Features and Columns · TV

The ‘Hawkeye’ Trailer Reveals Marvel’s Two Opposing Adaptation Processes

We dig into the ‘Hawkeye’ trailer, celebrate its many comic book references, and consider how it chooses to adapt its source material differently than the current ‘What If…?’ series.
Hawkeye Trailer
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on September 15th, 2021

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores the new Hawkeye trailer vs. What If…? Episode 6 and how their relationship with the source material differs drastically. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

There is a tremendous amount of energy swirling around the first trailer for Marvel’s Hawkeye. This excitement seems obvious to some but maybe a little baffling to others. Why should we care about the guy with the arrows? Jeremy Renner was never Chris Evans or Chris Hemsworth. Fans didn’t bother to find other hot Jeremys to wage war over.

Well, Renner has very little to do with the joy rupturing across the internet regarding the advertisement for the upcoming Disney+ series. It’s the content that matters, and it’s how Disney is using one of their most beloved source materials to inject thrills where there weren’t any before. And this weaponizing of the comic books is very different from their current approach in the What If…? series.

The Comic Book Inspiration for the Hawkeye TV Series

Matt Fraction and David Aja‘s Hawkeye comic book from 2012 is one of the most beloved Marvel storylines of the last ten years. Scratch that, the last twenty years. Scratch that, ever. The initial set-up is preciously street level. Clint Barton (a.k.a. Hawkeye, a.k.a. Hawkguy) decides to step up and help his neighbors when their landlord raises the rent catastrophically.

From there, he partners with his Young Avengers copycat Kate Bishop, and the two of them tumble into a dark underworld populated by annoyingly unrelenting goons and mobsters with supervillain connections.

In the Hawkeye trailer, Hailee Steinfeld‘s Kate Bishop is front and center. Her comic book counterpart is far droller than the fangirl we see here, pushing Clint into a more mentor role. She’s taken on his Ronin persona from Avengers: Endgame, and she’s attracting the attention of the enemies he made when he was trapped in his darkest, most rageful moment.

Meet the Tracksuit Draculas

Throughout the Hawkeye trailer, we see various bald goons wrapped in tracksuits. These bumbling pests are straight outta Fraction and Aja’s series. They’re the Tracksuit Draculas, Eastern European mobsters brought in to push Clint and his friends from the neighborhood. Their egos are as strong as their numbers, and they delight in mocking their enemies by punctuating their sentences with “Bro.”

While we do not hear a single “Bro” uttered in the trailer, we do see the word painted across the van that Kate Bishop explodes with Clint’s not-deadliest arrow. These punks sparked plenty of discourse online this week, and it’s clear that if “Bro” is not rattled incessantly during the show, fans will cry betrayal.

Lucky, the Pizza Dog

Even more important to Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye comics is Lucky, the Pizza Dog. This little pupper begins the series as a guard dog for the Tracksuit Draculas, but during Clint’s first rumble with them, the pooch jumps sides, defending Hawkeye from his masters. From this point forward in the series, Lucky is just another Avenger sidekick, so beloved that he even got his own solo adventure in Hawkeye #11.

Lucky symbolizes the resilience required in the superhero game. To make it in Marvel Comics, you gotta learn to take a beating. Lucky has suffered so much, but he keeps getting back up and fighting the good fight. The same can be said for Clint Barton.

The Hawkeye trailer goes out of its way to show the punishment Clint receives as a thank you for his heroism. When he says goodbye to his daughter, we spot a hearing aid in his ear. This also comes from the Fraction and Aja run in the comics, and it shows how there are physical consequences to putting yourself in harm’s way.

A Beaten and Bloody Hawkeye

Captain America and Thor don’t have to worry about physical punishment. They take a beating and keep on ticking. Hawkeye doesn’t have that luxury. And what we see in the trailer for the Hawkeye series is how brutal it can be for Clint Barton to jump from rooftops and throw himself into a gang war.

Jeremy Renner is selling those punches and falls. His Hawkeye can barely take it anymore, collapsing into chairs and slapping icepacks on his broken face. These cuts and gashes are critical to the appeal of Fraction and Aja’s comic. How do you differentiate Clint Barton from Steve Rogers? You lean into the pain that Clint experiences every time he’s lucky enough to walk away from a fight.

What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?

The reverence the Hawkeye trailer shows for a particular comic book storyline is an extremely different reverence than the one shown in the What If…? series. The animated adventures are not looking to sell you on a single character. They’re pushing your excitement toward the multiverse. They’re hyping you for SpiderMan: No Way Home and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.

To achieve your glee, they’re diving into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and not the comic book source material. This week’s episode, “What If… Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark?” pulls us back to the beginning, revealing how Killmonger’s presence in Afghanistan at the time when the Ten Rings attack Stark’s convoy radically alters the MCU timeline. Every deviation is a high-five to the longtime MCU stans.

Your enjoyment depends on how invested you are in what came before in the movies, not the comic books. As you kick back like Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, clocking references left and right, you’re receiving an endorphin rush, compensation for your devotion.

What If Killmonger Rescued Tony Stark
Marvel Studios

Only the MCU Could Answer What If…?

When we spoke with production designer Paul Lasaine about What If…?‘s visual adherence to the previous films, he assured us that he ate, slept, and breathed the MCU.

“I didn’t go as far as reading all the comics,” he said, “because that’s a lifetime. But, in our department, we had a big screen TV that played every single one of the Marvel movies on a 24-hour loop. They were just always there.”

What If…? could only come from Marvel Studios. They put in the time, made a crazy assortment of building blocks, and can now rearrange them in different ways to tell new stories. And in telling these What If…? sidequests, they strengthen their previous efforts. Phase Four is fortifying the MCU.

We Will Heart Hawkeye

Where Marvel has total confidence in the products they’ve developed over the years, they’re also not afraid to tweak and improve. Clint Barton never sparked rabid fervor amongst the MCU fanbase. If anything, he ignited derision, his family farmhouse sequence being a perceived sore spot within Avengers: Age of Ultron. Let’s not even get started discussing how his Avengers: Endgame survival trumped Black Widow’s even before she got her big-screen showcase.

However, the MCU has had Matt Fraction and David Aja’s comic book series in their back pocket. They’ve been waiting to drop this gem on their movie audience, using Clint Barton’s painful humanity as his greatest attraction, not defect. If the translation works, we could discover a massive swelling of the Hawkeye fan community.

Kate Bishop is the Best Hawkeye

Hawkeye Trailer Kate Bishop
Marvel Studios

Of course, the Hawkeye series is not about boosting Jeremy Renner’s credibility as an action star. Like the Black Widow movie, we’re watching a baton pass from one hero to the next. When the Disney+ series concludes, we’ll have another Hawkeye in play, and she’s the superior version.

Kate Bishop can do everything Clint can do, but better. When she tells him that she’s the “world’s greatest archer,” we should believe her. Her skills consistently surpass Clint’s in the comics, but maybe even more importantly she has her life together in a way that he does not.

The MCU Clint doesn’t struggle with the living situation like his comic book alter ego, but clearly his time as Ronin and the death of Black Widow have soured his soul. Movie Clint can’t show his kids the torment rushing through him and the sense of failure surrounding him, but he will reveal everything to Kate. And Kate, in return, will help him sort out his demons.

Based on the Hawkeye trailer, we’re wading into an adventure saga featuring two wounded dynamos. They’re the best at what they do, but they can’t achieve their full potential without each other. And while the Avengers can’t be bothered with low-level jerks like the Tracksuit Draculas, Clint and Kate have nothing better to do. It’s time to save the friendly neighborhood.

Hawkeye premieres on Disney+ November 24th.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)