(CBR) For Clint Barton, better known as Marvel Comics super hero Hawkeye, learning to ask for help has been a harsh and painful lesson that's robbed him of his hearing, isolated him from his friends like Kate Bishop (AKA the Young Avengers' Hawkeye), and made him the target of a vicious Eastern European crime family he dubbed the "Tracksuit Draculas."
In the ongoing "Hawkeye" series writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja have been documenting Clint's journey toward reaching out to his friends and family for assistance. Issue #19 saw the Avenging Archer turn a corner in his personal growth as he and brother Barney (AKA down-on-his-luck super villain turned super hero Trickshot) enlisted the tenants of his Clint's Brooklyn apartment building and some of his super powered friends to help strike a decisive blow against the Draculas.
Even with all those allies, will it be enough? And will Kate Bishop be able to make it out of Los Angeles alive and return to New York in time for the final battle?
These questions will be answered by Fraction, Aja and artist Annie Wu in "Hawkeye" #20-#22, the final issues of the creators' run on the series. CBR News spoke with Fraction about bringing his run with Clint Barton to a close and the recent events that set the stage for his "Hawkeye" end game.
Matt Fraction: It was definitely something we took time and care with. It was important. I worked with an ear doctor and an ASL educator named Rachel Coleman. I also showed the issue to a few deaf friends of mine. So there were a lot of eyes on it to make sure we weren't putting out total gibberish to ASL speakers.
The sign language issue came about because Clint was deafened by Kazi, an assassin in the employ of the Tracksuits, in issue #15, but I understand this is actually an element of the character you're reintroducing to the series?
Yeah, Mark Gruenwald wrote and drew a "Hawkeye" miniseries that served as my first real introduction to the character, the first time I recall really seeing him in the spotlight. To beat the bad guy at the end he uses his own sonic arrow to deafen himself so he can't hear the mind control rays [Laughs] that are causing him and Mockingbird to try and kill each other -- a very real-world solution to a very comic book problem. Then afterward that damage lasted! Through the "Avengers" comics he was hard of hearing and tried to hide it.
There was an issue where the Avengers went on "Late Night With David Letterman" and Hawkeye was nervous about not hearing Dave. He wanted to make sure he got the questions beforehand and that there was no deviation so he could memorize his answers in advance and pass as hearing on television. It was the first time I remember there being lasting damage to a character that I dug and there's something very human about it. I love the sacrifice. Cut to a few years ago, and Christina D'Allesandro, the mother of a hard of hearing child named Anthony Smith, who was resistant to wearing his hearing aids, contacted Marvel about deaf and hard of hearing heroes and the lack of them.
Editor Bill Rosemann and the bullpen came up with Blue Ear, a hard of hearing hero, named after Anthony's hearing aid. There was a nice little bit of press about that and it was years before David and I came to the book, but it kind of rang a bell for me.
And at that point I had kids of my own and we had taught them to sign as infants. Babies, whether they're hard of hearing, deaf, or not, can sign before they can speak. That reduces frustration amazingly when babies can communicate to you what they want instead of just screaming until you guess the right answer. Ten, eleven months in, and you can have rudimentary conversation with your child, and they can tell you exactly what's right or wrong with them at that moment. It's great. So I had picked up a little ASL. I've done a lot of watching and learning with my kids.
Then this character, Blue Ear that Bill helped come up with happened and when the book eventually fell to David and me I knew I wanted to bring that part of his character back. It had kind of been written out as time had gone on.
I don't think there's anything malevolent there; I just think it got scrubbed in the way that things in comics get scrubbed from time to time. I wanted to reintroduce it especially because in the intervening years Jim McCann had introduced and made explicit some of Clint's childhood. Clint's family life was abusive before he and Barney were sent to the orphanage that they ran away from to join the circus.
I don't know that they were the first to put it out there but they made it quite explicit. So the stars just sort of aligned, all these little points made a shape, and I saw a way to tell the story I wanted to tell with Clint Barton. And we started from the first issue. And we got to make him hard of hearing again and I got to lean on David's prodigious genius yet again to present an issue largely in ASL. I have no idea how they're going to translate it for foreign markets. Sorry, rest of the world.
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