Hawkeye fans are happier than ever to get regular installments of their favorite character in the new Disney+ series, but the MCU’s iteration of the archer is quite different from the Clint Barton of the mainstream Marvel universe. With parallels closer to the Hawkeye of Ultimate Marvel, the MCU version is grounded in the updated reboot of the character that debuted in 2002. But, the direction the character went in the comics after 2002 is far different than the one the MCU’s version is headed in.
Ultimate Hawkeye became a violent and gritty antihero as his character developed. The MCU’s Hawkeye flirted with development in the same direction, but as his Disney+ series unfolds it seems he is headed down a completely opposite path.
In his original incarnation of the comics, Hawkeye gained his skills during his childhood in the circus and used them for a life of crime before becoming a costumed adventurer and eventual Avenger. He was clad in a purple costume and had a brash personality that often put him in conflict with his teammates. The character proved frequently flamboyant and even arrogant over the years as he grew into a team leader. This may come as a surprise to fans unfamiliar with the comics who know the archer better through his role as the MCU, and that’s because the classic Hawkeye was not the real inspiration for the live-action version. In order to find the MCU’s inspiration, readers would do better to look to the comics of the Ultimate Marvel line.
Fashioned as an update and reboot to the Marvel universe whose alternate-reality setting typically left its subjects more grounded, Ultimate Marvel was the perfect opportunity to give Hawkeye a retooling. He was introduced in Ultimates #7 (by Mark Millar, Bryan Hitch, Andrew Currie, Paul Mounts, and VC’s Chris Eliopulos), and his origins were left unexplained for years as he served in a more lowkey capacity as a supporting character. He was presented primarily as a secret agent and a professional on the battlefield. Ultimate Hawkeye also kept his personal life with his wife and children separate from his work as a superhero where he only came into the public eye after fighting off an alien invasion alongside his teammates. If that all sounds similar, it’s because it was the exact mold the MCU used for the character during his early installments in the Avengers franchise.
At the same time though, Ultimate Hawkeye’s progression diverged markedly from his incarnation in the MCU. During Ultimates 2 his family was murdered brutally in front of his eyes, drastically altering his characterization from thereon out. He changed his costume and started wielding firearms in tandem with his signature bows and arrows. Hawkeye became entirely consumed by his work as a government assassin and superhero. He openly murdered or threatened those he targeted on several occasions, and across the board, the character he became is a far cry from the sanitized iteration of the MCU.
That is not to say that the MCU’s Hawkeye has not undergone his own development into darker realms. Endgame showed how the loss of Hawkeye’s family during the Snap pushed the hero into his darker persona as Ronin, murderously meting out justice on the criminal underworld until his allies recruited him into a plan that saved his family. Their loss was more bloodless and temporary in the MCU than in Ultimate Marvel, and, the two characters, at last, diverged at a crucial point in spite of their common origins. The MCU’s Hawkeye endeavors down a path toward redemption his Ultimate Marvel version never had.
With the new Disney+ series portraying Hawkeye as a father figure and mentor to the likes of Kate Bishop, in a largely bloodless tale of Christmas-time shenanigans, it’s clear the character’s progression is bound for a much lighter path. Reckoning with his past sins as Ronin is a major theme in the series, but for Ultimate Hawkeye there was never any such reckoning.
During the rest of his run until the end of the Ultimate Marvel line, Hawkeye embraced the lethality he descended into without ever questioning it or backing down on it. The update to the character may have been more palatable for a live-action adaptation compared to the purple circus performer when he started out, but it seems that Ultimate Hawkeye’s parallels to the MCU are at an end.
from Ultimate Comic Blog