Shaw was born into an impoverished family, but became a millionaire by the age of 20 through his excellent business skills. He became the head of Shaw Industries, a multinational corporation involved in munition production and defense contracts. He joined the Hellfire Club's inner circle, eventually becoming its leader (the Black King).
He is a mutant with the ability to absorb kinetic energy to increase his strength, speed, and stamina to superhuman levels. This makes him excessively difficult to defeat in battle, as every blow struck to him only makes him stronger. Unusual tactics must be used to defeat him, such as psychic attacks.
Shaw must be in contact with the energy in order to absorb it. He absorbs the energy of any blow (whether he is striking or being struck). Without absorbing energy he is merely a strong ordinary human, but normally Shaw works to keep his strength at a superhuman level while awake.