Kyle Richmond lived a privileged life of luxury, making him spoiled, irresponsible, and insubordinate. His irresponsibility led to tragedy, however, when he drove drunk and caused an accident that killed his girlfriend. He sought refuge in being drafted for the army, but he was rejected when a physical revealed he had a heart murmur. He threw himself into his life of luxury, all the while secretly searching for a cure. Finding a mysterious formula in an ancient book, Kyle re-created and drank it, discovering his body gained superhuman powers, but only at night.
The Grandmaster immediately appeared, revealing that it was he who arranged for Kyle to find the formula. The Grandmaster then had him take the identity of Nighthawk in order to form the Squadron Sinister and fight the Avengers, who themselves were pawns of the Grandmaster’s opponent, Kang the Conqueror. Although the Squadron was defeated, the Grandmaster kept his word and returned Kyle and the others to Earth with their powers. Kyle continued to use his Nighthawk identity for idle amusement, running into conflict with Daredevil.
A few months later, he and the other members of the Squadron Sinister were hired by the alien geographer, Nebulon. Nebulon and the Squadron Sinister tried to melt the polar ice caps, but Nighthawk grew uncomfortable with the situation and, acting responsibly for the first time in his life, he contacted the Defenders to help defeat the Squadron. In the conflict, Nighthawk threw himself in front of Nebulon’s laser cannon, stopping the plot at the risk of his life. Doctor Strange cast a spell to revive Nighthawk, and Kyle became an associate of the team.
Nighthawk found a new sense of purpose as a member of the Defenders. He updated his costume with a jet-powered glider and turned his private riding academy into a team headquarters. He even became a de facto leader of the group, serving faithfully except for a brief period when he retired his identity to deal with an IRS investigation. Later, after stopping the demonic Six-Fingered Hand, the spell Doctor Strange had used to revive Nighthawk was disrupted. Kyle found himself completely paralyzed during the day, having his superpowers and full mobility only at night.
Kyle tried to return to college, where he found his former girlfriend, Mindy Williams, had not died during their earlier accident but was severely crippled. Mindy was, in fact, a telepath, and she tried to gain revenge on Nighthawk, who was saved with the help of Spider-Man. Soon after, Nighthawk learned Mindy was an unwilling tool of August Masters, a super-patriot who hoped to use the collective psychic might of Mindy and other telepaths to attack the Soviet Union. He contacted the Defenders to help defeat masters, although it was the six telepaths, funneling their collective power into Nighthawk, that were able to destroy the complex. Although the Defenders escaped, Kyle, the telepaths, and Masters were all inside when it exploded.
Kyle was hospitalized and believed dead, but it was soon discovered he was in fact in a coma, when he recuperated faster when blocked from the sun’s rays during the day. During his time in a coma, Kyle was approached by an angelic being that told Nighhawk his role on Earth was far from over. When Kyle awoke, he possessed a special psychic vision that allowed him to perceive evil deeds before they would occur, and Nighthawk resumed his crime-fighting career by taking a proactive approach to defeat crime before it happened. This crusade, however, had all the seeming of a costumed man beating up innocent people, and Daredevil, rightfully concerned, confronted Nighthawk. Although Nighthawk tried to recruit Daredevil, both were killed in a subsequent conflict. In fact, this was all according to Mephisto’s plan, who had posed as the angel giving Nighthawk his new vision and purpose, knowing that Kyle was on his way to a better afterlife and was determined to stop him. Nighthawk, by force of will, dragged Daredevil with him physically out of hell and back into the land of the living, thwarting Mephisto’s plans.
Kyle sought help from Papa Hagg to remove Mephisto’s influence, and he kept his Nighthawk costume at the ready. Finally, after a long hiatus, the Defenders were reunited after his former teammate Hellcat brought the original founders together to defeat Yandroth the Magician. As a result of the battle, several of the Defenders were cursed to continually band together, and Nighthawk and the remaining Defenders elected to stay together as a team to support them. Nighthawk, in particular, was thrilled to once again be a part of the team. He had Papa Hagg magically transport the support Defenders whenever the core team would be cursed to appear at a trouble spot. However, as part of the curse, the core Defenders found themselves distancing themselves from humanity. They finally struck upon the idea that in order to have peace, they would enforce it by ruling the world. Nighthawk and the support Defenders organized a team to defeat the so-called Order, after which the Defenders were freed from their curse but disbanded once again.
Recently, Nighthawk began to notice that his superhuman powers were steadily increasing. About the same time, a division of Richmond Enterprises was robbed by former Squadron member Speed Demon, prompting Nighthawk to seek him out. Speed Demon was actually performing robberies in order to fund his new team, the Thunderbolts. Nighthawk confronted Speed Demon, but they were in turn confronted by a revived Squadron Sinister, who took Nighthawk and Speed Demon away with them. The Squadron hoped to take over the world in order to better solve the world’s problems, but they were stopped by the Thunderbolts. Speed Demon hoped to trick the Squadron into thinking he would help them, but he turned on them, helping the Thunderbolts force them to escape. Nevertheless, Songbird ultimately kicked Speed Demon out of the Thunderbolts because of his previous robberies, claiming that what the Thunderbolts needed more were members whose hearts were behind their efforts to reform. She then invited Nighthawk to join them, and he agreed. However, it wasn’t long before the Thunderbolts were rejoined by Baron Zemo, and Nighthawk decided to quit rather than work with the former criminal. (It was also revealed that Songbird only wanted Nighthawk as a member to help fund the team.) Nighthawk returned to the Squadron Sinister, who preferred to be called Supreme Power, finding them again recruited by the Grandmaster. This time, the Grandmaster claimed that the stakes of the game would affect the entire universe, and he hoped to use the Squadron to find the Wellspring of Power, from which he drew upon to grant the Squadron their abilities.