Throughout the years, hundreds of thousands of men and women have taken up the role of ShadowHawk. The ones known are: A Cowboy, A Samurai, A Musketeer, Inspector Hawk, the Kings Hawk, Li Ching Kai, Hawk Dell’ombra, Halcon Sombrio, Hawk and his bird Shadow, ShadowHawk Girl (who inspired Paul Johnstone to take up the mantel), and the ShadowHawk of the Silver Age, Luke Hatfieled Sr. There are countless other people who have taken up the role but have yet to be named.
Paul Johnstone grew up in Harlem with his mother after his father died, but was able to avoid a life of crime thanks to Richard Woodroe. Woodroe was a caseworker and started working with Paul after he was arrested for stealing. Woodroe became a good friend to Paul and later married his mother, a marriage that resulted in the birth of Johnstone’s younger Half brother Hojo. Paul grew up to become a lawyer, then a district attorney, though he soon encountered problems when he refused to accept bribes from mobsters. Initially attempting to pressurize Johnstone into accepting the pay-offs by refusing to sell narcotics to Hojo, the mobsters later arranged for the D.A to be assaulted in his office and injected with H.I.V contaminated blood. After the encounter, Johnstone was left uncertain regarding whether he had been infected or not. The attack had been made public and word of his possible infection spread through Johnstone’s workplace, making it a very inhospitable environment to be in.
In frustration of the bigotry he experienced he punched his co-worker Hollis after his colleague claimed that the office staff didn’t want Johnstone to contaminate the water fountain. For this he lost his job and ended up in jail and only got out to learn that he was HIV positive. While walking the streets to clear his head Paul was threatened by a group of young gang-members. He went berserk and attacked them, leading to his brutal mugging and return to the hospital. During this time he resolved that he would use the rest of his time to dispense justice to the individuals who preyed on innocent victims. Paul was visited by a friend of his named Christina Ried, a former cop fired that day for excessive force. She told him that she and a friend named Carlton Sun had created an armored costume so that a ‘Shining Knight’ could “take back the night” from the corrupt and evil people of the cities. Jumping at the opportunity, Paul asked for Christina’s help so that he could fight the system that had ruined his and countless others’ lives. Initially apprehensive, Christina agreed to help and trained Paul in athletics and hand-to-hand combat whilst Carlton provided Johnstone with his equipment and weaponry. Paul decided that simply overpowering criminals was not enough, as the court system would not adequately punish them. So instead of merely defeating or killing them, Paul would break the spines of each of the criminals so that they would become prisoners of their own bodies, just as Johnstone had become. He justified his actions by stating that he only targeted violent criminals. He named himself Shadowhawk after his favorite hero who had saved him years earlier.
He would attack his victims and leave them to be discovered by police with no indication that he had attacked them other than hearsay from the criminals. This led to ShadowHawk garnering a reputation as an urban legend as well as being hunted by both criminals and law enforcement alike. However, Johnstone had primarily trained to fight average criminals and he was ill equipped for battle with his first superhuman opponent, the man known as Arson. Arson had been paid by the crime lord known as ‘Vendetta’ to burn down the Manhattan slums so that she could purchase the remaining land plots for a lower price. However, with the death toll increasing daily Shadowhawk made it his duty to track down the madman responsible and defeat him. Though Shadowhawk’s blows could not penetrate Arson’s armor, Johnstone utilised his shuriken to penetrate the fuel tank to the rear of the villain’s armor, causing the suit to rupture and explode. However, though Shadowhawk believed the villain to be dead, the explosion had in fact transformed Arson into a burning figure able to control the fires ravaging his body. He would later be caught up in a conflict between Shadowhawk and the ‘Liquifier’, an alien life form responsible for a string of liquified dead bodies in the Manhattan area. Nevertheless, as Johnstone confronted the creature Arson chose instead to flee and seek out Vendetta for help, leaving Shadowhawk to fight the Liquifier (which he managed to defeat by shooting his grappling hook through its chest).
Battered and bruised from the fight, Shadowhawk had little chance to recover before he discovered that his younger brother Hojo had overdosed on drugs. Paul later visits Hojo and stays in hospital overnight to make sure that he’s okay. Despite the medical treatment, Paul learned the next day that Hojo was dead, his body having been unable to cope with the drugs in his system. Johnstone copes with his loss by hitting the streets again as Shadowhawk, attacking a rapist in the process. During the fight he is caught in action by a police chopper and Johnstone is attacked by the hero Savage Dragon, an outside force brought in by the NYPD in order to stop Shadowhawk. Desperately outmatched by the sheer power of the Dragon, Johnstone is rescued by BlakJak, who brings Paul back to Vendetta in an attempt to recruit him. Shadowhawk refused outright and escaped. He remained in hiding for six weeks so that his wounds could heal, the rest of New York believing that Shadowhawk had disappeared or been killed.
A month and a half later Johnstone returned to the streets to discover that a serial killer has usurped his identity. However, this individual was unconcerned with criminals and murderers and primarily focused upon ‘wiping the streets clean’ of Black men. Johnstone confronted and fought the killer (ironically named Hawk’s Shadow) who exclaimed that he had only followed in the steps of Shadowhawk; ‘I’m only doing what you do. I only kill niggers’. Johnstone revealed his identity to Hawks-shadow and proceeded to beat the madman unconscious, with Christina arriving just in time to prevent the enraged Paul from killing him. Shadowhawk left the villain and escaped before the police arrived. With the vigilante having eluded them again, the frustrated NYPD captain Frakes resorted to increasingly drastic measures in order to bring in the vigilante, with the obsessed man even going so far as to hire the mercenary Jonathan P. Slaughter. Slaughter broke into Christina’s house believing that the ex-police officer was ShadowHawk, though Johnstone later caught up with the mercenary and saved his friend. Slaughter decided to leave Shadowhawk alone, deciding that he agreed with the Vigilante’s personal brand of ‘Justice’. Though Paul believed that he would be able to continue his mission unmolested, he was later targeted by the rogue Regulators Hardedge and Vortex, both of whom sought to kill Shadowhawk rather than recruit him. Weakened by previous fights and his progressively deteriorating immune system, Paul escaped into the crowds below and lost the villains.
He would later have his revenge when he intervened on the side of BlakJak during a fight between the villain, Hardedge and Dedline (Hardedge had betrayed the regulators and hired Dedline to assassinate the others). The quartet leveled a building during the fight, with Vortex distraught that her baby was inside the building at the time. Unbeknownst to the group, Vortex’s son had actually been kidnapped by a group of homeless fanatics living in the sewers, a group that intended to sacrifice the child to their deity ‘The Underlord’. Upon learning of the child’s fate from a homeless man, Shadowhawk and the others united to save ‘Little Beto’ and return him to his mother. They tracked the fanatics to the sewers, where Shadowhawk discovered to his horror that the Underlord was in fact the cannibalistic Liquifier which had survived its last encounter with the hero. Though Paul questioned whether he had the right to kill an intelligent creature, Vortex settled the issue by using her powers to vaporize the Liquifier.
Sometime after the destruction of the second Brigade team, the man known as Troll was contacted by Seahawk, one of the survivors from the team. He wanted Troll to retrieve an ancient tome. The search for the book and the encounter with the cult brought him together with Vanguard and Wally, ShadowHawk, Glory, Roman and Tremor, ending in the formation of the third Brigade team. ShadowHawk only stayed with the team briefly as he started to get sick shortly after joining the team. As his life was shortened by his HIV Johnstone eventually grew to be less violent in his career. One night when he was on patrol, Johnstone met the soul repossessor Trencher and his accomplice Phoebe. Recognizing the need for a cure for Johnstone, Phoebe teamed up with him in order to get him around. The search for a cure took ShadowHawk many places but no one could help him. As he and Phoebe were searching for a cure, he started to get weak and sick. One of the cures he tried was getting a blood sample from Supreme. Instead of getting a blood sample he ended up fighting Supreme. In the fight he lost his helmet and it was revealed to the world that Paul Johnstone was ShadowHawk. In the end he met Spawn who told him that there was nothing he could do, but death was not the end and he should learn from his experiences and face death like a man. He would also meet WildC.A.T.s. (who offered a possible solution involving a robotic body to transplant Johnstone’s consciousness into – which would ultimately fail to work) and Youngblood’s Chapel (another hero also infected with HIV). One of his few regrets was never joining a superhero team seeing how fun and useful it is to fight in a team. In his final act as ShadowHawk, Johnstone would rescue his mother from being attacked by Hawk’s Shadow. The aftermath of the fight would leave Johnstone in a weakened state and unable to elude the pursuit of the police. He was remanded into custody and transported to a hospital where AIDS eventually took its toll and ended his life.