A long, long time ago, in the strange world of the 1960s, there was a character named Clint Barton. While he had no superpowers outside of his amazing archery skills, Clint Barton became a superhero under the name Hawkeye. He’s had a lot of adventures in his time, dated a lot of pretty ladies, and took on a lot of other names, like Goliath and Ronin. One time he died and became unstuck in space-time for a while, just chilling between dimensions. He was even in a movie that made a lot of money last summer. (You might have seen it — Robert Downey, Jr. was in it, I think.) Basically, Clint has had a very long and interesting life, but even for that, not a lot of people really knew who he was.
Now? Well, all that’s changed.
Clint Barton has become a very popular character as of late. This is largely due to his ongoing series from Matt Fraction and David Aja. Unlike most other superhero solo books, depicting our favorite heroes on episodic journeys and/or being crushed under their own melodrama, Hawkeye celebrates all that Clint Barton is: Just a guy, who happens to be a hero. Known for its razor-sharp writing and slick design work, the book follows Clint’s very human misadventures in New York City with friend and protege Kate Bishop at his side, as Clint hangs out with his neighbors, fights back against the mob, tries to catch up on his favorite TV shows, and calls Tony Stark to help him put up his Christmas decorations. Nothing is off-limits in this very well-grounded, unheroic title, and it’s refreshing to see. From Clint’s disastrous love-life to the underbelly of the superhero realm, Clint’s world is routinely put under the microscope, explored through stories that never fail to make me want to laugh, or cry, or maybe both.
It’s kind of the best book on the shelves right now. Just saying. You should probably be reading it.
Beyond the smash success of his solo title, Clint also found a bit of fame last year in The Hawkeye Initiative. This made a lot of guys very uncomfortable, much to the amusement of, you know, everybody else. Starting off as a bit of a joke, the website uses “Strong Female Character” Clint to poke fun at the sexist double-standards of the comic book industry. Artists submit “re-imagined” artwork, by depicting him in the same iconic cheesecake poses of many famous female heroes. One part social justice, one part parody, it’s mostly just an excuse for some talented artists to get together and take the piss out of a couple of people that have had it coming for quite a while. Deep down, a part of me thinks Clint just might approve.
What it comes down to is, right now? Clint Barton is our through-line into the Marvel Universe, and in a bigger way, our way of talking about the comic book industry in general. He lets us peek into the lives of Marvel’s pantheon of heroes with a dry wit and a palpable sense humanity that’s often lost in big crossover events and episodic adventure stories. He’s kind of like the lens through which we normal folk can evaluate the superhero world, and that’s a pretty cool thing. With the success of The Hawkeye Initiative, he’s even helped fans and artists find a safe space to poke a little fun at the industry, and maybe make a few points along the way.
For a carnie with no powers, I’d say Clint’s done pretty well for himself.