Book vs. Movie: How Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye Inspired the Streaming Series

With the premiere of the Hawkeye on Disney+ back in November (the fifth Marvel series to air on Disney+ this year, if you can believe it), Clint Barton became the final founding member of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers team to get his own solo project. It’s about time. The expert marksman (as portrayed by Jeremy Renner) has intrigued movie fans since his first brief, uncredited appearance in Thor back in 2011. But Marvel Comics readers have been familiar with the character for much, much longer.

In the comics, Hawkeye has been affiliated with the Avengers on and off since joining forces with Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in 1965 (fun fact: he originally fought them as a villain). Over the years, many creators have contributed to Hawkeye’s story and development, but perhaps no team has had more influence on his arc than writer Matt Fraction (who serves as an executive producer on the Disney+ series) and illustrator David Aja (whose covers are an obvious inspiration for the show’s promotional material and credit sequence, though he’s said on social media he wasn’t fairly compensated for it). Special credit should also go to colorist Matt Hollingsworth, whose subdued color palette perfectly set the tone.


Now that all six episodes of the limited series have aired, it’s clear that influence is threaded through the whole show, further shaping the MCU version into something more like his comic counterpart. Fraction and Aja began their critically acclaimed run on the solo Hawkeye book in 2012 (the same year The Avengers opened in theaters, and the year the Hawkeye TV series begins, with a flashback to the Battle of New York). It quickly became a massive hit with readers.

Away from the epic chaos of The Avengers, Fraction’s Hawkeye is a more down-to-earth, fully human hero. He’s not the family man he is in the MCU, but a Brooklyn-based bachelor who’s honestly kind of a mess. The villains he takes on are more grounded as well—thugs, criminals, and gangsters more likely armed with guns than super powers. And although Fraction didn’t create the character of Kate Bishop (she’s been around since Young Avengers launched in 2005), he established the familiar dynamic partnership between them, not unlike what we saw in the series. The quick, witty banter between them in the early stages of their mentor/protege relationship is ripped directly from the pages of these books.

If you watched Hawkeye on Disney+ a lot of the material from the comic should be familiar to you, but here are some of the most significant areas of crossover between the two.

Lucky the Pizza Dog

HawkeyeIn the comics, Lucky was originally Clint’s dog, not Kate’s (though she did take ownership of him at one point). He’s still an important part of the story, though (and he was based on Fraction’s own dog). There was even an entire issue told from his point of view. His first owner was a member of the Tracksuit Mafia, but the good boy turned on them after Clint befriended him. That may be why we see him attacking them mid-heist in one of his first scenes in the series. His name was originally Arrow, but Clint changed it to Lucky after he was hit by a car and survived, though he lost an eye in the accident. That disability and his love of pizza both endure in the Disney+ version.

Clint’s Hearing Loss

For the first time in this series, we see the consequences of all those years of being a human always in the middle of the action. MCU Clint now wears a hearing aid, as he has at various times in the comics. In Fraction’s series, he had some hearing loss as a child due to his father’s abuse, but then goes completely deaf when a bad guy sticks exploding arrows in his ears (ouch!). The cause may different, but it’s nice to see the MCU addressing this important aspect of the character. The episode “Echoes,” which features a number of soundless sequences, is reminiscent of an issue of Hawkeye written completely in American Sign Language.

Hawkeye“I was a weapon.”

This phrase is a direct reference to the subtitle of the trade paperback collection of the first five issues of Fraction’s run—Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon. Here’s how Marvel describes it: “Hawkeye. Kate Bishop. Cars. Brawls. And videotape. Clint Barton—AKA the self-made hero Hawkeye—fights for justice… and good rooftop BBQs! And with ex-Young Avenger Kate Bishop by his side, he’s out to get some downtime from being one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in this fan-favorite sensation from creators Matt Fraction and David Aja.” Notably, the car chase that occurs in the third issue was recreated in Episode 3, Dodge Challenger, trick arrows, and all.

Kate’s Past

Kate’s family history is tweaked a bit from the comics, but after the last episode it seems as though it might be closer to that history than it appeared. Kate initially believed her father was a good guy, until she found out he wasn’t. In the series it’s her mother who turns out to be a bad guy, though there are hints she was only cleaning up the mess Kate’s father made when he was alive. Kate believed her mother to be dead, only to find out she wasn’t. So maybe that’s a hint of what’s in store for MCU Kate somewhere down the line.

The Costumes

HawkeyeThe costume Kate sketches for Clint in the diner is a copy (though a poorly drawn one) of Hawkeye’s iconic look in the comics. She even points out the hawk-like mask. He got a makeover in the movies, but in the series he gets an actual comic-inspired outfit when one of their new LARPer friends makes him a new one. Note the trademark arrow on his chest, clearly influenced by Aja’s design. Kate’s coordinated purple costume is also based on her comic-book persona.

The Antagonists

All of the shows antagonists (and there are a lot of them) come from the comics, many of them from the Fraction run. These include Maya Lopez, also known as Echo, Kazi (full name: Kazimierz Kazimierczak), the Tracksuit Mafia (they use the word “bro” a lot in the comics too), and, of course Kingpin. Even Jack has a comic origin as the Swordsman (his full name is Jacques Duquesne). Yelena Belova is also pulled from the page, though a different source (she took over for her sister and became Black Widow), and her interactions with Kate and Clint are purely an MCU invention.

There are so many more Easter eggs and references to find in the show, but that’s part of the fun of it. You may discover more yourself after reading the comic, which we highly recommend you do. Even if you’re not into comics, it’s one of the best ones out there to get started.

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