As we’re getting ready to watch the upcoming Hawkeye on Disney+ in a few days, many Marvel Comics fans have noticed how much influence the acclaimed comic book Hawkeye had on the show.
Written by Matt Fraction and drawn by David Aja, Hawkeye debuted in 2012 and instantly stood out among the crowded comic book marketplace thanks to the minimalist art from Aja and Fraction’s take on the archer superhero.
Instead of having Clint Barton aka Hawkeye run around and shoot endless supplies of trick arrows, the series grounded the superhero and leaned into his everyman pesonna who had to deal with more mundane problems, more believable villains, and much more relatable to the average reader. This Hawkeye did not wear his silly purple outfit as he dealt with world-ending events, although he kept his purple color scheme with his civilian clothing. He had to grapple with local thugs and more importantly, he could be hurt. Just look at the aftermath of many of his battles in the series where he came away all bandaged up and beaten. Yet, unlike Daredevil, the archer was never dour. though he seemed to suffer from depression.
What made Hawkeye more identifiable and someone to look up to was that in the series he always looked out for the vulnerable little guy. For instance. in the first issue he finds out that the tenants in the building he lived in were terrorized by their landlords, the RussianTrack Suit Mafia. So, Hawkeye helped them out by buying the building and became a kind landlord who was right at home joining the tenants in a barbecue. Later in the issue, he came to rescue of one of the series’ most beloved characters, Lucky the pizza dog, who was cruelly treated by his owner, a member of the Track Suit Mafia. Hawkeye wound up taking the dog from the mobster and adopting him.
On a sidenote about Lucky, check out issue #11, which had the story “Pizza is My Life” and was told entirely from the point of view of Lucky. The way this was done was ingenious and inventive as Fraction and Aja used pictorgrams to illustrate the dog’s thought process as human dialogue faded in and out. The issue won an Eisner Award and it was well deserved. Thankfully, Lucky will appear in the TV series.
Another factor that made the series so memorable was Aja’s art which was very expressive, used bold lines and was similar to David Mazzucchelli’s art in Daredevil during Frank Miller’s “Born Again” story arc. The series used flat colors that conveyed mood and the emotional beat of the characters, which supported the series’ gritty tone.
Of course, what made the 22-issue run exceptional was the teacher/student relationship between Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. The scenes between the two were full of lively banter and quiet reflective moments that explored Hawkeye’s more vulnerable side. Bishop was a great foil to Barton with her spunky attitude and vigor. She was never afraid to call her mentor out when she thought he was in the wrong. Meanwhile, Hawkeye respected the young superhero and readily took her under his wing like he was a protective big brother or uncle. Together they made a great archery team and the way they coordinated their fighting styles was terrific thanks to Aja’s art which made expert use of small panels to convey intense action.
One of the more memorable fight scenes in the series was in issue #3, called “Beating the Odds”, and involved the two in a frantic car chase as they fled the Track Suit Mafia. Anyone who saw the recent preview clip of Hawkeye during the Disney+ Day event could tell that the car chase shown in the clip was inspired by the issue.
Be sure to check out the classic series run in the Hawkeye trade paperbacks which have the 22 issues of the Fraction/Aja run: My Life as a Weapon, Vol. 1, Little Hits, Vol. 2, L.A. Woman, Vol. 3, and Rio Bravo, Vol. 4. Or just pick up the collected works in a single volume. They’re worth every penny and are a nice way to see how classic run influenced the TV show.