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Robert Paine (Earth-616)

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Genesis of a Dark Knight

Robert Paine (Earth-616) young man

Robert Paine as a young man

Born in 1920, Robert Paine went from a loyal government agent to a masked vigilante, defending those who could not defend themselves.

During World War II he worked with the American military in espionage. During the height of the war, Paine infiltrated Nazi Germany to eliminate the secret Nazi operative known only as the Rumor whose powers of persuasion helped empower Adolf Hitler's speeches and convince the people of Germany to support his cause. However, when Paine finally tracked the Rumor down, the villain jumped out of the window of his castle and into a moat, presumed deceased, the Rumor's body was never found[1].

Returning home after the war, Paine began a career as the costumed crime fighter known as the Black Fox. During this period he started a relationship with a woman named Miriam and planned to marry her. In 1957, the Black Fox was called along with costumed heroes Yankee Clipper, and Liberty Girl by Defence Department agent Jacob Scott. Unknown to the group, "Scott" was really a Skrull named Velmax who had infiltrated the United States government as a greater Skrull plot to invade the Earth. He had gathered the heroes in the hopes of recovering his ship, which was captured by the United States military back in 1947. They went to the government installation where they were to investigate a security breach. Unknown to the group, the facility was infiltrated by Zuhn another Skrull who was attempting to recover the ship. He used the ships energies to mutate on of the scientists into a massive creature, attracting the attention of the Monster Hunters to the scene as well. Black Fox joined the Monster Hunters, Yankee Clipper and Liberty Girl in battling the monster as well as costumed villains Blackjack and Scythe who had been hired by Zuhn. The Skrull ship destabilized "Scott's" shape-shifting powers, and he used this as a cover, convincing his friends that it gave him shape-changing abilities. Later, Yankee Clipper decided to form a team, calling themselves the First Line. When he offered Black Fox a role on the team, Paine declined, telling Clipper that he intended to ask his girl Miriam to marry him after they investigated a costumed criminal operating in Chicago calling himself Nocturne[2].

Robert Paine (Earth-616) original costume

The Black Fox's original costume circa 1957

However, things ended tragically for both Robert and Miriam while on this investigation. Nocturne captured Miriam and the Black Fox watched in horror as Miriam was murdered right before his eyes[3]. With his true love dead, the Black Fox became a grimmer crime fighter, changing his costume and returned to the First Line. In the years that came, his grim attitude and way of fighting crime often brought him at odds with the direction of the team.


While in San Francisco in the spring of 1961, the Black Fox encountered the costumed super-hero known as the Hipster and they both uncovered a terrorist plot being orchestrated by the Yellow Claw who had just subjugated the amnesmatic Sub-Mariner. Black Fox called in the First Line and the Yellow Claw's plot was foiled. The villain chose to detonate his fortress after being defeated by Black Fox in physical combat. While the Yellow Claw seemingly perished in the battle, the Black Fox manage to nab Nazi war criminal Fritz von Voltzmann who was assisting the Yellow Claw in his plans[4].

The Black Fox later took on the role of training Kid Justice, the young brother of Yankee Clipper, so that he could be a more effective fighter. On November 21, 1963 the First Line was drawn to Dallas, Texas, due to the premonition of their teammate Nightingale. They were drawn to the Stark Industries building where they fought Chimera (really the Skrull spy Zuhn) and Howler attempting to steal a newly developed guidance system. While Howler was easily defeated, Liberty Girl was fatally wounded. As Black Fox, Yankee Clipper, Nightingale, and Kid Justice saw to her, they were visited by Cassandra Locke. Locke was a time traveller from the 22nd Century of Earth-700 sent on a mission into Earth's past to learn of the Skrull's past interactions with the human race. Black Fox witnessed as Locke's and Yankee Clipper's identical Tachyon Belts interacted with one another shunting them both into the future. The incident gave Nightingale a vision of the teams grim future, and Black Fox cared for her until the authorities came to take Howler away[5].

In the mid 1960s, part of the Black Fox's past came back to trouble him. The Rumor had resurfaced and taken control of the Olympian love goddess Venus and used her love powers to turn a large group of children into an obedient army he hoped to use to overthrow the United States government. Black Fox joined his teammates in stopping the Rumor, the group was also aided by the Asgardian thunder god Thor. The battle ended when the Black Fox crushed the Rumor's vocal chords, preventing him from using his powers further[1].

On July 16, 1969, Robert watched the launching of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon with his teammate Katyusha a Russian super-hero whom Robert assisted in defecting to the United States and subsequently developed a romantic relationship with, the first since Miriam's death. Due to a romantic interlude with Katyusha during the day of the Apollo 11 mission, Black Fox ignored calls from his teammates in the First Line to assist in preventing a Skrull plot to sabotage the mission[6].


Although Robert had voted for Richard Nixion during his bid for presidency in 1969, he soon became at odds about the president during the start of the Watergate scandal and the fact that Nixon was trying to uncover the identities of the First Line. When Nixon began grilling Effigy about the teams efficiency, Black Fox broke into the oval office and threatened the President that any effort to uncover the identities of the team would lead in reprisals. However, later Robert was convinced that Nixon would not let off and convinced Effigy to use his powers to expose Nixon's connection to Watergate. This ultimately resulted in Nixon being impeached, but not before the First Line lost their government backing, forcing them to operate underground[7].

Returning to Chicago, the Black Fox became a local crime fighter and came to the aid of Fred MacRae (formally the Hippy and Cap'n Nip) his wife Autum (formally Sunshine) and their daughter Truth when they were attacked by a mugger. While the former Cap'n Hip considered Black Fox a "facist pig", Truth was absolutely taken away by the Black Fox. Fox and his teammate Pixie were then called into Washington and informed that Nocturne was alive and well and operating out of the nation of Petralova. The pair went there and were joined by mystic-in-training Doctor Strange whom had determined that Nocturne was attempting to obtain the alchemal secrets of 19th century alchemist Diablo. At Diablo's castle and prison, the three heroes learned that Nocturne was a vampire who sought a mystical formula that would make him more human. While Nocturne succeeded in drinking the formula, he was forced to flee thanks to the combined might of the three heroes[3].


Robert Paine (Earth-616) old man

Robert Paine as an old man.

The Black Fox was one of the members of the First Line who went on a mission to rescued Mister Justice (formally Kid Justice) from the nation of Halwan after Justice was captured during his mission to try and free American diplomats from the country. The mission was not a complete success, resulting in the death of a team of CIA agents, and their teammate Blackjack and Mister Justice eventually managed to liberate himself. Furious at how poorly the mission was handled Black Fox quit the team in disgust and went into retirement[8]. In the convening years, the now teenaged Truth MacRae had fallen in love with the Black Fox, and having developed powers of her own interacted with him as Gadfly[9].

In his retirement years, Robert began teaching pre-law at Northwestern University in Chicago, where he also taught Truth MacRae[10]. Robert briefly got involved in the affairs of the First Line once again in 1986 when Yankee Clipper suddenly materialized in the present. Clipper was reunited with his younger brother who brought Clipper to Robert to try and find out what to do. Robert offered Clipper money and a place to stay while he got accustomed to the future time he found himself in.[2]

Black Fox was called out of retirement when the First Line and their foes teamed up to stop an impending Skrull invasion of the Earth. During the assault on the Skrull mother ship, Black Fox bought Effegy time to get to the control room and was fatally shot by some Skrull soldiers. He was later found by his teammates Pixie and Oxbow, whom Black Fox sent on to assist Effigy. The Fox was then found by Gadfly, and as he died she unmasked him revealing her infatuations true identity to her. Shortly thereafter the Skrull ships were destroyed in a massive explosion and the Black Fox's body was presumably atomized.[11]


Black Fox was a superb hand-to-hand combatant, athlete, and experienced spy.

Strength level

Normal human male with intensive regular exercise.


The 'Flying Fox' jet airplane.

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