THE TRUTH ABOUT DARKHAWK
The exotic origins of the Darkhawk amulets touch upon many areas of Marvel history, delved out slowly through years of often contradictory stories.
Countless millennia ago, the Elder of the Universe known as the Gardener visited the Darkforce Dimension. Determined to prove he could cultivate life in any environment, the Gardener used the Power Primordial at his fingertips to create a truly fantastic bloom. The Tree of Shadows grew from the Darkforce Dimension into a separate realm known as Null Space. As it grew larger and stronger, the Tree of Shadows began producing crystal fruit, the progenitors of the amulets that would one day be used by Darkhawk and others.
Over a million years ago, ancient Shi'ar and Skrulls fought in Null Space to possess the Tree of Shadows. A Shi'ar warrior was the first to make contact with the crystal fruit, bonding with the natural energy source and having his body reconfigured into a more powerful form linked to the new amulet in his chest. Because the Shi'ar were avian by nature, this “Raptor Prime” retained bird-like characteristics, shared by all future Raptors. Because their enemies were the shape-changing Skrulls, Raptor Prime became capable of organically reconfiguring himself to aggressively counter his foes.
What happened to Raptor Prime after that is unknown, but Shi'ar control of Null Space eventually became the dominion of a brotherhood known as the Fraternity of Raptors. While the Shi'ar revere the Phoenix Force, the cosmic bird of chaos, they also fear it. The Fraternity venerated Ratha'kon, the Hawk-God who was a cosmic force of order and the Phoenix's opposite number. They introduced a mechanical control interface to the Tree of Shadows, guiding the amulets to empower sentient androids known as Raptors with their gifts. The wild changes of the reconfiguration ability were tamed by a series of preferred preprogrammed weapon and armor modes the Raptors could access and shift between.
The Fraternity of Raptors served as spies, saboteurs, counter-intelligence agents and assassins for the Shi'ar Empire for untold generations. Beneath this affiliation, though, the Raptors were loyal to the Great Purpose, a broader idea of cosmic order inspired by Ratha’kon. Under the guidance of the Raptors, the Null Source's amulets became parasitic entities. The Raptor androids rested in cocoons in the Tree of Shadows until an unwilling victim made contact with their chosen amulet. Touching the amulet sent the victim to the cocoon while the Raptor emerged from Null Space, bonded to the amulet and drawing strength from their host trapped in the Tree of Shadows until the victim expired. At some point, at least six thousand years ago, the Fraternity of Raptors crumbled under unrevealed circumstances and the amulets and Raptors were all returned to Null Space.
THE UN-TRUTH ABOUT DARKHAWK
Somehow, a Raptor amulet made its way to Earth in the modern era, where Chris Powell found it. The Raptors needed to program their amulets to accept and overcome different species to make the parasitic effect compatible with all possible hosts. Because humanity came to galactic prominence after the Raptors fell, the amulets were not prepared to assimilate a human host. When he first became Darkhawk, Chris Powell would send his body to Null Space and summon the body of his amulet's associated Raptor (named Razor), but Powell's mind remained active and in control of the Raptor body.
That isn't to say there weren't side effects. The Fraternity were guided by a form of communal hive mind known as the “Datasong" that all Raptors were linked to through the Tree of Shadows. Current Raptors could experience what others experienced, and all past experiences from millennia of Raptors were stored, collated and used to psycho-historically predict the future of the empire based on statistical trends. The overwhelming depth of the Datasong in his subconscious, combined with Razor's active efforts to regain control, subliminally put enormous pressure on Chris Powell's mind, causing bouts of unchecked aggression, madness and even hallucinations. The mystery of Darkhawk’s face was reportedly metaphorical, a representation of Chris being unable or unwilling to confront the truth from the Datasong.
Chris' mind produced a number of figures and stories seemingly connected to the origins of Darkhawk, all of whom were apparently fictional. Characters from the original Darkhawk series such as Dargin Bokk / Evilhawk, Osch, St. Johnny, Ned Dobbs and others were all imagined up by Chris Powell in some way. However, Portal (an unrelated super-being who killed a different Raptor and adopted some of their armor) was real. This would make many later Darkhawk stories complicated in retrospect. Chris Powell could have hallucinated these stories, but it's unclear how Portal or others could have suffered the same delusions.
Individually, the characters from Darkhawk’s past break down as follows:
St. Johnny – In retrospect, it seems likely that Johnny really was just a homeless guy living in the Wonderland park where Chris found the amulet. The flashes of knowledge about Darkhawk he demonstrated were probably hallucinations by Chris, projecting garbled Datasong information from his subconscious onto a passing figure as a convenient means of understanding what the amulet was trying to tell him. St. Johnny’s later transformations into a techno-organic being also probably happened (he independently fought Captain America upon infiltrating Avengers Mansion to retrieve Evilhawk’s amulet), but this was likely a transformation imposed upon him by the amulet, and Razor trying to reassert himself.
Ned Dobbs – Similarly, Ned could largely be written off as part of Chris’ delusions. He was either a total fabrication or hallucinations projected onto another homeless man. It gets dicer when Ned starts interacting with other figures, such as Portal (see below).
Evilhawk – The crimelord Dargin Bokk is confirmed as a fiction created by Chris’ mind. Evilhawk physically existed in some form, as he fought Code: Blue and damaged the Powell residence. Therefore, it seems Evilhawk was a dual manifestation of Darkhawk’s armor, similar to Phil Urich and Chris Powell using the amulet at the same time. Evilhawk likely possessed some random individual with a personality drawn from Razor or Chris’ own conflicted mind. Evilhawk’s amulet existing independently from Darkhawk is unconfirmed, though. The REAL story of how Chris Powell found a second Raptor amulet and lost it (if that’s what actually happened) is unexplained.
Osch – Osch appears to be a complete fabrication of Chris’ mind, a source of exposition that gave him an explanation for his amulet when he couldn’t understand what the Datasong was trying to tell him. Chris’ first two trips to the Darkhawk Ship in Null Space and encounters with Osch seem to be complete hallucinations. In fact, the entire Amulet Quest may have been a hallucination or psychic warfare between Chris and the Raptor aspects of his mind. Given that the Darkhawk ship is confirmed as not real, Chris probably did not physically seek out and retrieve amulets from Null Space. The conflict between him, Evilhawk, Osch, St. Johnny and Ned Dobbs may have really been different aspects of Chris’ mind, Razor and the Datasong trying to reconcile with one another.
Portal – Charles Little Sky is a real person, having appeared before and after the Darkhawk revelations on his own. He probably fought another Raptor entity and stole his armor, just as his origin indicated. The lingering confusion, though, comes from his repeated journeys into Null Space and visiting the Darkhawk ship, which apparently only existed in Chris’ mind. One explanation is that Portal was influenced by his armor through the Datasong (and therefore was vulnerable to a shared delusion with Chris). The original story showing Darkhawk and Ned Dobbs able to commune telepathically with Portal may support this. Another explanation is that the Portal who appeared in much of the last year of Darkhawk was himself a delusion and not the real Portal. Neither explanation sits perfectly.
Overhawk – Portal’s opponent, originally named Kistur, was either a rare example of an active Raptor before Talon or from another anomalous species like humans able to control Raptor bodies summoned from his amulet instead of being controlled by them. His reincarnation as Overhawk, however, relies upon people traveling to the Darkhawk ship in Null Space, which we now know never existed.
Darkhawk #46-50, generally – The final arc of the original Darkhawk series remains a question mark given the Fraternity of Raptors retcon. Earlier arcs such as Return to Forever (#21-25) and the Amulet Quest (#38-41) can be more easily written off as hallucinations because (for the most part) Chris Powell experienced those events alone. Him traveling to Null Space and the Darkhawk ship and the various people he encountered can be explained as Datasong-induced delusions. Portal was an independent character and not part of the Raptor delusions, though, and yet he teleported back and forth to the non-existent Darkhawk Ship in the final arc. Not to mention the series finale had the Darkhawk Ship itself materialize above Manhattan where thousands saw it. One could almost assume the ENTIRE Mahari Saga was a delusion that Chris only THINKS happened to people he knows. If Darkhawk spoke to Portal now, he might not remember the Mahari ever coming to Earth at all.