Every great superhero has a nemesis. Batman has the Joker, Superman has Lex, Iron Man has the Mandarin, Spidey has Green Goblin (and, like, three other arch-nemeses, because f@#$ Spidey, right?), and so on. These villains have risen above the rest of the ne’er-do-wells to provide a real and ongoing challenge for the heroes we follow on a monthly basis. An archnemesis can be a constant, looming threat (I’m thinking Wolfram & Hart in Angel) or such a horrific force that they’re only pulled out for the big moments… here’s looking at you, Daleks. Sometimes the villains are the inverse of the hero, sometimes there’s a grudge that they’ll be fighting over forever, and sometimes they’re just two people on different sides of the ropes who happen to come into conflict.
Or, sometimes they’re Russian dudes in tracksuits who say “bro” and “seriously” a lot.
Okay, gloves off. I’m going to make a crazy argument, so get ready. Of all of the many villains Hawkeye has faced, there are a couple of candidates. Crossfire, Trick Shot, and hell, for a while it seemed as if Hawkeye was going to jock Spidey’s style and put Norman Osborn as #1 on his own personal shit list. However… there is a certain group of baddies that stand head and velour-clad shoulders above the rest.
Hawkeye writer Matt Fraction fondly refers to them as the “Tracksuit Draculas.”
HAWKEYE VS. TRACKSUIT!
Backing up a bit. If you’re reading an article about Hawkeye villains during Hawkeye/Black Widow month on Blastoffcomics.com, I’m willing to bet you know a thing or two about a thing or two – but hey, new reader friendliness is key! The quick expo is that Matt Fraction is in the middle of a critically acclaimed run on Hawkeye that gives us a look at what Clint Barton does when he’s not being an avenger. Sometimes he has trouble setting up his DVR, sometimes he feeds pizza to a dog, and sometimes he comes into conflict with the Tracksuit Draculas.
The Tracksuits are about as much your normal comic book villain as Hawkeye is your normal superhero comic. That is to say, not even nearly resembling it. However, I think that – among other things – is what gives them potential to transcend their initial appeal as gag villains and continue to evolve into something much more threatening.
While still being absolutely, balls-out ridiculous.
These guys know maybe fifty words. And they’ve said forty of them once. More often than not, they’re tossing around a “bro” or a “seriously.” With perhaps the most distinct voice in comics, their dialogue oozes with the accents, and nearly even line – even the threatening ones – are hilarious.
Their call to battle? “Go @#$% you, bro.”
Their most villainous speech so far? “Is one thing to futz with us. Is another to futz with guys we work for. And, bro, those are some very scary futzing bros, bro.”
Why does this add to their resume for arch-nemesisness? Well, because we want to see them more. They’re hilarious, unique, and…
WE KNOW THESE GUYS
I remember when I first read Hawkeye #1. It was already in trade, and I was futzing around in Barnes and Noble, pretentiously checking to see if they had any of my books in the graphic novel section. Hawkeye Volume One had just come out, so I figured I’d flip through to see what the hype was about.
And I saw some guys that I know.
The douchetastic velour suits.
The bro after bro after bro.
I’ve met these guys. (Fraction has, too. )
And that’s what makes them so much like Clint Barton. Just last week, Blastoff’s Scott Tipton pointed out that what makes Hawkeye so great is that he’s a guy like you and me. We can, should we want to, become Hawkeye, and I think Fraction’s run on the title demonstrates that with every page. His problems in this book aren’t Avengers-level problems. They’re our problems.
So there is a kind of continuity to the idea that his villains are not masked baddies threatening to take over the universe. Nah, they’re dudes that we’ve run into. Guys that could cause us problems. Guys that, hell, we could be.
They’re kinda just like him.
Listening to Fraction talk about the origin of the Tracksuits in the link above, you’d imagine that they’re, across the board, pretty uniform in their voices and their attire. You’d be seriously wrong, bro, because – and I’m laughing a bit even typing this – there is a legitimately intricate and fascinating hierarchy that Matt Fraction has established for them. The color coding is obvious in the art, but it’s more than that.
In an interview with Comic Book Resources, Fraction said:
“One of the cool things about the Draculas is that they have a hierarchy. I wrote this whole ridiculous treatise on what the track suit color and stripe combination means and how you can tell what rank they are in the organization.”
And then, in an interview with Kieron Gillen (listen to the whole thing here where you can also read many script excerpts), Fraction shared a bit of his script for Hawkeye #1… that detailed the exact hierarchy. This is some Tolkien-level appendixes shit.
This is a sample from the script for HAWKEYE #1. (Page Seven, specifically.)
“• WHITE WITH BLACK STRIPES AND GOLD BLING: upper management. Bosses of bosses.
• BLACK WITH WHITE STRIPES, thin gold chain. Turtlenecks (some SALMON, some POWDER BLUE, some CANARY YELLOW. SALMON means they’re LEADERSHIP types; BLUE means they’re important businessmen to the gang, lawyers, sharks, moneymen, etc; CANARY means ops and maintenance, delivery, etc.: These guys are MIDDLE MANAGEMENT. The LANDLORD dresses like one of these guys, and has a SALMON TURTLENECK on. If we ever get a good look at his chain we see a GOLD UZI hangs there.
• BROWN VELOUR, gold rings, shades, mesh tank top underneath. Security. ALWAYS ARMED.
Okay I literally could sit here and figure out the hierarchical rankings and designations of Tracksuit Draculas all day. I’m not kidding, David. I want to do this all. Goddamn. Day. I won’t.)”
There are many military organizations in comics with less thought put into rank.
THEY’RE A REAL THREAT
For the first set of issues, they were hilarious. Sure, they were violent and they were jerks and you wanted Hawkeye to win.
But then, something shifted. Somehow – whether it be Fraction’s subtle tension-building, artist David Aja’s masterful art, or Matt Hollingsworth’s colors which completely control the book’s tone – the Tracksuits rose above a joke and became a little bit terrifying while still being hilarious.
That is a nuanced set of villains.
I don’t know HOW or WHY… but that’s freaking scary.
Oh. And you know what else?
PAT SHAND is a writer and editor for Zenescope Entertainment. As a teenager, he owned an orange velour suit. Seriously, bro.