When I was a kid growing up, my favorite super heroes were based on what cool powers or abilities the protagonist had at her/his disposal. As I’ve grown up and ventured through countless a hero tale, I’ve found the obvious truth: powers don’t make a hero great; it’s their adversity that makes all the difference. You don’t need to be smart or strong to be great. And you don’t even have to be great to be entertaining! It’s up to the writers/artists/directors to break down a hero and show you that they can be relatable, accessible, and interesting. For all intents and purposes, Hawkeye (at least one of them) sucks. However, sometimes the worst heroes make for the best stories.
Things that we like are cool for a reason.
They’re the colorful gift wrapping tied up with a shiny bow on the birthday present under the thanksgiving turkey because that’s the day your birthday happened to land on that year.
This effect works especially well in mainstream comics where customers (sometimes literally) can judge a book on its cover. But what happens when you get a gift covered in (my actual trade mark wrapping style) trashy newspaper and duct tape? The gift still gets opened, I mean it is still a gift after all and what’s inside might be something really cool. But odds are that it might get passed over a few times for the bigger, more presentable, Incredible Hulk shaped gift. He has no style, he has no taste and this Kong has a dull gimmicky skill. Ladies and gentlemen: Enter Clint Barton (the first of the Hawkeyes).
What does a nuclear monster man, radio-active spider scientist, flying bulletproof billionaire savant engineer, Fabio demigod from space heaven, and a super soldier man out of time that punched Hitler in the face, have in common with a guy that quit the carnival circuit? They’re all in a club above the law of mortals of this world to the protect the Earth from Super villains, planet eaters, and sometimes themselves, called the Avengers.
Clint Barton, the first of the Hawkeyes’, has no super powers. He has no money. He isn’t the sharpest arrow in the quiver either (see what I did there). Morally, he walks a line somewhere in the gray area. Thusly, most of the people in his life do not particularly like him as a person. His one and only notable above average trait is his marksmanship with a bow and arrow in a world where many other heroes and villains alike have accuracy as a secondary talent under their belts.
Later on writers made him 80% deaf in solidarity with a young comic fan who had written to marvel because he was hearing impaired, and representation matters. This for me was one his only redeemable qualities for a long time. But then he got his hearing back, so that depth was lost. And on top that, Clint’s earlier costumes were utter gutter trash. Purple is my favorite color and the way he has irresponsibly dressed himself over the years has made me question my own life choices from a fashion stand point. #JustSayin
If you have paid attention long enough to this article, one could probably deduce one of 3 things:
A. You are a friend (or frienemy) of mine whom I’ve asked to read this article.
B. You have good taste in literary stylings.
C. You may in fact care about heroes/stories, possibly even structure.
If the answer was C or the invisible D: all of the above, then get ready for some poorly explained heroes journey talk and why (in my personally biased opinion) Hawkeye usually gets away with fitting in the Marvel universe on the same scale and platform as literal world breakers.
Y’all familiar with the hero’s journey? The Heroes journey is in theory that most, if not all stories involving a protagonist are the same story. They all follow the same structure for the most part and they all have the same characters. These characters include: the Hero (duh). She can be average or larger than life, but in a good story she’s always relatable, and she overcomes an adversity to reach a goal or whatever. There’s the Herald, who doesn’t necessarily have to be a person, but changes the course of the story for the hero to enter the unknown call to adventure type thing. Next is the Mentor who guides the hero to help her make the right decisions along the way. And you can’t have an interesting story without friction. That would be the job of the threshold guardians, who want to stop the hero from crossing over to the flip-side of her journey. Then you have tricksters who are pretty self-explanatory they help keep things a bit on the lighter side, often being sidekicks or comic relief, but as implied in the name, can’t be trusted and can possibly switch sides. At the end of it all, there lies the big bad final boss that the hero must get through to reach her goal. These characters can also switch around and be more than one of these traits in the journey. We’d call these characters shape-shifters. Okay, you get all that? Or are you confused? Let me break it down a little simpler just in case.
In the Matrix (which isn’t a movie at all. It’s reality #Wakeupsheeple). Keanu Reeves plays Neo, the hero of the journey. Trinity is the Herald. Morpheus and the Oracle are mentors. Smith and the agents are threshold guardians. Mouse and Cypher are tricksters. Agent Smith is actually a shape-shifter, as he goes through a change in the story that makes him both a TG and the Shadow at the end of the story.
Now what role does a guy with a bag of “trick” arrows, trained by a dude named “Trick”shot get type-casted in playing in the marvel team? Sorry Barton, you’re the Mouse in the Nebuchadnezzar.
At face value Hawkeye just isn’t (super)hero material. He’s more than likely the first one to crack jokes and the last Avenger you’d call on to save the day. He’s just the guy who happens to be there at the time or the character you have to play with in Lego Marvel because you haven’t unlocked enough characters yet and your sister already called dibs on Black Widow.
So what changed for me? What won me over to team Hawkeye? Well first off, Hawkeye died– let me finish. The first rule of comics is that nobody stays dead forever (Unless you’re Morph or Uncle Ben #RestInComics). He was then replaced by a teen with attitude who took up the mantel. Good Folks: Meet Hawkeye, The second of the Hawkeyes. Kate mother-luvin’ Bishop.
Same abilities as Clint. As to say she’s human, and an archer. Young Ms. Bishop a girl who grew up in society’s upper crust, rejected her lavish upbringing and joined the Young Avengers in hopes to make a name for herself on her own as a super hero. She would later set her sites on being a Private Investigator to pay the bills.
She was quick-witted, extremely hard-working, and ambitious ta’ boot. The same characteristics could be used to describe the first Hawkeye, but being out shined by the rest of his team left him in the outskirts of Avenger town. Coming in on the ground floor of Young Avengers, Bishop had the opportunity to show who she is and prove that she’s where she needs to be. She’s still fresh to the world of the super heroes when we find out (sarcastic surprise) Clint Barton isn’t dead. He was hiding out under the name Ronin, but now he’s back and he wants his stuff. Including his name. This is where things got interesting for me. Kate refuses. They’re both stubborn and neither budge on the name. Clint shape-shifts from Trickster to Threshold Guardian to Mentor all within a few early pages of Kate’s story arch. They both decided to hold the moniker. After this debacle cleared up, Kate and her team go on to save the world, but that’s a story to be reviewed another time.
And so, after all of that, this unconventional road leads us to what has to be one of my favorite comics under the umbrella of the Marvel universe in quite some time. I speak of none other than the self titled “Hawkeye” solo series written by Matt Fraction and art (Mainly) by David Aja. This series came out of nowhere.
This was everything I never knew I wanted and it turns out it was staring at me in the face the whole time. Take Clint out of the Avengers and what is he? He’s just a guy! A guy with bad luck and not a lot of friends. Morally, he walks a line somewhere in the gray area, but he always does it for the right reasons. Therefore, he takes the hard jobs that his peers won’t do. On top of that, he’s an incredible marksman, which helps get him out of rough situations that he gets himself in. As far as messes go, this guy is a raging dumpster fire on roller skates, rolling downhill on a trajectory to run smack-dab in the middle of an oil rig. And who doesn’t want to see that? On top of that, he rescues a dog in the first issue that loves pizza and becomes his best pal. I love dogs! And I love pizza!
This book deals with what it means to feel the depression of inadequacy and still being too prideful to ask for help. It deals with the pain of loss and how your pain can negatively affect and damage the relationships the ones that love you. In this comic he digs his own grave of trouble and when he reaches the bottom, he stays there for a while. But he shakes it. He realizes that he can’t do it all alone. That he needs help and that if he reaches out and the bond with his loved ones is strong enough, their relationships can heal and even grow. This book gave Clint Barton the face he so desperately needed. This is the story that truly made him a hero in my eyes. More importantly, this book gave me my new favorite super hero: Pizzadog.
*cool little easter egg/crossover: In the Black Widow comic, when Clint falls on the car, Black widow is in a coffee shop across the street. She sees him and ignores it. Comedy gold.
Alexander (Axx) McAlister