Monday, April 14, 2014

Avengers Firsts: Hawkeye

Tales of Suspense #57 (September 1964)(cover by Don Heck)
"Hawkeye, the Marksman!"
Stan Lee-Don Heck

NOTE: Whenever I try to convert art from one of the Gitcorp dvd-roms to .jpg files, the full-page images frequently come out distorted. Apologies from the start for our less than stellar outcomes today on the visuals! -- Doug

Doug: Welcome to the BAB, post-"Secret Empire"! I think everyone got some degree of satisfaction out of our long tour through that pivotal tale in the life of Captain America. And since Cap always puts most of us in an Avengering mood, Karen and I thought it would be cool to finish the month of April with our own "Marvel Firsts" geared toward the Kooky Quartet era of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes". Today we're obviously kicking things off with everyone's favorite loud-mouthed bowslinger. Next week we'll check in on the debut of the Maximoff twins (on display... oh wait -- that's for Wednesday's FULLY SPOILED Captain America post!), and then we'll conclude with a minor (haha -- is anything minor when the Son of Zeus is involved?) tussle between Thor and Hercules! So buckle in -- there's quite a bit of Silver Age fun winging your way over the next few weeks.

Karen: We probably haven't spent enough time on the Silver Age, really. Sure, we're the Bronze Age Babies, but the Silver Age is our foundation!

Doug: You have my agreement. I have really had a blast the times I've reviewed some of the Silver Age Avengers that are my favorites, and of course we could hardly contain ourselves when we both took a look at Silver Surfer #4. I enjoyed this on my first read a few weeks ago, as I'm not sure I'd ever read the entire story before! Wow -- does this take us back to a simpler time in Marvel history, when each hero's Achilles heel still stood out and influenced the stories month-to-month and individual personalities were still being honed by the creators. Oh, and the soap opera aspect... this one, as they say, has it all!

Karen: You got it right when you said that the "personalities were still being honed by the creators." It was only 1964 after all, for this tale and next week's Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch debut. The characters, as we know them, were not quite there yet.

Doug: Not quite. But when we get to Hercules... Boy, did Stan and Jack get it right the first time with the Lion of Olympus! So we open at one of Tony Stark's factories, where Iron Man saves one of Stark's laborers from a quite precarious situation. But while Iron Man settles everyone down and receives thanks from the assemblage of workers, Happy Hogan comes by and asks for a minute alone with Iron Man. The Golden Avenger fears that something is wrong elsewhere, but Happy tells him that he only wants a favor: since Iron Man is so close to Mr. Stark, couldn't Iron Man ask Mr. Stark to help him out in getting a date with Pepper Potts. We quickly scene shift to Stark's office where he puts his regular clothes over his chestplate. You knew I wasn't going to last long in evading the "rubber mask" conundrum we BABers always complain about. C'mon -- the chestplate must have some serious rigidity to it -- does Stan Lee mean to tell me that no one ever playfully gave him a punch to the midsection? And what of the light on Iron Man's chest? Not exactly a smooth contour on that thing, either. But anyway... I suppose it's not quite as bad as Cap's shield "hidden" under his shirt.

Karen: I'm struck by how un-armorlike Iron Man's suit looks! It's just so soft and round, like the Mego doll. But yes, the idea of a man wearing an iron breastplate under his shirt going undetected seems ludicrous, just like carrying around said armor in a briefcase, but it was a different age.

Doug: I never did wrap my mind around that whole flexible armor deal as a child. And then when Nova came out, we were told that his helmet became like tissue paper when removed from his head. Yeah, whatever.

Doug: So Tony, being loyal to Happy, approaches Pepper about "a date". Well, Stupid, what did you think she was going to hear? And poor Happy, standing just off to the side while Pepper leaps into Stark's surprised arms. Happy sort of tucks his tail and leaves the room, while Stark has to quickly figure out an idea for a date he really doesn't want to go on. Well, maybe I should say a date he shouldn't go on. Of course we're subjected to the Silver Age trope of "I love the girl, but I could never... (fill in the blank depending on the hero)". Heck yes, Stark wants to pursue Pepper, but with the heart thing, the Iron Man thing, the fact that Happy also loves her thing. You know, superheroing stinks -- really it does. So Tony takes Pepper to the boardwalk, mostly in hopes that she'll think he's a schmuck and he won't have to worry about their love for each other becoming openly known. While checking out the various attractions, they pass by a booth wherein toils Hawkeye, the World's Greatest Marksman. However, trouble's brewing elsewhere on one of the rides.

Karen: This whole sequence is so bizarre - such a contrived situation. Stark loves her, but has to keep her away, and he wants to drive her towards Happy, so he takes her on a terrible date... it's weird.

Doug: I was glad in the films when they just said to heck with it and it was pretty obvious that Pepper and Tony were lovers. Maybe angst doesn't play in the 21st century? Iron Man makes short work of the near-catastrophe at the "flying pinwheel" ride, and of course the assemblage of carnival goers cheers widely. And in the first example of a character trait we'll see run through those early appearances in the Avengers, Hawkeye watches from afar, feeling quite inferior. He's actually pretty put out that folks dropped what they were doing to watch Shellhead in action. So Hawkeye (no Clint Barton in this story, and not for a long time if memory serves) stalks off to his workshop where he sets about crafting some trick arrows and designing a costume. And I'll declare, he designs a keeper -- it's one of the Marvel Comics costumes that's stood the test of time with only minor alterations here and there.

Karen: Did the situation with Iron Man inside the spokes of the pinwheel remind you at all of the Avengers film, with Iron Man inside the helicarrier's rotor? It's a pretty slim impetus for Hawkeye's origin -pure envy. But I guess it's as good as any, and certainly that aspect of his personality -the underdog always trying to prove himself -has been consistent. What made me chuckle a bit was some of Hawkeye's dialog here, where he says stuff such as, "Let Iron Man and every costumed adventurer look to his laurels! For Hawkeye is about to make them all look sick!" and "I feel as though the destiny of the entire city below me is in my powerful gloved hands!" Doesn't quite sound like the bowslinger we know, does it? 

Doug: The new-and-improved Hawkeye then sets out to reinforce his belief that he's pretty darned good. It's also for our benefit, so we see just what this cat can do. Hawk fires off an arrow with a rope for swinging, which he uses to Spidey-it around town. But very soon he comes across a robbery in progress. Playing hero, Hawkeye uses a conventional arrow to pin the robber's jacket to a phone pole. But the creep's able to wriggle free, and beats it on foot. Hawkeye drops to the ground to inspect the guy's booty (haha - as Winwood sang, when you see a chance, take it) and finds that the heist had included a whole bunch of precious gemstones. But as fate would have it, two cops on a beat happen upon the scene and deduce -- you guessed it -- that Hawkeye is the thief. But since he's not, now he starts running. And he about gets hit, because he runs right out in front of a car driven by -- Madame Natasha, the Black Widow!

Karen: It would be easy to forget that Madame Natasha had started out as a brunette. And of course, she was not a costumed character yet, just a femme fatale Soviet spy. But she was pretty potent in that role. But what a happy coincidence, huh, she's just driving by when this all goes down?

Doug: Natasha, sans costume as you stated, takes Hawkeye to her secret lair. Of course we know the character Clint Barton will become, and his weaker attributes are on full display here -- namely, the fact that he can't resist a pretty skirt! The Widow reads this right away and exploits Hawkeye's infatuation. She tells him that she has an enemy she'd like defeated -- the Invincible Iron Man! But, she cautions, his employer Tony Stark must not be harmed. Hawkeye takes both halves of the command as a challenge, and sets his mind toward winning the heart of his new Russian flame. Meanwhile, we visit Stark in his factory lab, all ablaze with passion for Pepper Potts. Stark's so smitten by her, he about walks out of his lab half-dressed in his armor! It's unclear where the next few panels take place -- in the firm's offices, or perhaps at Pepper's place? Anyway, Happy is there and he's mustered his courage to ask Pepper for a date. Stark walks in, and Pepper decides to play him. Right when Happy feels he's about to get rejected again, Pepper agrees to a date! Stark takes it in stride... this is one odd love triangle here.

Karen: I never read a lot of Tales of Suspense or early Iron Man issues to know if Stark ever really had a relationship with Pepper. I think by the time I started reading it, she was already with Happy. But the whole thing just seems very uncomfortable.

Doug: All of the dodging of potential significant others that played out in most superhero mags really makes you appreciate Barry Allen and Iris West, doesn't it? At least Barry was trying. But I'm no Flash fan or reader, so don't quote me on that.

Doug: Outside of Stark's factory Hawkeye begins his assault. He launches a suction-tipped arrow across a divide, then cables to the building. Scaling the wall, he avoids guards and a vehicle in the process. Now ready to set off his full attack, he fires a blast arrow that creates an explosion. Security comes running, but outpacing them is the Golden Avenger. Hawkeye waits in the shadows, readying the perfect shot to take out his target. This scene is well-written by Stan Lee, and quite formative. Hawkeye had perfected arrows tipped with various chemicals, and once Iron Man was in range he was pelted with several projectiles that released a solution that caused I.M.'s armor to... rust! OK, seriously? You don't think Stark would have taken his get-up to the local Ziebart dealer? Apparently not, because he starts to go all Tin Man on us. He scrambles for a hiding place, finding one in the rafters. He peels off the affected  pieces, and thinks that he must get to his extra armors, stashed around the factory grounds (I got a real Norman Osborn vibe out of this).

Karen: It does seem rather silly now to see Iron Man defeated by rust -particularly seeing him crawling around with bare arms and legs! All of the Marvel characters seemed far more human, far more fallible in these early years. In this issue, Hawkeye is a convincing challenge for Iron Man, but as the years went on, the gap in their power levels would expand dramatically. I doubt anyone today would consider Hawkeye to be in Iron Man's league.

Doug: Hawkeye comes across the discarded pieces of Iron Man's armor and figures that anyone able to discern their properties could become quite powerful himself. So as he packs up his "finders-keepers", Stark makes it to a spare attache' case. He quickly replaces the damaged segments of his armor. However, he's missing a right boot; without that, he figures he's no match for Hawkeye without full mobility. Remembering that he'd needed to repair it in another part of the factory, but had to hide it at the time, Stark finally gets himself together and is ready to face the marksman. Trouble now is, Hawkeye's beaten it out of Dodge. So Shellhead takes to the air in pursuit. It doesn't take long before he finds a lone car, speeding in the direction away from the factory. Now I'm no Sherlock Holmes, and I'll bet Tony Stark isn't either. I mean, would you just assume that because the car is doing what you think Hawkeye's car would be doing that it would be OK to open fire on it? Well, Iron Man does just that. Hawkeye was indeed in it, and emerges from the crash ready for battle. But this time Iron Man has the advantage.

Karen: He really blows the crap out of that car!
Doug: Aye, that he does! And then... and then the story get ridiculous. Iron Man and Hawkeye tussle in an open area near some docks. Hawkeye launches an arrow that releases a net of nylon strands, but Iron Man is able to break loose before it constricts. Hawkeye's maneuvered onto a pier. Now I don't know how many of you have been by a river/lake/pond/ocean with a pier. But if you haven't, I have to tell you, kids -- there isn't any fulcrum in the set-up! But you wouldn't know that here, as Iron Man rises high in the sky, only to plummet like a missile onto the end of the pier opposite his nemesis. Yup -- Hawkeye is launched up and off the pier as if he'd been on a see saw. And then... it gets more ridiculous. Hawkeye lands on a tall pile, clinging to it with both arms and both legs. Iron Man swoops in and grabs the top of the pile... and pulls it like you'd pull a toy catapult -- whiplashing our archer right off and far away! Iron Man follows him and pulls him out of the drink, unconscious.

Karen: The action here was cartoonlike. I almost wonder if they were running out of space and had to wrap the fight up quickly.

Doug: To be honest, I had it set in my mind that this was a split book, so I felt like there were at least two codas to the action! Watching from afar was the Black Widow, who'd arrived by boat to pick up Hawkeye after his victory. But unbeknownst to her, a set of circumstances was shaping up that would prove the endgame here. Iron Man moved away from his unconscious charge, and as he walked away, Hawkeye reached into his arsenal and pulled out the head of the "demolition arrow" -- a little warhead he'd cooked up with Natasha's help. Righting himself, Hawkeye let 'er rip. But he hadn't calculated the power of Iron Man's armor -- and that it would deflect the arrow straight toward the Widow. Knocked unconscious by the blow. Now crazed with fear, Hawkeye scoops up his would-be lover and makes tracks for her vessel. Iron Man, still staggered from the force of the demolition arrow, tries to follow. However, he pulls back immediately as an airplane taking off from nearby LaGuardia Airport buzzes him. Hawkeye gets away.

Karen: I like the way Heck drew the sequence with Hawkeye getting up and then firing the arrow at Iron Man. That had a real sense of suspense and excitement. The melodrama here could be cut with a knife, as Hawkeye professes that Natasha is the only one he's ever loved -he just met her!

Doug: What a wonderful slice of early Marvel Universe life this one is, huh? It has all the hallmarks of a Stan Lee Silver Age yarn, what with the romantic angst, the Communist threat, an anti-hero, and some cool tech. And this is the Don Heck that I like, before rigor mortis hit his figurework. I thought Hawkeye appeared pretty much fully-formed, with no trouble at all recognizing him from his later appearances as a member of Cap's Kooky Quartet. Solid effort all the way around, here.

Karen: I don't think Hawkeye was exhibiting his smart-aleck ways yet, but his rebel personality was definitely in place. You can tell they are still figuring out things at this stage, but it's still a lot of fun to see the Marvel Universe taking shape.

Doug: Bonus! This comic book was one of the lucky ones that was adapted (converted?) into an episode of the 1966 series Marvel Super-Heroes. So, if you're so inclined, you can "watch along" and then come back for a re-read of our review! Enjoy!


Fred W. Hill said...

"Powerful gloved hands"??? Stan wasn't looking too closely at the art when he penned that line! Interesting that this depiction of the early Black Widow doesn't really fit the much later depiction of Natasha as a highly trained, athletic Soviet super-spy. And how the heck did someone like Hawkeye create, never mind afford, all those various trick arrows? One of the drawbacks to his sort of powers is that he can seem to pull any sort of arrow that fits the need out of his quiver, although at least as far as I recall he never brought out one with a boxing glove! Still, Hawkeye was an interesting character from the get-go -- certainly not a typical baddie out to conquer the world or only interested in making a few dishonest bucks, but someone with a chip on his shoulder and a string of mostly bad luck who barely stays out of serious trouble. Some potentially redeeming features all along.

Edo Bosnar said...

I also always found it annoying that the heroes in so many of these Silver Age Marvel stories stoically couldn't profess their love to a women for, well, reasons, but there's one aspect here that I actually think is pretty noble: Stark not making a move on Pepper because Happy also loves her. That actually seems like a pretty stand up stance on Tony's part.
Otherwise though, as someone who thinks the Michelinie/Layton run is the be-all, end-all best-ever Iron Man run, I think Tony's one-and-only should be Bethany. That's one of the things I don't like about the movies.

Also, I totally agree about Hawkeye's costume. Heck sure did a heck of a job on that one :P Sorry, couldn't resist...

david_b said...

I'm not exactly sure just how many Silver outfits Donny Heck created, this one may be his most memorable..

Yep, fully agreed this was Heck at his action-best, besides some early Avengers sequences. The sparing of Clint and Steve Rogers later in the quartet was inspired genius. It was a wholly new and nice Marvel-styled team dynamic the distinquished competition was never able to truely counter with with GA and the JLA. One big arguable rationale was the Silver Age JLA (or solo member..) stories didn't possess any character development, depth or background to sink teeth into, so GA had no basis for any undercurrent to drivedistrust or ire. Despite Ollie becoming the O'Neil token liberal, he still ended up as 'that guy' who spouted insults for the sake of humor, nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Hawkeye and the Vision were my two favourite Avengers and they both started off as villains. Hawkeye's costume is indeed excellent, even the capital H looks good which usually looks ridiculous on other characters (Superman or the capital G on the first appearance of Galactus lol). However they still chose not to use Hawkeye's proper costume in the recent films. Don't forget that Nova's costume was alien technology which explains his helmet's odd properties - alien technology can do anything :)

Doug said...

Colin, I generally don't mind the dopiness of the letters adorning the various costumes of our four-color friends. But I thought Man of Steel gave a nod to your posit when Superman told Lois that it wasn't an "S" on his chest.

The "G" on Galactus's togs seems very silly, as he's an alien. However, isn't it true that any planet's denizens see the Big G as they see themselves? In that case, I guess the "G" would be appropriate.

David, good question as to the characters Don Heck created. Wow -- he might get credit for most of what went on during his runs on Iron Man and the Avengers. The Living Laser, Swordsman, Power Man, Ultimo, etc. Was he the first artist on the Mandarin?


david_b said...

I read in the wikipedia entry for Hawkeye that the movie costume used was opted for 'more believability'..

Weak, weak, weak.

If the Barton character had registered better with perhaps 'more steam' and a more distinctive attitude, he could wear virtually anything and still come across as a decent, cocky hero. As it stands, he's portrayed as a guy who likes to shoot arrows.


Garett said...

Pretty nice art by Heck here. His faces are way better than how he drew them in later years, and I like the non-superhero regular scenes here--the early scene with Stark and Pepper and the date, the carnival, the jewel thief. His superhero action here is ok, but I find in general for Heck that when things go into action, there's a lightweight feeling that takes away from the action's impact. He'd be appropriate for a flying character who glides, lighter-than-air.

Humanbelly said...

That "Powerful gloved hands" goof is actually a pretty famous one, I think-- it was featured in the NO-PRIZE BOOK one-shot, in fact.

Boy, regarding Hawkeye's trick-arrow technology-- early in the Kooky Quartet era we see him testing out this brand new "anti-gravity" arrow that he came up with, levitating an entire safe with it. I laughed out loud the instant I read it. This is a guy who likely doesn't even have his GED, and he's unraveled a physics/enginering riddle reserved for the likes of Reed Richards, the Wizard, and Kang? Hawkeye's trick arrows very quickly became another version of Thor's hammer, where whatever tricky solution was needed to untie the hero(s) from the metaphorical train tracks, an arrow (or the hammer) was certain to possess the means or ability to do it. (Am I remembering that Thor once used his spinning hammer to induce hypnosis-?)

I can suspend my disbelief just enough to buy the swingin' around the city on a series of rope arrows (what happens if you run out??). . . but anti-grav arrows?? Aren't there perhaps slightly more useful applications for that kinda tech???


david_b said...

HB, the 'anti-grav' arrow's not too hard to imagine. Utilizing Marvel Universe science,

a) A bio-chemist like fellow Avenger Dr. Pym could have made that; or

b) Wanda zapped the arrow with some permanent probability hex.

Since the Panther probably wasn't a member yet depending on the ish you referenced (who'll one day master a set of wings for Sam Wilson, yet make him climb a pole to use 'em..), he's certainly not responsible.

Why do I have to figure these things out for everyone..??

Day job, people, day job.

david_b said...

And if you didn't noticed, my tongue was firmly wedged painfully into my cheek.

No exit strategy either..


Anonymous said...

I don't know if it was by choice or by chance, but Marvel had a bit of a run with the Medieval theme characters. Iron Man went from the grey to the gold and then red and gold, but he's still known as the Golden Avenger. Hawkeye, the Swordsman and the Black Knight. Didn't the Swordsman have buttons on his hilt to make his sword do different things?

And yes, Marvel was populated with it's share of geniuses, Reed, Stark, Parker, Pym even Blake was a doctor, but I don't think your level of schooling was indicative of your intelligence. Remember when Bill took an electronics class by mail and then told off his boss. I don't think it was far fetched for Barton to whip up some blast arrows, a rope arrow, some chemical arrows and what not (etc etc etc and so on and so forth). Those carnys were well known travelling hazardous waste sites.
Have you eaten a corn dog? Or fries? Or Funnel Cakes? It's not just frying that makes it unhealthy.

The vibe I always felt with Hawkeye was a Robin Hood vibe. A bandit with a heart of gold. I know we got hints of his origins, but wouldn't he have been in that 17 - 19 range during this time? As for falling in love so quickly. Hormones! Does it every time.

Costume question for Hawkeye, wasn't there a time when his costume became a chain mail mesh al a Cap's to provide him more protection but he later dumped it cause it made him too heavy?

The Prowler (looking for his last remaining blast arrow to help david_b with that stuck tongue).

humanbelly said...

The sad thing, daveB, is that I really did try to find a way to feasibly justify the anti-grav arrow myself. . . pretty much as you suggested above! Couldn't get myself to swallow it, even at that. No, IIRC this was pretty early in his membership-- possibly right around the time of the Swordsman's introduction-- and Hawkeye hadn't made any other major contacts yet that might give him a hand (Hank hadn't even rejoined the team yet). Grnrgh-- and of course I'm pretty he sure he even gave himself credit for making it during his ongoing chatter (Out loud. To himself. Very healthy. . . ). Man, I contorted my belief to the breaking point. . . and just couldn't make it stick.

Prowler, Swordy did indeed have a bunch of buttons and controls added to his sword by the Mandarin-- for his second encounter with the Avengers, I believe? To my mind, it just made him less impressive and formidable--- little more than any other thug w/ a high tech swiss army knife.


Anonymous said...

Nice origin issue for our favourite archer! It's interesting to see Hawkeye was almost a fully formed character right out of the gate. His rebelliousness and lack of respect for authority seems evident even here; this of course was to become the trademark feature of his character later on.

It's also interesting to see the early incarnation of the Black Widow compared to the later version most people know from the movies. Iron Man defeated by rust? Seems laughable until you read the Spidey comic where ol' webhead defeats the Sandman by sucking him into a vacuum cleaner!

- Mike 'arrow with boxing glove? Hey this ain't Green Arrow buddy!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Fred W. Hill said...

And how fun was it that during his Bronze Age run on the Avengers and Defenders, Englehart managed to arrange that Hawkeye quit the Avengers in a huff and hooked up with the Defenders, a team that had a sword-slinging heroine, and the Swordsman wound up becoming a genuine member of the Avengers, all in time so that when the Avengers & Defenders clashed, Hawkeye could take on Iron Man again for the first time in about 9 years, and the Swordsman and Valkyrie could engage in a swordfight, the latter believing she was helping to save yet another sword-slinging hero, the Black Knight! And lo and behold, while Val and Swordsy laid on each other with the flats of their blades in traditional superhero with a sword mode, the Swordsman did use his sword to exact fatal vengeance on the guy who shot him in the back. Now that I think about it, that seems like something the CCA would not have allowed to pass just a few years earlier. Outside of Conan and other sword & sorcery mags, heroes were never shown killing anyone in such fashion. Couldn't even imagine Hawkeye (at least the Silver or Bronze age version) ever taking such retaliatory action. Accidentally killing Egghead while trying to prevent Egghead from killing someone else was an entirely different matter.

B. Lloyd said...

I have to say something about the artist Don Heck. He got a lot bad press in his later years. According to an interview I read in the Comics Journal he suffered a lot of personal tragedy in his life and hence his art suffered. First and foremost Don was a terrific Romance Comics artist and you can see it in the non-super-hero scenes. He didn't fit the Kirby mold everyone was forced to go into because Stan would pressure all his artists to draw like Kirby.

But I digress, Don's style of art was what got me interested in the Avengers and I've read the early Masterworks Editions several times over.

Edo Bosnar said...

B. Lloyd, nice to see some kind words for Heck. I often tend to be a lone voice here defending his later work - and I totally agree with you, he did some great work in romance comics (at least in the few examples I've seen).

david_b said...

I'd agree we can be a bit hard on some artists around here (comics being predominantly a visual medium..), but it's been said often enough that Heck's early Avengers work verges on perfection, especially around the kooky quartet-era. I always loved how he masterfully drew Cap and the rest back then, kept excellent action-pacing, and was an obvious choice Kirby on the book.

A few other Silver Age artists suffered the same fate by comparison. Carmine's name comes up on occasion in this area, although I found his occasional Bronze work on DD and Howard, even SW, still very warm yet distinctive..., and his final tenure on the Flash was bittersweet and wonderful.

Perhaps it's also ill-assigned inkers, but Don's later Bronze years at DC (Titans, Batman Family) were indeed a legend whose best years seemed behind him.

Garett said...

Hey B. Lloyd, I haven't seen Heck's romance comics, but I'd like to, as his style would be perfect for that, or straight dramas. I also think he'd be good at superhero spoofs like Marie Severin use to do, as his superheroics have a light touch.

Ace Frehley Jr said...

I cant read a Don Heck comic.

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