You'd think a brash hothead like Clint Barton wouldn't be the type to settle down and get married. Yet in the 1980s, the Marvel Comics superhero known as Ronin (and formerly known as Hawkeye) met Bobbi Morse - a.k.a. Mockingbird -- and he was completely smitten. The two wed and eventually became founding members of the Avengers' West Coast team. Sadly though, their marriage came to an end in the pages of '"Avengers West Coast" #100, when Mockingbird sacrificed her own life to save that of her husband.
At least, that's what Clint thought. When Secret Invasion concluded, Ronin was reunited with his long lost wife, who had been, it turns out, secretly abducted by the shape-shifting Skrulls and replaced with a doppelganger as part of the aliens' plans for a clandestine invasion of Earth.
After years apart, Clint and Bobbi are suddenly back in each other's lives. But does this mean they're... back together? Or have their years apart and Bobbi's abduction by the Skrulls dashed any hopes of rekindling their legendary romance? Writer Jim McCann and artist David Lopez answer these questions and more in "New Avengers: The Reunion," a four issue miniseries beginning in March. CBR News spoke with McCann and his editor Jeanine Schaefer about the project.
"Secret Invasion" writer Brian Michael Bendis may have penned Mockingbird's return to the Marvel Universe, but McCann was the chief architect behind the character's recent resurgence. "About a year-and-a-half ago, we were planning the ending for 'Secret Invasion' and with one character we wanted to get back something that the Skrulls would have taken away. There were a couple of characters on the list for that, but Mockingbird was the one I fought for the most," Jim McCann told CBR News. "And as Brian has pointed out, I said that they were like the 'Mr. And Mrs. Smith' of the Marvel Universe. He was like, 'That sounds great. We can use that.'
"Once it was approved to bring her back, I knew that I wanted to tell the story that cemented her coming back," McCann continued. "It was like defending a thesis. I laid out exactly when Mockingbird would have been replaced without invalidating too many stories. I was looking into back issues and I spotted the moment where it would have and could have taken place and made sense. It was almost like they were saying, 'Hey if you ever want Mockingbird to have been replaced by a Skrull, here's where it could have been done.'"
It's obvious that McCann has a great affection for Mockingbird, and much of that is because he feels Bobbi Morse is one of the most unique characters in the Marvel stable. "She has no powers, but she's been heavily trained in hand-to-hand combat, as a marksman, and as a spy," he explained. "In her very first appearance way back in the '70s, she spotted some corruption in S.H.I.E.L.D. and actually defected from the organization because she didn't trust them to take it down. So she did it herself. She's always had this fierce independent spirit and is willing to do whatever it takes, even if it costs her relationships. She's really impetuous."
McCann finds Ronin just as compelling as Mockingbird, if not more so. "Bobbi and Clint are my favorite couple. Bobbi is one of my all time favorite characters and Clint is probably my all time favorite character," McCann stated. "People are saying it's not Clint Barton if he's not in the Hawkeye costume but Clint is Clint regardless of what he's wearing. He was Clint when he had the Goliath identity for a while and he's still Clint now that he's Ronin. He hasn't lost who he is at all.
"I think that he needs the Ronin identity right now," McCann added. "When he felt powerless, he took on the Goliath identity, which came with superpowers, because he felt he needed to measure up in order to be an Avenger. But then he went back to being Hawkeye. I think he needs the Ronin identity right now to center and ground himself so he can do a lot of introspection and figure out who he is. Like a Ronin, Clint is master-less with Cap dead and the Avengers as he knew them gone, and he's looking for his honor and his place, so I think it makes sense for who he is right now."
Jim McCann may love both Clint and Bobby as separate characters, but "The Reunion" is first and foremost about the heroes' interactions as a couple and a crimefighting partnership. "I think, given a chance, they balance each other. You kind of saw that in the early days of 'Avengers West Coast,' but then Clint thought Bobbi had killed the Phantom Rider even though she hadn't and she was reasonably pissed at him for accusing her. That went back and forth for awhile and was the cause of the estrangement of their marriage," McCann recalled. "It shows you that when they're calm, rational, and in a rhythm, it's like they're one fighting unit. But take them off that just a little bit and you get some great moments that are both fun to play with and sometimes heart wrenching."
It's been said that opposites in attract, but McCann feels that Clint and Bobbi's romance developed for other reasons. "I think they saw a lot of themselves in each other, and it was something they saw quickly," he remarked. "They eloped. We never saw them get married. We saw their elopement. They ended that 'Hawkeye' miniseries in a heart-shaped hot tub and at the beginning of the series, Clint had been dating someone else who had screwed him over. But in Bobbi he saw himself, and the same for her-the good and the bad."
That shared sense of identity brought Clint and Bobbi together, but when "The Reunion" begins, it's making life a little difficult for the couple. "I think, at the moment, they're still trying to figure out who they are," McCann said. "So if you take two characters who see themselves in each other but they no longer know who they themselves are, what does that do to their relationship? How can they look at their 'mirror person' if they don't know what they're looking at?"
"The Reunion" #1 takes place about three days after the prologue in the recent "Dark Reign: New Nation" one-shot wherein Bobbi, who had begun to feel the traumatic aftereffects of her imprisonment by the Skrulls, fled from Clint and told him not follow her. Narturally, Clint Barton isn't going to listen to that; he's going after both her and the answers to the many questions about her abduction and "death." "Clint is going to have some questions about what in the hell he saw, literally in hell," McCann confirmed. "But when it comes to her death, I would tell people to reread 'Avengers West Coast' very carefully. I've had a lot of people say, 'We saw her die and Skrulls revert to their true forms when they die.' But in the issue she's dying in Clint's arms and on the next page they're already at her funeral. So, fortunately, writer Roy Thomas gave us plenty of time to play with in regards to that."
Questions about Mockingbird's return extend beyond her "death." The character's soul had once appeared to be trapped in Mephisto's realm, and on another occasions her zombified corpse was part of the Legion of the Unliving group that the villainous Grim Reaper used to attack the Avengers. "She's not the only character that was shown to be dead, and you can't always believe what you see, especially when it comes to hell," McCann remarked. "So as far as spirits and souls in the afterlife go, I tend to think they'd take on the shape or form of whatever the person they're appearing to would relate to the easiest."
"The Reunion" isn't just about answering all the questions that arose in the wake of Mockingbird's return. "We'll be moving forward as much as humanly possible, while still trying to answer questions to people's satisfaction," McCann explained. "At the end of the four issues, if your question still hasn't been answered, find me at a convention and I'll tell you everything, because I have it all written out and I'll tell you about anything that may not have made it into the book as clearly or linearly as you may have been looking for."
Sadly, Ronin and Mockingbird aren't going to have an easy time moving forward and answering lingering questions. They'll have to wrestle their own personal demons and go toe-to-toe with a villainous adversary. "There will be a villain that people recognize," McCann teased. "But it's someone the two of them have never faced before."
The writer added, "It's very much like a high, octane action film. I had pointed out that this was like 'The Mr. And Mrs. Smith' of the Marvel Universe, but Clint and Bobbi came first. I'd like to amend that and say 'Mr. And Mrs. Smith' are the Clint and Bobbi of film. They also have a 'Thin Man' Nick & Nora Charles dynamic to them, which makes for interesting moments as well. So this is a story with a lot of emotion and a lot of action."
Said emotion and action won't just involve the protagonists and antagonist of "The Reunion." McCann has also put together an intriguing supporting cast for the series. "In the first issue you'll see Clint and Captain America facing off, and as we all know, there's somebody new in the Cap suit," he revealed. "We also know that Clint and Steve Rogers, the original Captain America, have quite a history. So it was really fun to write a Clint and Cap scene where somebody else is Cap. Now Clint has a whole new set of issues to deal with when it comes to Captain America."
Given his limited space and the amount of story he has to tell, McCann wasn't able to include as many supporting characters as he would have liked to. Before Mockingbird returned, Clint Barton was romantically linked to Echo, his teammate in the New Avengers. "Echo doesn't appear in the story, but that's only because what happens in the first issue of 'The Reunion' takes a much bigger role than anything she and Clint were going through," McCann explained. "I would love to deal with her and a love triangle but right now I only have four issues."
Jim McCann has been amazed by David Lopez's interior artwork and character designs for "The Reunion." "I think he draws the most beautiful Bobbi I've ever seen," the writer remarked. "She is getting a new look, but I think it's awesome and fits the direction the character is going in. She's not going to be a ninja, so all you haters put down your pitchforks for a minute."
Collaborating with editor Jeanine Schaefer has also proven to be an enjoyable experience for McCann. "I love the characters of Clint and Bobbi and know them inside and out, but Jeanine is coming to us relatively new from DC. She didn't know much about the characters," McCann said. "So she tempers things. She helps by going, 'You know why Mockingbird is cool. Now show everyone else why she's cool.'"
In the six months she's been at Marvel, Schafer has had to get acquainted with a number of characters rather quickly. In getting to know Ronin and Mockingbird, she became fans of the characters because of their nuanced relationship and how human they are. "These are heroes that make mistakes but are always trying to do the right thing, not just by other people, but by themselves too," Schafer told CBR. "That's a struggle I think a lot of people can relate to, especially now."
Schaefer feels McCann's unabashed enthusiasm for the characters of Ronin and Mockingbird made him the perfect candidate to tell the story of their "Reunion." " Because of his background behind the scenes at Marvel, I think he's able to temper his encyclopedic knowledge with the understanding that this has to be a primer, refresher and sequel, all in one," Schaefer remarked. "Cake, right, Jim?"
David Lopez became McCann's partner on "The Reunion" because of his past collaborations with Schaefer. "David is one of my favorite artists. I loved his work on 'Catwoman' and I'm really excited to be working with him again," Schaefer said. "His storytelling is dynamic - his action scenes are exciting and his emotional scenes are intimate. From body language to facial expressions, when you're telling the story of, essentially, two acrobats in love, you need someone with the full repertoire. David's got it."
"The Reunion" may be an only four-issue miniseries, but if the series is a success McCann is more than happy to oblige demand with more Ronin and Mockingbird stories. "I have so many ideas and David seems to be having a great time," the writer said. "Clint and Bobbi seem to have a large and pretty vocal fanbase, some of whom are wondering how I'm going to do this. All I can hope is that people trust me during these first four issues. You never know. 'West Coast Avengers' started off as a four-issue miniseries with these two at the core, so could lightning strike twice? Buy the book and we'll all see!"
"New Avengers: The Reunion" #1 is in stores March 4 from Marvel Comics.