He may not be big enough to get his own Broadway musical, but the surliest Avenger is landing his own Disney+ series this week with the premiere of Hawkeye. Following in the big footsteps of characters like Scarlet Witch, the Winter Soldier, and Loki, the cynical marksman launches Hawkeye on November 24 with two episodes, with one to follow weekly until December 22.
But the frequently solitary superhero isn’t alone this time. While Jeremy Renner returns as Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye, there’s another character primed to enter the onscreen Marvel Universe and potentially adopt the identity too: Kate Bishop. Two Hawkeyes? It might seem a little confusing, but it’s all mapped out in the character’s decades-long comics history. How will the Disney+ Hawkeye reshape that history? And what do you need to remember about the stoic specialist’s onscreen history to enjoy the show? Let us guide the way with a little history from both the books and the MCU.
Hawkeye (Marvel Comics)
Created by the legendary Stan Lee himself and designed by artist Don Heck, Hawkeye made his first appearance in an issue of Tales of Suspense back in September 1964, joining the Avengers less than a year later in The Avengers No. 16. In that inaugural appearance, Hawkeye is actually a villain, an enemy of Iron Man. (The cover reads, “How can one man with a strange bow and arrow harm ol’ Shell-Head? Don’t try to answer till you’ve seen the sensational Hawkeye!”) He would play the villain role two more times in that series before coming to the Avengers and telling them that he and Black Widow — these two have always been connected — were tricked by the Soviets into becoming spies and basically applied for membership in the elite superhero team.
So who is Hawkeye? After losing both of his parents in a car accident, Clint Barton ran away from an orphanage and joined a carnival, where he was trained to become a master archer. In the carnival world, he developed his alter ego Hawkeye, the World’s Greatest Marksman. On the run after a misunderstanding, he ran into Black Widow and fell in love. After the aforementioned encounters with Iron Man, he became a part of the first major overhaul of the Avengers, joining with Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch in 1965. Unlike some of the most popular characters in Marvel history, Hawkeye has always been more of a role player, someone who can join a team for a while and then leave it for solo adventures on his own, often choosing solitude over teamwork. He would be a prominent but somewhat inconsistent part of the Avengers for decades, even leading the spinoff West Coast Avengers in 1984.
He’s since popped up all across the Marvel Comics brand, but the most important run for the portrayal of the character as we see him in the new Disney+ series started in August 2012, with writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja’s highly acclaimed series, simply called Hawkeye, which focused on his dynamic with a protégé named Kate Bishop (more on her shortly). Jeff Lemire’s All-New Hawkeye, starting in 2015, also raised the character’s profile in terms of critical acclaim, helping him further step out of the shadow of the Avengers.
An important chapter in his Marvel history when it comes to the show is the arc of Ronin, an alias first used by the character Echo in New Avengers in 2005, created by Brian Michael Bendis. (Echo will reportedly also appear in Hawkeye, played by Alaqua Cox.) Hawkeye used the secret identity in New Avengers No. 27, in 2007, but it’s a name that has been fluid since then, as others have taken on the Ronin brand, sometimes even to discredit Clint.
Hawkeye (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
Jeremy Renner’s version of Hawkeye made its first appearance in the MCU way back in 2011’s Thor, working with S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Coulson. It’s little more than an extended cameo in that film, but it confirmed that the longtime Avenger was going to be a part of this cinematic universe. Hawkeye’s role really began in 2012’s The Avengers, in which he is still working for S.H.I.E.L.D., guarding the Tesseract, when Loki arrives to steal it. He’s briefly enslaved by Loki and used as one of his enforcers, even trying to help the villain escape from the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, where he runs into his old ally Black Widow. Combat breaks Hawkeye from Loki’s grip, and he joins forces with Captain America and Black Widow to track him down. The three join up with Thor, the Hulk, and Iron Man in New York, and movie history is made.
Hawkeye would appear in four more MCU films: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, and Avengers: Endgame (and Renner would voice the character in Black Widow and an episode of What If …?). But the key events to remember for Hawkeye are what happened in the last two Avengers films. After siding with Cap during the Civil War conflict, he was on house arrest with his family in 2018 when his wife and three children disappeared. Suffering unimaginable grief, he became a vigilante, using the Ronin identity to hunt down criminals around the world. Black Widow finds him years later in Tokyo, wearing the Ronin outfit, which will play a major role in the series. She tells him that they have a plan to reverse the Snap, and they travel together to an alternate 2014 timeline, wherein they go to the planet Vormir and encounter the Red Skull. To retrieve the Soul Stone, they must sacrifice someone they love, leading to the death of Black Widow. After the chaos of the final battle with Thanos, he is reunited with his family.
Kate Bishop (Marvel Comics)
Hailee Steinfeld steps into the role of Kate Bishop in Hawkeye, bringing a beloved comic character into the MCU for the first time. Bishop first appeared in 2005’s Young Avengers, where she would become the third character to take on the identity of Hawkeye (after Clint and Wyatt McDonald of the Squadron Supreme) in the 12th issue of that series, when Barton was considered dead after the action of Avengers No. 502. Kate is a skilled archer who helps the Young Avengers take on Kang the Conqueror before fully joining the team, and is later given the Hawkeye mantle under orders of Captain America himself. Later on, following Clint’s reappearance (no one is ever really dead in comics), the two Hawkeyes team up to take on street-level crime in Brooklyn in Fraction and Aja’s 2012 series, which forms much of the basis of Hawkeye.
In the comics and series, Kate Bishop comes from a wealthy Manhattan family (Vera Farmiga plays her mother, Eleanor, on Disney+). In the comics, a young Kate follows her father, Derek, to a meeting with a criminal named El Matador, where she crosses paths with the Avengers and Hawkeye. She’s drawn to the archer because, like Kate, he has no superpowers, only mad skills. Even after the return of Clint Barton’s Hawkeye, Kate Bishop often used the same identity, with Clint once saying, “The world is big enough for two Hawkeyes. For now, at least.” We will see if the same holds true for the MCU.
Yelena Belova (Marvel Cinematic Universe)
In the comics, Yelena Belova is the second character to use the identity of Black Widow. The death of the Natasha Romanoff version of the character, played by Scarlett Johansson, and the introduction of Florence Pugh as her sister Yelena in Black Widow opens the door for that arc to unfold in the MCU as well. When it comes to Hawkeye, the important thing to remember about Yelena happens at the end of the 2021 Cate Shortland film, when Belova is told by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine that Hawkeye is the one responsible for her sister’s death, putting a target on the marksman’s back.
Lucky (Marvel Comics)
In the first Fraction/Aja issue of Hawkeye, Clint Barton encounters a dog as he’s headed into an encounter with a violent group of criminals known as the Tracksuit Mafia (seen in the trailer for the Disney+ series). Clint gives the dog a piece of pizza (leading to the nickname “Pizza Dog”), but the ensuing combat includes the bad guys kicking the poor pooch into traffic, nearly ending his life. Clint takes him to the vet, where Hawkeye names him Lucky, even though the trauma led to the loss of his eye. The one-eyed puppy becomes an ally of both Clint and Kate, and he will almost certainly be a fan favorite on the series. One amazing issue of the Fraction/Aja run (No. 11) is told entirely from Lucky’s point of view.