Mark’s Remarks – Solo Avengers #8 (July 1988)

Let’s talk about superhero origin stories. For most characters, they are something to be gotten out of the way in the character’s first appearance and then more or less forgotten unless there’s some compelling loose end about the affair. For my money, most origin stories are considerably (shall we say) less satisfying than a hero’s subsequent adventures due to all the contrivances needed to set up a hero’s powers, costume, motivation for being a hero, methods of operations, etc., all in one story. But because an origin story defines the hero, it necessarily takes on greater significance than most any subsequent adventure, and its details are periodically recounted throughout the hero’s published life.

All of which brings us to the headliner of this book, Hawkeye, and SOLO AVENGERS #2’s expansion on his origin. (You just knew this was all leading somewhere, didn’t you?) About a third of you who wrote in about the story were disturbed by scripter Tom DeFalco’s addition to Hawkeye’s legend. Namely Trickshot, the man who taught him archery. In no prior recounting of Hawk’s roots did our bowman mention the guy. Why did we feel obliged to add him? Couldn’t we have left well enough alone?

Here was our thinking…in previous accounts, it was the Swordsman who was Hawkeye’s mentor and presumably his archery coach. When discussing his origin, it struck Tom and me as extremely strange that a master of the broadsword who never evinced any aptitude toward archery in any of his published appearances was able to coach a kid who would grow up to be the world’s greatest archer. What did he do, tell Hawk this is the bow, this is the arrow, this is the target, no go teach yourself? Possibly. But why archery? It seemed to us a weakness in Hawkeye’s otherwise sound origin. Thus we endeavored to remedy that anomaly, which of course provided grist for our first cycle of Hawkeye stories here, but also brought in a character whose existence would be bothersome to certain readers since not once before did Hawk make any allusions to there being such a figure.

So some of you cried “Foul!” and accused us of playing fast and loose with the facts. I was particularly lambasted in light of my assertion in recent Mark’s Remarks in IRON MAN that Marvel was not in the business of revamping its legends since we got them right the first time. What it all boils down to is when do the revisions and amendments to a previous account of a hero’s legend qualify as a revamp? (Or, at what point do I deserve to be strung up for making meaningless semantic distinctions?) I assert that adding to an origin such as we did here is not the same as taking away from a legend and replacing it with something different. This replacing process is what I consider revamping, and Marvel for the most part doesn’t do this.

Come on now, Mark, Marvel has never revamped a hero’s origin? Well, ahem, there is the curious case of Captain America’s discrepancies to consider. Tell you what, people: now that I’ve defended what Tom and I did to Hawkeye’s back story, join me in this space next month for a discussion of Captain America and the changes his origin account went through over the years.

–Mark Gruenwald­­