Marvel's Weird Armored Hawkeye Costume Period, Explained

Today, we look at the shocking turn of events that led to Hawkeye briefly using a battle armor in the comics.

In every installment of “If I Pass This Way Again,” we look at comic book plot points that were rarely (sometimes NEVER!) mentioned again after they were first introduced.

When Solo Avengers launched in 1987, it was ostensibly a series where creators could tell original stories featuring, well, you know, solo members of the Avengers. A way to get more insight into the members of the team that don't have their own series. However, for something like this, Marvel figured that it needed a main character, and so the book was nominally Solo Avengers, it was really a Hawkeye solo book that just happened to have a different back-up story in each issue featuring a different solo member of the Avengers. After time, when John Byrne requested that West Coast Avengers be renamed Avengers West Coast so that it could be racked next to Avengers at comic book stores, the same change occurred with Solo Avengers, with the title becoming Avengers Spotlight.

After a few years (and two different writers on the main Hawkeye feature, Tom DeFalco and Howard Mackie), the book was pretty much on its last legs, so a new writer, Steve Gerber, was brought in to try to mix things up a bit and hopefully keep the book going for a while longer.

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HAWKEYE GAINS BATTLE ARMOR

In Avengers Spotlight #30 (by Gerber, Al Milgrom and Don Heck), Clint Barton and his wife, Bobbi, are out having a good time away from their superhero careers when they witness a drive-by shooting.

It's a bit odd that Clint is not familiar with the concept of drive-by shootings, but whatever. So Hawkeye pretty much declares war on the gang that is behind the shootings, the Stone Perfs, but he soon realizes that he is a bit of his depths as one of the snitches he uses is murdered after talking to him and sent to him as a message...

He doesn't give up, though, and is lured into a trap where he is open fire on from a bunch of gang members from a rooftop...

The distance of the shooting (so that A. a lot of shots missed and B. the shots that did hit didn't do quite as much damage as they would had they been fired at close range) and the fact that a young neighborhood kid called 911 are the only reasons that Hawkeye survived...

When Hawkeye regained consciousness, he asked to speak to Tony Stark, who he then had put together a new suit of armor specially for Hawkeye...

At the end of the issue, Hawkeye continues his war on the Stone Perfs, only now he is decked out in a sleek and badass battle armor...

This new armor continued as part of the Hawkeye feature for the next five issues (one issue had no Hawkeye feature in it).

THE HAWKEYE FEATURE ENDS

The design of the armor lent itself to some distinctive covers, like this James Fry/Chris Ivy one...

or this Steve Lightle one...

In the end, Hawkeye tracks down the head of the Stone Perfs, but things go bad and Hawkeye is almost killed when the bad guy is killed by the same young boy who saved Hawkeye's life earlier in the story. Hawkeye feels obligate to let the boy go...

When he returns to the Avengers headquarters, both USAgent and Mockingbird push him for details, but he refuses to give any....

And that, cover-dated September 1990, was the final issue of the series to star Hawkeye (it had four more issues starring some solo Avengers before closing down for good)...

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THE HAWKEYE BATTLE ARMOR GOES BY THE WAYSIDE

When the armor debuted in Avengers Spotlight, Avengers West Coast was in the middle of a story, so the armor didn't show up in those issues, nor did it appear in the fill-in issues that followed. In a storyling from Avengers West Coast #65-68 (by Roy and Dann Thomas, Paul Ryan and Danny Bulanadi), Hawkeye STILL didn't use his armored look....

The next issue, though, by Thomases, Ryan and Bulanadi, notably opens with Hawkeye in the armor...

He and USAgent are finally having it out now that Agent had been kicked off of the team (not exactly kicked off the team, but rather that the United States government no longer required that USAgent be a member of the team like before, so he could be kept or removed and in a vote among the various members, USAgent did not get enough votes to remain on the team)...

USAgent tests Hawkeye's armor by exploding a blast arrow under the armor...

It survived, but not in great shape...

Hawkeye then decides he wants to fight USAgent without his armor (after taunting USAgent with simply just the facts about the character, like how he had friends of his pretend to attack him so that he could defeat them and look good)...

USAgent has super strength, so the fight goes poorly for Hawkeye, but he continues to hang in there, even after Agent accidentally throws him off of a cliff (Hawkeye uses a grappling line to save himself)...

The other Avengers then break up the fight and tell USAgent that he is officially off of the team and that Hawkeye is now on probation for the fight.

In the next issue (Steven Butler on pencils), Hawkeye is back to his original costume and he never goes back to the sleek armor...

He does, though, later get a different sort of armored costume after Mockingbird is killed in Avengers West Coast #100. USAgent, by the way, rejoined the team in the next story arc after proving himself worthy of being on the team.

If anyone else has a suggestion for a future If I Pass This Way Again, drop me a line at [email protected]

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Brian Cronin (15300 Articles Published)

CBR Senior Writer Brian Cronin has been writing professionally about comic books for over fifteen 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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