What Is Hawkeye's Code When It Comes to Killing?

This is a feature called "I'll Sell It Ya." This is about the arguments made in comic books for why characters act differently about things in the past. I have a couple of features, Abandoned an' Forsaked and Abandoned Love, that both deal with the idea of dropping past comic book plots and character approaches, but the first one of those deals with instances where the original story was then retconned to make way for the new one and the second feature, Abandoned Love, is just about when stories are dropped. Here, we will spotlight the explanations given for why the old approach was dropped. You might not like the reasons, but these are the reasons.

Today, we look at Hawkeye's evolving attitudes about killing and see where he eventually landed on the concept.

Hawkeye debuted in Tales of Suspense #57 by Stan Lee and Don Heck. He first tried to be a costumed hero...

After the cops confuse him for a criminal, he meets the Black Widow, and he's all, "Man, I really want to be a superhero, but man, she is way too hot. Okay, I'll be a criminal working for the Soviets."

He attacks Iron Man and he sure seems like he's ready to kill him, right?

In Tales of Suspense #64 (by Stan Lee, Don Heck and Chic Stone), once again Hawkeye looks primed to kill Iron Man...

But then he joins the Avengers and he's pretty much not a killer, as none of them really kill.

That is, until Avenger #229 (by Roger Stern, Al Milgrom and Joe Sinnott), where Egghead is about to kill Hank Pym after Pym single-handedly defeated the Masters of Evil...

Hawkeye doesn't look TOO shaken up about the whole thing, right?

And check out Hawkeye defending himself when he has to go up for a disciplinary meeting to see if he used undue force...

But then the big one happened. In a long storyline in West Coast Avengers, Hawkeye's wife, Mockingbird, who was a trained SHIELD agent, is brainwashed by the Phantom Rider and essentially raped repeatedly. When she realizes what happened to her, she confronts the Phantom Rider. He falls from a cliff and she decides to let him die rather than save him (she would have been able to save him). She decides to not tell Hawkeye about it. Later, the ghost of the Phantom Rider reveals the truth to Hawkeye and he loses it. Note that yes, a good chunk of this is about the fact that she lied to him, but mostly it seems to be about the fact that his own wife let a guy die. Even his wife's rapist he isn't okay with letting die (not even ACTIVELY kill, but not save).

So for a number of years, Hawkeye bizarrely became Mr. Super Judgey about killing.

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