‘Hawkeye’ writer Matt Fraction discusses the acclaimed series’ upcoming finale

(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.

CBR News: Matt, “Hawkeye” #19 was a special issue told in part via American Sign Language, and there was a three-month gap between #18 and #19. I understand part of that was you and artist David Aja wanted to make sure you got everything correct with the sign language, correct?
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.

Read more on page 2.

At the end of issue #19 Hawkeye takes up signing again after a throwdown with his brother Barney, which in turn triggers a repressed memory from Clint's childhood. What do you feel Barney has added to these last few issues?

He's both a foil and a tether; an anchor. I was interested in the two of them having a blood-is-thicker-than-water relationship. The last time they had seen each other Barney was threatening to murder him and Clint had stolen all of his money from him.

Barney's been a super villain and a killer and a real monster, and not just to Clint — so I wanted to show that when Barney was really down on his luck and needed somebody to help him, the one person who couldn't say no to him was his baby brother Clint. I suspect there's lots of ways to interpret their relationship. [Laughs] And I'd much rather let readers interpret than give them my interpretation. I don't know if there's a right or a wrong answer. It was this or Clint talking to a sock puppet for five issues.

[Laughs] I have enjoyed the way you've sort of subtly acknowledged the journey Barney went on before this book as part of the “Dark Avengers” without directly referring to continuity. Because we can see here he's a good guy and people who are up on his back story know part of the reason he is a good guy is the journey he went on in “Dark Avengers.”

Yeah, exactly. I have a Barney “The Missing Year” chapter in my head that I don't think I'll ever get a chance to tell. There's a whole “Hawkeye” prequel book starring just Barney that takes him from his highest high in “Dark Avengers” to the low we find him at in “Hawkeye” where he's letting Tracksuit Draculas beat him up for money.

While Barney and Clint have been tangling with the Tracksuits out in Brooklyn Kate Bishop has been having adventures in L.A. The stories we've seen, which include an homage to Robert Altman's “The Long Goodbye,” suggest to me that Kate's adventures in L.A. have been inspired by West Coast crime fiction stories. Is that correct?

Oh yeah, of course. She's driving a Firebird! It's “Rockford Files” and “Veronica Mars,” Marlowe, Sam Spade — it's all my L.A. detective love coming out and doing “Rockford” fan fiction basically. I guess it's my California detective “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”

Did you ever read “Inherent Vice” by Thomas Pynchon?

Of course!

Is there a bit of that book in Kate's adventures?

Of course. I love Doc Sportello [the novel's P.I. protagonist]. Doc Sportello and the Dude; I never quite got to do a stoner detective. Maybe there's a missing chapter where Kate meets a stoner detective. Or a surfer. I didn't get to do a good surf story either.

There's still one more issue of Kate's L.A. Adventures left, but it feels like her exploits in L.A. have taught her some lessons about standing on her own and persistence. Is that correct?

Sure, when we see her again she's really at her apotheosis as a nascent Hawkeye. She is never more Clint Barton than on the first and the last page of our next issue. She has kind of accomplished what she's set out to achieve although not in the way she sought to achieve it, and there's quite a price to pay. The issue reflects that, too — it's the most chronologically fragmented and — well, it's the most “Hawkeye” issue of “Hawkeye” she's gotten to star in. Kate's summer vacation is wrapping up. More will be revealed when our last three issues are out, but yes, this story has been about Kate leaving the nest, growing up and learning how to take care of herself. It's her figuring out for the first time if she's good enough for this job she wants so very badly.

You said, “final issues.” Does this mean your run on “Hawkeye” is coming to an end?

Yes David and I are done with issue #22.

What sort of hints, details and teases can you offer up about your final three issues?

The first issue out the gate, which is maybe three to four weeks away, will be the last Kate in California issue. Then our last two issues are the resolution of the story about the battle of the building. The first one is called “Rio Bravo” and the last one is called “El Dorado.” It's the final show down with the gangsters and this grease painted psychopath that has been picking apart at Team Hawkeye like a sick child tearing the wings off of a fly. Also, #22, our last issue, is going to be 30 pages. We'll have an extra big finish.

The titles to those two issues suggest a Western vibe.

If you've seen the movies “Rio Bravo” and “El Dorado” you'll get what we're talking about. “Rio Bravo” is a movie where a cadre of good guys is hold up in a building fighting against a bunch of bad guys.

So an “Assault on Precinct 13” vibe as well?

Yes, which is a remake of “Rio Bravo.”

I did not know that. Is there a chance that when you and David wrap you'll share a reading and viewing list of things that inspired “Hawkeye?”

[Laughs] It has been a book riddled with references that's for sure.

Let's talk about art. We've got Annie Wu wrapping up Kate's L.A. Adventures in issue #20 and David Aja wrapping your run on the series as a whole with issues #21-22, correct?

Yes, Eisner Award-winning David Aja is doing #21-22.

So I imagine we'll see him doing what he does best with this book. I remember talking with you about “Hawkeye” right before you and David launched it and you were very enthusiastic. Now with your run coming to an end, how does it feel to have your run on the book be so embraced and acclaimed?

It's insane. I printed post cards and buttons myself and gave them out all summer the year the book came out; like, I was the marketing department for “Hawkeye” when it launched. It wasn't supposed to last past issue #6. So to say that the book changed my life is neither hyperbole nor exaggeration. It's been remarkable.

The readers who have come to us at every show we do are amazing. The cosplay, the makers and artists that reach out to us, it's incredible and gratifying and if I said thank you every day for the rest of my life it wouldn't be enough. It's because of them that we were able to do an issue where a dog solved a crime and one that had American Sign Language as its primary language. So it's been great and it's better to get off the stage before it all starts sucking. So a mic drop… No, no. Gentlemanly and respectfully put the mic back in the stand and say thank you from the bottom of your heart. Hold hands with your partner and take a deep bow and then get the hell off the stage and let the next guy come out.

Sort of like what Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie did with “Young Avengers?”

Except they actually called their last trade “Mic Drop at the End of Space and Time.” Now I keep imagining Kieron Gillen dressed like Kanye West and it's really amazing. I think anyone reading this article should draw pictures of Kieron West or Kanye Gillen and post them because I think Kieron in black leather jeans and a weird Swarovski crystal beaded face mask is an amazing image.

“Hawkeye” #20 by Matt Fraction and Annie Wu is on sale September 10 from Marvel.