Matt Fraction said at the Emerald City Comicon this weekend that he’ll write an issue of Hawkeye about sign language when the character once again has his hearing damaged. That’s pretty cool.
Now it might seem wrong to wish hearing loss on anyone, even a fictional character, but it’s the latest in a series of cool moves by Marvel. If you’ve been following along, you know that last week Marvel and hearing aid makers Phonak kicked off a poster campaign aimed at hearing-impaired kids who feel awkward about wearing hearing aids. That poster campaign came about after a mom, Christina D’Allesandro, reached out to Marvel last May because her son refused to wear his hearing aid. He said superheroes don’t wear them, and his mom was hoping Marvel could point out one who did.
“Tom Brevoort brought up Hawkeye’s loss of hearing back in the ‘80s, which spurred me to send a shot of the West Coast Avengers #1 cover to Christina, suggesting that she tell Anthony that not only do superheroes definitely wear hearing aids, but that he could be an honorary Avenger if he wore his,” Marvel Editor Bill Rosemann told me last year.
So how did Hawkeye lose his hearing the first time around? It goes back to his first meeting with Mockingbird, in the pages of his 1983 miniseries. The duo were fighting Crossfire, who was using an ultrasound weapon to brainwash them and make them fight each other. Hawkeye was able to break the effects by bursting his own ear drum with one of his supersonic arrows, as our friend Brian Cronin detailed in this long post about Mockingbird.
Incidentally, Hawkeye was a bit embarrassed about his hearing loss at the end of the series and pretended nothing had happened:
…which almost cost him the love of his life. It would later come up when the Avengers were guests on the David Letterman show; Hawkeye didn’t want anyone to know he was “half-deaf,” so he wanted all of Letterman’s questions in advance:
I’m not sure when Hawkeye’s hearing loss “went away;” maybe it was retconned when he died or was shuffled off to the Heroes Reborn Earth or something like that. I don’t know if Anthony’s story inspired the upcoming plotline or not, but having a superhero who has trouble with his own hearing can help serve as an inspiration to kids like Anthony. So yeah; sorry Hawkguy; the fact that you’re losing your hearing again is pretty cool.