If you know me, you know that there are very few things I’ve been as excited for in the past couple years as Captain America: Civil War. I mean, have you seen the trailers? Cap arm-wrestles a helicopter, Bucky and Black Panther make the Olympic hundred-metre dash look like toddlers waddling after a pudding cup, and Paul Rudd touches Chris Evans’ nipples, validating thousands of slash-fic writers worldwide. Plus, you may have heard whispers about a little cameo from one of everybody’s favourite Marvel characters..?*
So far as I can tell, either this movie is going to be fourteen hours long, or the Density of Awesome (or D/A, a well-known mathematical variable which I am totally not making up right now) is going to be Neutron Star-tier levels of ass-kickery. I am expecting the latter, but if it were the former, I would gladly sit through all fourteen hours without using the bathroom, and still stick around through the credits to see if there was a stinger.
There are no words for how stoked I am—I’ve been reading Marvel comics since I was old enough to read anything, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier was the first movie I ever saw for which I wasn’t pissed off about spending the extra sixty dollars or whatever for Imax Digital Ultra 7-D Super VIP Chair Reservations.
(Whenever someone asks me why they should see it, I like to remind them that Winter Soldier features a scene in which Captain America, on the back of a motorcycle, fights a f***ing jet. That alone was well worth the price of admission.)
All signs point to this being Titanic for comic book nerds—but I’ve still got a bone to pick with it.
See, amidst all this #TeamCap/#TeamIronMan squabbling, I’m standing off to one side, waving a #TeamHawkeye banner. As a longtime and diehard Hawk-idolater, it’s hard to watch all the clips coming out and seeing every other character get featured over him. I’ll give you Cap fans, Iron Man adherents, and Black Panther enthusiasts this much: standing next to the rest of the Avengers, ol’ Clint Barton admittedly doesn’t have the most curb appeal. He can’t shoot lasers, he can’t fly, he can’t throw a bus. He could probably do a backflip if he wanted to, but that’s not as useful as you’d imagine.
Even as far as the other humans-with-biceps-and-weapons go, his gadgets can be a little underwhelming (although his biceps are second to none). Ant-Man can shrink down and f**k up your Lego sets, Falcon can fly and do air-flips and has sweet goggles, Black Widow has wrist doodads and those electric shocker Pogs she was tossing out in Winter Soldier, and Tony Stark… well, Tony Stark can do essentially all that other stuff remotely (except shrink, luckily for Cap’s Lego model of Valley Forge), while simultaneously convincing your girlfriend to grab dinner with him. Meanwhile, Hawkeye has like fifteen arrows. (Some of which blow up pretty good. (And many of which don’t.))
And yet, in spite of all that, there’s still nobody in the history of the team I’d rather see go traipsing off and avenging stuff. Here’s why: Clint Barton is inherently a bit ridiculous. Really. He knows it, we know it, Ultron and Thanos and all those Hydra goons know it. But when he’s written well, that’s exactly what makes him the most interesting Avenger. To quote Hawkeye himself, as written by Matt Fraction (whose twenty-two issue run of Hawkeye with artist David Aja is some of the most fun comic-bookery I’ve ever read):
“You cowboy around with the Avengers some. Guys got, what, armor. Magic. Super-powers. […] I’m an orphan raised by carnies fighting with a stick and a string from the Palaeolithic era.” (Hawkeye #1, 2012.)
And despite knowing that, he still goes out and does his thing in the best way he can, no matter that he’s not encased in a walking tank tuxedo or sporting a bionic arm. That goofy sense of humour and self-awareness has been getting some major play lately in the comics—Clint’s just a regular dude, who can’t figure out his DVR and gets beat up a bunch. He has a landline telephone and drinks coffee straight from the pot. And like I said before, when creators like Fraction and Aja are at the helm, it makes for a charming, engaging, and dynamic book. That said, The Avengers and also Some Other Regular Dude with a Longbow who gets Punched a Lot would not make for quite the blockbuster that Marvel’s looking for. For the sake of the cinematic universe, it would be worth keeping the roguish, regular-but-totally-badass-guy charm that the Fraction/Aja version of Clint Barton has—especially since Jeremy Renner plays it so very damn well—but also combining it with a dash of another notable version of Hawkeye: that of Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch’s The Ultimates.
If you know much about comics, you’ll know that The Ultimates is already a major source of inspiration for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Millar and Hitch’s Clint Barton already shares plenty of things with both other iterations of the character in the comics, and with the MCU Hawkeye. He has a family that he keeps separate from his “hero” life, for example. He’s not great with technology (maybe as a nod to the fact that he still uses a bow, of all possible weapons) and has perpetual trouble with his voicemail. He works closely with Black Widow. Where Ultimate Hawkeye differs from the more contemporary vision of the character, though, is that he is SUPER F***ING BADASS.
Millar dreamed up a Clint Barton who was a SHIELD Black Ops agent. More than just a “goofy arrow carny,” he was one of Nick Fury’s first operatives, doing the dirtiest of the dirty jobs, all while his family led a quiet suburban life at home. Ultimate Hawkeye is more than an archer—in his hands, anything is a deadly weapon. Dishes, a pen, his own fingernails (look up the original run; it’s gruesome/amazing). And should you be stupid enough to give the man a gun? Good f***ing luck to you.
To me, the perfect version of Hawkeye to see onscreen would be somewhere between the two: he’d be the Avenger you’d most want to have a beer with, but there would be a deadliness that would be simmering just beneath the surface that, when unleashed, would be absolutely terrifying.
There’s something more compelling for me about the superheroes without major powers. It all comes down to the Superman conundrum that has been plaguing comic book writers for years: if your character is nearly invincible, how do you present them with a challenge that keeps an audience engaged? On a visual level, even watching characters fight when they’re essentially invulnerable often becomes nothing more than an extended building-smashing montage.
Thor’s literally a god. Scarlet Witch has “reality-altering” powers so vague that there’s potentially nothing she can’t do. The Hulk could trash the rest of the team with both hands chained behind his back. I think that part of the reason films like Iron Man are so successful is because there are real threats to the character, armoured up or not. Tony Stark is relatable and vulnerable. When characters can be brought low, we can be fooled into becoming invested in their well-being, worried about their fate, even if their names are in the title. Nobody ever goes to a James Bond movie expecting James Bond to die, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a thrill in watching him sweat.
Hawkeye’s solo movie would have the character-driven narrative of a Bond flick, the sphincter-clenching action of Winter Soldier, and a dash of the levity of Ant-Man. After all, we’ve already seen the rest of the Marvel gang, everyone from thunder gods and wizards to verbally-stunted space trees. Hell, even the Hulk’s had more movies flop than Hawkeye’s had decent scenes. Is it not time for the best shot in the Marvel Universe to have a shot at the big time?
(It is worth noting here that we haven’t heard talk yet of a Black Widow solo project either, which would also be awesome.)
But until Marvel finally decides to respond to that Hawkeye short film script I keep mailing them (I’m not holding my breath), I’ll just have to cross my fingers and send out a wish to that venerable lord of the funny pages, the ever-lovin’ Stan Lee:
Hallowed be thy moustache,
Funny be thy cameo.
In the names of Odin, Cyttorak, and Uncle Ben, hear my plea:
Please, forget that Inhumans movie and make one about Hawkeye instead.
Give him a motorcycle and a SHIELD-issued platinum credit card,
and then just have him throw stuff at people’s heads for two hours.
It will be awesome.
*That’s right, I’m referring to William Hurt’s Thaddeus Ross!**
**Ha ha, no but in seriousness, it’s Spider-man.
[As a note: the featured image on this page is the cover of Hawkeye #1, by the incredible David Aja. Go buy the issue and really appreciate it.]