Comic Art Friday: Chicks dig the longbow

As we noted in a previous Comic Art Friday, archery would appear, on the face of things, to be a poor choice of expertise for a superhero.

Supervillains, after all, tend to be in-your-face types. It seems unlikely that when, say, Dr. Doom is punching you in the face with his armored fists that he will respond politely to your request that he step back about ten yards so that you have room to shoot him with an arrow.

Despite this apparent disadvantage, archers have formed an essential subset of superherodom since its beginnings. In fact, the first masked crimefighter in comics was an archer — The Arrow, who debuted just three months after Superman kick-started the genre in 1938. He was followed in short order by such bow-slinging stalwarts as Golden Arrow, the Spider (not the pulp hero of the same name, but the star of the comic series entitled Alias the Spider), and perhaps the best-known of the bunch, Green Arrow, who stands as one of only five superheroes from the Golden Age of comics to be published continuously from that day to this. (The others are the DC “trinity” of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, plus their Justice League comrade Aquaman — because who doesn’t love a guy who can talk to fish?)

Never one to miss a trend, longtime Marvel Comics editor-in-chief Stan Lee thought, “Hey, we should have one of those archer types, too.” So, in 1964, with the aid of artist Don Heck, Stan the Man created Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye.

Hawkeye, pencils by comics artist Thomas Hodges

Like the other archer superheroes who preceded him, Hawkeye possessed no paranormal abilities. He was simply a talented fellow who knew how to bend a bow with the best of them. Hawkeye did, however, bring new wrinkles to the party — a surly demeanor and an iconoclastic attitude. (Green Arrow, whose debut predated Hawkeye’s by more than two decades, would later adopt similar personality traits.)

Hawkeye became a member of the second generation of the Avengers, Marvel’s front-line super-team. When founding members Iron Man, Thor, Ant-Man and the Wasp simultaneously took leaves of absence, Captain America pulled together a ragtag bunch of Grade B heroes to replace them. Cap’s new Avengers included the Scarlet Witch, her speedster brother Quicksilver, and our man Hawkeye.

In an interesting twist, Clint Barton gave up his bow and arrows for a while to become Goliath, one of numerous identities assumed over the years by Henry Pym, originally known as Ant-Man. Clint used Henry’s infamous Pym Particles to grow himself to giant size. His stint as a super-sized superhero was short-lived (no pun intended), and Clint soon resumed his Hawkeye guise and weaponry.

Hawkeye and Lady Rawhide, pencils and inks by comics artist Ernie Chan

Today, Clint has yet another fighting code name — Ronin — and he’s back in the ranks of the Avengers. The Hawkeye identity continues on, however. It’s now being used by a young woman named Kate Bishop, who carries on Clint’s bow-bending tradition as a member of the Young Avengers.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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One Comment on “Comic Art Friday: Chicks dig the longbow”

  1. Damon Says:

    Not to mention the fact that Bullseye, that crazed, psychotic killer foe of Daredevil’s, is now dressed as and calling himself Hawkeye, at the behest of the equally deranged Norman Osborn.

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