The problem with Hawkeye

Anyone wishing that Marvel would announce plans for a Hawkeye movie? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Yeah, I didn’t think so. It’s not that people dismiss him as “just a regular guy with a bow”, Black Widow has no super powers, but people like her, and Phil Coulson’s a normal guy who didn’t exist before the movies, but people LOVE him and he got his own TV show.

So, why do people dislike Hawkeye, or at best just don’t care about him? My theory is he’s just not “Hawkeye” enough.

I think I should clarify. People don’t hate Hawkeye, they hate the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of him. Hate is also probably too strong a word, I think people are more apathetic towards him than anything else. He was absent from Avengers: Infinity War and nobody really seemed to care. I think mostly it’s because he is almost nothing like his comic book version.

Now, people make changes to literary characters when they have to adapt them to another medium. It happens. Either because they feel the character needs updating, or because some tweaks are necessary for the larger story. When done right, it’s not usually a problem and let’s be honest, comic book writers are fiddling with characters all the freaking time in the books.

The problem comes when you drastically alter the core of the character.

Old Man Hawkeye

All of the Avengers are essentially the same as their comic book counterparts. Tony Stark is a Genius Billionaire playboy who is used to being the smartest person in the room. Steve Rogers is a Boyscout military commander from another era. Bruce Banner is a Genius physicist with anger management issues. Black Widow is a Soviet trained assassin who had a horrible childhood, but Hawkeye… The Clint Barton we see in the Avengers movies has nothing in common with the print version except his name and choice of weaponry.

What does the Marvel Wiki site have to say about Clint Barton?

Clint is a man who asks a lot of questions and hates authority. He takes his chances to become a superhero. He gets things done even if he sometimes has to bend the rules and fight dirty. Clint looks up to Captain America as his mentor, though may argue with him most of the time

Clint Barton (Earth-616) Marvel Database

Does this sound anything and I mean ANYTHING at all like the guy we see in the movies? He’s not constantly challenging Tony and Steves authority like he does in the comics, he barely has any lines at all. They made him a S.H.I.E.L.D agent, instead of a reformed criminal. They gave him a wife and family out on a farm, instead of a failed marriage and a series of angry ex-girlfriends. They neutered Clint Barton and made him.. .a plot device.

The problem started with Zack Stenz and Ashley Miller introducing him in Thor (almost certainly at the studios behest) where he did nothing but shoot arrows, and then Joss Whedon had him… go bad and shoot some more arrows in The Avengers. Then he made things worse by doing nothing with him for most of Age of Ultron except get hurt right at the beginning and then offer the Avengers a place to hide out when they needed it. Great character development there Joss, real nice work.

I think the problem was, the studio mandated who had to be on the Avengers roster and while he knew the other characters (probably from the other movies) Joss knew nothing about Hawkeye and couldn’t be bothered to find out.

Clint and Kate Bishop (the better Hawkeye)

The thing is, comic book Clint Barton is really cool. He and his brother Barney ran away from an abusive home life and literally joined the circus. He sought out the Avengers to join them when he wanted to quit being a criminal and reform. He actually led the West Coast chapter of the Avengers.

Clint DOESN’T have super powers. He ISN’T going around in a flying invulnerable tank. He’s just a guy with a bow and the most vulnerable person on the battlefield and he knows it, but he goes out and fights monsters anyway. He stand up to Tony and Steve when he thinks they’re wrong. He didn’t just fall into the group by default like he does in the first Avengers movie, he seeks out the fights because he feels it’s the right thing to do.

Oh, and this all goes for Iron Fist as well. People loved Daredevil. Loved Jessica Jones. Really enjoyed Luke cage. Iron fist? Not so much. Why? Again, unlike the other Marvel/Netflix show characters, this incarnation of Danny Rand was drastically changed from his comic book persona.

Clint Barton as Ronin

It isn’t as simple as “People don’t like it when you change a beloved character”, a large number of the people who’ve gone to see the movies, or watched the shows had little to no exposure to them before hand, and have no expectations of how they should be, but still liked everyone else more than these two. The thing to remember is, the writers of the book versions have had YEARS to work out the kinks and play with backstory and personality. If people had not liked what they’d done, they would have disappeared and never (or rarely, noone really stays dead in comic books except Uncle Ben and Thomas and Martha Wayne) come back.

You want to see how awesome Hawkeye can be when written by someone who cares about the character? Go read the Matt Fraction and David Aja stories.

We know from some early previews that Hawkeye will be back in Avengers: Endgame, wearing what appears to be his Ronin costume. I can only hope Stephen McFeely, Christopher Markus and the Russo brothers make better use of the character than Joss Whedon did.

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