Christopher Powell was born in Queens, New York. While witnessing his policeman father accept a bribe from a crime boss at an abandoned amusement park, teenager Chris Powell discovered a mysterious amulet. This amulet allowed him to switch places with a powerful android that his mind controlled. Chris vowed to use the amulet as "an edge against crime." In this role, he worked with other superheroes and battled a number of costumed villains.
Darkhawk soon encountered his first supervillain, the Hobgoblin, and battled him alongside Spider-Man. He next fought Savage Steel, and then Portal. He next battled the U-Foes alongside Captain America. He battled the villain Lodestone, who attempted to remove his amulet. He battled Savage Steel again, this time alongside the Punisher. Darkhawk battled the cyborg Midnight, Thunderball, and the Secret Empire alongside Spider-Man, the Punisher, Night Thrasher, Nova, and Moon Knight. Darkhawk then battled assassins from the Foreigner's 1400 Club. He battled Tombstone, who successfully removed his amulet from his chest.
Darkhawk occasionally worked with the New Warriors and was a provisional member of the West Coast Avengers. Darkhawk also battled a number of costumed villains, including the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Originally, Darkhawk's powers included force blasts and flat energy shields projected from the amulet in his chest; a set of three claws on his right arm that extended as a grappling hook (often referred to as a 'claw cable'); retractable gliding wings and enhanced vision, including night and telescopic vision. Darkhawk's face, covered by a helmet, is apparently intensely ugly or terrifying. While never revealed to the reader, nearly every character that has seen Darkhawk's face has been horrified by it. When the android body was damaged, Chris could heal it almost instantly by transforming into his human form, and then back into his android form again. Darkhawk originally glided through the air using his wings, but later gained the power of flight, a power which later carried over to his upgraded form.
Darkhawk's second armor. Art by Ron Lim.Chris discovered that the armor was stored and repaired aboard a starship in a dimension called Null Space. When he used the amulet to access the armor, his human body switched places with the armor. The Darkhawk amulet and armor were one of several commissioned by an alien crimelord named Dargin Bokk. The scientists who created the technology eventually used it to assault Bokk. After Bokk's defeat, the Darkhawk amulet was sent to Earth for safekeeping.
Later, Chris and Darkhawk were split into two separate beings, each with Chris' memories. The Darkhawk body was then transformed into a new shape when it accidentally downloaded data from the ship.
The new Darkhawk body had a single, extendable blade on each wrist replacing his claw cable, camouflage, the ability to project force blasts from his helmet's visor in addition to his amulet, and a powerful forcefield that could change its shape. The forcefield could be used in tandem with his forceblasts to make constructs similar to the effects of Green Lantern's power ring. Darkhawk could also teleport weapons out of the ship's arsenal to himself instantaneously.
Chris and Darkhawk later merged so that Chris could change back and forth between the two without teleporting to Null Space.