Its rather nice seeing comic book culture coming up from the underground these days. I think a large part of it has to do with the fact that the 20-30 somethings rising to prominence in entertainment were all part of that “Saturday Morning Cartoon” set that grew up in the 80s. And now that this precious 18-35 demographic is graduating college and gaining disposable income, they’re spending it on what they want to see, which seems to be revivals of the stuff they grew up on (see Transformers).
Next weekend, Spider-Man 3 cometh to theaters nationwide. Spidey’s been an icon for decades now, and (next to Wolverine & Captain America) the public “face” of Marvel Comics (like Superman, Batman & Wonder Woman over at DC). Marvel’s usually done right by Spidey (we WILL NOT mention the Clone Saga) and he’s had numerous TV series and crossovers and the character himself is just so damn likable that he’s rightfully cemented himself as a top character.
But he’s not my favorite. Neither is Wolverine (who, while a badass when he’s done right, is just WAY too overexposed that its become a cliché), nor Superman or Batman. Not even Captain America, even though I’ve got nothing but love for the character. Deadpool comes real close, but no, top honors go to Clinton Francis Barton!
Pirate Boots! PIRATE BOOTS!
“Who,” you ask? The simple version is that Clint Barton was a trickshooting carney who wanted to do some good but ended up on the wrong side of the law and fought Iron Man a couple times before reforming and joining the Avengers (you can look up the longer version if you like, but it might make your head explode). Since then he’s been the quintessential Avenger, spitting in the face of danger, mouthing off to anybody (even his mentor, Captain America) and saving the world at the last minute with nothing but an arrow. No armored suit, no powers of a god, just an everyman with top level hand-eye coordination. He doesn’t even have the super soldier serum that Cap was injected with. Since the ‘60s, Clint’s probably quit the Avengers more times than anybody else, but he’s always come back, more times than anybody else. In the 90s, he even took over leadership of a team called the Thunderbolts (who were former b-level villains who masqueraded as heroes in order to conquer the world, but found out they actually liked being heroes and tried to reform legitimately) before coming back to the Avengers again only to get himself blown up in the incoherent “Avengers Disassembled.” I was sad when it happened, and more than a little pissed since it was at a time when I was just getting back into comics in college and Hawkeye was one of the main reasons I wanted to start reading again (The other reasons being Firestorm I, Blue Beetle II and Booster Gold, who all met grisly fates over at DC. Booster got better, and the new Firestorm is actually a pretty cool character, but I still haven’t forgiven DC for putting a bullet into Blue Beetle’s head)
Unlike a lot of kids, I wasn’t all that into Spider-Man and the X-Men. I was an Avengers fan, and trolled yard sales looking for old comic books, mostly for books that had Hawkeye on the cover. I even took up archer in late elementary school, not because I wanted to be like Robin Hood or even Green Arrow, but I wanted to be like Hawkeye. And that’s the thing really, Hawkeye resonated with me. Here was a guy who came up from humble beginnings, was kind of an outsider, wasn’t the smartest guy in the world but wasn’t stupid by any means, respected talent and merit more than reputation, wasn’t afraid of making stupid mistakes, and hid his insecurities (and boy howdy did the thought bubbles cover the panels when he was thinking) behind a big ol’ grin and a gaudy purple costume and a pair of pirate boots. I identified with all of that and still do. Even the pirate boots.
About a year or so after “Disassembled,” Marvel launched “House of M,” a big crossover about a reality warp by the now crazy Scarlet Witch (She’s a mutant and a longtime Avenger before going loopy in Disassembled and has WAY more confusing backstory). Anyway, thanks to her, Mutants are the dominant power in the world and her negligent daddy, Magneto, is basically king of the world (I probably should’ve mentioned the Magneto thing earlier). Anyway, it was an interesting idea but kind of fell flat as a miniseries, but it did do one thing, it brought Hawkeye back to life, who shot a bunch of arrows into Wolverine, sulked a lot when he found out he was supposed to be dead, then was killed again by Scarlet Witch.
A LOT of arrows
BUT THEN…when the whole shebang ends and Scarlet Witch reverts everything back to the proper reality (albeit with a lot fewer mutants around), there’s evidence that our boy Clint is back among the living. Again. Fast forward to 2006. Aside from Civil War, it turns out that Clint has indeed come back to the land of the upright and has a lot of questions he’d like to ask the woman who was once his friend and killed him twice. He tracks down Scarlet Witch to the totally fictional Eastern European country of Wundagore and finds out she’s depowered herself and has no memories of anything to do with the Avengers or superhero stuff. Then they shag, since he stopped a street urchin from mugging her and has been harboring a huge crush on her for 30 years or so (consider that in that time she married a synthezoid/robot-man and sort of had kids with him, and Hawkeye himself bounced from failed relationship to failed relationship until he married a woman who later died while saving him in a hell-like dimension and her soul is still technically trapped there, I think. Continuity is not easy.)
Anyway, aside from a couple of mini-series, the best place to find Hawkeye stories are in any of the older Avengers or Avengers West Coast titles. Inside Avengers circles, Hawkeye is easily one of the top five most popular, so he’s been around for a lot of their big storylines. The Essential Avengers volumes are a pretty affordable place to start looking (albeit without color)
This about sums him up. He single-handedly takes down Deathbird, a villain the X-Men routinely have trouble with, then plants a big wet one on her. Because it was funny.