As a member of Marvel Comics’ Avengers, Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye regularly tangles with would be world conquerors and intergalactic threats. While the Avengers unite to face threats of that magnitude, that doesn’t mean it’s the only evil they should combat. This August, Clint Baron’s thirst for justice sends him hunting for criminals on the mean streets of New York as writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja, the acclaimed creative team behind “The Immortal Iron Fist,” reunite to kick of a new “Hawkeye” ongoing series. CBR News spoke with Fraction about the project, which was announced by Marvel yesterday at their Cup ‘O Joe panel at this year’s Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo.
Fraction has been a fan of Hawkeye ever since Mark Gruenwald’s 1984 miniseries featuring the character. When Marvel asked him to pitch ideas for a new “Hawkeye” ongoing series the writer sat down and carefully considered things.
“I wanted to find a way to stay interested and engaged and thought these types of adventure stories should feel hard-edged, gritty, human — a little bit beaten-down, a little bit weathered. No sheen like in “Avengers Assemble,” no special effects like in “Secret Avengers.” Hawkeye will be out of costume as much as he’s in costume. This isn’t a book about being a super hero. It’s about being a good guy and, hopefully, a good man. This is what he has to do to tolerate who he is. It’s what he does when he’s not an Avenger,” Fraction told CBR News. “Gifted people helping out because it’s the right thing to do.”
Helping out regular folks and people in hopeless situations is not an unusual thing for the heroic archer archetype to do. That type of character has been a populist hero for a very long time in fiction. “I think there’s a cultural link, an iconic link, to Robin Hood. It’s one of the earliest heroic legends that most of us come to,” Fraction said. “That link to Robin Hood says hero of the oppressed. All of that comes from the use, from the image, of the bow and arrow.”
In “Hawkeye,” Clint Barton will use his bow and arrows to pursue and take down the predators that stalk the urban jungles of New York City. For inspiration Fraction is looking at classic crime and urban adventure tales in the film, television, and comics mediums.
“If I could put the Stephen J. Cannell logo at the end of every issue I would be happy, and David Aja recently sent me this amazing piece of music. He said, ‘Here’s the soundtrack to our first issue.’ It’s Dizzy Gillespie and Lalo Schifrin from a record they did together called ‘Free Ride’ and it is great. The whole record is full of car chase music,” Fraction explained. “So this series is very William Friedkin and early Brian Depalma. ‘Rockford Files.’ It’s an early ’70s urban grit story. You almost expect Hawkeye to come around the corner and bump into Power Man and Iron Fist from 30 years ago.”
Hawkeye’s new status quo spins out of developments in the current Marvel event series “Avengers Vs. X-Men,” which Fraction is co-writing. “He suffers profoundly in ‘AvX.’ You don’t need to know that going into the series, but he’s coming out of the story line with a ‘what am I going to do with my life?’ kind of crisis. I got to write that bit in ‘AvX’ and now I get to follow through on it,” Fraction said. “We find him very restless and uncomfortable when this series begins. I don’t know that Clint would be able to articulate it, but he can’t live in his own skin and needs to make and do right for an array of personal reasons. So it’s that story. This isn’t Clint being just a super hero, but a good guy.”
Clint Barton won’t be alone on his quest to be a hero and a good person. He’ll be accompanied by the Marvel Universe’s other Hawkeye, teenage Kate Bishop of the Young Avengers. The duo’s different backgrounds and shared stubbornness will lead to an interesting and affective dynamic.
“It’s very ‘Avengers,’ by which I mean John Steed and Emma Peel. There’s a whole healthy person between the two of them. There’s a line in ‘Rocky’ where he says, ‘I got bumps. You got bumps. Together we fit,’ or something like that — the two of them fit together. Each one has what the other doesn’t, which means they work very well together,” Fraction said of their dynamic. “She’s young, incredibly gifted, incredibly cultured, and incredibly headstrong. She doesn’t suffer his crap and also wants to be someone worthwhile, but she’s trying to figure out how to make that possible. She follows him not because of his abilities, but his accomplishments. So they work together quite well. It’s an apprentice and master style relationship.”
In Fraction’s series the two Hawkeyes will try to root out and take down the changing face of organized crime in New York City. “Hell’s Kitchen is now Clinton. Have you ever been to Clinton? If you and I pooled our money together for the rest of our lives we might be able to afford to eat there a couple times a week. There’s no doubt that Daredevil won the war for Hell’s Kitchen and I want to see what crime looks like now that it’s not that Frank Miller world of gang members with denim vests and boom boxes anymore,” Fraction remarked. “There are different gangs and mobs and there’s a lot of money flowing throughout the city, but as police men start to pop up on more corners in New York and we get the gentrification of Manhattan, crime has gotten harder to see and find. It exists in places you wouldn’t recognize at first glance, but Clint, because of his upbringing and how he was raised, knows what’s going on. This is his world. He was a Carney. He was a vagabond criminal.”
“Hawkeye” will feature both classic and new Marvel villains. Those villains may include some of the major established players in New York’s criminal underworld, but not right away.
“Hawkeye running up against the Kingpin wouldn’t be out of the question in this book, but that would definitely be more of a big boss kind of deal. This is much more the guys stealing boxes off the back of trucks. These are street level stories for a street level guy. We do have some grand plans though,” Fraction said. “There are some big bads we’re working towards. There’s one in particular that it will be fun to put Hawkeye against and it makes a kind of conceptual sense, but I don’t want to give it away. If you’re very sharp eyed you might spy him in the second issue. So there is a classic Marvel villain that we’re setting up as the first real big bad for Clint to go up against. I think it will come together nicely in the way that Kingpin made a better Daredevil villain than a Spider-Man villain. There’s a sense that these characters fit together perfectly.”
The Hawkeyes’ exploits will feature reoccurring plot threads and characters, but Fraction will tell his story in a much more episodic manner. “I’m doing single issues and two-issue story lines. I think we’re at a point right now where the world is changing and these are the kinds of stories we need to do. There are obviously ongoing arcs and concerns, but this series is very episodic. This is a book where you don’t need a PHD in Avengers to follow what’s going on,” the writer explained. “These are short, simple, adventure pops and I think they’re the kind of things we need to be doing these days. Plus, I suspect Aja is a lot like me in that he’s constantly fighting a war against boredom. So this challenges both of us on a monthly basis to one up ourselves and come up with something new and not fall into a pattern at all. The language is changing month to month. This is more action packed and diverse than even ‘Iron Fist’ was.”
Fraction is very excited to be working again with his “Immortal Iron Fist” collaborator and feels Aja is the perfect artist to bring his “Hawkeye” stories to life. “Aja is beyond perfect for this book because of the physical nature of our main characters and the mood and tone we want to create,” Fraction said of his partner on the series. “Plus, it’s interesting; when we started working on this book I realized that when you’re writing a character that is walking around with a bow and arrow all the time he’s kind of conspicuous. So I’m taking a note from Ultimate Hawkeye where Clint is a guy capable of weaponizing anything around him. We’ll get to see him doing all kinds of crazy stuff with all kinds of crazy make shift weapons. He’s kind of like the MacGyver of weaponry.”
When “Hawkeye” hits stores in August it will become another book in a line of growing titles edited by Steve Wacker that covers crime in the Marvel U version New York City, and Fraction hopes readers of those titles will give the series a chance. “This is very much a piece with Steve Wacker’s other crime books like “Daredevil” and “The Punisher,” — but it’s scored by Lalo Schifrin,” Fraction said.
“Hawkeye” #1 by Fraction and Aja is on sale in August.