Richmond jumped at the chance to join the Squadron Sinister as the costumed Nighthawk.
Nighthawk was created by Roy Thomas and Sal Buscema in 1969 and first appeared in The Avengers #69. Nighthawk is loosely based on DC's Batman, much like the rest of the Squadron Sinister were based on other members of the Justice League. This was due to Roy Thomas' desire to do a crossover between the two competing companies.
Nighthawk was introduced as an Avengers villain alongside the rest of the Squadron Sinister. After a short stint battling the heroes, another version of Nighthawk was introduced a few issues later hailing from an alternate reality where he was on of that world's greatest heroes and a member of the Squadron Supreme. The two Nighthawks reappeared over the years and the mainstream Nighthawk eventually began to explore his potential to be a hero and became a long-term member of the Defenders.
Major Story Arcs
Let the Game Begin
Nighthawk joined the Squadron Sinister, the Grandmaster's champions in a game against Kang the Conqueror involving the Avengers. Grandmaster sent Nighthawk to battle Captain America at the Statue of Liberty and after a fight between the two Captain America proved the victor. With Nighthawk subdued, the Avengers similarly defeated the rest of the Squadron, the Grandmaster, and Kang himself.
The Man Who Finished Daredevil
Following his defeat at the hands of the Avengers, Nighthawk decided to continue in his attempts to be a costumed adventurer and superhero independent from the rest of the Squadron Sinister. Attempting to establish himself as a solo hero in New York City, to this end he began a campaign to discredit Daredevil and make himself look superior in contrast.
When the public accepted Nighthawk as it's new hero when Daredevil appeared incompetent and less capable in comparison, Daredevil sought to expose him as a fraud. Discovered that Nighthawk was in fact allowing a lot of the criminals he caught go since he was only interested in publicity, Daredevil had the ammunition he needed to win back public opinion.
After Daredevil confronted Nighthawk about this, the two fought and Nighthawk was bested by the Man Without Fear. Daredevil then convinced Nighthawk into confessing his actions and motives to the public. Disgraced, Nighthawk decided to retire his superhero guise and settle back to being simple playboy Kyle Richmond.
The Man Who Bought the World
The villain Nebulon reformed the Squadron Sinister to help him conquer and own the Earth and the retired Kyle was forced into becoming Nighthawk again. Nighthawk however had a change of heart during his time out of costume and what to become a force for good. Thus, reluctant to aid in Nebulon's plans, Nighthawk called in the Defenders to help him defeat Nebulon and the Squadron. As the superhero team and Nighthawk thwarted Nebulon's scheme, the Defenders proposed Nighthawk become a member which he did.
With the Defenders
Nighthawk became one of the cor-members of the Defenders and also became the team's financier. They had many adventures, but sometimes Nighthawk's anger would lead to dire situations. Once even so bad that Nighthawk threatened to leave the team. He however soon found out that he needed the team just as bad as they needed him, and he soon afterwards rejoined them. During one of the team's adventures, they encountered the Grandmaster once more as the team and many other heroes where abducted to take part in the Grandmaster's so called Contest of Champions. This time the Grandmaster was playing against Prime Mover with the prize at stake being the fate of the Earth. Nighthawk and the other heroes were forced to battle against Korvac and at the same time try and defeat Grandmaster and Prime Mover to save Earth from either of their plans.
The War to End All Wars and seeming Death
Nighthawk and the Defenders fought various fights, and gained many new members such as Hellcat, Hellstrom and Gargoyle. Unfortunately for Nighthawk, his superhero career was put on hold when he was involved in several serious legal proceedings which also exposed his secret identity to the public. On trial for numerous cases of tax fraud and embezzlement crimes, Nighthawk was eventually cleared of all charges with the help of Matt Murdock who exposed the Shocker as having manipulated stock.
The legal trouble and outcome of it however had come to the attention of Mindy Williams, Nighthawk's long thought dead ex-girlfriend whose legs now where useless due to Kyle's drunk-driving accident with her many years ago. She then began to target Nighthawk for his riches. Joining forces with the Secret Empire, Mindy had experiments performed on her to develop psychic powers so she could be a match for Nighthawk. When her powers proved too much for the Secret Empire to handle, the terrorists captured Nighthawk in the hopes that his capture would calm her down. Instead, Mindy opted to blow up the Secret Empire's base seemingly killing herself and Nighthawk in the process. Nighthawk was not seen again and the team mourned the loss of their great leader.
Walk of Life
As it turns out, Nighthawk had survived the explosion and was rushed to hospital but remained comatose for a long time, without his friends knowing. Before he awoke several years later, an angel appeared before him and offered him the power to see evil acts before they occur so that he could better fight against crime. Out of hospital and with visions of future crimes, Nighthawk went into action and pre-emptively stopped many criminals before they committed crimes.
Nighthawk's actions, appearing random to the public, drew the attention of Daredevil. After the two fought, Nighthawk beat Daredevil to death and discovered the "angel" who had gave him his gift was in fact the demon Mephisto who had wanted to claim both Daredevil and Nighthawk's souls.
Trapped in Mephisto's Realm, Nighthawk trekked for decades and managed to overcome Mephisto's disturbing torture of him and finally escaped with Daredevil in tow. With Daredevil resurrected, the two parted ways having shared the harrowing experience together.
Not soon after these events, Nighthawk and the newly resurrected Hellcat found out that the four original Defenders; Doctor Strange, Silver Surfer, Namor and Hulk, where 'cursed' by a spell from Gaia that teleported them together where-ever there was a need for heroes. Nighthawk saw this as the chance to re-assemble the other Defenders. He managed to both bring back the old team and finance them. Nighthawk also brought in a new recruit, his spiritual teacher Papa Hagg. The team remained together until the four original members became angered with their situation of being teleported away at any time and changed their method to pro-active global domination as The Order. The Defenders concept soon fell apart and Nighthawk's team quietly disbanded.
When one of his former allies in the Squadron Sinister, Speed Demon (formerly Whizzer), robbed from Richmond Enterprises, Nighthawk confronted him and the team he was now associated with; the Thunderbolts.
When the Grandmaster formed a new Squadron Sinister, they attacked the Thunderbolts, trying to get both Nighthawk and Speed Demon to rejoin them. Nighthawk again opposed them this time joining forces with the Thunderbolts. Nighthawk was welcomed onto the team and offered them the former base the Defenders used for an HQ. Unbeknownst to him, the Thunderbolts were only using him for his wealth.
Upon discovering the truth following a battle with Baron Zemo's own Thunderbolts team, Nighthawk left the team and instead went to ally with Grandmaster and the Squadron Sinister in their conflict against the Thunderbolts. Nighthawk eventually abandoned the Squadron when he realized their true motives.
During the Superhero Registration Act, he joined Captain America's resistance movement, but switched sides after Bill Foster was killed by Ragnarok.
After the Civil War was over, Richmond joined the Initiative as an instructor, before being asked to lead a new team of Defenders as New Jersey's team. Recently he has been forced to retire by Tony Stark, he passed the Nighthawk mantle to Joaquin Pennysworth. Who is the son of the late J.C. Pennysworth. J.C. was a good friend that ran Richmond Enterprises, whom also financed the third incarnation of the Sons of Serpent.
Powers & Abilities
Nighthawk is a near-Olympic level athlete, has low-level super-strength and increased agility and stamina at night. He also has a bunch of gadgets, such as lasers, a jet pack, and projectile weapons. He has used technology that lets him see in infrared and with telescopic vision. His suit has incorporated some kind of danger warning technology and radar. It is also capable of flying him back home if he is hurt. He is very rich.
This Nighthawk was a member of the Squadron Supreme and one of that world's greatest heroes. At one point, Null the Living Darkness and the Overmind ended up in the Squadron's universe and took over Nighthawk, and used him to take over the rest of the world. Eventually this plot was foiled by the mainstream reality's Defenders who met Nighthawk and mistook him for their own Nighthawk.
Later, when the Squadron Supreme attempted to launch their Utopia program, Nighthawk opposed this, as he believed that the Squadron Supreme should serve the public, not rule it. Nighthawk left the Squadron Supreme in disgust, and secretly formed a plan to take down the Squadron Supreme before they could do any damage. Forming a team of villains and undiscovered superhumans, Nighthawk's team eventually battled the Squadron Supreme after several of its members joined the Squadron Supreme as double agents.
During the fight, Nighthawk's team member Foxfire, who was in love with Doctor Spectrum, used her powers on Nighthawk to give him a heart attack and kill him, betraying the team. Nighthawk's death allowed the rest of the Squadron Supreme to realise what a mistake the Utopia program was.
The Nighthawk from this reality was again a member of the Defenders.
Not much is known about the Nighthawk from Earth-4400, although he was at one point recruited to serve with Quentin Quire in a temporary team of Exiles.
Nighthawk of Earth-9997 was eventually driven insane by his prophetic visions forced upon him by Mephisto. Constantly seeing images of Earth's coming destruction, he purposely blinded himself. Now he lives in seclusion in a room looking over Manhattan with Isaac Christians, also known as Gargoyle.
Nighthawk's parents were killed in a drive-by shooting in front of his eyes, for no reason other than they were were black. His father had been describing how a nighthawk hunts, and thus Kyle adopted the Nighthawk persona to fight crime, though nearly all crimes he prevents are targeted at African-Americans. The only other member of the Squadron Supreme he even remotely listens to is Stanley Stewart, AKA, The Blur (who is also African-American).
Kyle has helped the Squadron Supreme in a number of their battles, and is by far the most reluctant member. On his own, he also faced off with "Whiteface," a sick villain who used his chemical genius for pointless and reviling mass murder.
In Other Media
The Super Hero Squad Show
Nighthawk (alongside the Squadron Supreme) appears in The Super Hero Squad Show episode "Whom Continuty Would Destroy!", voiced by Adam West. In the show, Kyle Richmond had a pet tortoise named Tommy until one day a stolen SUV driven by punks ran over and killed Tommy. The death of his beloved pet drove Richmond to join the fight for justice.
Nighthawk appeared alongside the rest of Squadron Supreme in a cameo in the Avengers Assemble episode "Hyperion". In the episode, it is stated that the team were a group of heroes from a distant world, who died when the planet was destroyed by their turncoat member, Hyperion.