The heroes that make up Marvel Comics’ Avengers routinely battle some of the most dangerous foes the universe has to offer, utilizing the hammer of Thor, the power of the Hulk, the indestructible shield and tactical brilliance of Captain America and the courage and dead-on aim of Hawkeye. When it comes down to it, though, the question has to be asked: just how effective is Clint Barton’s bravery and skill with a bow, especially when it’s not backed up by the might of the other Avengers?
Writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja, the acclaimed creative team behind Marvel’s “Immortal Iron Fist” series, began answering that question when they kicked off their new ongoing “Hawkeye” series in early August. CBR News spoke with Fraction about what fans can expect from the street level series, which follows the urban adventures Hawkeye embarks upon when he’s not out adventuring with the Avengers.
As a member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Hawkeye is used to rubbing shoulders with gods and super-powered beings, but in the opening pages of “Hawkeye” #1, Fraction and Aja sent the hero crashing down into the world of the average Marvel U citizen, in both a literal and metaphorical way. “Our series opens with Hawkeye stepping out of the hospital after suffering a great injury. When he gets out, he has no idea what to do with himself,” Fraction told CBR News. “I don’t think he knows who he is when he’s not with the Avengers. That’s the thing — he needs to figure stuff out and come up with a plan.”
While Hawkeye is considering his personal life path in issue #1, he becomes embroiled in a street level adventure pitting him against a group of Eastern European mobsters he affectionately dubs “The Tracksuit Draculas.” Future issues will see Clint Barton square off against super villains, but the action in “Hawkeye” will always be of a gritty and human vein and feature a combination of costumed bad guys and working class thugs. It’s a combination Fraction is having a lot of fun with.
“One of the cool things about the Draculas is that they have a hierarchy. I wrote this whole ridiculous treatise on what the track suit color and stripe combination means and how you can tell what rank they are in the organization. I’m having a lot of fun with them,” the writer said. “The villains are coming, too. Big, marquee-name super villains show up in issue #2. How we get there will hopefully be unexpected. Basically, I’m writing a fun, wide-open book that I would like to read.”
Super heroes will also show up in “Hawkeye” #2 as Barton joins forces with another crime fighter who shares his code name, Kate Bishop of the Young Avengers. “Kate Bishop is a big part of the book starting with issue #2,” Fraction stated. “It’s mostly Clint and Kate in a Steed-and-Peel kind of relationship.”
The supporting cast of “Hawkeye” will also include a large number of non-costumed characters like Clint Barton’s neighbors. “This will be a book full of real people; the folks in and around Clint’s life. I’m telling the stories of what he does when he’s not off fighting Kang. Small stories with big action and impact,”Fraction remarked. “We’ll get to know a lot of the people in his building. They have regular rooftop barbecues where they all gather and socialize.”
Hawkeye’s building is just one of the many locations readers will visit in the series as Fraction’s plans for the book will send Clint Barton and Kate Bishop all over New York City. “It’s not really about Clint’s experiences in a certain area of New York,” Fraction explained. “As I mentioned, this is much more about what he does when he’s not an Avenger. This is what he does in his off hours.”
While Hawkeye’s down-time adventures will often make use of his costume and his bow and his arrows, he’ll spend just as much time in street clothes, armed with only his cunning and the weapons his environment provides him. “I wanted to show a Clint who was more than just an archer. I wanted to show that he was a guy who could weaponize almost anything. We see him use a deck of cards as a weapon in this first issue, then we have some pages where he’s using coins. I wanted to show that he was a trick shot artist, not just an archer,” Fraction said. “The archer aspect is, of course, there. We get the bow, the trick arrows and the impossible shots, but he’s also a guy who grew up in the circus. So Clint knows a little bit about a lot of stuff, whether it’s slight of hand or con games. At one point he says to a guy, ‘Look around. Captain America ain’t here.’ He’s got a different playbook when he’s not an Avenger.
“He’s a little bit of a rogue and a scoundrel,” Fraction continued. “In the first issue, there’s a shot of him with a bandage on his nose and that’s when I knew I had the book. When I imagined David Aja drawing Clint Barton with a bandaid across his nose, I knew that was our guy; shaggy haircut, bandage on his face and stubble on his chin. He’s a badass, but he’s also the kind of guy who asks if he can pet your dog.”
Fraction’s original take on “Hawkeye” was almost a James Bond-style approach, but when the writer started thinking about his protagonist’s affinity for danger and his everyman qualities, another pop culture character came to mind — 1970s television private detective Jim Rockford, portrayed by James Garner on NBC’s “The Rockford Files.” “The idea of Hawkeye as Rockford hit me and it was like, ‘There you go.’ There’s the guy I understand. That’s who he is. He’s a guy from Iowa,” Fraction said. “In our first issue, he kind of finesses his way into money, and it really is one of the first times in his life that he’s got money to spend. He uses it to do good. This is very much a story about what Clint Barton has to do with himself to be able to sleep at night.
“When you’ve got Captain America on one side of you and Thor and Iron Man on the other, it’s easy to feel alone in the world,” Fraction continued. “Taking care of people is important to him. We’re doing small human stories here. It’s about him doing something good and real for the people who take care of him and he likes, his neighbors. This first issue was about Clint Barton trying to be a good neighbor and of course, everything goes wildly wrong.”
“Hawkeye” #1 is a done-in-one story, setting the tone for the series’ approach to telling shorter stories rather than long-running epics. “As a whole, this is a book of one- to two-part stories by design. You get a beginning, middle and end in every issue — there’s no three-part arcs here,” Fraction explained. “We’re doing it that way because, frankly, 20-pages for $4 is too much for too little. It’s too much for a chapter of a story.
“Marvel Comics used to be incredibly dense when they were 17 pages. They were also 65 cents back then, and they felt richer. I feel the era of three-panel pages is sort of over. We’re somewhere else now,” Fraction continued. “I think the realities of where comics are right now are different from where they’ve been the last few years. When you move from 22 pages to 20, it changes the pace and tempo of everything.”
Fraction’s tales are being brought to life by his “Immortal Iron Fist” collaborator David Aja, an artist known for his modern take on old school style comic story telling and aided on “Hawkeye” by acclaimed colorist Matt Hollingsworth. “This is a terrifically dense book. David added things up, and I think he had something like 96 panels on 20 pages,” Fraction said. “David’s art with Matt’s colors is even more extraordinary. Matt and David had to track like three or four different time frames in issue #1. It jumps back and forth, up and down and all over, and they never lose track of where you are and when things are taking place. That’s David and Matt being masters of what they do.”
Ultimately, Fraction hopes fans enjoy the work he, Aja and Hollingsworth are doing on “Hawkeye” because he has big plans for Clint Barton, which include battles with the New York underworld and exploring Barton’s relationships with other characters like his current love interest and fellow Avenger, Jessica Drew, better known as Spider-Woman. “I’m interested in following things up with Clint and Jessica, but not so much Hawkeye and Spider-Woman. It would be fun to see, but it’s very well served elsewhere,” Fraction said. “Around issue #6 we’ll do a story where both Jessica and Clint’s ex-wife Bobbi Morse [the Avenger known as Mockingbird] kind of fall into his lap at the same time. Again though, it’s much more about the relationships than it is Mockingbird and Spider-Woman. I want to see David draw Mockingbird and Spider-Woman, but rather than it be a super hero moment, the value of them is the personal pathos they bring to the book.”