Joseph Manfredi is the son of Silvio Manfredi, a powerful head of one of New York’s Maggia families. However, when he first appeared, it was as the costumed animal trainer Blackwing, a recent addition to the Circus of Crime. Before his first outing, the Ringmaster hoped the Circus would eliminate Daredevil in order to make Blackwing’s robberies go off without a hitch. But when the team failed to do this, the Circus performed anyway. Blackwing used his trained bats to steal from the audience the Ringmaster hypnotized. As predicted, though, Daredevil burst onto the scene, foiling the Circus’ plans, and Blackwing escaped. In fact, Blackwing was a division leader of HYDRA when it was under the leadership of Silvermane, and he retreated to HYDRA’s secret base. When the organization arranged the kidnapping of Foggy Nelson, at the time one of New York’s District Attorneys, Daredevil tracked the culprits to their headquarters. Silvermane revealed his role as Supreme Hydra, and his son tried to stop Daredevil but was unsuccessful.
Later, when Silvermane’s mansion was taken over by the Red Skull, Blackwing teamed up with Jack O’Lantern to stake it out. When Captain America also came to investigate, the two villains jumped him, viciously attacking him even when he was on the ropes due to Jack O’Lantern’s hallucinogenic gas. The Red Skull had been observing the battle and was impressed enough to order Mother Night to recruit the two for his Skeleton Crew. Mother Night arranged for Captain America to see an illusion that the Scourge of the Underworld killed the villains, and Blackwing and Jack O’Lantern agreed to join the Skull’s Crew.
Blackwing served as a member of Crew, fighting off Crossbones and Diamondback before the two joined them as well. He also tried to fight off Captain America and the Falcon when the heroes came to rescue Diamondback. He was defeated by the Falcon and remanded to custody along with many others of the Crew.
Blackwing next appeared as a member of the Crimson Cowl’s Masters of Evil, joining the team’s attempt to extort the world’s governments with the use of a weather manipulation machine. The team was tracked down by the Thunderbolts and defeated, with Blackwing and most of its members captured.
This last defeat was too much for Joe Manfredi. Abandoning the idea of being a costumed super-villain, Manfredi instead turned his attention to being a crime boss, creating his own private army of villains in Heavy Mettle. He ordered the team’s leader, Firestrike, to bring him the battlesuit used by Turbo of the New Warriors. Not only did Manfredi hope to gain a sophisticated piece of technology, but he was also hoping to prove himself, both to his father, Silvermane, and to other New York crime bosses. Instead, however, the New Warriors defeated Heavy Mettle, and Firestrike found himself falling in love with Turbo. Ultimately, the Warriors turned the members of Heavy Mettle over to the police, and Firestrike agreed to be placed in the witness protection program in exchange for providing testimony against Joe Manfredi. (The results of which remain unrevealed.)