How Marvel Changed Hawkeye's History to Get Him on The Avengers

Today, we look at how Hawkeye's debut as a member of the Avengers was retconned into a WHOLE other thing.

In Abandoned an' Forsaked, we examine comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically "overturned" by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent).

One of the most shocking moments in the early history of the Marvel Age of Comics, a moment that changed things so drastically that it really is amusing to think back and see how anyone could say with pretty much anything nowadays, "That's not what Marvel is about!" when Marvel was marked in the early days by doing all sorts of crazy stuff in the early days, was the change in the Avengers roster in Avengers #16 (by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Don Heck and Dick Ayers), where Kirby and Lee changed over almost the entire Avengers roster, replacing Iron Man, Thor, Giant-Man and Wasp and leaving just Captain America on the team as the leader, while replacing them with three FORMER SUPERVILLAINS, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver (the latter two were members of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants).

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HOW DID HAWKEYE JOIN THE AVENGERS?

Hawkeye, of course, was introduced in Don Heck and Stan Lee's Tales of Suspense Iron Man feature as an archer who wanted to become a superhero, but was instead seduced into supervillainy by the villainous Communist, Black Widow. They become recurring foes of Iron Man, with Black Widow continuing to convince Hawkeye into trying to kill Iron Man, even as Black Widow started to waver in how committed she was to the Communists. However, clearly, Lee thought it was worth moving Hawkeye and the reformed members of the Brotherhood (Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, who had similarly been villains who clearly didn't want to be villains) to the Avengers so that they could be spotlighted on and so you could do more development with them that you couldn't do with the characters with their own features (Lee famously tried to keep the "Big Three" Avengers off of the team for a number of years before Roy Thomas slowly but surely worked them all back into the team).

However, the odd thing about the story was always just HOW Hawkeye joined the team. You see, the Avengers had JUST decided that maybe they'd take some time off when Hawkeye then broke into the Avengers Mansion....

He then had their butler tied up and gagged! I mean, that's just super strange, right? Who tries out for a team by bounding and gagging their butler? I mean, sure, he showed off his archery skills by cutting through the ropes, but it's still a weird approach, right?

And yet somehow, Hawkeye gets through all of the strictest government clearance, despite just recently being a supervillain who specifically fought alongside a Communist supervillain!!

So, yeah, Hawkeye then became an amazing member of the Avengers, but his story of how he got on to the team was always kind of bonkers. It is always funny how Kirby's plots would sometimes just be so all over the place like that. It's not that he didn't care, of course, but he clearly wasn't too worried about these things making TOO much sense (it's funny, even before this issue, Lee was using captions that made it seem like he acknowledged that people WERE collecting these comics and that they were not necessarily disposable entertainment anymore, but I have to think that there was still a bit of a sense of disposability at the time. Kirby, for instance, when he launched the Fourth World, specifically wanted to collect the comics into books, because he felt that books DIDN'T have the disposable aspect to it. Kirby WANTED to move past that in the 1970s, but in 1965, that wasn't likely on his mind). Later writers, though, had other ideas...

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WHAT WAS THE REAL STORY OF HOW HAWKEYE JOINED THE AVENGERS?

Beyond being an excellent comic book writer, Joe Casey is also a longtime Avengers fan, like a BIG Avengers fan, the kind of fan who looked at stories like these and said, "Hey, how could I make that make more sense?" and that was a big part of his excellent 2005 miniseries, Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes by Casey and artists Scott Kolins and Wil Quintana. In the fifth issue of the series, we see that Hawkeye saved Jarvis and Jarvis' mother from some thugs...

Jarvis won't let Hawkeye leave and insists on taking him out for a beer and they talk about Hawkeye's future and it is clear that Jarvis is already thinking about how to get Hawkeye on to the Avengers...

In the following issue, Jarvis tracks Hawkeye down and gives him another lecture about how he thinks Hawkeye should do so much more and it is around this time that Jarvis clearly comes up with his clear plan...

In the following issue, we see Casey, Kolins and Quintana's take on Hawkeye joining the team, including his tying up Jarvis and then releasing him with his amazing archery...

Hawkeye is his regular jerkish self to Jarvis at the time, even calling him "Jeeves" by "mistake"....

But then we see that, of course, this was all a plot by Jarvis and Hawkeye that they cooked up together...

Now, of course, you could debate by whether that was really all that good of a plan, but, well, it worked, so who am I to judge Jarvis and Hawkeye's planning abilities?

A few years later, the great Jim McCann did some a more condensed back story for Hawkeye in the miniseries, Hawkeye: Blindspot, and in the second issue (in flashback sequences by Nick Dragotta and Brad Simpson), we see Jarvis approach Hawkeye after the archer had saved Jarvis and Jarvis' mother...

And McCann kept the stuff about Jarvis helping con Hawkeye's way into the team...

Good stuff.

Okay, folks, if you have any suggestions for future notable comic book retcons, drop me a line at [email protected]!

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Brian Cronin (15136 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over a dozen years now at CBR (primarily with his “Comics Should Be Good” series of columns, including Comic Book Legends Revealed). He has written two books about comics for Penguin-Random House – Was Superman a Spy? And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed and Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent? And Other Amazing Comic Book Trivia! and one book, 100 Things X-Men Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, from Triumph Books. His writing has been featured at ESPN.com, the Los Angeles Times, About.com, the Huffington Post and Gizmodo. He features legends about entertainment and sports at his website, Legends Revealed and other pop culture features at Pop Culture References. Follow him on Twitter at @Brian_Cronin and feel free to e-mail him suggestions for stories about comic books that you'd like to see featured at [email protected]!

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