Marvel Studios, Hawkeye, And The Infinite Shaft

As the self-proclaimed No. 1 fan of Clint Barton, you are probably wondering why I have yet to weigh in on the biggest controversy currently consuming pop culture: The disappearance of Hawkeye from the huge marketing push to promote “Avengers: Infinity War.”

To be honest, I’ve just been too consumed with anger, outrage, confusion and jealousy to properly sit down and compose my thoughts on the matter. But the movie opens next week, so I might as well say something.

And There Came A Day 

2d9942ba8a561ba4a47029303d040e3e--clint-barton-hawkeyeIt’s never been easy being a Hawkeye fan. He’s never going to steal the spotlight away from the big stars — Spider-Man, HULK, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America… but we don’t love Clint because he’s a big gun. We love Hawkeye because he can stand toe-to-toe with the big guns and doesn’t take any shit off any of them.

Now, ignorant nerds (and Lord knows there are plenty of them) love to go on about how lame Hawkeye is because “he fights crime with a bow and arrow! How stupid is that? You can’t fight killer robots with a bow and arrow!”

If that is your opinion, you are an idiot. And in the words of Bob Dylan, it’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe. This is comic book reality. People fight crime with archaic weapons all the time. You know what Batman uses to fight crime? Bat-shaped boomerangs — and no one makes fun of Batman. Captain America fights crime with an oversized Frisbee. Daredevil is blind and fights crime with a billy club.  Wolverine fights crime with knives coming out of his hands. I could go on and on.

Putting aside the number of popular characters in popular culture who use the bow and arrow (Robin Hood, Legolas, Katniss Everdeen, Rambo, Lara Croft, to name a few) —  consider this: How much more courageous is it to fight killer robots when you don’t have a suit of armor or incredible gamma-ray-fueled strength and durability? Hawkeye will take on any evil despite being grossly overpowered and still beat them. And that’s why he’s awesome.

It Was 10 Years Ago Today

I was pleasantly surprised when word came down that Hawkeye would be part of the first phase of the new Marvel Studios movie initiative. Even more surprised when it was revealed that he would be one of the original Avengers.  After all, he wasn’t a founder in the comics. But Ant-Man and the Wasp were tied up in another movie deal, so Clint and Natasha took their places. It was in clear defiance of canon, but I didn’t have a problem with it.

U3uWkHOtVMHpmQuk3Fg5I9WCW-EhXOjmIkqa8IjWM_0I was even more pleasantly surprised when word came down that 2-time Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner would be playing the role. Renner has been my favorite actor since his breakout role in “The Hurt Locker” and having my favorite actor playing my favorite superhero was just too good to be true. Great things were coming for Clint Barton, I’m telling you.

And then “The Avengers” happened.

Now, “The Avengers” is a great movie. It’s one of my all-time favorites. I’ll watch it every time I come across it on TNT. But as everyone knows, Joss Whedon really dropped the ball on introducing Hawkeye to the massive movie audience. And since his introduction in “Thor” was little more than a cameo (unlike every other Avenger), this was not a good thing.

And while Natasha (who also didn’t get a solo movie) continued to have significant roles elsewhere, Clint stayed out of the picture until “Age of Ultron.” This was his best showing to date but he’s still sharing the spotlight with 8 other superheroes, plus Ultron and Nick Fury.

Meanwhile, more and more new characters keep entering the MCU, pushing Clint further and further in the background.

Where’s Hawkeye?

Which brings us to “Avengers: Infinity War,” the 18th (19th if you count “Spider-Man: Homecoming”) film in the Marvel Studios’ catalogue and the culmination of a storyline that’s been building up for 10 years. This is the big one. All the heroes coming together to save the universe from Thanos and those pesky Infinity Stones that have been popping up everywhere.

And at first, everything was normal. Renner reported for duty, there were tweets and set photos and quotes for everyone involved. The first “Infinity War” poster shows up at a comic convention with Hawkeye in the back. Vanity Fair does a cover story on Marvel Studios and Renner is there along with everyone else — and a really odd haircut. Speculation based on unauthorized set photos leads to talk that Clint may adopt a new identity (he does that from time to time).

And then…nothing.

The first trailer comes out — no Hawkeye. OK, maybe just an oversight. Poster comes out — no Hawkeye. Another trailer — still no Hawkeye. More posters, multiple press cover stories, press junkets — Hawkeye/Renner has disappeared from the face of the earth, or at least the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

No, I was not happy. Yes, I was mightily pissed. And confused. And sad. It’s been a rough couple of years, frankly, and every time I walked to the edge of the cliff, Paul would pull me back with “you can’t die until Infinity War!” And he was right. I’d invested this much in the MCU, I couldn’t clock out so close to the finale.

Now it’s all been ruined. My enthusiasm for this film, and Marvel Studios in general, has diminished dramatically.

But then something miraculous happened. Something that restored my dwindling faith in humanity. And my faith in humanity has taken a lot of hits lately.

U1N31jjK_SbuCt10ZFgH0tBUcqx0sXw3CM4pkdYC1KEPeople noticed. People besides me cared. And the people responded.

When Marvel posted a movie poster without Hawkeye, someone made a poster that was all Hawkeye. When Marvel made individual character posters and left out Hawkeye, someone made one for Hawkeye. When Entertainment Weekly failed to put out a Hawkeye cover, someone made one. Someone started an online petition to get Hawkeye reinstated in the marketing (I didn’t sign it, as I think online petitions are a waste of time, but it’s nice that someone put forth the effort). One fan even got a Hawkeye tattoo to show his solidarity — proving that I may not be the biggest Hawkeye fan after all, ’cause I’m not going that far.

And while most people involved in the project have remained silent on the subject, the film’s directors have come out to say that, calm down, Hawkeye’s in the movie. Which makes his absence from all promotion all the more perplexing.

Conspiracy Theories R Us

So what does it all mean? Why include Hawkeye in the initial slate of films if they weren’t going to properly use him? And why hire an actor of the caliber of Jeremy Renner if you’re not going to properly use him?

Did Renner kick Kevin Fegie’s dog? Did he accidentally shoot him in the ass with an arrow while on set? The grudge theory doesn’t make sense. Marvel Studios has no qualms with replacing actors they have a problem with — just ask Ed Norton or Terrence Howard.

So if there’s no problem with Renner, why has he all but disappeared? Maybe this is just a brilliant marketing scheme. If Hawkeye had just been another of the 20+ characters inhabiting “Infinity War,” he probably would’ve been lost in the publicity shuffle. No one was paying attention to Hawkeye before, but they are now. Maybe this was all a shrewdly calculated attempt to get people to care about the character.

But I doubt it.

See, it’s not just “Infinity War” promotion where Hawkeye’s been given the shaft.

Consider the Marvel Studios intro. In the beginning it was just random comic art images. A few years ago it changed to where they started showing movie character images. If you can spot Hawkeye, you have pretty damn good vision. In the first version he’s briefly shown falling from a roof in the letter M — you don’t see his face, just his body. In the most recent versions they cut the image even shorter to make room for Gamora.

This is not a mistake or an oversight. This is intentional.

A few weeks ago I was in Toys R Us and they had a large display of Marvel merchandise. Above it was a huge poster featuring animated versions of all the MCU characters — all but one. Can you guess who? There were individual portraits of the characters as well. All but one.

A few weeks later Toys R Us went out of business. I like to think that’s not a coincidence.

I could go on, but I’ve already gone on far past the point where most people are still reading.

Who knows, maybe this will be a Luke Skywalker thing where Clint shows up in the final frame as set-up for a bigger role in “Avengers 4.”

Or maybe they’re going to do a Warriors Three on him.

I guess we’ll find out next week.

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