Detectives in pulp novels usually wear trench coats and arm themselves with pistols such as the Colt .45. In the world of superhero comics, detectives can look quite a bit different. For instance, in Marvel Comics’ five-issue “Avengers: Solo” mini-series by writer Jen Van Meter and artist Roger Robinson beginning in October, a reluctant shamus hits the mean streets of New York clad in a purple costume and armed only with a bow and a quiver full of high-tech arrows. That character is of course longtime Avenger Clint Barton, better known as Hawkeye. CBR News spoke with Van Meter about her plans for the character.
Hawkeye is the latest in a long line of low- and non-powered characters Van Meter has written. Her past credits include stories featuring the Black Cat and Ghost of the Thunderbolts as well as Black Lightning and a modern day update of the Old West gunslinger Cinnamon for DC Comics.
“I find these types of characters very relatable, the way they fit into the framework between the superheroes and the civilians of a superhero universe. That space in between, where you have the ambition to right wrongs but you’re part of a world that has people with the vast resources of a Tony Stark or the immense power of Thor, it’s a difficult place to be in. It makes you ask a lot of lot of real important human questions like, ‘Am I good enough to do this?’ Or ‘Why try harder?'” Van Meter told CBR News. “Also, these characters are not diminished by those moments of ordinary humanity. They have to be sort of ambassadors as well, because they do move between the two worlds and can translate things.
“Hawkeye can go and talk to people who have nothing to do with the superhero world in a way that Tony Stark can’t. He’s already separated by the vast wealth and power that keeps ordinary people from feeling like they can relate to him, then on top of that he’s got the Iron Man armor and all that comes with it,” Van Meter continued. “Over in ‘Thor’ I think they’re illustrating this perfectly with all the Broxton stuff, because imagine how weird it would be to suddenly come face to face with an Asgardian. I think Clint, though, can take off his costume and still go have a pizza with somebody in a very natural way. I find that engaging.”
In addition to his street-level person, Van Meter also accepted Marvel’s invitation to pitch a Hawkeye story because she is a longtime fan of the character. “I’ve always enjoyed Hawkeye. He’s a fun guy. He doesn’t spend a long time thinking about what he’s going to do and he seems to delight in life,” Van Meter remarked. “That’s a real pleasure to interact with, and I like the fact that some of his insecurities have been pretty close to the surface too. I think he’s got a healthy ego, but he does have normal human concerns about who likes him, who doesn’t, and how he fits in.”
Van Meter feels those insecurities and a desire to fit in come from a lifetime of straddling so many worlds. “His history includes a lot of different and dark places. He’s got this troubled home life. He was in an orphanage and then spent much of his youth as part of a traveling carnival. And before he joined the Avengers he even spent some time as a criminal. So he’s got this history of shadowy places behind him,” Van Meter explained. “In this series I was thinking about how he would resolve something with a character and I realized, growing up around a carnival, he’d plausibly have a whole different skill set that he can bring to this that I hadn’t seen used in awhile. It’s been interesting to think about what he might have learned in some of the different communities he’s moved in.”
When “Avengers: Solo” begins, Hawkeye is feeling like the vast scope and scale of his world has narrowed. “Hawkeye has been though a lot in the recent stories Jim McCann has written and I’ve put him in a place where he’s kind of come to depend on the Avengers community. The main thrust of the story is a mystery that’s also a threat to the reputation of the Avengers. So he feels motivated to solve this mystery in order to preserve the stability of the team’s world and see their reputation untarnished,” Van Meter remarked. “It’s just like if you’ve been through a rough patch and counted on your family to see you through it, the last thing you want to hear is something negative about your brother.”
The events of “Avengers: Solo” are set into motion after Hawkeye breaks up a fight in the first issue. “Somebody comes to him for help and then winds up dead. He’s going to do something about that,” Van Meter stated. “One of the things I like about Clint is that he has this trustworthy quality about him. Because he’s so frank, my sense is that he’s somebody people would find eminently trustworthy. I wanted to put him into a situation that would test that a little bit. There are some people who really don’t want to trust anybody in costume and part of his heroism is making the effort to overcome that. I think the heroism in a detective story is largely about separating the truth from the lies and aligning yourself with the right people. This is very much about him coming upon a situation that needs that effort from him.”
While earning people’s trust is something that comes naturally to Hawkeye, detective work is not. “I don’t think he sees himself as an idiot, but he’s surrounded by some pretty smart people most of the time and to put him in a place where if a problem is going to be solved and the truth is going to be reveled it’s got to be by him alone, that was something that was fun to play with,” Van Meter said. “I just wrote a scene where he has to wait something out and it’s kind of about him knowing that’s not who he is. Even though he can be a sniper and he’s done the espionage stuff, his nature is not to hang back and wait. That scene was really fun to write, and it was very gratifying when my editor, Tom Brennan, wrote to say he’d really liked it.”
Van Meter has lined up several new and familiar faces to test Hawkeye’s combat and detective skills in “Avengers Solo.” “The villain side of the Marvel U is much like the hero side, in that there are people with fantastic and innate powers and people working with more limited resources and abilities,” Van Meter said. “Part of what this story is ultimately about is who has powers and who doesn’t, so I was looking for villains who use technology to keep themselves in the game.
“There are people way in the back that you will not meet until later. They are trying to protect something that’s been one of their long term projects. So there’s not a lot of big masterminds up front,” Van Meter continued. “Early on though, Hawkeye is going to have to contend with the Trapster, the old Spider-Man foe Chance, and a couple other characters that I thought would be right for this.”
Rounding out the supporting cast of “Avengers: Solo” are some civilian characters and Hawkeye’s titular teammates. “Clint is going to meet some people who are essentially civilians that have been forced into a context that they were not prepared for. Plus characters like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are around. We see them a little bit. Jarvis is there too. He’s not on the page for very long but I really like him,” Van Meter said. “I think that’s one of the reasons this has been such an exciting challenge for me because in so many way it’s about Hawkeye’s reliance on people like Jarvis, Steve, Tony, Black Widow, and Bobbi [Morse AKA Mockingbird of the New Avengers]; the people who are his world, but it’s also about the fact that they’re not in this story. It’s a challenge because I’m writing about that context without actually showing that context.”
Van Meter has been thrilled by the work artist Roger Robinson has been doing with Hawkeye and all the other characters in “Avengers: Solo.” “This is essentially a noir story, but it’s one of the most action-oriented things I’ve ever done and Roger Robinson’s action scenes are full of this glorious intensity. I’m not an artist, so when I visualize an action scene, these things tend to be about choreography, storytelling, is there room on the page for this bit? So when I get the art back from Roger I’m always overwhelmed by the depth and motion of everything,” Van Meter remarked. “I can say in the script that something is going to be totally intense, but I have no way to describe how that’s going to look because that’s not how my brain works. So Roger is doing this lovely balance where we’ll have the silence and stillness of a dead guy in a hotel room and all of a sudden things are whooshing and you can see all this motion that I think really works for a character like Hawkeye. He’s handling these transitions between the action and the quiet beautifully. I’m really excited to see it all come together.”
Robinson and Van Meter’s Hawkeye story will run through each issue of “Avengers Solo,” but readers will also get a bonus back-up tale by Jim McCann spotlighting the students of “Avengers Academy. “Jim McCann’s known in this industry for writing exciting action, compelling soap opera and witty dialogue,” editor Tom Brennan told CBR News. “He was a natural fit to write the Avengers Academy kids in an all-new adventure bridging the gaps between Avengers Academy #19 and #20 — and brings them into conflict with the… West Coast Avengers?!”