Saturday, August 02, 2014

Favorite Marvel Characters #4 - Hawkeye

Character: Hawkeye (Clint Barton)

Creators: Don Heck and Stan Lee

First appearance: Tales of Suspense #57

First encounter: West Coast Avengers #6, possibly the same comic that introduced me to the Thing. Which is funny, because the running subplot of the issue is Hawkeye constantly badgering Ben to be the team's 6th member. It's Clint being annoying, and kind of an idiot, because he constantly ignores the fact Firebird really wants to join the "whackos".

Definitive writer: It's hard for me to say, because most writers write Hawkeye well. I have to go with either Kurt Busiek or Fabian Nicieza. I've read Busiek's Barton in Avengers and Thunderbolts (also an issue of Untold Tales of Spider-Man). Nicieza wrote Clint's first attempt at an ongoing, as well as a stint on Thunderbolts. I might lean to Nicieza, since he wrote him more in Thunderbolts.

Definitive artist: This is gonna sound weird, because it's not David Aja, not George Perez, and not even Mark Bagley. Those last two are close, but if we're being honest, that cover by Scott Kolins up there is the image I most often have of Hawkeye. It's perfect for him. He's wearing his costume, he's in mid-air upside-down, he's already put one arrow down the barrel of a stunned crook's gun, and he's got another arrow notched and he's ready to do the same to the guy's partner. Critically, he has a smirk on his face through all of it. He knows exactly how cool he is, and he enjoys the heck out of it. After Kolins, it would be Bagley, though.

Favorite moment or story: It's very tempting to pick him shooting Gyrich in the wrist in Thunderbolts #50, because I hate Gyrich. But come on, like I'm going to pick anything other than Clint saving the entire universe by outwitting the Grandmaster in Avengers Annual  #16 written by Tom Defalco, and this part at least drawn by Bob Hall and I think Tom Palmer. Facing a foe who stole the power of Death herself, and one who has rigged the game completely in his favor, Clint wins by challenging the Elder to a new game. And since fair is fair, Clint rigs his game as well. The sheer fact Clint is willing to bet it all on his ability to recognize a rube when he sees one, someone who won't notice Clint cheating, that's awesome.

What I like about him: He's a guy who, armed with nothing more than trick arrows, took on a millionaire genius in a flying tank, and he did it for love. And his own massive ego. But mostly love. What's not to like?

That does kind of sum up the things I like about him. He'll fight when by all right he's completely outmatched, and be absolutely certain he can win, even if part of what's driving him to fight is his own doubts about whether he can stack up. And most of his actions are driven by emotions. I don't think Clint's dumb (he was smart enough to build his own trick arrows back in the day), but he feels things strongly, and that's what tends to determine what he does, rather than any logical thought process.

This gets him into a fair amount of trouble, because when he gets steamed he'll shoot off his mouth at anyone in the vicinity, whether they're to blame or not. Which could get irritating real fast, but if someone points out to Clint he's wrong, he'll cop to it. It might take awhile, but he will admit it, and do so publicly. When Mockingbird busts his chops about completely ignoring Firebird as a potential addition to the WCA, Clint  admits she's right and suggests they immediately head to Espirita's home to ask her to join. He screws up, but he'll try to make amends. Even if it takes awhile, even if it takes going into Hell itself, which is what he tried to do to save Mockingbird years later. It turned out Hellstrom was tricking him into rescuing Hellcat, but still, Clint went right into Hell for his estranged wife (who Clint estranged by being a dumbass about her letting the Phantom Rider fall to his death, not one of his better moments), and then fought to save the T'Bolts after they had journeyed into Hell to help him. Former super-villains should probably stay out Hell as long as they can, generally, but they fact they did it speaks strongly to how much he'd proven himself genuine in his concern for them.

Being able to admit a mistake helps differentiate Clint from jerks like Batman and Tony Stark, who are theoretically more logical in their thought processes, but in practice have their heads so far up their asses they can't even comprehend the possibility they might be wrong, let alone admit it. I can understand why the Avengers put up with him. He mouths off, but eventually he cools down and apologizes. In the meantime, the eruptions of Mount Barton can liven up those occasionally dull days around the Avengers Mansion.

Which wouldn't count for much if he couldn't carry his weight, but he does. Doesn't matter if they're facing Kang, Ultron, Nefaria, the Wrecking Crew, or an Elder of the Universe, Clint's gonna be up to something, whether he's going for a knockout, trying to keep the big bad distracted while the heavy hitters step up, or coming up with a plan of attack himself. He's not the most powerful Avengers, but neither is Captain America, and he does all right. Sometimes a problem requires skill and precision, not overwhelming force.

Clint's going to be one of the last Avengers to fall back, simply because everyone would expect him to be the first, and he's determined to prove them wrong. More than one foe has dismissed him as the weakest Avenger, and wound up regretting it. Crossfire specifically called him out as the weakest crimefighter in New York, only to have his attempt to kill Clint fall flat because he underestimated the guy. He tried to kill Hawkeye with his own bow, and couldn't even draw it back, the grenade arrow he'd notched fell at his feet and blew him senseless. The Collector called him the weakest Avenger, which was why he didn't mind saving him until the last. But Clint got him on the run so effectively the Collector couldn't rely on his arsenal and had to call on his considerable cosmic might. And if Steve Engelhart's Silver Surfer run is anything to go by, the Elder's have enough power to give Norrin Radd a run for his money, or even trounce him, so Clint pushing the Collector to that level is pretty impressive. Even then, he couldn't stop Hawkeye from freeing all the other Avengers.

The funny thing is, Hawkeye knows where he stands in terms of power. During the Avengers/Defenders War, when Clint threw in with the Defenders, he had to fight Iron Man again for a piece of the Evil Eye. Clint declared himself the weakest Defender (true enough when the other members were the Hulk, Dr. Strange, Valkyrie, Namor, and the Silver Surfer), and Iron Man the 2nd strongest Avenger. But in the same breath, he stated that wouldn't stop him from walking home with the prize. He was right too, because Iron Man forgot what it's like to fight against Hawkeye, rather than with him. He thought if he got in close Hawkeye wouldn't be able to use his bow. So Clint smacked Shellhead over the noggin with an acid arrow. Then Iron Man decided it might be better to keep Clint at a distance, and blast him with repulsor rays so Clint can't aim at him. No big, Clint simply fought through the repulsor ray sufficiently that he could fire a magnet arrow on a trajectory that would enable it to draw Iron Man's arm off-target, making him damage a building and have to deal with that.

Now knowing he isn't the strongest doesn't mean it can't get him into trouble. He thinks people doubt him, which is half the reason he shoots his mouth off. It causes him to do rash things sometimes, like decide he should try to capture the Hulk alone. Or approach the Thunderbolts and tell them he got them a chance at a full pardon if they follow his lead, even though the government turned him down flat. These are rash decisions, ill-advised, almost guaranteed to end horribly. Indeed, the Hulk nearly handed him his head, and the T'Bolts eventually found out he'd been lying, which fractured the team at a critical juncture. Somehow, Hawkeye makes it work out. He doesn't lose hope, he just keeps plugging ahead, and eventually an opportunity presents itself to turn things around. The Defenders show up, mostly to make Hawkeye stop harassing the Hulk, but it also keeps the Hulk from mashing Clint into paste. Clint is able to barter what the Thunderbolts learned about a new weapon the government had to kill superhuman threats into a pardon for his team if they keep quiet, even though it means he has to go to prison to keep Gyrich from spilling the beans.

Heh, the fact Gyrich hates him so much ought to be a reason to like Hawkeye in of itself. Gyrich hates superhumans (especially mutants, but pretty much all superhumans), perceiving them as putting themselves above the rest of humanity. But he hates the guy with no powers, the one who simply trained his butt of to be the best in the world at something, who finds a place alongside those superhumans, even more. Though it probably has more to do with their first meeting starting with Clint thinking Gyrich was an intruder and tying him up.

Also, I don't think Gyrich's a big fan of redemption, and Clint is all about it. Clint was the first of the three former criminals to join what became the Kooky Quartet. He'd made a series of rash decisions that ended badly, and breaking into the Avengers' Mansion and tying up Jarvis ought to have been another. But they heard him out, and he got a chance to prove he could be a hero. Since then, Clint's been big on giving people second chances. The Thunderbolts, obviously. The team of super-villains that posed as heroes, but once that became known, tried to save their necks by being legit heroes. Clint gets in there and helps them be a team and take some real pride in being heroes, even if the public doesn't always trust them. Before that, look at his early West Coast Avengers line-ups. Wonder Man had tried to get away from heroing because he was too afraid of dying. Tigra felt completely out of her league and left the Avengers after two missions. When Stark joined the team (in the original mini-series, Rhodey was in the armor), he had only recently pulled himself out of the bottle and gotten his company back together. Hank Pym eventually joined, and well, you already know what a trainwreck his life had been. Clint brings them in, convinces them they can be Avengers, and slowly but surely, they coalesce into a team, with Clint rallying their spirits even when they get lost in time (and he gets injured because Wonder Man is a dope who forgets not everyone is invulnerable like him).

So let's see, he's a loudmouthed smart aleck (good), who is almost always outmatched in raw power but wins anyway with skill, wits, and sheer guts (nice). He says what's on his mind whether it's a good idea or not (I'm envious), but admits to his mistakes (keeps him from being insufferable), and usually doesn't dwell on them overly long (I don't like mopey Hawkeye any more than I like mopey Nightcrawler). And his costume is purple, which is apparently a color I quite like.

1 comment:

SallyP said...

As a Guy Gardner fan, it is apparent that I happen to like loud-mouthed smart alecks.

So yeah, Hawkeye is pretty cool.