“Why I Love” Nighthawk

This piece continues my “Why I Love” series. In this series, I’ll be highlighting exactly what the title implies. I’m highlighting everything I love about comic books and comic book culture. There isn’t much I enjoy about comic book culture nowadays, but I’ll always enjoy comic books, no matter what. The first piece was about the new Green Lanterns of Earth, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz. Both are great examples of diversity in comics, even though no one recognizes them that much. They have their own personal problems but are able to overcome and save the Earth. Classic hero stuff, but I love them for it. The next piece was on Matt Murdock, also known as Daredevil. The fight within his soul makes me love him. I’m not a religious man, but I respect all religions, especially if someone is constantly striving to be a good person. That’s Matt Murdock in a nutshell. The anger in his heart needs to be tamed by fighting criminals, but he knows he’s a sinner because of it. He’s usually one of the most morally stable people in the Marvel Universe, but when he does break down, it’s hard to watch. My most recent piece was on why I love Batman: Hush. Hush is one of the best Batman stories of all time. The way it crafted a plot around almost everyone in Batman’s life can only be imitated, never duplicated. Not only did it handle the plot well, it introduced a new villain and showed us a softer, more relatable side to Batman. It’ll forever be one of my favorite comic book stories. All of these stories can be read if you just go back to the home screen of my page. They’re all recent posts.

All of that is great stuff. Today’s topic though is closer to my heart. If you’ve read anything I’ve written, whether I’m talking about comics, politics, race, music, whatever, I try to express my emotions in a clear, eloquent way. I have a lot of emotions. I also have anger in my heart. A plethora of things bother me, but sometimes it gets to the point that I need to hit something. It’s the main reason I took up sports like wrestling, and combat sports such as boxing. It’s complicated because I do genuinely love people. I love talking to people and love seeing people doing good things in the world. I constantly think and dream about how life would be if everyone was just able to live in peace, do what they love, and that be it. Certain things such as war, corruption, and hate will never be eliminated from our society, but I’ve always hated the way that we help fuel those agents of chaos and trauma, and how we sometimes don’t seem to care at all. We get off on it. We love to hate people, hate people’s ideas, force our ideas on each other and so on. And almost even worse, we are apathetic. About everything too. It’s become commonplace to complain about things on the internet but do nothing at all. I know this doesn’t seem like a big deal to people in the short term, but I truly believe this mentality is killing us. People aren’t striving to be productive members of society anymore. All we’re striving for is to be satirists, pessimists, optimists who don’t want to do anything, and worse of all contrarians, the ones who don’t think anything, be it race or LGBTQ rights are important enough to squabble about. It burns me up inside because I just want people to thrive. I want things in my own life too though. I get envious of people’s accomplishments at times, but I never have enough energy, apathy, or hate in my heart to degrade others, be it in a satirical or cynical way. But, something I have always felt compelled to speak up on are social issues. All social issues are important to me, but black issues in America have always rung the loudest for me. The main reasons are because I’m black and I’ve experienced racism, overt and systemic in my life. With all of the anger I feel towards the way our society is headed, you add on top of that the complete disregard that this country has for black people, and it becomes almost unbearable at times. Never, has a character in comics embodied me so much like Nighthawk has. The reasons aren’t the happiest, but that’s why I love the character.

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Nighthawk, aka Raymond Kane aka Kyle Richmond, has shown up in different stories and different timelines. To be clear, I’m talking about the character that writer David F. Walker just recently did a series on. It was only six issues, but it resonated with me for some reason. Actually, many reasons. The first being this concept of Black Rage. The term was coined by psychologists William H. Grier and Price M. Cobbs. The idea of black rage is that racism drives black people insane. It’s this idea that racism is such a deep, complex system that once a black person has reached their breaking point and realized they can do no more, they snap. It sounds weird to those who haven’t personally experienced racism. And some blacks, depending on their surroundings and personal beliefs, don’t ever get to that point. I call them special cases. Because as a young man, still learning the world, the one thing I completely comprehend is the struggle and oppression of black people in America. And I also know of the many ways that white people still have power over me. It’s manifested itself in many ways. White boys calling me nigger to provoke a fight, white girls I’ve never said two words to saying they feel threatened by me, resulting in being banned from a building, and even in more subtle ways such as my job and school. While I’m a firm believer in working for what you want, these setbacks and hurdles are something every black man must be aware of if you want to succeed in life. Doesn’t matter if you want to be a writer, a lawyer, a scientist, or a journalist, white people will never stop doubting and disrespecting you because racism is the foundation of America. The two professions where black men are basically completely free to be who they are is rapper and athlete. I don’t think every young black child should aspire to be a rapper or athlete, I think it feeds into the narrative that that’s all we can do, but when you see guys like Richard Sherman and Migos expressing themselves so boldly, it can be tempting.

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All of this and more circulates through my head when thinking about racism in America. Sometimes, it can be too much. Everyone is different, we all channel our anger in different ways. I’m thankful that mine is subdued most of the time with writing and working out. Some people need more. They need to riot, they need to cuss out their white employees. Nighthawk needs to fight. He needs to eradicate Chicago of corruption and racism. At any cost.

Nighthawk is plagued by hate. They say that hate only breeds more hate. So, in a way, Nighthawk is a truly tragic character. Because while his methods seem needed, and in most cases, I agree with them, he doesn’t do this out of love for people. He wants to protect innocents, but he hates white supremacists and racists more. The first issue of his series shows him brutally beating and killing a group of white supremacists who were illegally dealing guns into the city of Chicago. Nighthawk sees the whole spectrum of racism. I don’t consider myself a genius and I see a sizable amount of the racism spectrum. Nighthawk is a genius though and he sees too much. Every possible outcome from racism, every deal overseas to get weapons and drugs into the country, every news story spun to incite a riot, Nighthawk understands these things clearly, and he doesn’t like it. I love this character because I do think he represents most black people that understand the bigger picture of racism. It drives you to either insanity or action, and sometimes a combination of both. Nighthawk is brutal in his methods, but you’d be lying to say you don’t want to do the same to people who think of us as human garbage.

 

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That last sentence I said you’d want to do those things to racist people. I didn’t say you would. That’s where Nighthawk is different and where I do disagree with him. He kills too often for me. He isn’t helping his cause by murdering people left and right, although he’s like Punisher. He only kills those who deserve it. Still, he crossed that line and it is miles in his rear view now. I love the character for being able to make the hard choices though. The best moment of his series came at the very end. Throughout the entire story, Nighthawk was dealing with two villains. There was the main comic book villain, The Revelator and there was wealthy real estate owner, Dan Hanrahan. The Revelator was Nighthawk taken to the next level. He killed people the world didn’t consider criminals by definition, but people just as guilty as the white supremacist arms dealers. Child trafficking judges, cops who get acquitted after killing black teens, those were the type of people the Revelator was interested in. He tortured these men in their homes before killing them and it sparked riots across the city. Nighthawk tracked him down, only to be captured and the character of the Revelator provides some great dialogue on crossing the line when it comes to racism and murder. When trying to figure out the Revelator’s identity, Tilda aka Nightshade, Nighthawk’s friend and assistant, told him that the Revelator’s identity didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because the Revelator was him, it was her, and it was every person who felt the whip on their back, the boot on their neck. He was every oppressed black person wrapped up into one man, seeking justice no matter what. It ties beautifully into the black rage concept talked about in relation to his character and I love that. The two of them are perfect opposites, but similar in many ways. There is a fine line, so fine it’s almost invisible between the two. Tilda often scolded Nighthawk during the series for murdering because she thought that every death brought him closer to the Revelator’s level. It’s a great conversation throughout the series and only emphasized for me with it centering around black issues.

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The series could have been great just with the Revelator and Nighthawk. Kind of like a black version of Batman and Joker. David F. Walker elevated this series though by adding the realistic Dan Hanrahan. Hanrahan is the embodiment of what we refer to as white supremacy. Hanrahan is only focused on his profits. He’ll associate with wealthy blacks to maintain those profits, but his business is struggle and hardship. By increasing violence and police activity in his neighborhoods, he’s able to keep them for a low cost. The more that the locals, mainly blacks, struggle, the more money he makes because he’s holding it for cheap. Then, when he decides to, he can raise rent, force blacks out of the neighborhood, throw down a couple of Starbucks, count his profits and move on to the next neighborhood. Classic gentrification and systematic racism. This is a hard concept to explain to people who have never come across it. Walker does a great job of showing how evil Hanrahan is. No, he isn’t killing anyone, he isn’t even around when the dealing is being done. But he’s the one calling the shots. He’s the man behind the scenes treating black people like pawns. He calls them animals. Nighthawk connects him to the gun shipments from the first issue and plans to confront him. Problem is, so does the Revelator. The final fight is the Revelator and Nighthawk battling atop a construction site. The Revelator is defeated, falling to his death, and Hanrahan is left. He’s bleeding out from a staple gun that the Revelator was using on him. He pleads to Nighthawk to help him. Nighthawk removes his mask so Hanrahan knows he’s the wealthy black man he tried to bully into giving up the neighborhoods. In his last moments, Hanrahan can’t help but make a comment along the lines of “You know how they are,” referring to black people. He dies moments later. I love Nighthawk because this was a hard, but at the same time, easy decision to make. It’s one of the best moments in comics. Nighthawk came to stop the Revelator because he knows his methods will only create more chaos, but he didn’t come to save Hanrahan. I think white people get confused with black people who support movements like Black Lives Matter or who speak passionately about social justice. Not all of us are the Revelator. Inside, we may be, but most of us are good humans who don’t wish harm on anyone and don’t condone actions against police officers or anybody for that matter. But, don’t get that confused with sympathy for what happens to them. I would never seek out the officer who killed Tamir Rice. If I saw him on the street, I wouldn’t approach him, or even call him a monster. But if I saw him bleeding out, pleading for help, I’m not sure I would save him. It’s a complex issue and one that is perfectly conveyed in this story.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ve talked about a lot today in this piece, and I hope I was able to convey my thoughts well enough. I don’t expect anyone to think like me, feel what I feel, or any of that. But I do want people to at least understand why I love this character. I talked about the rage in his heart that I, and ton of other people have. I talked about loving his ability to make the hard choices, but still staying true to what he believes. The last reason I love Nighthawk so much is the simple fact that he’s human. A character like this almost seems too fake, he seems too radical and passionate about his beliefs. But, Nighthawk has some beautiful moments of humanity that remind you he’s a true hero. The first comes when he saved a group of kids from being beaten by a cop. He tells the cops to make sure they know who did this to them. He wants them to know that he will be watching them and they will no longer be able to treat people any way they want. The next comes during a riot in the 4th issue. Nighthawk sees the prblems on both sides of riots. He understands that the system of racism and white supremacy cause the mentality that makes people riot, but he knows that not everyone has been affected that way. What I mean is he stops a group of teens in the street and tells them that they shouldn’t be breaking the law because whites feel vindicated in murdering them after. Don’t give them a reason, he says. It’s a cool moment because it shows he’s deeper than his hatred of racism, and I think that’s the most important takeaway from this character. Most of us minorities who have this anger in us about racism, only have it because we’ve experienced it. We’re educated about it in our homes, but for the most part, black children just want to have fun. We grow up aspiring to be better, we want to do better, but the world we live in doesn’t care. It tells us we aren’t smart, that we don’t deserve books, that we can’t write poetry, write code, or design clothes. No one starts off this way, and it takes an awful amount of racism and hate to turn someone into the Revelator. We’re all so much more than that, and we want to be more than just trauma and struggle. But, until the world reflects our dreams, the fight will continue. I understand that but it won’t stop me from enjoying my life. Nighthawk understands it too, and he can’t enjoy his life unless he’s working against it. I love him for that and I loved this series. Hopefully, you now understand, Why I Love Nighthawk.

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I hope you enjoyed this Why I Love. Next, I’m going to be reviewing the recent Planet of the Apes films. I’m beyond excited to see the conclusion on July 14th. They’ve been some of my favorite films in the past few years. Remember to follow me on Twitter @Hero_Review and as always, Peace, Love, and Comics!!

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