Arnold Paffenroth began dancing at the age of eight, the only son of a husband-wife vaudeville tap-dancing act. As an adult, he formed a partnership with fellow dancer Julia Walker, adopting the stage name Michael Wyatt, and becoming popular enough to star in a number of motion pictures with her. Paffenroth, knowing such success couldn't last, carefully invested his earnings in a Las Vegas casino. When indeed he could no longer get work in Hollywood, he split up with Julia Walker to attend to his casino business. Later, however, while trying to acquire other real estate, Paffenroth ran afoul of Las Vegas mobsters, who swindled him out of everything he owned. Mentally deranged by the experience, he fled to Los Angeles where he soon became a drunken derelict. For several years he eked out a bare existence on the outskirts of society.
Finally, he was recruited into an army of derelicts by Sidney Sarnak, a former sound engineer turned criminal. Sarnak had been hired and outfitted by the Committee, a secret cabal of Los Angeles businessmen attempting to foster a climate of fear which they believed would stimulate the economy. To this end, Sarnak organized a small army of derelicts which he controlled by means of a specially designed ultrasonic whistle capable of stimulating the emotional centers of the brain. Paffenroth was one of Sarnak's chief operatives until Sarnak went mad after an encounter with the Werewolf, Jack Russell. The Committee gave Paffenroth his own campaign of terror. Calling himself the Tatterdemalion, Paffenroth struck out randomly at the wealthy, whose ranks had once claimed him as a member. Unlike the common criminal who sought to acquire wealth for himself, the Tatterdemalion sought to destroy money and material possessions.
In Los Angeles, Tatterdemalion was opposed and defeated by the Werewolf and Spider-Man, but was freed from police custody by the Committee. Going to Las Vegas to terrorize the casino he once owned, he again faced the Werewolf in combat, along with the Ghost Rider. While attempting to steal an expensive race car, the Tatterdemalion crashed and was left for dead. He survived, however, and eventually made his way back to Los Angeles. There he discovered that his former dance partner, Julia Walker, had been reduced to playing piano accompaniment for singers at a Hollywood nightclub called Reilly's Ace of Clubs. Maddened that his one-time paramour had fallen on hard times, he began terrorizing the singers at the night club in a misguided belief that it would enable her to resume the limelight. Dazzler opposed him, however, and revealed to Walker who he really was. Walker attempted to rehabilitate him, but the mentally disturbed man eventually proved burdensome to her and she left him.
Under circumstances to be revealed, the Tatterdemalion was recruited into the Night Shift, a gang of Los Angeles-based misfits organized by the Shroud. Paffenroth served as a member of the Night Shift throughout its various incarnations, such as fighting alongside Captain America against the Power Broker and his augmented mutates. At one point, he and the Night Shift and the Hangman were enhanced by Satannish and battled the Avengers.
When the Commission on Superhuman Activities persuaded the Thunderbolts to track down super-villains and recruit them to join the pro-registration side of the Civil War|Superhuman Registration Act, Tatterdemalion was captured by them and decided to join the Thunderbolts.