Over the years, Bruce Banner has been a force for both positive change and untold destruction in the Marvel Universe thanks to his massive intellect and his monstrous, rage-fueled alter ego, the Incredible Hulk. The Avenger’s master archer, Hawkeye, weighed that balance in “Civil War II” when he struck Banner down to prevent him from turning in to the Hulk once again. Now, having been found not guilty of murder, the decision he made continues to lay heavy on Clint Barton’s mind, leading him to decide he no longer has a place in the world’s superhero community.
In “Occupy Avengers,” writer David Walker and artist Carlos Pacheco began chronicling the cross country journey that resulted from Hawkeye’s soul searching and the exploits of the team of heroes that is beginning to form around him.
The first member of that team to cross paths with Clint is the time- and dimensionally-displaced Native American hero, Red Wolf. The two quickly found themselves struggling to smash a sinister cabal’s seizure of a town’s water supply, which brought them face to face with classic Spider-Man foe, Hydro-Man. Once they wrap their first team-up, the pair will travel to Chicago where they’ll run afoul of another hero from a different dimension, the vigilante known as Nighthawk. But is the Squadron Supreme member a friend or foe? And have he and Hawkeye crossed paths before?
For the answers to those questions and more, we spoke with Walker about the events of the first issue, Nighthawk’s role in the book, and what a possible team up between the adolescent heroes of Marvel’s “Champions” series and the “Occupy Avengers” might look like.
CBR: Putting Hydro-Man in a story that involves water rights is a pretty organic way to incorporate the fantastic elements of the Marvel Universe into a grounded problem. Is that a good indication of the types of threats we’ll see in the book moving forward?
David Walker: I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to do a story dealing with water rights, so it made sense to have some sort of water-related villain. I put together this list of villains that included characters like Hydro-Man and Water Wizard. I didn’t want the water-based villain to be the main villain, though. I wanted them to be the henchman or the stooge of this more grounded sort of villainy involving corporate greed.
Now I find myself looking at each story and asking, “Is there a way I can do this where we’ve got this villain that has these fantastic powers, but what’s going on is not necessarily their plan?”
I wanted to make sure what we saw was a mix of the fantastic, which sort of represents the things we can’t really control and then the stuff that is more grounded. Right now I’m in the middle of writing the script to issue #7, and I’m finding a pretty solid mix while exploring different types of stories with each arc.
Our first and second arcs are both two issues. Then the third story we get into is three issues. That runs through #5-7
Issue #1 also gave us some insight into Clint’s psyche via his inner monologue. It appears that after killing Bruce, he’s in more of a reflective mood while still being endearingly stubborn. Is he still as impulsive as he has been in the past?
[Laughs] He’s even more impulsive.
One of the things we had talked about early on was if we were going to do inner monologues or not. I really like the character of Clint, and I thought he’s in an interesting place in his life right now, so let’s give him an inner monologue. After the first issue was done I thought, “That was fun, but this is going to get boring really fast.” So after a conversation with editorial, I decided that each issue was going to be narrated by somebody different.
Red Wolf narrates issue #2, so we’ll get some incredible insight into him. At some point, every member of the team is going to narrate an issue. Within those issues, we’ll learn more about them and we’ll get an idea of why they’re on this team together because they’re more of a loose knit team than your average group of Avengers. We’ll even get an issue narrated by someone who is essentially a regular person. I thought as a writer it would be interesting to get that character’s take of what’s going on.
Originally, I wasn’t planning on bringing Clint back as a narrator until around issue #6 or #7. Then the opportunity arose to have him narrate issue #3. He’s a complex character; we can get into some really fun stuff with him. So while his first time as narrator in issue #1 is a little more somber, for his second time we’ll see more of a roguish Clint Barton.
Red Wolf’s addition to the Occupy team is interesting for Clint because he’s once again comrades with a man out of time. Can you talk a little more about how they’ll get along initially?
I’m six issues in and they’re still exploring the nature of their relationship. When we get to issue #2 and you read Red Wolf’s narration, you begin to understand that character a lot more. I’m writing him in a way where he is very difficult to read. He’s not the most talkative person in the world. This narration early on in the series was a way to let the readers know what this guy is like. We let him make his mission statement. Then every time you see him standing around and not saying much, or anything at all, the reader will know there’s some really deep thoughts going on there.
I went back to the notion that Red Wolf has a lot in common with Steve Rogers in that he’s a man out of time with very strong convictions, but he’s also really, really lost. That’s the thing that he sees in Clint. Clint is also sort of a lost spirit who has very strong convictions, but is not certain of his role in the world at this particular moment. That’s what draws them together.
What’s going to be interesting as we bring in more members of the team is to see why those members are deciding to join with Clint as their informal leader. It’s been really interesting crawling around in the brains of these characters and unfortunately I can’t tell you who those other characters are yet because they haven’t been revealed. There’s a slow build. We meet more characters in issue #3. Then I believe we meet the final member of the team in issue #5, which is also a really big surprise.
We know the identity of one character we’ll see in issue #3: Nighthawk. Approximately how much time passes between the end of “Nighthawk” and his “Occupy Avengers” debut?
Time works differently in the Marvel Universe. I’m looking at it as “Occupy Avengers” starts about a month or two after “Civil War II” has ended, and that everything has happened fairly recently. “Occupy Avengers” takes place about a month after “Nighthawk” ended, but not too much further.
Minor spoiler: we establish that somewhere in between the end of “Nighthawk” #6 and before “Occupy Avengers” #1, Clint and Nighthawk crossed paths. That’s revealed in “Occupy Avengers” #3. We won’t get too much into it. There’s a lot of little bits and pieces that I’ll drop throughout “Occupy Avengers,” which will refer to other adventures Clint has been involved in during his time on the road.
Yeah, in issue #1 the sheriff Hawkeye meets seems to suggest he’s had adventures in a number of different states.
Exactly, and we’ll see more of that. This is going to be an opportunity to play with a couple ideas I had wanted to develop in “Nighthawk” and I wasn’t able to because we ended a bit prematurely. It’s also giving me an opportunity to rethink where Nighthawk would be after the end of the story that I told. Where would his frame of mind be? How angry at the world is he going to be?
Also, not to tease, but there may be another character from the “Nighthawk” series that shows up in “Occupy Avengers.”
That makes me wonder if said character is my favorite supporting player, Tilda Johnson, who was formerly the villain known as Nightshade. Is there a chance we’ll see her in “Occupy Avengers?”
I will put it this way. To not use her, in my mind, would be an incredible waste of a character with a ton of potential. That said, I can’t say for sure if Tilda shows up in “Occupy Avengers” or not. If anyone is surprised by her potentially showing up, clearly they didn’t read “Nighthawk” and don’t understand how much I really care about that character.
So we’ll leave it at that. [Laughs] How’s that for the coy, teasing answer?
[Laughs] I like it! Nighthawk showing up in “Occupy Avengers” of course begs the question of, will he be joining the team? It seems like him and Clint would get along like oil and water.
[Laughs] I think oil and water doesn’t even begin to describe it! There’s some discussion of the nature of Clint and Nighthawk’s relationship when he first shows up. My feeling about Nighthawk is similar to my feelings about Batman and the Justice League. I never understood why Batman was on every single Justice League mission and adventure. By his very nature, Batman is sort of a misanthropic character who doesn’t play well with others unless it’s by his own rules. He’s got his team now, but when I was a kid growing up I was always like, “Why is he with all these other people?” I’m sort of exploring their relationship in that context. I don’t think Nighthawk needs to be on every single adventure that the Occupy Avengers get involved in, but there is a story that I’m planning out, later on in the run — knock on wood — where he plays a big role.
The interesting thing about “Occupy Avengers,” and I made this decision early on, is that even though Clint is essentially the team leader, the team really doesn’t have a leader. It’s all a bunch of leaders who don’t want to lead. There will be certain times where you’ll see characters like Red Wolf strategizing and making decisions, and other times it will be Clint. A lot of times they’ll be doing these things on their own, but they are cognizant of the other people. That, in and of itself, creates the team dynamic.
Okay, so to the other members, this team is sort of a family of likeminded characters looking for a place to belong, but to Nighthawk, it’s a weapon that can be pointed at whatever he wants.
Yeah, I think that’s it, and it’s not even necessarily a weapon. Again, with Nighthawk there’s a story that I’m building where he finally realizes this is something he can’t do on his own. The difference between the Occupy Avengers and, say, Squadron Supreme, is that Squadron Supreme is also a team of misfits, but a lot of them are super powered misfits. Whereas Occupy Avengers is just a bunch of misfits, none of whom have anything super human about them. They’re just sort of regular people who are highly skilled. I think that when Nighthawk steps up he’s going to realize that it’s all about where your heart and soul are. What’s causing you to step up? And what’s causing you to take a stand?
What brings Clint and Red Wolf to Chicago and Nighthawk?
It’s an incredibly random set of circumstances that only happens in comic books when you need to have characters team up. In my mind, it’s very reminiscent of those old issues of “Marvel Team-Up” and “Marvel Two-In-One,” which were some of my favorite titles as a kid in part because it always felt like you got more bang for your buck.
I’m playing with the concept of a random set of circumstances that lead Clint and Red Wolf into Chicago and essentially into the crosshairs of Nighthawk. It’s part of that whole narrative gimmick that I mentioned earlier, which is there will be other stories that we hint at that you’re never going to know the full extent of.
In issue #1, the Sheriff mentions she heard about what went down in Kansas, Colorado and Illinois, and we’ll come to realize that this thing in Illinois is how he first met Nighthawk. When Clint is asked why he’s in Chicago, it might be like, “Well there was this thing in Kentucky, and then this thing in Ohio. Now we’re in Chicago.” I’m just having fun with this notion that not every adventure gets told.
Carlos Pacheco is drawing the first four issues of “Occupy Avengers,” and what I enjoyed about his work on issue #1 was the chance to see someone who’s so good at drawing larger than life heroes depict some every day environments and characters like the reservation and its residents.
Yeah, Carlos is amazing and I’ve been aware of his work for years, but once I begin working with an artist I begin studying their art a lot more closely and look at the decisions they’ve made in the past; how they evolved with their style and storytelling. Working with Carlos has been such an incredible experience because he’s been doing this for so long and he does it so well.
It’s interesting because of the nature of how we’re telling stories, with our two and three issue arcs, you have to cram a lot more storytelling into each individual issue. So as I’m writing these issues I’m wondering if I’m asking too much from the artists. Then Carlos delivers these absolutely amazing pages! Working with him has helped me learn how to be a better writer and how to communicate with your artist the ideas you want, but still give them the freedom to interpret those ideas as much as they see fit. That’s when you start getting some really interesting work.
Issue #1 had actually been written for Gabriel Walta, who was originally going to be drawing the series from the beginning, and Carlos came in at the last minute because Gabriel had to finish up his run on “Vision.” I didn’t have much of a chance to go back and rework issue #1 specifically for Carlos. It wasn’t until issues #2-4 that I started writing more specifically for him. Issue #1 is amazing, but with issue #2 he’s on fire. He brings magic to every issue he works on.
Gabriel Walta takes over “Occupy Avengers” with issue #5. It will be a significant stylistic shift from what Carlos has been doing, but the art that I’ve seen so far is pretty amazing. I loved his work on “Vision” and what he’s doing with issue #5 has really, really impressed me.
Finally, I know you’re enjoying Mark Waid and Humberto Ramos’ “Champions” series and it seems like the teen stars of that book and the cast of “Occupy Avengers” have similar goals in helping to improve the lives of everyday people. Any interest in having the “Champions” appear in “Occupy Avengers” at some point?
I’d love to have the Occupy Avengers and Champions team up at some point. What I think would be really interesting about that is, even though there’s a lot of ideological similarities between the two teams, there’s a generational gap. I’d want to show that even though they have a lot in common, they have less in common than people might realize because the Champions is a team largely of, if not exclusively, teenagers, and Occupy is a team of adults.
There would be this weird dynamic that sometimes comes out, and we don’t mean for it to happen, but the moment that person in their 30s or 40s says, “Look, when I was your age . . .” Then the 18-year-old rolls their eyes and shuts that person out completely. [Laughs] When we’re teenagers we feel like we’re the first people to experience whatever we’re going through. Whether it’s falling in love, getting your heart broken, or experiencing existential dread, when you’re a teenager it feels like you’ve invented that stuff. You feel like you’ve discovered gravity, and nobody can tell you different. [Laughs]
Plus with Occupy and the Champions, you’d have Amadeus Cho and Clint Barton in the same room together, and I’m not sure if the issue between those two characters will ever fully be resolved.
[Laughs] Yeah, that would be a really difficult thing to resolve. At this point we haven’t seen Clint deal with too many people who hate him for killing Bruce Banner, and at some point we need to go there. He’s hanging out with Red Wolf right now and Red Wolf doesn’t really understand the true nature of what the Hulk represented to this world. We’re going to start getting into some of that a little bit later as we get more into how people reacted to what Clint did.
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