Barbara Morse was raised in San Diego, California. [Solo Avengers #1] She grew up with her mother and her younger brother Benny after their father supposedly left them. However, Bobbi's mother once alluded that there was more to the story of Barbara's father than she had been told. [Hawkeye & Mockingbird #2] Barbara grew up with a desire to get super-powers. As a child, she tried exposing herself to radiation, looking for magical artifacts, building a laser helmet, but never achieved her goal of becoming a super-hero. Still, her efforts developed a lifelong interest in math and science, and she left high school looking to pursue a STEM career. [Mockingbird #3]
Barbara was studying biology at Georgia Tech when her mentor, Doctor Wilma Calvin, was recruited by the government to work on Project: Gladiator. Operating out of the Florida Everglades for secrecy and isolation, Gladiator centered around the work of Calvin and Ted Sallis to create a new version of the Super-Soldier Serum. With S.H.I.E.L.D. as sponsor of the Project, Bobbi was exposed to the spymasters and developed an interest in the agency. Nick Fury himself took note of Bobbi and encouraged her to enroll in their agent training program. She excelled in the agency's training and was fast-tracked back into the field.
Barbara actively supported Calvin and Sallis' work with her own doctorate in biology, contributing towards the Super-Soldier project. However, S.H.I.E.L.D. had also tasked her to secretly watch for infiltration of Project: Gladiator by agents of Advanced Idea Mechanics. A spy among spies, Bobbi began a relationship and even became engaged to Paul Allen, another doctor whom S.H.I.E.L.D. suspected of being an A.I.M. informant. In time, Gladiator did collapse into chaos. Ted Sallis was betrayed to A.I.M. by his wife, Ellen, and disappeared into the swamps with the only existing sample of his serum. Agents of A.I.M. also stirred up the locals against Doctor Calvin, condemning her as a "witch doctor" and leading to her being seriously injured. [Astonishing Tales (1st series) #12, Savage Tales #1, Hawkeye (1st series) #2]
In response, Bobbi came upon the idea of seeking help from Kevin Plunder, the lord of the Savage Land known as Ka-Zar. Apparently hoping to use Ka-Zar's tracking skills to locate Sallis and his serum, Barbara first came looking for him at his ancestral estate in England. Bobbi and Paul Allen then used a map to the Savage Land provided by Lord Plunder's servants to seek him out in Antarctica. The journey was not an easy one, but they eventually reached Ka-Zar and convinced him to return to America with them. [Astonishing Tales (1st series) #6-8, 10-11]
[Note: In part because of changing writer syndrome, Barbara's quest for Ka-Zar seemed murky and contradictory when read in full. She initially claimed to be a psychic with a vision of Ka-Zar's death, and the fate of the world at stake. By the time she finally met Ka-Zar and explained her intent six issues and three writers later, her goals (and hair color) were completely different.]
As their helicopter entered the Everglades, it was shot down by agents of A.I.M., momentarily diverting Bobbi's suspicions about Paul Allen's true loyalties. While they recovered at Project: Gladiator, Ka-Zar began his search for Sallis. He unwittingly succeeded when he came across the macabre Man-Thing. Ted Sallis had mutated into the swamp creature after the serum he ingested mixed with the Nexus of All Realities found in the Everglades swamp. Bobbi and Ka-Zar pursued agents of A.I.M. to a hidden bunker, and finally confirmed Paul Allen was the local captain of A.I.M. (his men had fired against orders when they shot the helicopter down). When the Man-Thing shambled into the bunker, Bobbi and Ka-Zar left A.I.M. to their fate as the bunker was destroyed. Barbara and Ka-Zar had grown attracted to each other during their adventure. With Bobbi's "engagement" to the late traitor Paul Allen no longer standing in their way, Ka-Zar agreed to accompany Bobbi back to civilization to get the injured Dr. Calvin treatment and turn over the notes on the Super-Soldier Serum to S.H.I.E.L.D. [Astonishing Tales (1st series) #12-13]
Despite their feelings, however, Bobbi and Ka-Zar were unable to reconcile their different world views. Ka-Zar was a man of the jungle and chafed in the grime and pollution of the big city. Barbara, on the other hand, was a modern woman who appreciated the good elements of progress in civilization, and couldn't abide the wilderness for long. As their debate continued, Bobbi reported to Nick Fury about Project: Gladiator. Ka-Zar remained to ensure Calvin's recovery, and continuing attacks by A.I.M. led him and Bobbi to fight Gemini, Victorius and the Plunderer, Ka-Zar's own mercenary brother. Victorius was Scientist Supreme of the Cult of Entropy, a sub-faction of A.I.M. with deep-rooted nihilistic beliefs and their own interest in the Super-Soldier program. Once A.I.M.'s plot was dismantled, Ka-Zar returned to the Savage Land and Bobbi didn't try to make him stay. [Astonishing Tales (1st series) #15-20] The two were briefly reunited weeks later when Bobbi came to the Savage Land on other S.H.I.E.L.D. business. Neither of them had budged about their choice of environment, though, and the pair parted again, unable to make a relationship work on attraction alone. [Ka-Zar: Lord of the Hidden Jungle #3-5]
Barbara remained in security work for S.H.I.E.L.D. and was assigned to bodyguard Orlando R. Zarate, an agency lawyer testifying before congressional hearings about possible corruption in S.H.I.E.L.D. A briefcase bomb in Zarate's files rocked the hearing and killed the witness before Barbara could save him. In the aftermath, Congressman F.A. Kirk approached Bobbi with an offer. It was clear the investigation was compromised, and he wanted her to conduct an off-the-books review of the situation so as not to alert any corrupt faction in S.H.I.E.L.D. With Wilma Calvin's support, Bobbi agreed and fashioned a costumed identity for herself as the Huntress in order to shake the branches and see what fell out.
In Mexico City, Huntress looked up an old academy buddy, Scott Lawrence, who reported to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s local supervisors, Rico and Angela Santana. After roughing up Santana's men at a buy as the Huntress, Bobbi privately approached Scott. Scott agreed that the Santanas were overspending and likely fleecing S.H.I.E.L.D. of its assets. Bobbi and Scott visited one of Santana's parties to get intelligence on their hosts and their muscle, Rojo-Jo Joaquin, the "Red-Eyed Jack." Scott was taken for asking too many questions while Bobbi snooped around, and so she followed him and his captors as the Huntress. When Huntress defeated Rojo-Jo, Angela Santana shot Rico and Scott and then tried to persuade Bobbi to go into business with her. As Huntress refused, Rico recovered just enough strength to shoot his traitorous wife too before dying. With all the principles dead, Bobbi was prepared to report her investigation to Nick Fury, only to discover Santana already made a report about the "nefarious Huntress" interfering in S.H.I.E.L.D. business before he died. Bobbi's credibility was shot, leaving her out in the cold with no one to report to about the corruption. [Marvel Super Action #1]
With an APB out on the Huntress, Bobbi changed identities again to become Mockingbird, using a new costume and new customized battle staves as her signature weapons. She hit a number of S.H.I.E.L.D. installations, accessing their files for proof of the rot that had infested S.H.I.E.L.D. Bobbi believed the only man she could trust at S.H.I.E.L.D. with this information was Nick Fury himself. However, one of her corrupt targets named Karl Delandan had anticipated her intent and requested a Nick Fury Life Model Decoy for his field base, intent on luring Bobbi into a trap by making her believe the real Fury was present.
Mockingbird was assaulted by Delandan's S.H.I.E.L.D. agents at JFK International, a brazen attack that also drew the attention of Spider-Man. The wall-crawler chose the side of the beautiful blonde against the men waving guns at the airport, but he balked when he learned the men he helped Bobbi escape from were S.H.I.E.L.D. agents. Mockingbird ditched Spider-Man, who was then contacted by Delandan and fed a twisted version of Mockingbird's actions. Mockingbird infiltrated Delandan's S.H.I.E.L.D. base to find Nick Fury and faced off against Spider-Man. Once she revealed her true intentions and the location of the digital evidence she had against Delandan, he showed his true colors and attacked Spider-Man. In order to cover all his bases, Delandan also issued a base-wide warning that Mockingbird and Spider-Man were enemy threats to be shot on sight.
The tide turned quickly on Delandan when the Life Model Decoy was revealed as the real Nick Fury after all. Nick was already suspicious of Delandan, and replaced the LMD when Delandan made the request from headquarters. He and Spider-Man had set the corrupt agent up to reveal himself, turning the trap for Mockingbird into a trap for Delandan. With Delandan neutralized, Mockingbird rushed over, eager to finish her mission and give Nick Fury the evidence she had accumulated. Delandan's kill order had never been rescinded and, when S.H.I.E.L.D. agents entered the room, they misinterpreted Bobbi's approach on Nick and shot her down before anyone could stop them. [Marvel Team-Up (1st series) #95]