Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Punisher… Hawkeye?
It might be a longshot, but there’s always a possibility that the Avenging archer from Marvel’s feature films could end up with his own 13-episode television series. After all, actor Jeremy Renner has said that he’s not opposed to the idea of exploring Clint Barton more than he gets to in film. “[A]ny of these characters I play, I’d love to dig into them more,” said Renner when asked whether or not he’d ever be up for “Netflix’s Hawkeye.” “I never feel like I get enough time with any character I play, and that’s one of them.”
Renner’s right when it comes to having a limited amount of screentime in a feature film to spend as his character. He was the least-featured Avenger in 2012’s “Marvel’s The Avengers,” spending most of that movie as one of Loki’s brainwashed lackeys. He got much more to do in 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” which introduced viewers to his — surprise! — wife and kids, and their farm. He returned in this year’s “Captain America: Civil War,” but only in a bit role as part of the film’s sprawling cast. It’s entirely possible that in a single episode episode, Renner’s screentime as Hawkeye in a Netflix series could eclipse his screentime as the archer in three feature films.
And of all the Avengers, Hawkeye is one of the characters that makes the most sense to spin off into a TV series. For one thing, the budget would not be broken. The Netflix series feature heroes with straightforward powers that are accomplished with minimal-to-no special effects. Daredevil has heightened senses, and he fights well. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are super strong. Jess can also jump kinda high, and Luke has unbreakable skin. Iron Fist, who will head up his own series in 2017, has the most showy power of all of them: his fist glows when he punches things. Still, Iron Fist’s SFX is not exactly on the level of, say, the all-CG Hulk.
Hawkeye’s an archer, plain and simple. A good archer, easily the best archer, but still just an archer. Through five seasons of “Arrow,” the CW has proven to probably zero doubters that archery is a totally cost-effective way of getting superhero action on the small screen. Hawkeye can be just as capable, competent and effective as he is in the feature films — which, no snark, is pretty damn capable — on Netflix.
There’s the other unifying quality that all the Netflix heroes share that actually makes Hawkeye the Avenger to put on the small screen: he’s a street level hero. Matt, Jessica, Luke and Danny are all more likely to fight gangs and ninjas than aliens and killer robots. Danny Rand’s the only one of them with any real money, and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has said the show’s not going to let that slide in a street level universe. The Netflix heroes are the relatable heroes; they’re not gods, they’re not super geniuses with an infinite budget and gadgets galore.
That describes Hawkeye, and actually separates him from the other most likely Netflix Avenger, Black Widow. Scarlett Johansson’s super spy would also make for a great television lead, as she’s a normal human with a superhuman fighting ability. But Natasha’s not really “street level.” She’s an international espionage character, one that would never be confined to just one neighborhood like the rest of the Netflix gang. Hell, Nat probably wouldn’t be confined to just one country. But Hawkeye? Hawkeye’s definitely street level — just look at his acclaimed and massively influential recent Marvel Comics series by Matt Fraction, David Aja and Annie Wu. That series depicted what Hawkeye did when he wasn’t Avengering, which was mainly hang out in his Brooklyn apartment building, drink coffee out of the pot, grouse about his life and fight local mobsters he dismissively referred to as “tracksuit Draculas.” Marvel’s “Hawkeye” ongoing, which ran from 2012 to 2015, took the Avenger to the street in a series of adventures that redefined both the character and how superhero stories could be told.
But, and here’s the twist, maybe Netflix’s “Hawkeye” actually shouldn’t star Jeremy Renner. Yes, after explaining why Renner’s Avenger is the only one that makes perfect sense for a solo TV show, it’s time to talk about the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.
Introduced in 2005’s “Young Avengers” #1, Kate is the youngest daughter of a wealthy family. Her superheroing career kicked off during a hostage situation when she, armed only with what she had at hand, actually diffused the situation and saved the band of young heroes that had intervened to save her. Kate’s cunning and resourcefulness became her own kind of superpowers, as she advanced her own archery skills to become the second best (if not the best) Avenging archer around. After numerous missions with the Young Avengers, she earned the name Hawkeye — one that Clint was proud to share (even if he acted grumpy about it).
That “Hawkeye” ongoing series by Fraction, Aja and Wu didn’t just star Clint Barton; it was really a Hawkeye “team” book starring both Clint and Kate. The two started to work closely together as Clint took Kate under his perpetually bruised and bandaged wing. The book even split into two separate storylines when Kate left Barton’s Brooklyn apartment building and started her own private eye business in California. Kate, with the pizza-loving dog Lucky by her side, became a major fan favorite as she solved crimes using her tenacity and ‘tude as well as her archery skills. Considering that Marvel has yet to have a teenage female lead, Kate Bishop would actually make for a fantastic lead character.
But there’s a specific reason why the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Clint Barton just can’t do what the Marvel Comics Hawkeye did. When “Avengers: Age of Ultron” established that Renner’s Hawkeye has a wife, a daughter and two sons, it moved the character drastically far away from the Clint Barton of the comics. Renner’s Hawkeye has a life outside of the Avengers and a marriage that, from the few scenes we got in “Age of Ultron,” seems rock solid. He also has three children that he cares for, who are an inextricable part of his life — so much so that even the highly secretive Black Widow knows and dotes on them like a super-aunt. The Clint Barton of the Marvel Comics is a screw up, and that’s a major part of his charm. He’s consistently unlucky in love and has amassed a killer list of exes (Black Widow, Mockingbird, Spider-Woman). Thanks to his family, the film Hawkeye has a feeling of contentedness the comic Hawkeye simply doesn’t have.
That screw-up persona is also integral to what makes the “Hawkeye” comic work. That’s a series about a self-styled loner thinking about people other than himself (first the pizza dog, then Kate, then the tenants in his building) and growing as a result of it. The MCU’s Hawkeye has already learned that lesson. And in order to move Renner’s Hawkeye to a place where he could do a street level hero story would possibly push the surprisingly well-adjusted character to too dark of a place — far darker than the dramatic “Hawkeye” comic ever went. How would they write Clint’s wife and kids out of the show? Would they be killed, or would he have to get a divorce or separate from his family? Would Hawkeye become an absentee father, or would Clint’s entire family sell the farm and move to Brooklyn (or, Netflix’s favorite neighborhood, Hell’s Kitchen)? While it’s silly to expect any Marvel property, film or television, to strictly adapt the comic it’s based on, getting Renner’s Hawkeye to a place where he could patrol the mean streets of Marvel’s Manhattan might take too much maneuvering.
Kate Bishop, on the other hand, requires no maneuvering. Since we’ve never seen Kate before, Netflix could introduce her in any way they please. Keep the St. Patrick’s Cathedral hostage situation origin intact, and give Renner’s Hawkeye the job of mounting a rescue operation. Once the two archers meet, give them a mentor/student relationship with Renner appearing in a few — or even most — of the episodes. The series could also start with a college-aged Kate Bishop, one that could easily slide into the role of protecting a Brooklyn apartment building from its criminal landlords. All the lessons Clint Barton struggles to learn in the “Hawkeye” comic could easily be translated to Kate Bishop, newly on her own after cutting ties with her rich family. Just imagine if “Friends'” Rachel Green was also killer with a bow and arrow. That’s a series.
And even with the focus more on Kate, Renner could still get plenty of time to explore Clint Barton’s character. With runs on “Freaks and Geeks” and “ER,” Linda Cardellini’s no stranger to television. Having her in an episode or two would allow for us to see more of the relationship only teased in “Age of Ultron.” Even if Renner headlined only three episodes of a “Hawkeye” Netflix series, that’s three hours of time devoted to his character — probably triple what we’ve seen of him so far. Plus, sharing the spotlight with another actor means that Renner — a movie star — would probably have more time to squeeze a show into his schedule.
If Renner’s serious about a “Hawkeye” Netflix show, then this seems like a solid way to get that done. Not only would we get to learn more about this very unique take on Hawkeye, one that’s noticeably different from the comic version, we’d also get a badass new female lead — one who could possibly spearhead the move to get the Young Avengers adapted to live action. Here’s hoping that we’ll someday soon see a “Hawkeye” series starring more than one hero in purple.
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