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Monday, January 19, 2009

To Better Know A Hero: Hawkeye

Real Name: Clint Barton

First Appearance: Tales of Suspense 57, Sept 1964
Nicknames and Aliases: Hawkeye the Marksmen, Br'er Hawkeye, Golden Archer, Goliath, Ronin.
Powers and Abilities: Hawkeye is the best archer in the Marvel Universe; trained in hand-to-hand combat by Captain America; Carny trickery.
Weaknesses and Achilles’ Heels: blonds, brunettes, redheads (but especially blonds); Hawkeye also suffered, at one point, from a slight inferiority complex.
Gadgets and Accessories: An assortment of custom-made bows and not-quite-as-goofy-as-Silver-Age-Green Arrow trick arrows; Hawkeye is 80% deaf in both ears and wears specially designed miniature hearing aids to compensate.

Friends and Allies: Mockingbird (Barbara Morse Barton, his wife), Moonstone (Karla Sofen, his one time girlfriend and Thunderbolts teammate), Black Widow (Natasha Romanov), Two-Gun Kid (Matt Hawk, western outlaw), Avengers, Great Lakes Avengers, Thunderbolts, the "outlaw" Avengers.

Foes and Antagonists: Trickshot, the Swordsman, Ultron, Kang, Graviton, the rest of the Avengers' Rogues Gallery, Brian Michael Bendis.

Movies and Appearances: Hawkeye has yet to headline a movie or TV show, but he was a regular on the Iron Man cartoon in the 90s as well as the shortlived Avengers Unlimited. There's also some internet speculation/wishful thinking that he might make an appearance in the upcoming Avengers movie.

One-Sentence Origin: Raised in a traveling carnival and trained by Trickshot to hone his natural archery skills, Hawkeye attempted to make a name for himself as a costumed hero, but ended up inadvertently battling Iron Man before putting his short-lived villainy aside to become a mainstay of the Avengers.

Memorable Moment: Avengers Annual 16 1987: Hawkeye, while leader of the West Coast branch of the Avengers, gets caught up, along with all his Avengers teammates, in a cosmic game being played between an "Elder of the Universe", the Grandmaster (who is obsessed with games), and Death, with the fate of the universe at stake. The Avengers face off against the Legion of the Unliving, a group comprised of their worst dead enemies, resurrected. Only Captain America and Hawkeye make it through the gauntlet, staving off the destruction of the universe. But then the Grandmaster tells them they have to fight the Legion again, only with their deceased teammates now against them as well. Hawkeye's had enough and challenges the Grandmaster to a simpler game (click to embiggen):

The Grandmaster loses, and is distracted enough that Death gains the upper hand and sends the Grandmaster packing (she also ressurects Hawkeye's fallen teammates). But how did Hawkeye win?

Once a carny, always a carny...

Fun Fact: Hawkeye petitioned the Avengers for membership by breaking into their headquarters and tying up their butler, later freeing him via archery as a show of his skills. Iron Man, his one time foe, eventually sponsored him for membership.

Teebore’s Take: Marvel, moreso than DC, has a long-running tradition of converting its villains into heroes. Hawkeye is one of the earliest examples of that, going from reluctant-villain alongside Communist spy Black Widow (with whom Hawkeye was infatuated and would herself later reform and join the Avengers) to Avenger alongside fellow reformed-villains Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in the Avengers first big lineup shake-up, a team known as "Cap's Kooky Quartet."

I've always enjoyed Hawkeye's unique and consistent character development throughout the years. Shortly after joining the Avengers, Hawkeye was the resident hothead, bristling at Captain America's leadership, incorrectly believing he could do a better job. Eventually, he came to respect Cap, forming the basis for a unique and long-running friendship. For a time, Hawkeye struggled with insecurity, worrying he was overpowered by his fellow Avengers. For a time, he took Hank Pym's growth serum and operated as the super-strong, size-changing Goliath. After a battle which Hawkeye won exclusively by relying on his own skills, he embraced his archery skills and struck out on his own as Hawkeye once more, eventually returning to the Avengers as a more confident and capable person.

This new-found confidence led him to his wife and a leadership position starting up the Avengers' West Coast branch, a position at which he excelled (the less said about his mischaracterization during this period regarding his reaction to his wife's rape the better). Hawkeye so loved being the leader that years later, after the West Coast branch folded, he left the Avengers and forced himself onto the Thunderbolts (a group of villains attempting to reform), becoming their leader, determined to use his past experiences to help them travel the path of redemption.

Of course, Hawkeye is also endearing because of his role as the "normal Joe" who not only holds his own in a group filled with people far more powerful than he is, but often leads those same people. There have been a handful of fun stories through the years featuring Hawkeye facing off against opponents way out of his weightclass (such as the one mentioned above) and Hawkeye always finds a way to come out on top.


  1. I've always liked Hawkeye but I still have no idea how he came back from the dead after "saving" the avengers from Scarlet Witch or whatever he did. I think he crashed into a spaceship or something, right?

  2. Well, he didn't really "save" the Avengers from anything with his death, which is one of the reasons the internets cried out for Bendis's head at the time.

    The Avengers were fighting the Kree (which had been created by an insane-Scarlet Witch's power) and Hawkeye's quiver caught on fire or something, which meant his explosive arrowheads were going to explode, so Hawkeye leapt onto a Kree ship and blew it up along with himself instead of, you know, taking off the quiver...

    He returned after the House of M story. In the alternate timeline Scarlet Witch created, Hawkeye was still alive, and when the true reality was restored, the implication is that Scarlet Witch made sure he stuck around.

    After that, he bummed around for awhile, seeking out Scarlet Witch before taking up the mantle of Ronin (the mysterious ninja) and joining the "underground" Avengers team in the wake of Civil War.

  3. Ah . . . why can't Bendis just be filed into a small corner of the Marvel U?

    With great power comes blah blah blah. I think Bendis has too much say in the Marvel U the past couple years. His Daredevil & Ultimate Spider-man runs were great but I think most people would agree he's been extremely saturated as of late.

  4. Yeah, I run hot and cold on Bendis. I certainly don't hate him with the vitriol the internet does, but then, I have a hard time getting that worked up over much in the comic book world (with a few exceptions).

    In principal, I certainly like the idea of having someone act as an architect of the Marvel Universe, a la Stan Lee in the old days, and I certainly appreciate the kind of long-term planning Bendis particpates in, dropping hints to upcoming events months in advance.

    As in most things, it's all in the execution though, and Bendis has certainly dropped the ball in that regard from time to time (his "Venom Bomb" arc in Mighty Avengers, with its bizarrely written Dr. Doom, and the fact that Secret Invasion was a really series of "Rising Actions" without any real "Climaxes," come to mind).

    In a perfect world, I think, Bendis would continue to function as a kind of architect, overseeing the general direction of the MU, while scaling back the number of individual books he's writing to Ultimate Spidey, one of the Avengers, and his pet project du jour (like the upcoming Spider-Woman series. Bendis loves him some Spider-Woman).

  5. I hear ya.


    He definitely cannot write Doom and he portrays Namor as some kind of pathetic drunk. For Namor, part of the fault would have to go to Alex Maleev (whose art I normally love).

  6. I haven't read Dark Reign yet, but I've heard his Doom continues to be off, and I've seen the pics of Namor, who does indeed look like a stumblebum drunk.

    Which is a shame, because Bendis and Maleev handled Namor quite well, I thought, in their pre-Civil War Illuminati stuff. Namor was, perhaps, the best written character in that group.

  7. Good post. Hawkeye has always been a favorite of mine. His limited series from back in the 80s sometime is one of the comics that first got me hooked.

    I used to love everything that Bendis did and gobbled it all up. Powers, Sam and Twitch, Ultimate Spider-man, Daredevil, etc.. The last few years though have been on a steady down slide as far as I am concerned though. House of M wasn't bad but certainly nothing incredible either. And don't get me started on Secret Invasion, it's a big part of the reason that I am not buying comics anymore like I used to.

    Bendis seems to be a lot stronger when focusing on a much smaller cast of characters. It really wasn't until he took on all of the Avengers books that his writing wasn't as good. His strong points seem to be characterization and that is getting lost when he has so many characters and big sweeping plots to worry about. He has great ideas, it just seems like lately he has problems executing them.

  8. Bendis definitely suffers on team books, and lately, some of his character "voices" seem off. And you're right about execution-Marvel on the whole and Bendis in particular have a had a problem satisfyingly concluding their big event books lately.

    (Though that has as much to do with their overall business strategy as it does their writers' skills, I think).

    That original Hawkeye mini is the one where he goes deaf and meets Mockingbird, I think. I have yet to actually read it, though.

  9. I haven't read that mini in a while but yes he does lose his hearing in it from a sonic arrow that he uses in some fashion that escapes me right now. Mockingbird is in it although I don't remember if it is where they first meet. Could be. I need to go and re-read it. I wonder if it would hold up as well as I remember it? These things rarely do though. :)

  10. Hawkeye is 80% deaf in both ears and wears specially designed miniature hearing aids to compensate.

    Actually, he hasn't been deaf since before Heroes Reborn. There was some thing about all of the heroes involved getting "fixed" if they had any problems at the time (for example, this was when Wasp was mutated into a 90's-riffic giant mutant butterfly thing), and so Hawkeye's deafness was cured.


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