Published December 28, 2022

Meet Nightshade, a Deadly Captain America Villain Turned Hero

Who is Nightshade? Meet Tilda Johnson, a brilliant scientist and Captain America villain who found redemption as an unconventional hero.

Cunning and intelligent, Tilda Johnson—AKA Nightshade—has stood toe-to-toe with some of Marvel’s heaviest hitters, including Sam Wilson’s Falcon, Luke Cage’s Power Man, and Danny Rand’s Iron Fist. Now, the villain-turned-hero is back in the pages of Tochi Onyebuchi and Ig Guara’s CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH (2022) #8, and her reunion with Wilson is a tense one. Here’s what you need to know about Johnson.

A Villainous Beginning

In her early life, Johnson proved herself to be a brilliant scientist with specializations in genetics and cybernetics. Rather than use those abilities for good, though, Johnson turned to a life of crime, leading to her debut in CAPTAIN AMERICA (1968) #164 by Steve Englehart and Alan Weiss

That story saw Johnson team up with recurring villain Yellow Claw to take on Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, and Sam Wilson, who was acting as the Sentinel of Liberty’s partner at the time. As part of one of her many experiments, Nightshade began transforming convicts into werewolves. Desperate, an imprisoned man named Mel Lansing reached out to his old friend Sam for help. During their investigation, Nightshade captured Wilson and turned him into a werewolf. In the end, Rogers defeated Nightshade with some help from Nick Fury and restored Wilson to his human form.

That’s not the only time Nightshade faced off against Captain America. The next time Johnson returned, she used her scientific prowess to mind control several male S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and pit them against Rogers and Wilson. Several years later, during the "Superia Stratagem" arc, Johnson allied with the villainous Superia to create a female-led world. After Rogers defeated Superia, Johnson began working—potentially against her will—with Dredmund the Druid and succeeded at turning Captain America into a werewolf. Both times, Rogers only managed to take down Johnson and her allies with help and by the skin of his teeth.

Although Nightshade has played a key role in several Captain America’s stories, she has also gone up against Power Man, Iron Fist, Colleen Wing, and Misty Knight on numerous occasions, usually employing the help of robots called Cybernauts to fight them. Additionally, Nightshade resurrected the villainous Black Dragon during Christopher Priest’s run on BLACK PANTHER (1998), which saw her bring an alternate version of T’Challa from a parallel reality to Earth-616.

After BLACK PANTHER, Nightshade played a key role in several Super Villain teams, most notably M.O.D.O.K.’s 11. That titular villain assembled a group of Super Villains, including Johnson, to help him steal a power source called the Hypernova from a technologically advanced group known as the Infinicide. Additionally, she founded the Flashmob, using them to take on Víctor Álvarez’s Power Man, and joined Misty Knight’s Crew, which fought against the Purple Man’s Villains for Hire.

How Nightshade Became a Hero

Nightshade didn’t remain a villain forever. In NIGHTHAWK (2016), Johnson began assisting the book’s titular hero after a group of men nearly murdered her in an alley. In what she thought were her last moments, she swore to turn her life around if she were to survive. Nighthawk—who had been looking to recruit her because of her technical prowess—intervened, and she became loyal to him. Together, they took down white supremacists, corrupt cops, and a serial killer named the Revelator in Chicago.

Following the events of CIVIL WAR II (2016), Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, and Red Wolf traveled the United States with the aim of using their abilities for good in OCCUPY AVENGERS (2016). Their journey brought them to Chicago, where they teamed up with Nighthawk and Johnson to investigate the trafficking of Epidurium, a substance used to make life-model decoys. At the end of that story, Johnson joined up with Barton and Red Wolf. 

After the team dealt with a few smaller-scale problems, SECRET EMPIRE (2017) hit, and Hawkeye was called away from his OCCUPY AVENGERS teammates to fight against Hydra, who had taken control of the United States. During the SECRET EMPRIE tie-in issues of OCCUPY AVENGERS, Johnson took up the mantle of Nighthawk following his murder. Together with Red Wolf, she joined the resistance against Hydra and organized people in South Dakota against the group. In the closing moments of OCCUPY AVENGERS, Johnson and Red Wolf began exploring their romantic feelings for each other, though their fates in the battle against Hydra were left unclear. 

Johnson, for her part, returned in SAVAGE AVENGERS (2019) as a patron at the Bar with No Name, though she didn’t play a major role in the story. Now, though, CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH (2022) #8 has confirmed what Johnson has been up to in recent years. A lot of tension still exists between her and Wilson, stemming both from his recent actions in Wakanda and her having turned him into a werewolf. However, the two are going to have to put aside their differences if they want to help the nation of Mohannda and uncover the truth about White Wolf’s plans.

To follow Nightshade’s latest adventure, pick up CAPTAIN AMERICA: SYMBOL OF TRUTH #8, on sale now!

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