By Brian Truitt, USA TODAY
Published: 4/16/2012 1:57:53 PM
As Hawkeye is about to shoot onto the big screen in a major way thanks to the movie The Avengers, writer Matt Fraction is getting ahold of the man under the comic-book archer's purple goggles.
Fraction, who penned new Iron Man and Thor series in recent summers pegged to their films, takes on the adventures of Clint Barton and his costumed alter ego in Marvel Comics' Hawkeye, an ongoing series beginning in August that reteams Fraction with his The Immortal Iron Fist artist, David Aja.
"You could do worse than have the biggest movie of the summer hype your book up for the world," Fraction says of The Avengers (in theaters May 4), which features Oscar-nominated actor Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye.
Since the character's debut as an apparent criminal back in the 1960s, the Avengers' ace with a bow and arrow has been mainly a leader, of the West Coast Avengers, Thunderbolts and more recently the Secret Avengers. The aspect that Fraction was most interested in exploring, though, was the dude underneath the hero togs and what drives him when he's not at work.
"Rather than try to define what Hawkeye's role is in the Avengers, I wanted to define what is Clint Barton's role in Hawkeye — who is he and what drives him and why is he our lead?" Fraction says.
"I could close my eyes and see this Aja drawing of him with a Band-Aid across the bridge of his nose, and I got it. That's our guy. He's the Marvel Universe's Jim Rockford."
Like that old TV private eye from the 1970s, Hawkeye will be helping the people who need it the most: the little guy. And coming from the wrong side of the tracks, he knows some sketchy people, and sometimes it's good to be a "superhero" with supervillain knowledge, Fraction says.
While there will be plenty of action in the series, he adds, it won't always be in the purple getup. "Not that there's any lack of that but he's just as likely to be wearing a T-shirt and jeans at any given moment. It's his life as an action star."
Both Fraction and Aja had a certain affinity for the character as kids. It was Aja's favorite superhero and he still has a Hawkeye drawing the artist did in the third grade, Fraction says. The writer himself was a fan of the late Mark Gruenwald's Hawkeye miniseries from the 1980s and would design his own trick arrows after staring intently at Peter Sanderson's drawing of Hawkeye's repertoire in the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe series.
So far, though, he hasn't channeled his inner little Fraction to add to the boomerang arrows and electroshock arrows. Not that he's afraid of that, mind you — instead, Fraction has focused on Hawkeye weaponizing what's around him, such as a deck of cards or a roll of quarters.
"Much like Tony Stark always having to carry around a suitcase full of his armor, the minute you write a book in which a dude has to carry around a bow and arrow at all times, it immediately changes the context of a scene," Fraction explains. "You can't just show up with a bow and arrow because you know (stuff's) about to go down.
"OK, if he's not acting as an Avenger at this moment, how would he go be a good guy when things get hairy and he's not allowed to rely on the boomerang arrow? What's he got with him and how does he become formidable?"
His longtime love Mockingbird, Spider-Woman and "other ladies" will be a part of the series, Fraction says, although a female character will be the main co-star of Hawkeye: Kate Bishop, the Young Avengers' Hawkeye.
Both she and her older namesake are both in a "What am I doing with my life" place as Clint comes out of Avengers vs. X-Men and Kate escapes the drama of Avengers: The Children's Crusade.
"Their relationship is very much like The Avengers— by which I mean Steed and Peel rather than the Earth's mightiest heroes," Fraction says, referring to the old British spy series. "They have a sort of mentor/mentee/peer kind of relationship built on a ton of mutual respect and lots of banter and spark. No sexual or romantic tension but a competitiveness — like a fellow spirit. Clint knows when he hangs it up, she's him.
"It's fun having Clint be around a woman he's not going to try and sleep with. And a woman with no interest in sleeping with him," the writer adds. "OK, great, that's out of the way — now what can you get at? He's been presented as a dude who, you know, gets around."
Fraction had fallen for Kate when he was writing an issue that guest-starred her at a time when Clint Barton was known as the hero Ronin. At one time, he had even planned on doing a series with Young Avengers creator Allan Heinberg, largely built on his feelings for the female archer.
"She was a character I wanted to spend time with and tell stories about," Fraction says, "and putting Clint and her together is very happy making for storyteller boy over here."
Being a mentor to Kate and looking for the common man will make Hawkeye a different series than other books and movie starring him, which is an exciting notion for Fraction.
"When the world is saved, of course everybody is helped. It's a different scale," he says. "These are very personal stories for him.
"It's me putting on my best Stephen J. Cannell face and getting to work.