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Bringing ‘Hawkeye’ out of the shadows and onto Disney+

| Thursday, November 21, 2019

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

From simply watching “The Avengers,” one might not think much of their member Hawkeye. What chance does a man with a bow and a quiver of a few arrows have against an army of aliens? This David-and-Goliath scenario has led to late-night and SNL parodies across repeatedly. But someone who truly thinks of Hawkeye in the way such shows describe has certainly never read the recently published eponymous comic “Hawkeye” by authors and illustrators Matt Fraction and David Aja.

The recently launched Disney+ streaming service is releasing a TV show in 2021 based on this comic, which will feature Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner as the two Hawkeyes: Kate Bishop and Clint Barton. There are rumors that the show, as with its comic counterpart, will differ drastically from the Hawkeye we see in the “Avengers” films.

The comic book, taking place after Clint Barton’s stint as Ronin, exhibits the two Hawkeyes battling street-level crime with humor, an intense amount of band-aids and coffee. The first issue opens with an iconic set of words — “This looks bad” — and Clint, falling out of a window onto a car below, lamenting about how hanging with the Avengers makes him sometimes forget his own mortality, addressing the same joke as those parodies and skits which have mocked Hawkeye. If you read the “Black Widow” comics published recently along with “Hawkeye,” one can see the same panel from Natasha’s perspective and portrayed in a completely different art style. This type of cross-over is one of the most enticing arguments to read comic books along with their unique way of telling stories both visually and with words.

Comic books, especially those featuring more mainstream characters, sometimes fall into a pseudo-storyboard method of narration. They use paneling similarly to how a movie or TV show plays out, making them easily adaptable. Aja and Fraction utilize the visual and artistic nature of comic books in ways unique to the genre and unlike storyboards. The series explores how different characters communicate with the world around them. One of the issues is told from the point of view of Hawkeye’s pizza-eating rescue dog. His main form of relating to the world is through smell. Aja depicts these smells in little bubbles, creating a point of view separate from the English language. When Hawkeye speaks to him, most of the words are scribbled out, besides words the dog understands like “sit” and “stay.”

The comic also deals with disability. Clint goes deaf in the series — a trait that has since been relatively accepted as canon. The issue following this tragic event is then told in sign language, something that is impossible to accomplish in traditional word-based storytelling. Disability has been seen in comic books before with characters like Daredevil, but in Hawkeye, Clint’s deafness acts as a real disability with consequences as opposed to a way of gaining superpowers that instantly overrides the difficulties of losing a sense.

The Hawkeyes combat street-level crimes throughout the series. The two are not fighting intergalactic super villains, but very real, earthly villains like Ukrainian gangsters who use the word “bro” too much and mob bosses. Clint also serves as a superhero on a more personal level by helping certain people with their rent and taking abused animals into the shelter. His humanity is as constantly on display through his coffee addiction, trips to the hospital, constant need for band-aids and inability to set up a television.

Fraction’s character building and comical storytelling is matched by Aja’s art. One of the most renowned working comic book artists, Aja uses a purple color scheme to create his own universe separate from our New York. His inking and strong lined artwork is heightened by his creative paneling and ability to tell stories only through pictures. If Marvel uses Fraction and Aja’s “Hawkeye” as a jumping off point for their upcoming series, they have big shoes to fill and actual challenges to face in translating their unique storytelling techniques onto the screen. The comics brought the overlooked characters from the background of “The Avengers” and made Clint into a beloved hero while continuing to tell Kate’s story. Hopefully, the TV show follows in its footsteps. 

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