From the blog Super Connectivity
by Charlie Esser for the Nuff Said Podcast
Like any card carrying member of the Merry Marvel Marching Society, I tend to wax joyfully about the MCU, part of that is because I am old enough to know what the MMMS is, which means that my Marvel Movies looked a lot like this growing up.
This was as good as it got
But the thing was, we were just happy to have these films and T.V. Shows. We loved them. They were flawed, broke continuity and altered character origins dramatically, but they were ours, and they were all we had.
Then came Bryan Singer’s X-Men, and Sam Rami’s Spider-Man after that. And Suddenly Marvel Super Hero Movies weren’t the sad pantomimes we grew up on anymore, sure there are always liberties, but liberties taken for story and for love of the source material. When we got an Iron-Man film that follows the origin with a slight move to a modern war zone for location, we didn’t worry about the complete reconstruction of Obadiah Stane, because the story worked.
You can really see the difference.
The liberties taken didn’t bother us because the story provided was so much better than we ever got in the past, that suddenly it felt like we could just enjoy the MCU as its own thing.
But not everything in the MCU is perfect, and I thought today I’d talk about where Marvel Studios has dropped the ball, and hampered their own future by doing so.
In The comics, Hawkeye has one of the most unique origins of any Super Hero. He was a petty, and jealous show boater, who didn’t like Tony Stark getting all the attention. If you aren’t old enough to remember this origin you likely do recognize that this is normally the origin of a Super villain. The Wingless Wizard was Jealous of the Human Torch, Mysterio was Jealous of Spider Man. But what differentiated these characters was that Hawkeye chose to beat Iron Man at his own game, rather than just defeat him.
Of course, super heroism is harder than it looks, especially if you just have a quiver of Non-Lethal Arrows. And after trying to thwart a robbery, Hawkeye gets mistaken for the robber, and then starts his short but colorful career as a super villain and foil of Iron Man. This rapid face heel turn was due in no small part to the ever seductive Natasha Romanov (then a typical Honey Pot Spy Master serving the Soviet Union), it didn’t last, however. After the original Avengers disband, Hawkeye, Quick Silver and the Scarlet Witch attack the Avengers to prove their worth to join the team under Captain America. So in what amounts to a Proto Thunderbolts, the first reformation of the Avengers is 80% former villains wanting to make good, and 20% Captain America.
The Avengers later bring in former foe the Vision, and also on the recommendation of Hawkeye, allow Black Widow to do a heel face turn as well (that ends poorly, but they work it out eventually). This early embrace of the anti-hero trying to do good, while still being bound by their former selves and personalities is what came to define much of Marvel’s story telling even to this day. Even when he becomes known primarily for his heroism, Hawkeye hold on to this petty need to be the center of attention which leads him to establish his own counter Avengers on the West Coast, just to get out of the Shadow of Captain America.
It took decades for D.C. to sow tension between their premier heroes, where as marvel always had these big personalities at each other’s throats, even as they always worked together to save the day.
This complex and beautiful history of Hawkeye has been pretty much washed away in the MCU, where he is now, just a world class assassin. That he is a world class assassin is in truth part of the problem. For all his personal flaws, Hawkeye was always the first to declare that heroes don’t kill. That there was a moral line that he would never cross. But his first appearance in the MCU is to put cross hairs on Thor and pull the trigger when commanded.
This carries on through the Avengers, and in an early Draft of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is Hawkeye who is sent to bring in a Rouge Cap when Hydra makes their move.
At this point, there are a number of reasons to criticize the Hawkeye character in the MCU, but whatever blandness you want to ascribe to the character, the fact that the character was never given his proper back story leaves him with nothing other than a quiver of arrows which at this point aren’t even trick.
So how do we fix Hawkeye? How can you take this simple bland character, and make him into the interesting hero he is in the comics? The answer is simple, and has already been done in Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. Just like Ward who was a fairly generic assassin character at the start of S.H.I.E.L.D. suddenly became incredibly more interesting once we learned he was really Hydra all along. So the answer is, we make Hawkeye Hydra, and this, quite frankly has already been set up if we want to explore it.
When Loki commands Clint to acquire scientists and equipment to allow Dr. Selvig to use the Tesseract to open a portal for Thanos he has no trouble contacting and putting into place all the right things. This parallels Lorelei’s direction to Ward to find her a palace, which again he has no trouble doing. Hawkeye explains it by saying S.H.E.I.L.D. had no shortage of enemies, and Ward simply suggests that these are secret S.H.E.I.L.D. assets he is using. But if these were all just enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D. why would they necessarily trust Hawkeye, unless he was known to them as a shadier character than he appears.
Exactly what Hydra is in the MCU is still something of an open question. It was clear in Winter Soldier, that even those persons in Hydra felt they were the heroes of their story. Who is to say that Clint Barton more talented than any in the world with his bow at a young age, might not be recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. as a way to get the recognition he deserved. Maybe even then he saw himself as a Super Hero, hence explaining his purple (though understated) costume, different than the standard S.H.I.E.L.D. uniform. That an easily lead young man might find himself associated with darker elements in S.H.I.E.L.D. is in keeping with the origin of Hawkeye.
More importantly, making Hawkeye Hydra, gives him something he doesn’t yet have in the MCU, red on his ledger. It puts him in a place like Black Widow, where he now has something to make up for, and a reason to throw himself fully into the Avengers, and perhaps a reason to adopt the no kill policy that defines Hawkeye in the comics.
Left as he is, Hawkeye is not that interesting, but rebuilding him as a Hydra dupe trying to prove himself, gives him back what he has in the comics, and what was lost in translation to the MCU.
At least that is my thought on it. We’ll see how it plays out in Avengers 2.