Ah…archery humor. It gets me every time. There are few things I enjoy in life as much as cracking wise about fletchings and draw weights. Brings a tear to my eye. My side has literally split and I can see all the funny falling out of me firsthand. Ha. Ow. Ha.
Okay, enough of that tomfoolery. We’re here today to talk about one of my favorite Marvel characters of all time: the sarcastic, bombastic and somewhat elastic avenging archer, Hawkeye! Using one of the most proven methods of superhero introduction, the “oops, I thought you were a bad guy” routine, Hawkeye was thrust upon the comic reading audience way back in 1964. And yet, he has managed to retain all of his youthful wit and charm ever since. Well, at least until Bendis set him on fire.
Hawkeye has built lasting relationships with some of the biggest guns in Marvel’s world. Captain America has taken a sort of mentor role with Clint Barton. Iron Man aided in his original reform. Yet, he’s always walked his own path to achievement. For instance, he gained membership in the Avengers by breaking into the mansion and tying up Jarvis. He earned Iron Man’s trust by attempting to steal stuff from him. And, let’s not forget that Hawkeye has managed to sleep with most of Marvel’s important females including Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Mockingbird, Wasp, Moonstone, Echo and She-Hulk (not to mention possible dalliances with Viper, Moondragon, Patsy Walker, Deathbird and…uh…Jocasta?).
He has been a member of the Avengers, chairman of the West Coast Avengers, leader of the Thunderbolts and even briefly tagged along with the Defenders. Still, individual success continues to allude this tried and true hero. Marvel has produced two miniseries (in 1983 and 1994) featuring the character. They launched an anthology title called Solo Avengers (and, alternately, Avengers Spotlight) that featured Hawkeye in most of the main storylines. A one-shot hailing him as “Earth’s Mightiest Marksman” was released in 1998. And there was even an aborted attempt at an ongoing title a few years back. But none of these books really showcased the strengths of the Hawkeye character.
Of course, I guess we still need to define what those strengths are and how Hawkeye can best be utilized. For that, I turn the reins over to my partner to begin our traditional back-and-forth debate.
I’m actually not the Hawkeye fan that you are, and for many years, wasn’t very fond of him. I think that Hawkeye has a brash charm, but honestly, for many years I focused on the brash and not the charm. It took quite awhile before I could see him as anything beyond an annoying loudmouth who happened to use a bow and arrow. I think the turning point for me was when Hawkeye was sent to California to found and lead the West Coast Avengers. At first I didn’t even like him in that book. He was still brash and annoying, and why was he called the leader, because he sure as heck didn’t seem to be doing any leading. Yuck. However, as I kept reading the book, he kept growing on me, and I came to see Hawkeye’s charm through the attitude in which he cloaked himself. This was a normal guy (normal, at least, in that he had no powers) who was struggling to be an A-List hero in the Marvel Universe. Yes, he could be abrasive, but in the end, he was your typical working stiff, trying to get ahead. The only difference between him and Joe Lunchbox was that Hawkeye worked in the Avengers, not at IBM.
At this point in time, I’m a big fan of Hawkeye, and even enjoy him in those old appearances where he used to annoy me. Honestly, were I to try and identify what I like most about Hawkeye, and where I think his popularity stems from, it would have to be his everyman quality. Again, he’s obviously not an everyman, as I know few people who can shoot a bow with his accuracy, but compared to most of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Hawkeye is so very relatable. His speech patterns are close to a normal person’s (love them or hate them, no one actually speaks like Captain America, Thor or Mr. Fantastic), his drive to prove himself to those around him is something we all feel, his romantic struggles are something that everyone goes through…..Hawkeye is like the really cool kids in high school that you wanted to hang with, but you read comics, so they shunned you.
I think it’s easy to see this when you pair Hawkeye up with Captain America, one of his good friends. When Cap gets too out of touch with things, Hawkeye is a great way to bring him back to earth. After “Operation: Galactic Storm” in the Avengers, Cap was upset that he had become unfashionable and wasn’t a good leader for the team. Cap was in a deep funk, and it was Hawkeye who took Cap out for a night on the town and smacked him in the face (metaphorically speaking) and told him to snap out of it. During Mark Waid and Ron Garney’s second run on Cap’s title, when the world was gripped by Capmania, it was again Hawkeye who was there, having fun with the concept and enjoying the heck out of it, while Cap worried and moped.
That points out another thing that makes Hawkeye popular: he’s generally a very upbeat guy. While sadness and drama have their place, they can get a little old when overplayed. I’ve always been amazed that Uncanny X-Men has been such a popular book for so long, when it seems that for years at a stretch the title was mired in depressing persecution and mopey characters. Hawkeye doesn’t have that. While he’s been sad and upset at times, he bounces back pretty quickly. (It’s one of the reasons that killing Mockingbird was such a bad idea….you don’t make Hawkeye grim and gritty. It doesn’t work for the character, and the only other option is to have him bounce back from the death of his wife quickly, which just makes him look like an ass, which is equally unacceptable.) It’s Hawkeye’s positive attitude that makes him such an effective leader, and I think its the reason he was so perfect for Thunderbolts, which needed a character with a more upbeat attitude, since the only one on the team at that time who was upbeat was Jolt, and she was annoying as all hell.
What doesn’t work for Hawkeye? Changing his superhero identity. Twice in his history, Marvel has given him the power to grow in size and become super-strong and called him Goliath. Oy vey, bad idea. First of all, super-strong characters are a dime a dozen in any superhero universe. There is no team that really needs another strong man. However, there are precious few other archers in the Marvel Universe, and none of those other archers come close to Hawkeye’s prominence. Being an archer, and the arrows he uses, makes Hawkeye unique. Second, as mentioned above, Hawkeye is someone people can relate to, partly because he isn’t superhuman. By making him superhuman, you strip that part of him away. Bad idea. Currently, Hawkeye is calling himself Ronin. Yeesh, will Marvel never learn. He’s not a ninja….he’s an archer! Let him be an archer!
What say you, o’ longtime Hawkeye booster?
I agree with absolutely everything you just said. That’s good. That puts us on the same page as far as a starting point for a revamp goes. It’s funny that you bring up Hawkeye’s brashness and his relatability…those are two things that always attract me to any character, whether comics-based or coming from film or television. I don’t like the cool and aloof “bad boys” who glower and sneer just for the effect. I want a guy who can throw out a snarky quip and still be willing to get his hands dirty. The best analogy I can come up with is the Luke Skywalker versus Han Solo debate. Captain America is in the same archetypal range as Luke and Superman and Sir Galahad. He’s the strong, pious warrior who puts everything before himself. Hawkeye is the roguish, “I’ll do it if I have to, but I won’t like it” type…exactly like Han Solo, Die Hard‘s John McClane or Sir Lancelot (who wasn’t above sleeping with his boss’s wife).
That said, I think those qualities are also obstacles in creating a lasting run for this guy. Hawkeye has such a nonchalant personality that nothing sticks to him. Marvel is known for its angst-ridden characters, and a guy who can just bounce around with no attachments is difficult to shoehorn into any sort of ongoing continuity. Spider-Man has his Aunt May and, until recently, his relationship with MJ. He also has an alter ego that worries about paying the bills and getting to work on time. And, even more, he has a home base. Spider-Man is known just as much for swinging through the streets of New York as he is for any villain he’s ever faced.
What does Hawkeye have? Let’s see…he’s an orphan with a dead wife, a mentor who turned out to be a criminal, an older, dead criminal brother that he shot during a botched robbery and, um, a bunch of ex-girlfriends who have various levels of disdain for him. Not really a lot to build a legend on…unless you’re James Bond (or William Shatner).
I think that was the biggest problem with his brief ongoing series. It was like “On the Road” with Clint Barton. He was traveling across the country on a motorcycle wooing strippers and getting involved with drug running bikers…like if Burt Reynolds had starred in Dukes of Hazzard. It fell flat for me. Where did he get his money from? Where did he call home? Who were the people he surrounded himself with? Better yet, what were his problems? And who was Clint Barton when he wasn’t Hawkeye?
In order to re-energize the Hawkeye mystique (after Bendis, in my 100% accurate opinion, has completely ruined the character) and make him a hero able to stand alone, I think we need to go back to the basics: motivation, enemies and supporting cast. Let’s break him down to the traditional 5 W’s (Who, What, When, Where and Why). We can rebuild him…we have the technology…
Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that you have answers to all of these questions already? Well, let me see what I can do about these questions you pose, because I think you’re exactly right: to make Hawkeye successful, we have to build a life for Hawkeye.
One of the time periods that I think worked for Hawkeye was when, back in the mid-80s (I believe), he was head of security for Cross Technology. As their security chief, he had a job, which gave him money, and he had the perfect springboard for adventures. Moreover, I found it very novel, and so very Hawkeye, that when he needed a job, he didn’t even think of applying for one in his secret identity, but instead went and got his heroic identity employed. How many superheroes do that? Everyone’s always so concerned being employed in their “true identity” (since, for example, Peter Parker deep down considers himself to be Parker first and Spidey second), but not Hawkeye. Honestly, I would think that often someone’s superheroic identity would be much more employable than their civilian identity and props to Hawkeye for figuring that out.
I mention this because, when we try to determine where Hawkeye’s money comes from, we’re going to have to provide him with a source of income, and I think giving Clint Barton some typical job would be a very bad idea. It just doesn’t fit for the character. The only thing I can imagine Barton doing in his civilian identity wouild be working at a circus or carnival, but that’s cliche, and I really don’t think he’d enjoy it. It’s not like Hawkeye’s days in the big top were particularly enjoyable or fun. What might Hawkeye do? Celebrity endorsements. C’mon, he’d be a natural!
Hawkeye’s supporting cast is going to be a bit more difficult. Depending on where he’s getting his money, you could build a supporting cast from that. It’s somewhat ironic, that while Hawkeye is known to and friendly with the vast majority of the heroes in the Marvel Universe, he’s not really close to very many (with the exception of Cap, and he’s a little dead right now). Were it me, I’d pair him up with one of my favorite characters, and someone that I think could be a very interesting match for the battling bowman: Black Widow. Hawkeye and the Widow were a team for quite some time in the Marvel Universe (albeit for much of it on the wrong side of the law) and they were romantically involved as well. They’ve both grown quite a bit since that time, and haven’t worked closely together much since the old days. I think putting them back together at this stage in their lives could make for some very interesting chemistry. However, I wouldn’t want to thrust them together as a couple right away (if at all; I think the story would have to determine whether that happened). So why would they work together?
Well (and this could all change once Secret Invasion is finished) but what if the two of them were running around doing things for Nick Fury? I can’t see Hawkeye working for Iron Man or SHIELD, but Fury is a rebel, and a criminal under the Superhero Registration Act. Hawkeye would love the idea of working with someone like that, and if the missions he was doing helped to undermine the Superhero Registration Act, so much the better. Of course, that wouldn’t be all that he did, and you could still do unrelated plotlines, but it gives him a purpose, and it gives him a reason to hang out with the Widow. He’d still need more supporting characters, but that’s a start.
Enemies? Sadly, Hawkeye has no real rogues gallery. I’m afraid we may have to build that one from scratch. However, I’ve typed long enough, and I still have this feeling that you may have some ideas percolating in your ever plotting skull. Let’s see what you’re thinking, and then we can argue about why Black Widow really does belong in the new Hawkeye series.
I’m honored that you think so highly of my thought processes, but to be quite honest with you I have absolutely no prepared statements to make on this topic. I’ve just been making it all up as I go along. I’ve been exposed as the fraud that I am!
In my original post, I was going to mention his employment at Cross Technologies. That stood out for me as a unique way to handle the whole “superhero needs a job” angle. Perfect for his temperament too.
There’s actually something in the idea of celebrity endorsements. Hawkeye is the perfect type of character to do that too. He has that laidback cockiness necessary to be a good spokesman (similar to Booster Gold over at DC). And he’s not a huge star whose reputation would be tarnished by appearing on a billboard for laundry detergent (or, more appropriately, Target). I could also see an espionage role being played in the background…sort of like that Schwarzenegger movie True Lies. Smiling pitch man by day, covert operative by night.
Love the idea of bringing Black Widow in too. She’s such a useful character who never really gets the spotlight much. And she has ties to many of the other Marvel heroes, not to mention an already established past with Hawkeye. I would like to see them actually play up the fact that a relationship didn’t work between them…have them just being “good buddies” and every time romance is brought up by someone, they scoff at the suggestion of it.
You know who else I could see in this book? One of your favorites…Hank Pym. Think about it, they have history with the Avengers and West Coast Avengers, Hawkeye used Pym particles when he was Goliath, and he’ll need someone steeped in science and technology to help him develop more trick arrows and other weaponry. Not sure how Pym is going to be rectified in Secret Invasion, but a Hawkeye title could be a good place to rehab his character. It would place Pym in a role similar to the one played by Microchip for Punisher.
That’s a good start on supporting cast, but I think giving the book a solid setting will aid even further in establishing the character. My suggestion would be to put Hawkeye back on the West Coast. Realistically, there’s nothing particular keeping him in the New York area. His best friend is dead. He’s technically on the run as a member of the New Avengers. I’m sure he still has a bunch of viable contacts from his years spent in California (not to mention that it plays perfectly into the endorsement idea). He could easily grab a snooty up-and-coming actress as a love interest. Other potential background characters would be his agent/manager, a landlord, some big shot studio exec, maybe a bookie or bartender, and even guest appearances from all his ex-girlfriends. I could even see a braggadocious Hercules showing up (in an homage to his days in the Champions and the ties to Widow).
Villains are a bit tougher to scrounge up. There’s always AIM or Hydra or Sons of the Serpent…good for group fight scenes and counter-espionage angles. Are there any leftover WCA/Force Works villains still prowling the Los Angeles basin? Master Pandemonium? Graviton? The Death-Throws? Batroc’s Brigade? Grim Reaper? Our new and improved Circus of Crime lineup? Is there anyone who particularly has it out for Hawkeye? I’d LOVE to see him have a protracted face-off against Taskmaster…I think the two of them are opposite sides of the same coin. Plus, Taskmaster is sort of the reluctant hero now working for the Initiative while Hawkeye is a true hero forced to be on the lam. Interesting dynamic.
That covers the WHO and the WHERE. I think we really need to dig into the WHY next…
I think your suggestion to use Hank Pym is brilliant, not just because I like the character and not just because Hawkeye really does need someone to help create his arrows and develop new ones, but because I’ve always felt that Pym works best in a supporting capacity. Certainly, putting him back on the west coast harkens back to the days when these two worked with the West Coast Avengers, which were good days.
The villains you mention are good ones, and I love the idea of developing a Hawkeye/Taskmaster rivalry. They’re pretty evenly matched, and there could be a lot of great matches between the two of them. I’d also suggest, if we’re on the west coast, that we could always use the Night Shift as adversaries. Surely the Shroud’s cover has been blown by now, and if we remove him, we have a very interesting group of villains with some different powers and a history with Hawkeye. Truly, haven’t comics been calling out for more appearances of the Brothers Grimm?
However, you want to focus on why. Why? Because we like you. Whoops. Sorry. Reflex. Honestly, I’m not sure that Hawkeye needs a strong motivation to be a hero. I always felt he was a hero because he couldn’t be anything else. It’s all he really knows, and honestly, he enjoys it. If you want to go deeper than that, perhaps Hawkeye has decided to up his super-heroing as a tribute to his late friend, Steve Rogers. If he’s working with the Widow and doing some espionage things, perhaps it’s in response to the oppressiveness of Tony Stark and his new SHIELD. We could start the book with a long-term plot which would give us a semblance of a direction, if you wish. Perhaps he’s trying to find the Scarlet Witch, since he had feelings for her for a time (and they remained close friends for decades). Does Hawkeye know that Wanda killed him? If not, that could be interesting, as I wonder how his feelings would change if he did know (although, considering the fact that he got better, perhaps it wouldn’t be a big deal). I would suggest he’s on a mission to find Cap’s killer, but that would be best suited for the Captain America title.
It’s ironic that I have no strong motivation for this title, since I just commented elsewhere on the site that I felt most of the Ultimate Universe titles suffer because they have no real reason to exist. However, I would counter that most of those books are simply alternate reality versions of characters we can already enjoy in the Marvel Universe. Even worse, many of them are simply regurgitating plots from mainstream Marvel, albeit filtering said plots through a slightly different colored lens. Still, I think that Hawkeye adds something different to the Marvel Universe, and the supporting cast we’ve assembled around him gives us a lot of very interesting personalities to mix together. We’ve taken three of the oldest characters in the Marvel Universe, and we’re now ready to give them attention that they rarely receive. That, I believe, would keep the book an interesting one to read and write for years.
I thought you called yourself an Avengers fan? Did you not know that the first thing Hawkeye did when he reappeared was to track down Scarlet Witch and make sweet, sweet love to her? She had no idea who he was. I think he went looking for revenge, but left feeling sorry for her (you know, after he took advantage of her).
My thinking behind the WHY aspect of any supposed Hawkeye title wasn’t so much to delineate his motivation for being a hero, but rather exploring why he would leave Manhattan and why he would choose to realign himself with Widow, Fury and Pym. I mean, you can’t just launch issue #1 with him kicking up his bare feet on the La Jolla beach and not explain why he’s there or how he got there.
Initially, I was thinking he starts a road trip to escape the drama of Cap’s death, the oppression of the SHRA and the fallout from Secret Invasion. Does he meet up with his supporting cast along the way or does he recruit them once he gets to the west coast? Does he encounter any of his rogues gallery while traveling? Or, like I said before about starting as far into the action as possible, do we just show him in the midst of his “celebrity” career and then fill in the backstory blanks from there?
One of the biggest downfalls of his last standalone title was the fact that it was just Hawkeye and a bunch of people you’d never seen before…there was no history to play off of, no interesting relationships to reference. Without that interplay, Hawkeye’s true character is harder to define. He’s just a smooth guy with a bow. Whoop-de-doo. He’s not really a solo kind of guy.
That said, I could also see a scenario where he gets hooked up as a spokesman for Damage Control (one of my favorite Marvel concepts). That could lead him westward as well.
Also, good idea with Night Shift. That’s a bunch of obscure characters that we could really reinvigorate and make unique to Hawkeye’s world. I’d love to play up our new Circus of Crime to exploit Hawkeye’s background and then introduce a new Night Shift as a “welcome to the west coast” freakshow. I always find it more impressive to showcase Hawkeye’s talents against a group of bad guys anyway. And the Night Shift has some dubious, shadowy business ties too that could be mined for the espionage angle.
I am an Avengers fan, but I have to admit, my reading of the title has been a little spotty after Bendis went crazy, slaughtered some of their more interesting members, and started writing the characters so they all spoke with his voice, rather than their own. Still, I should have known that fact about Hawkeye and the Witch, or done some research. I thought about checking it out on the web before I posted, but there would have been typing and clicking involved, and it seemed like an awful lot of work for a pseudo-Monday morning. Next time I’ll have the intern look into that sort of thing.
As for hooking up with this supporting cast, here’s how I see it. The Widow has been working on the side of Superhero Registration as of late, but really, she’s a spy, so her loyalty is always a little suspect? The Widow has long been a supporter of Nick Fury, and the two are close. Fury sat the Civil War out, but I posit the theory that the Widow has been working for Stark and SHIELD because she’s actually spying on them for Fury. As Fury comes back into the limelight during the events of Secret Invasion, he knows that Natasha is likely to catch some heat if it’s learned that she’s basically been spying on Stark and SHIELD, and Fury thinks it may be best for Natasha to get a little distance. Fury has some projects for Natasha, and they are on the west coast, so he asks her to go out there and take care of them. That puts her on the west coast.
Hawkeye, in the meantime, has headed to the west coast as part of his spokesperson deal with Damage Control (I agree that Damage Control is one of the best ideas in the Marvel Universe, and working them in is great. They probably wouldn’t be seen much, but anytime with them is time well spent). While Damage Control spends a lot of their time and energy in New York (since there are so many superhumans there), the company is looking to expand. Now that the Initiative has put superheroes in every state, there’s going to be work for Damage Control all over the country, and they have decided to open a west coast office. They hire Hawkeye as their spokesperson for that office, hoping that he can help launch their west coast operations and give them a strong start on that side of the country (and since he is one of the few heroes to spend any significant portion of time out in California, he makes perfect sense for such a position). That gets him on the west coast.
With these two both in Los Angeles, it doesn’t take long (like, the end of the first issue) for these two to run into each other. The Widow has been working on trying to figure out what the heck is going on with the Night Shift, so she’s invited the Shroud to her new LA apartment to get some answers. The Shroud no longer leads the Night Shift, which he explains to the Widow. He also explains that the Night Shift want him dead, but not to worry, since he has one of his operatives (he had a few of them in his limited series) watching the building to make sure that the Shift doesn’t try anything. He then begins to tell the Widow what he knows of the Night Shift.
Meanwhile, the Night Shift does indeed want the Shroud dead, and they think that killing the Black Widow makes sense as well, since she could be a danger to them later. They gather near the Widow’s apartment building, but Ticktock warns them against acting now, as he can foresee that the Shroud’s operative will warn the crimefighter when he sees the Night Shift approaching the building, and the Shroud and the Widow will be able to escape. The Shift are contemplating their next move, when Hawkeye comes by. Hawkeye had heard the Widow was in LA and wanted to stop by and say hi. Hawkeye sees the Shroud’s operative, and not knowing who it is, assumes that anyone who’s keeping the Widow’s apartment under surveillance must be up to no good. Hawkeye attacks him, and while it wouldn’t be much of a fight, it doesn’t have to last long. Ticktock suddenly sees the future clear for an attack, and informs his colleagues. The Brothers Grimm fly up to the Widow’s apartment and throw some of their exploding eggs in the windows. Boom! The apartment explodes, and the Shift flees, just as the operative explains to Hawkeye that he was trying to protect the Widow and Shroud. Hawkeye turns just in time to see the explosion.
Hawkeye and the operative check out the wreckage, and find the Widow and the Shroud wounded, but alive. After the four of them help to rescue other tenants of the building, which is a total loss, the Shroud and his operative disappear, and the Widow goes to the hospital, Hawkeye trailing her. Once there, Hawkeye offers the Widow the option of staying with him, and since he was partly responsible for the destruction of her old place, she agrees. That gets them together. Living together they’re bound to help each other out, and with the Widow wounded, Hawkeye would insist on helping her, especially since he bears some guilt over her wounds.
I’d give them a five or six issue storyarc before introducing Pym. We had considered Pym to be a technical advisor for Hawkeye, but if we have him working for Damage Control, Hawkeye may not need an advisor, since Damage Control has one. How about this: after the Secret Invasion, Pym returns to Earth to again find that his name has been slandered and he’s considered a jerk. He’s been in this situation before, and this time, it’s not even his fault! He knows that he can use the “It was a skrull, not me!” defense, but he also knows that people may not buy that. Plus, as a prisoner of the skrulls for the last couple of years, Pym isn’t sure if he’s ready to go back out as a superhero again; he’s a little out of practice. What to do?
Then Pym sees the news of Hawkeye being back on the west coast, and remembers how Hawkeye gave Pym a chance all those years ago when Pym was trying to rebuild his life the first time. Pym contacts Hawkeye and offers his services as Clint’s technical advisor, but Hawkeye says that Damage Control has that covered. Or, well, they would have it covered if they had hired a tech advisor for the west coast yet. But they haven’t. They’re still looking for someone who has the knowledge they need to work as a technical advisor. They’d love someone with a good knowledge of science, who has experience with superhumans, and who doesn’t rattle easily. Hey, that sounds like Pym! Pym takes the job, and now we have the three of them working together. Thoughts?
I find it humorously ironic that Hawkeye was first sent to the west coast to start up a branch of the Avengers, to help spread heroic protection across the nation. Now we have him once again headed west, but this time to help head up a division of an organization dedicated to cleaning up after the heroes have completed their “protection” efforts. The funny part is that I can see Hawkeye finding some sardonic humor in this harsh reality as well.
While I won’t say there isn’t a definite stretch in logic to have the Night Shift attacking Black Widow just for merely being in town, I suppose their pursuit of Shroud would lead to some conclusion jumping. Strike while the iron’s hot, and all that. I do like the way you’ve brought Pym into the picture and it allows Clint and Natasha to rebuild their friendship before introducing another prominent character. Plus, I just love the idea of Damage Control…and, by offering him some public face time and some behind-the-scenes access, it almost combines our previous thoughts on Clint’s new career path. I also like the idea of digging into the celebrity phenomenon as it applies to superheroes…aside from Wonder Man’s brief fling with Hollywood, I can’t remember a time that Marvel has ever pursued this angle aggressively (which is especially telling considering the fact that Marvel claims to set all their adventures in the “real world” and our society seems to be in a constant media-induced euphoria).
Good. Let’s add this to the list of Titles I Now Want to Write. Darn it.