Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. - HAWKEYE's Avenging Attire

 

Hawkeye was first introduced in 1964 in Tales of Suspense #57, which was where Iron Man’s stories were featured before the hero got his own self-titled series later on. Clint Barton was a circus performer who looked like he had walked off the set of a 1960s TV western.

His first uniform, designed by artist Don Heck, following a similar mode. It’s an exaggerated/circus-style idea of what a medieval archer looks like, complete with monographed cowl.

 

The medieval style provides a nice contrast against Iron Man’s high tech armor. When Hawkeye battled the armored Avenger, you were seeing technologically enhanced “test pilot of the future” against a character from a Robin Hood story. Likewise, there’s the juxtaposition that Hawkeye seems anachronistic but his arrows are quite high-tech, involving grappling lines, sonic grenades, gas canisters and concussion bombs.

Very quickly, a couple of minor touches were made and this became what we now know as the classic outfit. Hawkeye’s chest guard and straps become a matching purple rather than clashing light blues and yellows, helping the costume become unified. And the loss of the shoulder guards gives Hawkeye more freedom of movement.

WE GO OFF-COURSE

 

After a few years of having him serve alongside the Avengers, Marvel decided that Hawkeye being a team member without superpowers was not cool when he was on a team where Captain America and the Black Panther were already filling the niche of being very impressive without super-powers. So Hawkeye put away the quiver and borrowed the scientific tricks of Dr. Henry Pym AKA Ant-Man AKA Giant-Man/Goliath (and later calling himself other names as well). With the handy Pym particles, Clint Barton became the new Goliath, able to grow in size and strength.

This is a shame because it’s not only not a Hawkeye suit, it’s not a very good uniform at all. He’s wearing 15% of a shirt underneath a studded bra, with the addition of a weight-belt. I understand these things can convey a sense of strength, but that’s ALL this outfit conveys. Hawkeye’s still the same acrobatic jokester he was before, so superhuman strength shouldn’t become his only defining trait. You’re now limiting the character, not enhancing him.

This costume is too generic. That could be Hawkeye as “Goliath,” sure. It could also be the villain Piledriver of the Wrecking crew. Or it could be “El Gringo Giganto,” a new luchador in Mexico. Ok, I made that last one up, but you see what I’m getting at here, yes?

 

Fortunately, Hawkeye (and Marvel) decided that after a couple of years that this wasn’t work out. So it was back to the archer idea. Sadly, instead of dusting off his classic threads, he went for a completely different look with weird headband, zig-zag pattern that resembled zippers, a V-neck that hits the stomach. On top of all that, the skirt length just seems inappropriate.

Worst of all, this is all basically a circus interpretation of what a gaudy Native American archer might dress like, which makes this look offensive in another way altogether. This uniform doesn’t say “I save the world alongside Captain America and Thor!” It says “Cirque de Soleil is in town and tickets are selling fast!”

Fortunately, this outfit didn’t last too long and Clint went back to the classic.

THE 1980s

 

In 1983, Hawkeye had his own mini-series, co-starring his love interest, the secret agent Mockingbird (though, sadly, she did not share the title with him). In this mini, Mockingbird designed a new look for Hawkeye. Like a typical guy, his response was “Not exactly like my old one, but it’ll do.”

Very cool design. It maintains the medieval archer appeal but enhances the superhero look just a little bit by adding gloves and sleeves. The fact that he’s now wearing black instead of blue makes the purple stand out more.

This outfit is actually more practical than his old ones. The gloves can definitely help prevent injury when pulling that taught string several times in every battle. And a right-handed archer can appreciate covering his left arm with chain mail to prevent the bowstring from hitting the arm when it’s released.

Eventually, Hawkeye modified this further, cutting the sleeves short but keeping the arm guard. He also went back to truly being blue and purple rather than a mostly black costume with blue coloring as highlights.

This look works just as well, so at this point I think it’s just a matter of preference concerning whether you have the sleeves there or not. Same for the color combination. I prefer the previous one, but that’s just me.

I GOTTA WEAR SHADES

In large part, the 1990s were a terrible time for Hawkeye fashion. So much so, I had to ask him about it face to face. 

 

ALAN KISTLER:
 Hawkeye, what’ve you done to yourself?

HAWKEYE: C’mon, Sizzler! It’s 1990 now. And what did the 90s teach us?

AK: That extra pouches are a must for super heroes?

HAWKEYE: Sure. And they also taught us about shades. Shades are cool!

AK: You realize nearly anyone who wears sunglasses at night looks like a tool. And the fact that your shades are shaped to resemble your old mask, that’s just weird. In fact, this whole suit is weird, why are you wearing armor?

HAWKEYE: Tony Stark designed it for me. I got shot up by a street gang, so I decided to get some armor to prevent that from happening again.

AK: Why didn’t you just start wearing Kevlar? Or cool scale mail like Captain America?

HAWKEYE: Cap’s not THAT cool.

AK: This armor is too bulky. You even have armor around your neck! It all just makes you look heavy and kills any notion that you’re an acrobat.

HAWKEYE: Aw, you’re just jealous of Br’er Hawkeye. Look, my shades are infra-red so I can shoot in the dark!

ME: I don’t care! And dude, what is with all the H’s? An H on the mask, I understand, but now you have another H on your shirt and another one on the back of your quiver? Really? You needed to put three H’s on your costume? You’re that concerned we will forget your name?

HAWKEYE: Hey, you gotta love the gauntlets, at least.

ME: No. No, I don’t. How are you supposed to be able to delicately and accurately fire arrows in the heat of battle with metal gauntlets that thick?

HAWKEYE: . . .

ME: Yeah, I thought so. No wonder you went back to your classic look after wearing this for a few months. 

 

HAWKEYE:
Oh, wait! I had another cool 90′s costume a little while later! Wanna see?

ME: Wha. . . Why is there a quiver on your leg?

HAWKEYE: Well, in the 90′s, everyone added a belt or pouch to their thigh, so I figured, hey, I’ll add a quiver!

ME: The arrows are so exposed, it looks too easy for an enemy to just grab them or snap them in half. And with all the acrobatics you do, I think you’d break those things yourself half the time.

HAWKEYE: Okay, maybe you’ll like the next look! 

 

ME:
 Wow, dude, really. . . you really need to stop this.

HAWKEYE: But look! I brought back the awkward shoulder pads and added a belt to the leg. AND the little arrows on my chest imply an H!

ME: Those are not arrows, they look like boomerangs. This is a bad suit.

HAWKEYE: Well at least the mask looks less like Wolverine!

ME: Fine, fine, I’ll give you that. But the rest has to go. 

 

HAWKEYE:
 Wait! How about my Heroes Reborn outfit? Remember that story? When me and the rest of the Avengers all wound up being transported to counter-earth and reliving slightly different versions of our lives?

AK: You were just telling me how good it was to resemble Wolverine less and now you’re wearing a costume that looks even more like Wolverine than you ever have before? I mean, you’re now wearing the same colors as Wolverine’s classic tan costume! What the Hell, man?!

HAWKEYE: . . . We needed a sales boost and Iron Man said maybe if I dressed like Wolverine then we could trick X-Men fans into picking up the book. So he gave me this costume and new bow.

AK: Are you sure Tony wasn’t messing with you? He does that. I mean, you noticed that your Heroes Reborn bow doesn’t even have a string, right?

HAWKEYE: . . . OH MY GOD, THAT JERK!

AK: Yeah, go talk to him. But change clothes, first.

And now let’s bid good-bye to Hawkeye and continue our program.

GENERAL TWEAKS

 

After returning from Counter-Earth, Hawkeye went back to a retro classic look for a few years. He was back with the Avengers for a while and feeling good about like. Then, he temporarily joined the Thunderbolts.

At the time, the Thunderbolts were former super-villains hoping to now be formidable heroes. Hawkeye, having been an unwitting criminal for several weeks himself once, sympathized and thought he could share his experience. He event went so far as to get himself a Thunderbolts belt buckle and a slightly different, darker uniform with long sleeve again.

 

Some time late, in a 2003 mini-series, he adopted this new take on his outfit. Like in the 80s, he had an arm guard again. But similar to the 1990s, we have armor that not only looks heavy but implies that his movements would be impeded. We’ve also got a utility belt strapped across the chest that doesn’t really add anything except distraction.

And then, in the story Avengers Disassembled, Hawkeye died in battle, helping to fight off a Kree invasion that may or may not have been a complete illusion (that part is still being debated). The Avengers disbanded soon afterward and would not reform until months later. But before this happened, another version of Hawkeye appeared in the Ultimate Marvel Comics line.

ULTIMATE HAWKEYE

 

The stories that are printed under the label of Ultimate Marvel take place in a parallel universe, separate from the mainstream Marvel Universe (which is sometimes referred to in-story as “Universe 616”). The Ultimate Marvel line began in 2000 and its purpose was to retool and reimagine many Marvel characters in a somewhat more grounded reality, where many superhumans were direct results of experiments based on the project that turned Steve Rogers into Captain America. The Avengers was not a random team of heroes who were allowed to operate on their own but now was a group called the Ultimates that directly worked for the government organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

In the Ultimate reality, Clint Barton was not a circus performer who began a vigilante and was then mistaken as a criminal for several weeks. Instead, he was an expert marksman and archer who was serving a charge for murder (the details of which haven’t been explained) when Nick Fury, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D., showed up and offered him a clean legal record in exchange for becoming a black ops agent. Barton agreed and joined S.H.I.E.L.D. under the name “Hawkeye.”

When we first met Ultimate Hawkeye, he was still largely serving as a black ops agent and he was dressed just fine for the part. A black jumpsuit that looks practical. Later on, as he began working more openly with the Ultimates, they started adding red coloring to the suit. This was all right, but it’s still very much not a superhero costume by any means. It also didn’t quite make sense for one of the only non-superhuman members of the team to have less body armor than some of the others, leaving his arms fully exposed. In the Marvel Universe where reality’s a bit more exaggerated, Hawkeye gets away with it. Here, in the world of the Ultimates where so many other elements are forced into becoming more “realistic,” it stands out.

 

Later on, Ultimate Hawkeye got himself a couple of purple outfits that came complete with a matching mask. Depending on which version he wore, he either looked like a strange bandit who enjoyed letting the wind go through his hair or he seemed to just be a burglar wearing a giant purple sock.

The mask would have made sense for a black ops agent, but by this time Hawkeye had fought alongside the Ultimates already and had been maskless, so there seemed little need for a secret identity. The H design on the shirt is all right and the lenses could be said to serve a purpose, but the bull’s-eye stitched onto the center of his mask makes no sense to me. What person who regularly engages in combat also thinks it’s a good idea to literally have a bull’s-eye on your forehead?

 

A couple of times, and again recently, Ultimate Hawkeye has sported a red and black slightly-superhero style suit. The arrowhead design is a nice touch. Otherwise, this is pretty generic. Works for a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, a bit dull for a superhero, and the bare arms still stand out a little much in this environment.

The Ultimate Hawkeye look would inspire designs used in the movie The Avengers and would later bleed black into the mainstream Marvel Universe as well. We’ll get to that.

KATE BISHOP

 

Before the Avengers reformed following Hawkeye’s death, a new team known as the Young Avengers stepped up to fill the void. Kate Bishop was not on the Young Avengers team initially. She was actually a civilian who needed rescuing. But she quickly displayed that she was actually pretty capable herself, skilled in boxing, martial arts and archery.

Impressed with the Young Avengers, she decided to join them, arming herself with a mish-mash of items belonging to different Avengers, including Hawkeye’s long-time love interest, S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Mockingbird. This original makeshift “Hawkingbird” look was soon dropped and Kate later got herself a more serious super hero outfit. Impressed with her abilities, Captain America gave her Clint Barton’s old bow and arrows and so she became the new Hawkeye.

 

As soon as she became official, she made herself a unique outfit. Kate Bishop comes from money and this is reflected in her look. If you take away the weapons, she might very well be a model who just left the runway at Fashion Week.

The weapons she carries and the arm guard definitely let us know she’s an archer and the color scheme reminds us of Clint. But the exposed midriff is a bit strange. Sure, pretty women, and certainly teenagers, may enjoy showing off their stomach. But Kate learned how to fight because she was once attacked and swore she wouldn’t be a victim again. I can accept the scarf being decorative but the scarf AND the exposed stomach, with that backstory, doesn’t make much sense to me.

The sunglasses are stylish, but are they supposed to hide her identity? I’ve worn sunglasses around my friends on many occasions and they have always been able to tell it was really me unless serious degrees of alcohol were involved. If the glasses have a technical purpose, like a heads-up display, then okay.

Not too long after Kate began her career in earnest, the former Avenger known as the Scarlet Witch, using her insanely increased power (it’s a long story), wound up bringing Clint Barton back from the dead. Clint felt he needed to figure some things out and knew there was a new Hawkeye. So he borrowed the identity of “Ronin,” which had been used previously by the woman Echo.

This fit Clint being in a darker place in life at the time and he certainly had the martial arts skills to go along with the suit. Clint’s darkening attitude increased when the villain Norman Osborn, after gaining political power, formed his own “Dark Avengers” team and had the assassin Bullseye masquerade as Hawkeye.

 

Bullseye is a heartless killer and one who’s been seriously injured in the past (he broke his back during a fight with Daredevil and had to get a replacement spine made of adamantium). He’s aware of his own mortality and expects no mercy from his enemies. So covering his entire body in dark armor makes sense. It’s also enough of a visual clue to let readers know this isn’t quite the “Bre’er Hawkeye” we know and love.

Later on, the Dark Avengers went away and Kate Bishop, along with the other Young Avengers, wasn’t as active anymore. At this time, Clint went back to his Hawkeye outfit and name. Kate and the other Young Avengers reunited for another adventure featured in the pages of Avengers: The Children’s Crusade. But this led to Kate experiencing a sense of failure and not all of her teammates made it out alive. As a result, she decided to retire completely from her costumed identity. Months later, she was told that she and the other YAers were now recognized as having been official Avengers.

RECENT TIMES

 

After the Dark Avengers were gone the true Avengers were able to step back into the spotlight, Clint was happy to resume his role as the first and now only Hawkeye. The new costume was very akin to the classic look.

The arm guard was now chain mail, extending to his shirt. The quiver was now held into place by more of a harness rather than a single strap. This definitely meant that Hawkeye would have to worry less about the quiver sliding around out of place while he did his acrobatic maneuvers or ran for cover from a super-villain shooting off energy blasts.

 

More recently, Hawkeye has started working alongside the Secret Avengers (more of a black ops unit) and adopted a look similar to his Ultimate Marvel counterpart and his film interpretation.

I’m fine with the lack of a mask. Hawkeye’s identity has been public for years. But the sunglasses can seem a bit much in some cases. At least with the red lenses that Ultimate Hawkeye wore, there was an immediately implication to the reader that they had a purpose beyond looking look. The purple chevron is a nice nod to the old costume colors, but it might be effective if it were an arrowhead shape instead. Right now, this suit is simply too generic. There isn’t even a cool Avengers belt buckle or badge to let you know that this guy walks among superheroes and hasn’t just raided a sporting goods store.

Not a bad suit, I just think it needs an extra touch or two to stand out.

And that brings us to a close, readers. We hope you enjoyed this look at the fashion evolution of Clint Barton. Be sure to look for him in the new Marvel Studios film The Avengers. Until next time, this is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off!

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