Darkhawk is a Marvel character who first appeared in his own series, Darkhawk #1 (March 1991), and was officially created by writer Tom DeFalco and artist Mike Manley. The character appeared in a series of self-titled comics from 1991-1995, then in several limited series and events in the years since. There's been a threat that he may get a TV series, but recently he's appeared in the Marvel Future Fight game and issues collected in the Infinity Crusade Omnibus.
Comic book reporter Matt Alder posted a query to Facebook, saying "So I recently learned that Tom DeFalco co-created Darkhawk with Mike Manley, although he gave the series to Danny Fingeroth to write. I'm curious about what the inspiration for the character was. Marvel already had a whole team of teen heroes in the New Warriors (also co-created by Tom). Was Darkhawk possibly sparked by the set of animal cards that gave rise to Puma, Silver Sable, Mongoose, et al?"
It seems not, but a lot of Marvel Bullpenners from the early-mid nineties gave us a little mini-oral history of the character and Marvel at the time on the public Facebook thread. This wasn't intended as any kind of prearranged roundtable interview, or indeed for further publication, but it emerged as something honest and representative of a time past. Selected posts are reproduced below for the pop-cultural historical record.
Fabian Nicieza I have no relevant specific conversations to draw from, but my gut thinks Tom's interest and desire to find "the Spider-Man formula" led him to merge that framework with the facefront veneer of Wolverine and Batman.
Gregory Wright I wish I still had the original "bible" Tom gave me when he gave me the book to edit. He gave me the book, Danny Fingeroth and suggested Herb Trimpe as the artist, who I didn't think was right, so I hired Keith Pollard…his version was NOTHING like what Mike Manley came up with. I don't know how it went from Keith to Mike, but Mike's design was much more modern…I had Keith riffing on Hawkman…bit I seem to remember that Tom was using the inspiration Fabian mentions…
Mike Manley It's hard to remember in the fog of time but I remember Howard Mackie asking me if I wanted to try out. I vaguely remember seeing a drawing that looked like a hawk headed Egyptian type guy in the office. I though it was by Broderick. Anyway I thought it was a mix of Captain Marvel and Spidey. The body replAcement thing. My thinking was influenced by that 70's black Namor costume and the helmet would have a hawkish shape. The wings pop out so it wouldn't look as dumb as Hawkman. I love Kubert and he made anything work but since DH was s android battle suit I figured it could have different configurations. The hawk claw grapple also a weapon like Wolverines claws made sense. Honey I wasn't about all the teen stuff I hoped to do more space stuff. Which we only touched on before I left for DC. If I revisited the character today I still have ideas. But of course that is unlikely to happen since Marvel has never asked me to do anything with him since issue 25.
Glenn Herdling The way I recall it—and keep me honest here folks—didn't Tom go on a creative spree that year to keep all the new character development costs in-house so we could afford desktops and join the modern publishing world?
Gregory Wright There was a push every year for a while to create new characters and if there weren't enough, Tom always had some he was thinking about. I was told by more than one person to quit working on the books I was writing and put my energy towards creating new characters and new books so they could have more #1 issues. Because many of those books got cancelled before the creators could complete a storyline, I refused. IMAGE proved that you could do creator owned characters and make more money (If you were a popular creator) And at Marvel if you created a character, someone else could just destroy it. You had no control My the time Image came around creators were all far more aware of the value of keeping their creations for themselves. However, that doesn't mean you'll ever get a shot at doing your own creator owned character successfully. You have a better shot at creating a new character at an established company that can be successful because it can be backed up by the other characters in a successful book. OF course this only applies to those of us who were not SUPERSTARS. The guys that formed Image were the reason the books they worked on sold so much better than they did than before they showed up. The incentives never changed, but the game outside of Marvel and DC did.
Danny Fingeroth As I recall, Marvel had a strategy of controlled growth in the years before the big boom. Put out a new title every month. Assume that half will succeed, so a net growth of six titles per year. Darkhawk was part of that. I was originally supposed to edit the series, but then the team I'd chosen fell through (might have had Paul Neary lined up for the art). Tom then offered to have me write it, and he'd assign it to someone else-Greg–to edit it. That's what we did. Then Greg and I developed the concept from Tom's outline. We fleshed out a lot of details and modified some others.
Gregory Wright Originally I hired Tom Lyle to do Darkhawk. We got into a bidding war with DC over him and DC offered him the higher page rate…to do ROBIN I think…this was always a fun bone of contention I had with Tom…he and I tired to work together several times and it never worked out somehow. I miss him.
Danny Fingeroth Eventually he came over and did the adjectiveless Spider-Man book for me. I guess something changed to make him decide to come to Marvel. He did the Amazing. Spider-Man Annual that debuted Annex before that… in the year or three leading up to that, there was this plan for controlled growth. Then the big boom of '92-'94 happened and the directive from above was to put out as much as we could as soon as we could. The collectors' market (now filled with refugees from the baseball card bust) now wanted comics to speculate on and the comics companies were glad to fill that desire.
Fabian Nicieza They were raising our budget expectations by the quarter. So let's say they agreed to the quarterly budget expectations for 1994 and Q1 came in 30M higher than expected, they automatically bumped Q3 and Q4 to match those numbers. So some books being developed had to be rushed, STRYFE STRIKES FILES kind of books, a lot of reprint books and stuff taken out of Marvel Comics Presents was then published as a separate one-shot, etc. While at the same time, this was exponentially raising the expectations for 1995 before a budget had even been planned, which meant you had to start developing even more new titles NOW so they would be ready by Q1 and Q2 of 95… F-ck that scumbag Perelman. His greed singlehandedly destroyed what could have been a much more consistent and sustainable growth in the market and the industry.
At which point we even got to hear from Tom…
Tom DeFalco If I remember correctly–and I may not–I wanted Marvel to keep introducing new teenage heroes because the majority of our newsstand audience were teenagers or pre-teens. How did Darkhawk originate? I used a rejected bible that I had once prepared for Archie Comic's The Fly as a starting point. I ran the proposal passed Gruenwald and later submitted anonymously to Marvel's creative panel…who approved it I wanted to write it myself, but I just couldn't find the time… Besides Danny Fingeroth did a much better job than I could have and I still have forgiven him for that affront.
You know, that Darkhawk film is probably just around the corner.