Origin and First Appearance
One of the world's most skillful and high-priced elite mercenaries, Paladin is also among the most enigmatic. Prominently active worldwide as a costumed soldier of fortune for years, he has extensive ties with various governments, corporations and intelligence agencies, but his early life remains a mystery. No one seems to know his real name, his place of origin, how he began his career or how he gained his superhuman powers and high-tech equipment. While he sometimes uses civilian aliases for various reasons of convenience, he considers "Paladin" to be his only real name and conducts much of his business and legal documentation under that title. He often unmasks in the presence of others and does not maintain a consistent civilian identity separate from his Paladin guise. His minimum fee is usually $5,000 a day plus expenses, or $500,000 lump sum, but he is constantly in search of new clients to fund his lavish lifestyle. Handsome and charming, he is an infamous womanizer with a long list of girlfriends mostly short-term; however, he has a strictly business relationship with his frequent employer Silver Sable, leader of an elite Symkarian mercenary company.
Paladin generally scorns nonprofit adventurers and sometimes clashes with super heroes in performing his assignments, but he is prone to occasional acts of unpaid altruism. He has been a recurring ally to heroes such as the Avengers, Captain America, Daredevil, Spider-Man and the Wasp, though his work has also brought him into conflict with almost all of them at one time or another. These conflicts highlight another mysterious aspect of Paladin's life, his shifting personality and methodology. While he has seldom worked for criminals and has a long-established reputation as an honorable man, Paladin has more often drifted into illegal or immoral assignments over time, and has proven surprisingly treacherous on occasion. Also, while his favourite weapon is a non-lethal stun gun and he often strives neither to injure nor kill his foes, he sometimes wields conventional firearms and has casually employed lethal force during some missions. Famous as an urbane, cultured sophisticate, he occasionally acts crass, boorish and common. Paladin's shifting manners and methods remain a mystery, as does much else regarding his true character.
In one of his early high-profile cases, Paladin hunted the mind-controlling criminal Purple Man, having being hired by a frightened former henchman Mort Chisholm; Paladin accepted the job for a "mere" $450,000 since it intrigued him. The case initially brought Paladin into conflict with costumed hero Daredevil who was also hunting the Purple Man, but Paladin and Daredevil ultimately joined forces to defeat him and his pawns: Cobra, Gladiator, Jester and Mr. Hyde.
Shortly thereafter, Marsha Connors hired Paladin to protect her from her abusive ex-boyfriend Dennis Sutton, who had become the insane radioactive terrorist Phantasm. Defeating Phantasm after a series of battles, Paladin grew emotionally attached to Marsha during the job, though they apparently parted company soon after Phantasm's defeat.
Defender for a ... minute
When Dollar Bill's unauthorized Defenders television documentary publicized that super-team, Paladin visited them alongside many other heroes seeking membership, but he departed upon realizing they were a nonprofit organization.
After Christine Michaels' scientist husband Walter was transformed into the insane menace Thermo, she hired Paladin to apprehend him; he did so with the aid of mutant musician Dazzler and veteran super-hero Spider-Man.
The Wasp, Captain America and the Avengers
After attending the Grandmaster's "Contest of Champions," Paladin was hired by a consortium of Caribbean casino owners to apprehend flamboyant thief Baron Brimstone. Infiltrating the Utopia Cay resort as supposed vacationer "Paul Denning," Paladin began a romance with wealthy heroine the Wasp (Janet Van Dyne) that continued after she helped him capture Brimstone.
Their relationship later led to a conflict of interest when Paladin worked for mob boss Vince Granetti, who was attempting a hostile takeover of Van Dyne's company Nevell Industries. Paladin clashed with both Wasp and Spider-Man during this assignment, but he ultimately switched sides and helped them bring down Granetti. Not long after this, Van Dyne flirted with the idea of using her position as Avengers chairman to make Paladin an Avenger.
Next hired by European diamond merchants, Paladin earned a substantial bonus by capturing Belgium's most notorious jewel thief. Visiting Wasp to celebrate, he ended up aiding her and the Black Knight against new Masters of Evil recruits Yellowjacket, Grey Gargoyle and Screaming Mimi.
When the Wasp later transferred to the western Avengers roster, she rekindled her old romance with ex-husband Hank Pym and gradually lost touch with Paladin, who went back to his usual womanizing. However, Paladin arrived years later to show support for Janet when Hank, as well as The Torch and Hawkeye, were injured.
Solving a complicated, globe-spanning case for Chicago newspaper publisher Emmett Edison and his daughter Dixie, Paladin impulsively charged for only a small portion of the work involved ultimately calling in the Avengers to help him thwart a full-scale alien invasion spinning out of these events. Shortly thereafter, crime boss Vincent Mangano offered Paladin $10 million to kill the vigilante Frank Castle (the Punisher). Despite his longstanding policy of never accepting assassination contracts, Paladin agreed, overwhelmed by the potential payoff and rationalizing the hit as justifiable since Castle was a wanted serial killer. During several ensuing skirmishes, Paladin clashed with both Punisher and the government super-operative, and Avenger, US Agent, who seriously injured and nearly arrested Paladin before the mercenary fled.
Upon recovery, Paladin befriended the mercenary trio Bad Girls, Inc. (Asp, Black Mamba and Diamondback) after he and Captain America helped them defeat the Girls' estranged associates, the criminal Serpent Society. The ladies even roomed in one of Paladin's Manhattan penthouse apartments for a time, and when the female supremacist Superia forcibly drafted the trio into her Femizons, Paladin and Captain America joined forces to defeat Superia and help the Bad Girls escape. The cynical Paladin and idealistic Captain America formed a grudging mutual respect, becoming friendly occasional allies thereafter. Captain America noticed the noble intentions and help Paladin has offered the Avengers and offered him "Reserve" status among the Avengers. Something Paladin had no desire to have; although he did express the resources it would give him held a lot of potential contracts for him.
Silver Sable's Wild Pack
After helping Spider-Man and Silver Sable investigate an anti-Symkarian conspiracy, Paladin teamed with Sable's Wild Pack to apprehend ex-mercenary Marc Spector (secretly Moon Knight), then wanted by the government of Bosqueverde.
Briefly working with Silver Sable's team of super-agents, the Outlaws, Paladin helped them recover stolen Symkarian technology from Darkmoor Research Center despite the interference of British super-team Excalibur, sharing a mutually pleasant passionate embrace with Excalibur member Rachel Summers during the encounter. Accepting a solo assignment from Metro Stadium, Paladin neutralized a bomb threat against the stadium and exposed the facility's departing security chief Burke as the culprit.
For a time, Paladin worked more steadily with Silver Sable International, helping them pursue Nazi war criminal Dmitri Petrovith, hunting down the terrorist Viper's "Pit-Viper" doubles, aiding relief efforts in Somalia, battling the Bio-Genes and HYDRA, tracking down embezzler Jonathan Lee, and clashing repeatedly with the subversive Genesis Coalition. During this period, Paladin sometimes served as part of Sable's new team of super-operatives, the Intruders.
Returning to solo mercenary work, Paladin was hired by wealthy cyborg criminal Donald Pierce to protect his Randall House property, but the mutant cyborg Cable defeated Paladin during the break-in there. Paladin next helped Sable's Wild Pack protect scientist Wolfgang Hessler, clashing with rival mercenaries Heroes for Hire over custody of Hessler, but failed to prevent Hessler's capture by the Master of the World.
Subsequently hired by Adrienne Frost to retrieve her samurai sword from corrupt Madripoor businessman Noy, Paladin fought Noy's Rising Sons and secured the sword with the aid of Frost's mutant Generation X students, notably a very smitten Jubilee.
About the same time, Frost set herself up as the new White Queen of the New York branch of the world conquering Hellfire Club, and later, with her influence on Paladin, used him to steal billions of dollars from the London chapter. Frost later claimed that, when going into hiding to escape the London Club's retribution, that she had killed Paladin.
After closing a new case with Captain America's aid and refusing an offer of Great Lakes Avengers membership, Paladin teamed with Diamondback on a SHIELD-sponsored secret mission to steal a dangerous new biological weapon from the Genetassist facility, where the misguided young mutant Hellions stole the weapon out from under them. The Hellions soon returned the weapon to SHIELD, albeit rendered unusable. Going solo again, Paladin helped an oppressive foreign government capture a rebel group but deliberately allowed the rebels to blow up a major government facility in the process.
The Murdock Papers
Back in America, Paladin's often-friendly relations with the federal government temporarily soured when the FBI blackmailed him into helping them capture a fugitive Daredevil. In exchange for this job, the FBI gave Paladin a clean slate, eliminating any suspected or confirmed criminal activity from his official record.
Paladin reluctantly shot Daredevil from a distance, thus leading to the latter's incarceration, as Paladin swore that if the FBI didn't follow their promises they would regret it.
Civil War and the Initiative
Paladin joined the new Heroes for Hire mercenary team led by Misty Knight; however, he betrayed the group during the super-hero Civil War when the team met with fugitive rebel leader Captain America. While Knight guaranteed the Captain's safety for the duration of this meeting, Paladin had secretly agreed to capture the Captain for SHIELD. Aided by the element of surprise, Paladin subdued Captain America, the Captain's confederates and most of the Heroes for Hire in a matter of moments, but martial artist Shang Chi ultimately defeated Paladin and enabled Captain America's rebels to escape.
Humiliated and kicked out of the Heroes for Hire, Paladin soon accepted a ten million dollar SHIELD assignment to capture mutant alien primitive Moon Boy; realizing he could not complete the job alone, he persuaded the Heroes for Hire to assist him in exchange for splitting the huge fee with them. Shortly after the mission, Paladin clashed with SHIELD operative Carmilla Black over access to a police impound warehouse full of super-criminal weaponry.
Paladin joins the Defenders... again briefly...
Not long afterwards, Nighthawk's team of Defenders disbanded and when U-Man threatened humanity, Nighthawk recruited Paladin for a new alongside Atlas and Junta - the best team money could buy.
The group didn't stay together long, and Nighthawk's friction with the Initiative and Tony Stark, didn't help matters. The team went on their separate ways, disappointingly having not earned their promised fee.
Black Ops and Thunderbolts
After the Secret Invasion, Norman Osborn is hailed a hero for assassinating the Skrull queen and is promoted from leader of the Thunderbolts to leader of H.A.M.M.E.R, seemingly disbanding the Thunderbolts as Osborn transfers most of his former team members to the Dark Avengers. However, Osborn has other plans and decides to re-form the Thunderbolts as his own personal black-ops team. This is where Paladin comes in, as his particular skill set and obvious lack of morals makes him a prime candidate to fill a slot on the new team; alongside Yelena Belova (Natasha Romanova in disguise), Headsman, Ant-Man, and Ghost (With Mr.X, Scourge, and Grizzly added later) this would be where Paladin's role would be throughout the Dark Reign and the Siege of Asgard.
After the Secret Invasion ended, Elektra was transported to a S.H.I.E.L.D base for observation. Almost immediately after being transported there, S.H.I.E.L.D was disbanded and Norman Osborn's H.A.M.M.E.R took over. Osborn ordered that Elektra be interrogated over and over again using some very brutal methods. This is where Paladin comes in. Paladin infiltrates the H.A.M.M.E.R base using a disguise of a doctor. Once he is sure that Elektra is secure, he explains to her that she killed a friend of his years ago, and proceeds to strike her. He then reveals that there is an 82 million dollar price on her head and utters the words " The stars are safe in the sky" Elektra spits a tooth that Paladin loosened when he struck her into his throat, temporarily disabling him and allowing her to free herself and impale Paladin with a pipe. She then leaves, allowing Paladin to live, although badly injured.
During the Dark Reign, Paladin takes part in several Thunderbolts black ops missions, such as framing Doc Samson, recruiting new member Mr. X, and the capture of Songbird and Black Widow. It is during the last mission that we see a definite change in Paladin's character. Osborn had it out for Songbird since the time that they were on the Thunderbolts together and fought over control of the group. When Osborn orders the Thunderbolts to pursue Songbird and bring her in, Black Widow breaks her cover under orders from Nick Fury. During the ensuing confrontation between the Thunderbolts and Songbird and Black Widow, the two women are captured. When Osborn orders Songbird executed, the team tears apart for the first time. Headsman and Paladin both show that they are not completely driven by money and attack Scourge and Mr. X. After a brief struggle, they are able to take down Scourge, but Mr. X overpowers them and is about to kill them both when Ghost comes to their aid and saves both of them. Ghost wipes both Scourge's and Mr. X's memories of the encounter, allowing the Thunderbolts to stay together. The next several missions that Paladin takes part in were the attempted initiation of Luke Cage and Iron Fist into the Thunderbolts (which failed miserably), and a battle with the Agents of Atlas. The events that happen during Paladin's tenure in the Thunderbolts during Dark Reign directly affect his change of heart during Siege.
During the Siege of Asgard, Paladin and the rest of the Thunderbolts were sent to recover the spear of Odin from Asgard during the attack on request of Norman Osborn. Upon finding the spear, they come into conflict with The Mighty Avengers. During this struggle, the team is split in two, with Scourge, Grizzly, and Mr.X sticking with Osborn's agenda; while Paladin, Ant-Man, and Ghost decide that they are finished doing Osborn's dirty work despite the consequences. Paladin is able to overpower Scourge through use of his stun-gun long enough to grab the spear until he is attacked from behind by Grizzly. Ant-Man comes to his aid and breaks Grizzly's ear drum. Grizzly drops the spear and Mr. X picks it up and decides to battle the remaining Mighty Avengers by himself. He is winning until Quicksilver shows up and lays a beating on Mr. X, again vacating the spear until Ant-Man picks it up and brings it back to Paladin, not wanting the responsibility. Paladin is last seen walking along a highway holding the spear of Odin, the Thunderbolts clearly disbanded.
Paladin teamed up with Misty Knight, the Shroud and Silver Sable to tackle Daredevil and the Hand.
The Heroic Age
Recently, Misty Knight has begun to recruit heroes to carry out missions for her, in part based on intel gathered by Paladin. She called on Falcon, Black Widow and Moon Knight to go after some drug dealers, then Silver Sable, Satana and Ghost Rider to track down some demon-weapons dealers including Baron Brimstone. Paladin assists Misty in monitoring the heroes while on their missions but is suspicious and discovers that in fact her usual control room has been empty and abandoned for several months. While Moon Knight is sent to investigate Savage Land women who are being used for a prostitution ring, Paladin decides to monitor her known associates Luke Cage, Colleen Wing and Iron Fist in order to find out more, but Iron Fist attacks him, wanting to be left alone and not wanting to interfere with Misty's life. Later, after Misty recovers, she and Paladin restart Heroes For Hire on their own terms, trying to keep the crime rings they'd broken up from recovering. In doing this they discover that whoever was behind Puppet Master had taken control of all the operations they'd shut down, and, with the help of Spider-Man and Satana, managed to shut down the operations a second time.
Paladin and his fellow Heroes for Hire fought against a possessed Thing and legions of escaping convicts from The Raft in the wake of Fear Itself.
Paladin was the first Hero For Hire to succumb to spider-mutation. Initially joyous at the chance to show the real Spider-Man how a professional could use his powers, Paladin soon mutated far beyond cognitive skills and became bestial.
Powers & Abilities
Paladin is a highly skilled and trained mercenary, capable of lethal force, but preferring to use non-lethal tactics, such as his signature stun gun, smoke bombs, or his various martial arts skills to take care of his targets. Paladin's uniform is a purple bodysuit complete with helmet, boots, gloves, knee and elbow pads, all made of the same bulletproof material. His helmet is also multi-purpose as it is equipped with infrared vision and an airtight facemask, also equipped with an air supply.
He has been known to express greater than normal human strength, but whether this is due to a natural ability, or extra strength provided by his suit has never been established.