In the Marvel Comics Universe heroes routinely have their hands full battling alien empires, powerful super villains and malevolent gods out to destroy and enslave the world. It’s hard for the heroes to find time for seemingly little things like saving people from vicious mobsters or the fury of nature unleashed. Breakers of the norm, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop, the title characters of the ongoing “Hawkeye” series by writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja, do make time time for these tasks. When they adventure with their respective super teams, the Avengers and Young Avengers, saving the world is their top priority, but their ongoing series follows the heroic archers’ attempts to make a difference in the lives of everyday people.
In the book’s opening issues, the duo battled the forces of the New York underworld and in “Hawkeye” #7, Clint and Kate set out to help people caught in the path of Hurricane Sandy. CBR News spoke with Fraction about the events of that issue and his upcoming plans for the series, featuring several New York crime families striking back against the Hawkeyes.
“Hawkeye” #7 was a special issue where Fraction donated his sales incentive bonuses from the book to the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief and featured two stories by guest artists. In the first story, artist Steve Lieber brought to life Clint’s journey to Far Rockaway during the hurricane to help his neighbor Gilbert, AKA Grills, whose father refused to evacuate for the force of nature. The story was partly inspired by what Fraction saw growing up in North Carolina and gave the writer a chance to flesh out the characters of Grills, who readers knew primarily as the cook at the frequent rooftop barbecues held at Hawkeye’s apartment building.
“I’m from the place where people refuse to evacuate regardless of common sense,” Fraction told CBR News. “As a writing strategy I’m fond of the saying, ‘Nobody is just a waitress.’ Every character that appears in anything I do could end up having something important to do or say. So no one is just a waitress. No one just brings two of the characters cups of coffee. Everybody has an interior life, an exterior life and thoughts and feelings about things.
“That’s true of everybody in Clint’s building too. I could tell you all about everybody you’ve seen up on the roof at those cookouts. I know about all of them, and we’re going to learn about most of them as time goes on,” Fraction continued. “So Grills has been in my head for awhile and when the idea of doing a hurricane issue came about I thought it made sense to have this sort of surrogate dad for the building have to deal with his own completely disconnected dad. It ties into folks who dig in and weather hurricanes rather than evacuate in the face of all good common sense.”
In the second story, Fraction and artist Jesse Hamm had Kate Bishop become even more enamored with the state of New Jersey by showing her how the citizens of the state come together in the wake of disasters. The story began with Kate proclaiming her love for Jersey and Clint talking about his love for his new adopted home of Brooklyn.
“Kate being from the New York area would kind of have a vested interest in Jersey. Especially living an Upper West Side kind of life. Getting out of that sheltered and pampered existence across the river would mean a lot to her. She would be a reverse bridge and tunnel girl,” Fraction explained. “Then with Clint, Brooklyn is his adopted home. He’s from Iowa. He’s good Iowan folk. I know from the time I spent living in Iowa and the South that your neighbors very easily become your day to day family. It’s nice when people take care of each other. I think contextualizing Clint where he is, it all fits together with who he is and what kind of guy he is.”
Taking care of people and trying to be the best person you can is ultimately what “Hawkeye” is about — Fraction felt the two stories in “Hawkeye” #7 was a great way to illustrate that. “These catastrophes can bring out the best in people rather than the worst,” the writer said. “It’s easy to take the skeptical route and think the worst of folks automatically, but the stories I heard and read about surrounding Hurricane Sandy were staggering true tales of people rising above everything and being better than just a person. This book is about that. That’s our wheelhouse in ‘Hawkeye’ and it made sense to tell that story here.”
Being a better person can have unintended consequences, especially when it involves helping others get out from under the thumb of criminals that would harm and exploit them. In “Hawkeye” #8, Clint Barton and Kate Bishop have to face these consequences as Cherry, the woman they helped escape from a local crime family back in issue #3, returns to their lives.
“It’s still a self contained story and everything you need is in the issue,” Fraction remarked. “There’s no kind of special pre-knowledge, but we’re to the point now where the book has built history — we’re starting to have reoccurring characters. So yes, this sort of bad penny turns back up in Clint’s life and she needs a hand. Then all hell breaks loose because of it.”
Part of the reason all hell breaks loose is because Cherry returns right as the local crime family Clint and Kate helped her escape from, a group the Hawkeyes dubbed the Tracksuit Draculas, are escalating their war with the archers. One of the ways they’ll do that is by attempting to join forces with the organized crime figures Clint and Kate stole from at the end of “Hawkeye” #2.
“The New York crime families address the Clint problem in ‘Hawkeye’ #8. They’re literally going to have a meeting about him and the attendees include Kingpin, the Owl, Hammerhead, Typhoid Mary, Mister Negative, Yakuza members and Mafioso types like the Maggia. Everybody is in one room as the King of All Track Suits is proposing a solution to the Hawkeye problem,” Fraction stated. “This moment has been coming from the minute Kingpin watched their money floating off into the harbor at the end of issue #2.
“All these errant threads start to tie together and they form a noose around Clint’s neck. The next wave of stories all stand alone but, when it’s all done, form an intricate narrative. Like pointillism as a narrative device; it basically sets up the next year from many different sides all at once — there’s an inciting incident and then we follow Clint and Cherry off in one direction,” Fraction continued. “Then we follow all the women in Clint’s life in another direction, and onwards and onwards.”
The women in Clint’s life take center stage in “Hawkeye” #9. They include the Black Widow, who was one of the first women in the super powered community Clint had intense feelings for; Clint’s ex-wife Mockingbird; and his current girlfriend Spider-Woman. The exploits they have in that issue also involve a new character named the Clown.
“He’s a guy that has a very memorable sequence in issue #9. In #10 we’re filling people in on who he is, how he came to be and what his existence means for the future of Clint Barton. We’re looking to build a major adversary for Hawkeye and this is the start of that — it’s his story,” Fraction explained. “As to the Clown’s name and connection to other characters, all I can say is he’s a new take on an old character. There’s more to be revealed as we go, so forgive me for being coy, but I want folks to have the pleasure of discovering things while they read the story instead of knowing everything beforehand. In fact, I want you to destroy this interview immediately. Replace all of my comments with No Comment. This is all off the record. I’m trusting you here, Dave Richards.”
The Clown’s origin issue is drawn by Francesco Francavilla, who later becomes part of the book’s regular art team. “Francesco is great. Write that in all capitals. G-R-E-A-T. I’ve long been a fan since meeting he and his wife at HeroesCon a hundred years ago. His new book from Dark Horse, ‘The Black Beetle’ is terrific. Everybody should be checking it out. Write that in caps, too, Dave: E-V-E-R-Y-B-O-D-Y. It’s a breathtakingly exciting visual experience and it’s wonderfully written,” Fraction stated. “Francesco is going to be a perfect fit on Team Hawkeye and do right by us all.”
Francavilla and Aja won’t just be drawing characters and developments related to Clint Barton. Kate Bishop is a big part of “Hawkeye” going forward, especially now that she’s part of a new incarnation of the “Young Avengers.” Kate’s membership on that team of youthful heroes impacts her in the same way Hawkeye’s membership in the Avengers affects him.
“I’m taking writer Kieron Gillen’s lead on Kate and her reality. ‘Young Avengers’ is reflected in ‘Hawkeye,’ explicitly” Fraction said. “Plus, Kate made a major enemy in Madame Masque when she impersonated her back in issue #4. I believe in #5 she tells Kate they’re not done — they’re going to meet up again sooner rather than later.”
Fraction wants his readers enjoy the plans he has for Kate Bishop and Clint Barton in “Hawkeye.” He’s grateful for their support and hopes they’re having as much reading the book as he is writing it.
“I just want say thank you again to everybody who’s given the book a chance,” the writer said. “We just hit our fifth printing on the first issue. Thank you.”