I have a tendency, it must be admitted, to root for the little guy when it comes to comic-book characters. Sure, your Supermans and Wolverines and Incredible Hulks are cool, but I always tend to identify more with the “regular joes” of the superhero community, the ones who get by on their wits and nerve, guys like Hank Pym or the Blue Beetle. Or, to put not too fine a point on it, the subject of this week’s discussion, one Clinton Francis Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye the Marksman.
At first glance little more than a Green Arrow knockoff, much of Hawkeye’s appeal comes not from his gimmick, but from his characterization, most of which was established firmly right from the start: more than anything else, Hawkeye just wants two things: respect, and someone to love him. Who among us doesn’t want that? Hawkeye’s spent the last four decades chasing after one of those or the other, and although he managed to have both of those for a brief period, like so many of us, he’s had to watch helplessly while they slipped through his fingers. But again, like the best of us, he never gives up.
Let’s talk Hawkeye.
Hawkeye made his debut in September 1964, in TALES OF SUSPENSE #57 (the home of Iron Man’s monthly series in those days), in the appropriately named “Hawkeye, the Marksman!”, written by Stan Lee and drawn by Don Heck. Yes, Hawkeye actually made his debut as a supervillain, although it was clear from the start that a life of crime was never his intention. Poor dope just can’t say no to a pretty face…
We first meet Hawkeye performing for the crowds in a sideshow at Coney Island, with Tony Stark and his date Pepper Potts in attendance. And as you can see, Hawkeye’s act isn’t exactly setting the world on fire:
When one of the giant carnival rides snaps and threatens to go flying into the crowd, Tony Stark leaps into action, changing into Iron Man and bringing the runaway ride to a halt. The crowd is enthralled, with the exception of one particularly jealous archer:
Inspired by Iron Man’s heroism (and by the accolades he got from the masses), our as-yet-unnamed marksman resolves to steal Iron Man’s thunder. “After all,” he thinks to himself, “all it takes are a lot of mechanical gimmicks and a colorful, costume disguise.”
Toiling feverishly in his basement workshop, the archer creates an array of high-tech mechanical attachments for his arrows, and fashions an outlandish costume, complete with a giant capital “H” on his forehead.
Hawkeye’s somewhat clouded motivation for becoming a superhero is best summed up in his dramatic declaration of purpose when he first dons his uniform:
Sure, it’s not exactly “with great power comes great responsibility,” but it’s at least identifiable if nothing else.
Heading out on his first nightly patrol, Hawkeye stumbles across a jewel thief, and quickly manages to detain him long enough for the thief to drop the jewels. Unfortunately for Hawkeye, the police arriving on the scene quickly assume that the archer, with the jewels in his hand, is the thief’s accomplice, and Hawkeye is soon on the run from the law.
But not for long, as a mysterious sedan stops to offer the fleeing Hawkeye a lift. Inside? Iron Man’s Communist-agent adversary the Black Widow. One look at her, and Hawkeye is just plain sunk, and about to be in way, way over his head. (And by the way, can Don Heck draw some gorgeous women, or what?)
Back at the Widow’s secret compound, the beautiful Russian femme fatale offers Hawkeye all manner of new weaponry he can use to improve his arrows, as long as he uses them against her enemy Iron Man. Already completely under her spell, Hawkeye cheerfully agrees, and before long is infiltrating a Stark Enterprises factory in the hopes of drawing out Iron Man. Draw him out it does, and when Iron Man arrives on the scene, Hawkeye lets loose with a volley of chemical-tipped arrows, rapidly inducing an immobilizing layer of rust to form on Iron Man’s armor. Not too shabby for a Coney Island sideshow act.
Iron Man begins shedding his armor before he’s completely frozen up, with Hawkeye in hot pursuit. Hawkeye finds the discarded pieces of Iron man’s armor and decides to take them back for his lab for analysis. Not the best plan, as it turns out, as Iron Man already had a second suit of armor built and ready to go, and is quickly back in the air pursuing the fleeing Hawkeye.
After stopping Hawkeye’s car with a power-ray blast, the two are locked in combat once more, with Hawkeye this time trying out a tangling rope arrow, which only momentarily slows down Shellhead.
Iron Man starts playing rough with Hawkeye at this point, catapulting him into the river, knocking him unconscious:
Or so it seemed, anyway. As it turned out, the crafty archer was only playing possum, and unleashes his most devastating arrow while Iron Man’s back is turned. Unfortunately for Hawkeye, Iron Man’s armor is still too tough for the blast arrow to do any permanent damage, but the concussion from the blast knocks out the just-arriving Black Widow.
Terrified and guilt-ridden, the lovestruck Hawkeye grabs up the Widow in his arms and flees the scene in the Widow’s boat, leaving a confused and stunned Iron Man wondering just what the hell that was all about.
That wouldn’t be the last time Hawkeye and the Black Widow would bedevil Iron Man, though. The duo would return in TALES OF SUSPENSE #60, “Suspected of Murder!” again by the writer/artist team of Stan Lee and Don Heck. When Iron Man is accused of criminal involvement in the disappearance of Tony Stark (at the time, Stark was temporarily trapped in his armor, leaving him unable to make an appearance and clear Iron Man’s good name), the Black Widow decides it’s the perfect time for Hawkeye to once more bust into his factory and steal his latest weapons designs.
To his credit, at least this time Hawkeye is having second thoughts about committing high treason just for the sake of a pretty face:
Still, Hawkeye isn’t making the best decisions, such as his immediate move to take Pepper Potts as a hostage. Soon enough, Iron Man shows up and the two begin to go at it again, with Hawkeye severing the chains that hold up an enormous rocket, which topples toward Iron Man.
Iron Man is too much for Hawkeye once more, and he again elects to retreat, this time not knowing that his beloved Black Widow has been forcibly returned behind the Iron Curtain.
Hawkeye would return one final time in the villain’s role, in TALES OF SUSPENSE #64, another Lee/Heck production, “Hawkeye and the New Black Widow Strike Again!”, in which, well, Hawkeye and the new Black Widow strike again. Go figure.
We catch up with Hawkeye back in his workshop inventing more arrowheads, such as his new acid-spray arrow, seen here:
Hawkeye is surprised at the arrival of the Black Widow, back from the Soviet Union and now outfitted in her own supervillain ensemble, complete with suction-cup boots and a grappling-line bracelet.
Hawkeye is still conflicted about the whole treason issue, but the Widow insists, saying that all she’s asking is for his help in destroying Iron Man. Nothing wrong with that, is there?
Once again, they go for hostages, this time kidnapping Pepper and Stark’s bodyguard Happy Hogan, in an attempt to lure Iron Man into a trap. It’s really not much of a trap, though — just Hawkeye, the Widow and a bunch of Russkie thugs, most of whom Iron Man dispatches rather handily.
Hawkeye, however, has come prepared, first stunning Shellhead with a Deafener arrow…
…then melting away his armor with the aforementioned acid arrows.
Desperate, Iron Man attacks the relatively powerless Black Widow, which as usual sends the lovestruck archer into a tizzy, as he scoops the injured Widow in his arms, jumps in the car and speeds off once again.
Hawkeye didn’t have a lot of success as a supervillain. He had much better luck once he joined the Avengers, that’s for sure.