A Brief History of Hawkeye Being Benched in Film and Comics

There's been quite a bit of hullabaloo regarding the absence of Hawkeye from the majority of the promotional material for the upcoming blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War. We all know Jeremy Renner is returning to the franchise as Clint Barton for what will potentially be the biggest entry the Marvel Cinematic Universe has produced thus far (we’ve all seen that haircut), but he's been curiously missing from the trailers and posters. But while this has stoked the ire of some fans of the cinematic incarnation of the character, for long-time comic fans, this is nothing new.

To put it bluntly, Hawkeye frequently gets the shaft (pun intended). Despite -- or perhaps due to -- the fact that Clint Barton is mere mortal man on a team with gods, super-soldiers, and giant, green monsters with anger issues, it sometimes feels as though Marvel revels in the notion of sidelining the character. He's either pushed to to other teams, sent packing on solo adventures, or just straight up killed off. For you Hamilton fans out there, Hawkeye is basically “the Peggy” of The Avengers.

Clint Barton... Didn’t Have the Best Introduction

Hawkeye first appeared as reluctant villain in Tales of Suspense #57, way back in 1964. Now, there’s something to be said for a guy is simply amazing with a bow and arrow facing down Iron Man, even so early in the founding Avenger's early career. It’s brazen, if not a little dumb, but the ego Barton carries is both one of his more charming characterizes and his biggest fault. Clint eventually saw the error of his ways, weaseled his way into the heart of Tony Stark, and joined the revamped Avengers roster soon after.

Clint remained a reliable member of the team for quite some time, but his completely lack of superpowers saw him ousted from some major events. During the “Kree-Skrull War” story arc from 1971, Hawkeye was told to stay put, but being the incredibly hardheaded individual he is, Clint took up the identity of Goliath to join his super powered friends. After he returned to his normal, very human self again, Clint was soon forced out of the team and worked as a security guard. No seriously. Hawkeye was literally a security guard for a short period of time. Could you imagine if that happened to someone like Thor?

When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Dead

Hawkeye is not a man who is easily deterred. In recent years, it seems like some writers at Marvel (most notably Mark Millar and Brian Michael Bendis) realized this and created a new pastime: killing Clint Barton. In the 2004 crossover event “Avengers Disassembled,” Bendis and artist David Finch killed Hawkeye in a massive explosion during a battle against Kree soldiers. Clint went down fighting, and even took out Kree battle ship before giving up the ghost.

Meanwhile, in the Ultimate Universe (Earth-1610), Clint suffered a massive loss. During Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates 2, a black ops team executed a hit on Barton, slaughtering his entire family before finally killing the archer. It was an especially brutal moment in a comic that was controversially filled with over the top violence. While Clint turned out not to be deceased, his family was less fortunate. In the following issued it was revealed that Hawkeye was taken alive and subsequently tortured for information at the behest of the woman he once loved who had ultimately betrayed him... which really isn't that much of an improvement.

Not to be outdone in the Hawkeye's Misery department, Bendis (this time with artist Olivier Coipel) resurrected the Avenger in the main Marvel Comics continuity -- only to kill him again in a cyclical act of humorous malice in the miniseries House of M.

Once Marvel got tired of killing poor Clint, he got another stab at an ongoing series in 2012, this time from from writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja. The series ran 22 issues and was a wonderful satire on what it means to be the weakest member of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The series was filled with heart, humor, and plenty of moments to put Clint’s ego in check. The creators knew the history of character getting dumped on and used it to their advance, crafting one of the best Avenger solo comics in the last decade.

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