I love Matt Fraction, David Aja and Annie Wu’s Hawkeye. It’s by far my favorite monthly (which I realize is a stretch to still call it that at this point) comic coming from the Big Two. Its mixture of high impact super-heroics, indie sensibilities, film influences, and raw emotion have paved its own niche in the crowded world of cape comics. With its rampant critical success and sales that aren’t anything to sneeze at, Hawkeye (along with Mark Waid’s wonderful Daredevil) sent Marvel into a more idiosyncratic direction that spawned a number of titles that could be noted as “auteur-driven”.
One of the more unique trends I’d seen regarding the series was how it had served as a form of gateway comic for a number of new readers. In my travels at various convention settings, I’ve learned that a lot of these (often-times younger) readers aren’t quite sure where to head next in their comics reading, or whence to dig further into the various references and influences of Fraction, Aja, and Wu that have informed or been worked into the title.
With that said, here’s my take on a “Hawkguy” shopping guide..
Where to go if you’re looking for more Clint and Kate
Secret Avengers and Young Avengers – The obvious place to jump off point if you’re a fan of a series that dictates itself as “What Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger…” is to read about what he’s up to when he is. With Ales Kot’s and Michael Walsh’s work on Secret Avengers and Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers, you can do just that for both Clint and Kate respectively. While other Avengers books, including the previous Nick Spencer-written run on Secret Avengers, also feature Hawkeye at times, Kot and Walsh’s Secret Avengers comes the closest to Fraction’s work in overall tone and feels somewhat of a piece with the sort of “knowing” vibe found in the series. It’s also absolutely bonkers and worthy of attention on its own merits. Young Avengers is, conversely, like all Gillen-McKelvie collaborations, a tonal pop record of a comic. It gives you another look at Kate, with a great focus on her romantic entanglement with Marvel Boy, while also featuring an incredibly diverse cast. Also, both books are colored by the incredible Matt Wilson, Bonus!
Films and Television that inspired the series
Hawkeye is, as previously mentioned, inspired by visual media, with both subtle tonal similarities, and much more overt homages. Here are a few worth noting…
The Long Goodbye – Remember Harold from Kate’s adventure in LA? The cat food buying freelance writer that Kate would encounter in the grocery store and would inspire her to become a “hero for hire”? While the character was created for Tomb of Dracula by Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan, Matt Fraction and Annie Wu basically transformed him into a pastiche of the hero of Robert Altman’s hazy LA noir classic The Long Goodbye. Recently released on Blu-ray this week, treat yourself to one of the best films of a film-making master.
Rio Bravo – What this John Wayne Western classic, that also stars Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson, actually has to do with the finale of Hawkeye is still to be determined. But, the solicit of Hawkeye #21, the first of the upcoming two-part finale, explicitly references it. While it still remains to be seen how much the tale of a small-town sherriff and his unlikely band of allies keeping a murderer behind bars from the attempts of a brother trying to set him free will actually play into the finale…we’ll play it safe and say its a big influence.
Hot Fuzz – In interviews, Annie Wu has specifically cited Edgar Wright as a major inspiration for her work, particularly in her tendency to have disembodied hands pop up into close-ups to deliver notes or a phone. A slighter inspiration for sure, but well worth viewing for those unfamiliar with his work. Given the subject matter at hand, Hot Fuzz, one of Wright’s more under-appreciated films and one based more on a (very!) heightened version of reality than the sci-fi or horror outings that surround it, is probably the way to go.
Enter the Dragon – So much of Hawkeye, especially in its earlier issues, is indebted to 70’s action films. Really, you could find any suitable choice to fill in this slot, from the Steve McQueen starring Bullitt or the Gene Hackman fronted masterpiece The French Connection; but given that Fraction was recently interviewed by NPR about his love of Enter the Dragon, the titular Bruce Lee tour de force, we’ll go with that. You can’t go wrong with the Hackman vehicle either!
The Rockford Files - Even in the promotion of the first issue, Fraction was drawing parallels between Clint Barton and Jim Rockford, the hero of the unusual for its day 70’s detective series The Rockford Files. When you break it down, the similarities are definitely there: a private detective taking on cases of the lost and the dispossessed while living in a trailer off the coast of Malibu, with his life in some state of financial disarray, resorting to humor over violence. While his original James Bond-esque take on the character appears in the two-part Javier Pulido drawn “The Tape” story-line, James Garner’s atypical gumshoe informed a great majority of Fraction’s scripts surrounding it.
Edit: Over Twitter, David Aja was kind enough to add a few films to this list, they are as follows:
Comics at the root of Hawkeye
The comic book inspirations that drive Matt Fraction and David Aja are wide-ranging and could fill up an entire post by itself, but for a wide overview its impossible to overstate the influence of Los Bros Hernandez, Warren Ellis and Howard Chaykin on Fraction, while David Aja is clearly indebted to the work of illustrative wizard David Mazzucchelli. I’ve cited three key works from the first three creators that Fraction himself has signaled out that are must reads, and for Mazzucchelli, while his superhero career was sadly all too short, his revolutionary take on Daredevil with Frank Miller is fitting given that we’re talking about another Marvel character.
Maggie the Mechanic – The first chapter in Jaime Hernandez’s decades-spanning LOCAS story in the legendary Love & Rockets. While both Hernandez brothers were/are equally influential in Fraction’s formative story-telling growth, its the punk rock aesthetic and energy of Jaime that rings closer to the tone of Hawkeye. This is a journey worth taking from the beginning.
Daredevil: Born Again – For my money, maybe the best thing to ever host the Marvel logo. Buy it, if you haven’t already.
Planetary – What The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is to Victorian Literature, Planetary is to Pulp and Comic Books. Everything critics were praising in Ellis’ short run on Moon Knight had its start here. Ellis has worked many comic book wonders, but Planetary is his best, at least for those with a predilection towards superheros and their archetypes.
American Flagg – When it comes to the 80’s works that revolutionized comics everyone talks about Watchmen, The Dark Knight Returns, and Maus. Yet had American Flagg ever stayed in print regularly, there’s no doubt that Howard Chaykin’s opus would be in that conversation as well. Sleek, sexy, whip-smart, and colored like an EGA computer game, American Flagg‘s first 12 issues are must reads for anyone wanting to get a masterclass in great comics.
If anyone has a great suggestion for influences on Annie Wu’s art, please toss them at me in the comments! My knowledge only goes so far.
Music to play in the background while you’re reading all those new comics
Pet Sounds – Not only because its an unimpeachably great album, but a Brian Wilson-esque character plays a big role in another one of Annie Wu’s LA based issues. More than 50 years later and this is still the sound of Southern California to my ears.
Or you could check out the various songs and pieces that David Aja listed in the back of a number of the earliest issues of the series, of which someone has posted up a good deal of on Youtube. I’ll never turn down free Miles Davis.
EDIT: David Aja shot me over the link for the full playlist selections on Spotify! Now you can enjoy the recommended listening list in its entirety.
David also informed me of the following: “If there would be just one Hawkeye album, it would be Free Ride by Schifrin and Gillespie”
If you can’t get enough Fraction in your life
Though, if you’re into Hawkeye, you may just want to chase down more Fraction books, and who can blame you? Chances are, you’ve probably already heard about or read Sex Criminals, his very popular Image Comic with artist Chip Zdarsky. It’s great of course, as is his team-up with Howard Chaykin, the 50’s television mystery Satellite Sam (which, like Hawkeye, is going to have its own peek into New York and LA) but I might also recommend the following specifically…
The Immortal Iron Fist – Fraction and Aja’s other team-up on a blonde Marvel hero. This is where the Enter the Dragon inspiration really comes to the fore, especially in the masterful tournament storyline “The Seven Capital Cities of Heaven”. Its also a series that was for a time, co-written by Ed Brubaker.
Casanova – Though my pick for favorite Fraction book is the multi-dimensional spy saga Casanova. One part Pynchon, one part Morrison’s The Invisibles, and a whole lot of great Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba art. This is a writer completely unfiltered and is the kind of series I find myself reading at least once a year, where I discover something new every time. Image has just started to release brand new hardcovers as well, so there’s never been a better time to introduce yourself to Casanova Quinn.
Fun Hawkeye swag
Hawkeye Messenger bag – From the fine folks at WeLoveFine, I got this at San Diego Comic Con this year and I love it.
Pizza Dog shirt – Also for you Pizza Dog lovers, there’s now a shirt!
Looking into the future
And lastly, you may know that Jeff Lemire and Ramon K. Perez will be taking the reins from Fraction and Aja starting in March of next year. You might be curious about what they’re bringing to the table. Rest assured, the works below, including Lemire’s first take on an archer character in his New 52 Green Arrow run, his rural Canadian hockey saga Essex County and Perez’s essaying of Jim Henson’s A Tale of Sand script should leave you feeling pretty excited about the future of your favorite purple clad hero.