Clint Barton’s in trouble. He has been for years if we’re being honest with ourselves. While trouble’s nothing new for an Avenger, especially Clint Barton, few people have the power to save him. Is Disney+ one of them?
Hawkeye, Clint Barton’s alter ego, is an underrated Marvel comic book character. But he was severely underestimated and underused in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even in the moments he was used, it wasn’t the same Clint Barton fans know and love — depicted in the original comics and the animated shows.
This version of Clint Barton played by Jeremy Renner had potential in the first Avengers’ movie, but as the actor said, Hawkeye spent most of the time being Loki’s puppet. There’s not much room for characterization when under mind control.
By the time “Avengers: Age of Ultron” rolled around, audiences were excited to see what would become of the archer after the trauma of the last film, as well as see who he was behind the bow. Of course, the pain of that was never explored and audiences learned something brand new about the character — probably something too new. The inclusion of the Barton family was a boulder in the path of Hawkeye storylines.
It effectively blocks character development and cuts off multiple different directions future creators could go with this character. It shifts the priorities for the character and with every upcoming movie audiences would have to ask, “Why isn’t he with his family?”
Settling down with a significant other and kids is the endgame for so many heroes, in fact, it was the end they intended for Tony Stark and Steve Rogers. Joss Whedon essentially sped up Clint Barton’s story to fit his needs, sacrificing character and potential … for what?
They certainly couldn’t explore the Hawkeye and Black Widow romance with his wife around. It worked to further damage Widow’s characterization, or lack thereof. This pivot from the Hawkeye/Black Widow romantic relationship they were hinting at in “Avengers,” to her relationship with the Hulk, caused a lot of confusion, even for the actors involved. Ultimately, it only served to hurt Black Widow’s character, who was serving as the one and only female hero.
They couldn’t explore any of his past romantic relationships, including his actual wife in the comics, Mockingbird. Creators to come can’t take Barton’s character on a journey for stability or make changes when the family must remain a constant.
The family also adds layers to the character that aren’t there in the comics or the cartoons, effectively changing Hawkeye until he’s almost unrecognizable. It made him a family man, a stable presence as the rest of the Avengers struggled.
“I loved the idea that one Avenger had a secret, and that it was that he was a normal guy who is genuinely connected to the world in a way no other avenger is,” Whedon wrote on his Tumblr. Perhaps it made him more relatable, but here’s another big “secret”: Hawkeye is already the most relatable character throughout the comics and the cartoons. He is just a regular guy, that’s what makes his character incredible. He didn’t need a secret family to prove it.
His wit enables him to make the humorous quips about the insane situations occurring, which audiences get a taste of in the later films. His lack of supernatural abilities may make him seem weaker compared to a rage monster, but his natural talent shows that humans can do great things and his strong will shows the average person could be a hero in their own right.
He is the only regular person on the team, given that he hasn’t been exposed to dangerous chemicals or come from a different planet, and he’s the most grounded given his past growing up in a circus instead of a mansion or a spy-training program.
As far as a secret goes, there are plenty in Clint Barton’s sordid past he could have kept hidden. Hawkeye was originally introduced as a villain for Iron Man. His criminal and carnival history make for a much more interesting secret — as does his abusive parents. Including his brother would have opened several storylines.
If it had been his older brother’s family, Clint Barton could still be a family man with a stable place for the Avengers to hide out while still maintaining his character’s potential. It would have worked to increase the drama and possible conflicts because the relationship between the Barton brothers is strained and complex.
It opens a door into Barton’s shadowed past, providing further depth to the character, while showing off the human side to him. In the comics, the humanity of Clint Barton is further explored because he suffers like so many of us from depression and, in many versions, is deaf.
That deaf representation is severely missing from the MCU and Hollywood in general, even though it helps to add those human layers to the character. The comics and cartoon versions of Hawkeye also all include incredible shots and really show off his survival skills even without a bow, while the MCU rarely gives him a chance to show off his talent, making him seem like a weaker Avenger even though he’s not out there fighting with a suit of armor or any chemically enhanced abilities. Barton battles with his wits and his skills unlike the rest of the team who is aided by technology, chemicals and cosmic help.
Now Disney+ promises a chance for Clint Barton to show off all that he can do with his own “Hawkeye” series. However, they can’t undo the mistakes Joss Whedon and previous creators made with the character. No matter when they set the show during his life, the audience will always know where he’ll end up. His family will always be his endgame. Audiences will know he will always survive and that any romantic relationship that isn’t with his wife will not last.
Disney+ claims that the show will be taking inspiration from the Matt Fraction run of “Hawkeye,” which featured an extremely relatable Clint Barton. One who was a mess and just trying to get through the day, which is a far throw from the Clint Barton with a family. One could argue that everyone is a mess when they’re a youth and eventually even out to have a family, but with Jeremy Renner attached to continue his role as Clint Barton, it is unlikely Disney will be diving terribly far back in Barton’s past.
Whedon’s mistakes with Clint Barton cannot be undone as easily as the one’s made with Black Widow, as the Barton family will probably always exist. Fans may never get the live-action Clint Barton they deserve, but that doesn’t mean Hawkeye is completely screwed.
Hope exists in Kate Bishop, the second Hawkeye. In the comics, she takes up the mantle of Hawkeye after Clint Barton’s death when Captain America gives her his bow. When it is revealed that he is alive and he returns, both Hawkeyes and their one-eyed dog help keep their section of New York safe.
He works to help train her, which is what the Disney+ show is rumored to feature. If Disney does right by her, her Hawkeye is the last chance fans have to see Hawkeye done right, and perhaps along the way Renner’s Clint Barton will see some of his stories get the attention it deserves.
Disney cannot erase the mistakes they made with Clint Barton, but they have the chance to make it right with Kate Bishop.