Monthly Archives: July 2015

Spotlight: Avengers – Hawkeye/Clint Barton

Hawkeye's New Suit

“I never miss!”

Prior to Avengers: Age of Ultron, I kept up with every tidbit that slipped out to the Internet regarding the film. As you know, those rumors, spoilers, and theories made it to my blog in the form of posts titled Prognostications for Avengers: Age of Ultron.

In the third or fourth post, I told everyone who was chanting “Death to Hawkeye!” to back off. And no, I will not change that statement!

Because the World’s Greatest Marksman got short shrift in The Avengers (and because some people just plain have it in for him), many Marvel fans were hoping he would get the axe in Ultron. As a fan of the bow-wielding Avenger, it was infuriating and distressing to have to sift through at least a dozen different Marvel fan reports claiming that Hawkeye would die in Age of Ultron. Some relief came when Jeremy Renner reportedly stated that Clint Barton lived through the film. But the haters never stopped gnashing their teeth and howling for the Hawk’s head to get chopped off.

Well, in this post, I am telling you why Hawkeye is my favorite Avenger, only a few inches behind Captain America.

As I said elsewhere, once upon a time I had no idea who the Avengers were. I knew Cap came from World War II comics, I thought Iron Man was a robot, and if you had asked me what I thought of Thor, I probably would have replied with, “Why are you asking me about some ancient Norse deity nobody cares about anymore?”

Then I discovered a few Avengers comics amidst a pile of other Marvel fare and I started reading them. One of the Avengers comic books I enjoyed a great deal featured the Avengers – consisting of Captain America, Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and the Scarlet Witch – facing off against Dr. Doom on his home turf of Latveria.

I was left trying to make sense of Cap and Hawkeye, especially the latter character. Not only was the text written for another era (which presented its own problems, since terms and references that were “hip” in that day have since become obsolete), I had no idea who two of the protagonists were. That was beyond frustrating!

At that time, I could have said whatever you Hawkeye haters would have loved to have heard. He was a brash, overconfident, snarky jerk who was riding Cap like a car he considered to be secondhand and out of date. It was irritating to read his replies to Cap’s statements, his smart-mouth rhetoric, but not the least bit satisfying when he ended up getting his just deserts for being an uber-confident smart alec. All I could think whenever that happened was, “You wouldn’t be in this mess if you had been a little nicer about voicing your opinions, you jerk!”

As annoying as Hawkeye appeared to be in the Avengers titles I had (the ones wherein he had a part, anyway), it was more aggravating not having the faintest knowledge of his history. Heck, none of the comics I had that included him even mentioned his real name! He was an unknown, and I could not figure out why I did not know anything about him.

Finally, I decided I was fed up with not knowing who these two men were. So I got on the all-knowing Internet and typed in “Captain America” first. The last Spotlight! post on this blog described how I reacted to what I found on Cap. My reaction when I looked up Hawkeye not too long afterward, however, was somewhat different.

The articles made a point of mentioning that he was a smart-mouth jerk in his first appearances, of course. But there was something else underneath all that, and it has taken me a long time to figure out exactly what. Something about his history, from the sixties to the present, made me sit up and pay more attention to him. I went back and reread a couple of articles about him after that, trying to make sure I had everything straight.

Now, you haters who know that Hawkeye was an abused kid who became an Avenger can say that that is the reason I like him so much. For all I know, you would be right. Maybe that is the reason I have a soft spot for him.

But I am not so sure that simple answer is the real answer. After all, I like Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games trilogy just fine, and not because his mother slapped him for burning a couple of loaves of bread. (Read “The Hunger Games: Peeta Mellark” for the reasons I like him.) So, readers, to paraphrase the Red Skull (he will not like this), “What makes Hawkeye so special?”

He has no super powers; no super soldier serum like his teammates Captain America and Black Widow; no sixth sense; no heightened hearing (in fact, last time I checked, he is almost completely deaf); no super strength (though the last time I looked, his bow had a two hundred-fifty pound draw!); no telekinesis – just a bow and a quiver full of trick arrows. He makes wisecracks, has made several stupid decisions, and yet he is part of the team which has proclaimed that it is made up of “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” – and despite his faults, most of his teammates respect and value him highly.

Why?

Reading those articles, not only on Hawkeye but on other Marvel heroes, I always read between the lines that say “he did this, decided to do that, was injured here, left the team at this point, returned at this time,” and the like. What a character does is informed by their personality, their nature. Actions themselves are indicators of characteristics and traits – for our nature is usually exposed through our actions.

You cannot say that someone is heroic unless they were faced with a choice – do something good, or do something bad – and they chose to do something good. Weaknesses and strengths are exposed and tested in this way. This is how characters (and real people) grow and stretch their wings. This is how one learns their limits and what they are capable of accomplishing.

I have listed some of Hawkeye’s weaknesses; both his physical limitations and his character weaknesses. Now I will list what makes him strong.

Yeah, Hawkeye was an abused kid. His father was a drunk who took out his temper on his sons (Clint has an older brother) and his wife; but Hawkeye has never abused someone weaker than himself. He can be a jerk, and he can lose his temper with most anyone, but he has never deliberately chosen to hurt someone simply for the fun of it. Unless you count taunts to the bad guys as abuse, in which case Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Tony Stark, and other Marvel heroes are all in hot water.

Hawkeye goes up against bad guys who range from the least scary (such as Batroc) to galactic villains like Loki, Ronan, Thanos, and Galactus. He has no superpowers, no suit of hi-tech armor, no healing factor. He has nothing to protect him from one good punch – or the equivalent thereof – from these people, some of whom have smashed entire worlds to dust. And he gets tossed around, beat up, bruised, bones broken, etc., when he gets into these kinds of fights.

But what does he do after all this? He stands back up (sometimes he forces himself to stand back up), shakes his head, draws back another arrow, and growls, “Is that all you’ve got?!”

If Cap is a character who is based in hope, then Hawkeye is a character based in courage, and the best kind of courage. He knows he has none of the superpower assets of even the least of his teammates. He knows he could get killed very easily in a battle against Thanos, Ronan, or Galactus. He is confident – sometimes overly so – in his shooting ability and other skills; but he knows his limits, he knows how far he can go.

This is one of the reasons why he is always picking on somebody. Depending on the situation, you can tell when his banter is teasing and when he is really pressing it. The teasing is almost always there – it is part of who he is, and a natural instinct we all have. Come on, we all enjoy a good tease every now and then!

But when Hawkeye starts pressing someone hard, when he starts getting insulting and begins questioning them incessantly, there are only two reasons he would do it. One, he is angry for some reason at whoever he is talking to at the moment. Two, he is angry at them because he can see – or thinks he sees – that whoever he is speaking with is making a bad decision or is getting too proud of themselves. “Pride goeth before a fall,” and Hawkeye will not let his friends drag him into a dangerous situation, run the risk of getting killed, or accidently destroy the world for no other reason than to assuage injured pride. He will not fight for someone else’s vanity, and he will say that to their face – even if they are bigger, stronger, and more powerful than he is.

And as I said before, he knows his limits. He is perfectly aware of what he can and cannot do, of what he can and cannot take – physically, anyway. This is the best courage, and as G. K. Chesterton said, “For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point — and does not break.” (Thanks to Cristian Mihai for introducing me to that quote!)

Hawkeye – Clint Barton – takes everything dished out to him. Every blow – emotional or physical – every taunt, every insult; he takes it all, usually on the chin. A lot of people could and would break after dealing with half the things he has dealt with as an Avenger.   But he has not broken. He has made mistakes, wrong choices, and stupid decisions. And he knows it. He knows his weaknesses as well as his strengths.

But he has not broken, even in a lot of alternate Marvel universes (the possible exception being the Ultimate Marvel Universe – ugh). These are the reasons why his teammates value him and why his enemies hate him. He was not called Hawkeye just for his keen eyesight, but for the fact that he sees more about his teammates and enemies than they realize. Sometimes he sees it and does not realize it, but when he figures it out, he is ready to do something about it.

There is one last thing I would like to mention about Hawkeye before I end this post, readers. One of the things I always look for in a character is how they treat people weaker than themselves. I can remember watching Hercules, The Legendary Journeys TV show as a child. My memories of the series are dim, but one scene from the opening of one or two seasons of the show will probably stay with me until my dying day.

In the clip I mention here, Hercules in charging through his house. He has a child – his daughter I think – with her arms around his neck and a boy under each arm. These are his three children, and he is roughhousing and playing with them. Hercules, in almost any story, is insanely strong. But he has not hurt his children.

That scene told me that Hercules was a gentle man (time has shown that the actor who portrayed him, Kevin Sorbo, is also a gentle man). No matter what happened, he would not hurt someone weaker than himself.

In The Avengers film, Natasha Romanoff tells Clint after he has had a drink of water that they have to stop Loki. He agrees and she says, “Now you sound like you.”

“But you don’t,” he answers. “You’re a spy. Not a soldier. Now you want to wade into a war. Why?” His voice softens a little as he asks, “What did Loki do to you?”

Natasha tries to cover it up, but Clint won’t have it. He says her name, once, very quietly, his tone pleading with her to tell him what she will not tell anyone else. And this is after he himself has been through an absolute nightmare, from anyone’s point of view!

There are some things you always look for in a real warrior: courage and gentleness toward those weaker than himself. Hope helps, too, and I will not say that Hawkeye lacks for hope. He may give up on himself, but he will not give up on much else. And that, readers, is why Hawkeye is my favorite Avenger, right up there with Captain America.

Until next time!

The Mithril Guardian

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Thoughts on Captain America

This is BEAUTIFUL!!!!

Excelsior!

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My older sister enjoys writing free verse as a hobby. Just a few days ago she wrote one about Captain America while he was in the ice. I thought it was beautiful (and feelsy!) so I convinced her to let me put in to Excelsior. I hope you enjoy.

The Captain’s Dream

Frozen beneath mountains of snow

Frozen through endless glaciers

Frozen ‘till time meets in space

I was a hero; I fought for the right

With stars and the stripes my allegiance lay

My powers and shield did it all

But my pleasure clashed with pain

The alpine mountains are my bane

Those peaks torment me since that fateful day –

When I saw Barnes disappear into the storm

His eyes still haunt me through swirling snow

Could this be how it was all meant to occur?

Red Skull’s demise heralded my own

So now here I lie encased…

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

Hey, readers! I am here re-blogging a review of Avengers: Age of Ultron by masterleiaofasgard! If you are one of the few people on the planet who has not yet seen the film, I must therefore warn you that this post contains spoilers. Enjoy!

Excelsior!

10869325_591589580977275_2778898650041679518_oYesterday I finally got to watch ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’. It was, in a word, EPIC. So I thought I’d do a review for it, even though I’ve only seen it once.

The movie starts out with the team invading a HYDRA base to get Loki’s scepter, which the HYDRA got hold of. That’s when they also first run into Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, the Maximoff twins. They destroy the base and get back to Avengers Tower, which used to be the Stark Tower but is now their main base. There Tony Stark gets Bruce Banner to help him create Ultron, a robot which Tony plans to use along with his Iron Legion to protect the world from alien invasions and the like.

While everyone is kicking back at a party, (during which all the guys try to lift Thor’s hammer but fail) Ultron springs to life and after a…

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Stories Matter – Why Marvel Comics’ “Secret Wars” Is Not Marvel-Us

‘I have claimed that Escape is one of the main functions of fairy-stories, and since I do not disapprove of them, it is plain that I do not accept the tone of scorn or pity with which “Escape” is now so often used. Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?’ (From J. R. R. Tolkien’s On Fairy-Stories, 1939, courtesy of www.interestingliterature.com)

I do not know how or why, but I have always been enchanted by stories. They are, to me, perhaps more than most other physical things in life. Stories are my biggest passion.   There are days I could forego lunch, a trip out of doors, or sleep if it meant a chance to read or see or hear a good story, which sometimes makes me wonder if I am not flaming crazy.

The above quote from J. R. R. Tolkien, taken from a post on Interesting Literature, is something I like to read to remind myself that I am not, in fact, crazy. I just happen to really like stories. Why? Well, why are some people passionate about surfing? Why are some people happiest while they are wood-working? Why are other people almost transported to another world while they are doing math?

We each have our talents, our passions. Stories and their characters are mine.

Escape was a word abused in Tolkien’s day as much as in ours. Then as now stories – whether they were fairy tales or great epics – were sniffed at by those who thought they had no worth.   “Oh, stories are good for little children,” they would – and will – snicker, “but once you are an adult, you don’t need them anymore.”

Uh-huh…. And when I reach adulthood, I can stop eating my veggies, right? I think several dozen fitness experts and dietitians would have an apoplectic fit if I pulled that stunt.

The thing I am trying to say, readers, and I may not be saying it well, is that stories matter. The characters in them matter. They always have and they always will, at least until time ends. Stories are avenues of escape.

But escape from what? Reality? Hardly. I may be addicted to stories, but I can tell you that they have not numbed me to reality in the least.

Stories are ways to escape the prisons forged out of despair, hatred, loneliness, and other evils. There are unfriendly things we have to deal with in this world if we are to survive it and discover our destiny. No one sniffs at the working mother whose husband buys her a ticket to the spa so she can get some down time, or the family that heads out to the park for an afternoon to kick a soccer ball around and enjoy each other’s company.

Yet begin talking about a story you enjoy, and you are suddenly accused of trying to escape reality.

I am no psychiatrist, no scientist, no sort of professional or “expert” whatsoever. But I know stories. I know they matter. I know because they are what make me happy, the same way a surfer is happy when he or she is out there shooting the curl. The same way a carpenter is glad when he planes a piece of wood or finishes a chair. The same way a mathematician receives untold pleasure in figuring out or making new numerical and formulaic puzzles. This is why I post about stories so much.

And this is why I have a problem with the direction the Marvel franchise is headed.

Marvel Comics is currently in the middle of some insane storyline called “Secret Wars.” The many alternate Marvel universes have collided with the “mainstream” – 616 – Marvel Universe which Stan Lee and his fellows created back in the 1960s. 616 Iron Man/Tony Stark and Nick Fury have been transformed into villains and have helped to bring this calamity about. Several characters from all the alternate universes are now struggling to survive alongside the 616 characters. The entire universe is in shambles. To top it off, Marvel is hyping an “All-New, All-Different” Marvel Comics line up for the next year (or more) with the roster for the Avengers completely rearranged – Miles Morales will be Spider-Man, Sam Wilson will still be filling in for Cap, Jane Foster will still be swinging Mjolnir and using the name Thor, and by now I cannot recall the other changes Marvel said were coming out.

I do not know who is alive in the Marvel Universe anymore, who is dead, which characters are wearing which superhero identities. My information is fragmented and despair-filled. The Marvel Comics currently in progress are not the Marvel Comics I enjoyed or, I think, that I could ever enjoy given who and what I am. In an alternate reality, I might. But not in this one, and this reality and the one that follows are the only ones that count.

Marvel knows that they can have all sorts of characters wear, say, Spider-Man’s costume, but the only character fans really want to see in the suit is Peter Parker. They know they can put anyone in the Captain America suit, but the only one who anyone truly wants to see holding the shield and standing up against evil is Steve Rogers. They know what works and they know what does not work. Why they have done what they are doing I cannot say. I only know that it has to stop, before irreparable damage is done to the characters they supposedly love as much as we fans do and, more to the point, which they are charged with protecting and strengthening.

They cannot be allowed to continue down this road, readers. If they do, there will be very little of what is good and right left in Marvel Comics for those who follow us in the near future. The films and cartoons based on their characters will suffer similar fates. For the comics are the roots of these newer forms of the tales and once the roots are poisoned the whole tree will die.

But why do I care about this, when there are so many more important things to think about, so many other calamities hitting the world and society? Well, why did Stan Lee care about this?

Why? Why did Stan Lee care? After the Second World War, all the comic book characters that were churned out for the U.S. soldiers and the kids back home in America were shelved. The comic book companies stopped producing stories for them; they started telling new tales with new characters instead. Though he may have lasted longer than some war-era comic book characters like Prince Namor and the original Human Torch, Cap was eventually put away as well.

Stan Lee saw it all happen. He watched Cap get shelved, along with all the other great characters made during World War II, after he had established his footing in the comic book world. He saw Cap, Bucky, Prince Namor, and others get set up on a high shelf by his bosses, because Cap and the others were “not needed anymore.”

Hah. For someone who is “not needed anymore,” Steve Rogers is awfully popular today, is he not, readers? Where would we (or Marvel, for that matter) be if Stan Lee had left Cap to collect dust on the shelves of Timely Comics, before he owned it and renamed it Marvel Comics?

Stan Lee liked Steve Rogers as much as any of us ever have. He brought Cap back because he knew we were always going to need him. He knew the suit did not make Captain America. Steve Rogers made Captain America. So Stan Lee made sure Steve could go on fighting for the nation he loved, inspiring generations of Marvel fans – outside and inside of the U.S. – to keep on fighting for what is right and true and good in this flawed, chaotic world.

He knew we would always need a rallying point, a character so thoroughly American that he could never consider giving up, not even for a moment. In the Avengers’ fourth issue, Stan Lee reinstated Steve Rogers in the fiction of the world. And we have reaped the benefits not only of Cap’s determination and strength but also of Stan Lee’s foresight and understanding of why we need great stories and great heroes.

And yet we are letting Marvel’s current hierarchy and their writers toss Steve around like a yo-yo.

Marvel knows I am displeased with the way they have taken their stories.  I have made no secret of it, sending them various notes showing my displeasure and suggesting how they might do things better since November/December of 2014.  But I am only one voice. I have no power with them, beyond what I have done.  They can, if they choose, ignore me easily. Odds are good that they will ignore me.

But they cannot ignore more than one voice raised against them in protest of their treatment of their characters.  They cannot ignore fans who tell them, “This stops here, and it stops NOW.”

You want to know something really funny about all this, readers?  Thinking about this post, about how to try and get my point across, I suddenly remembered Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  I recalled Steve Rogers speaking into a SHIELD microphone in the Triskelion, revealing to the World Security Council and the clean SHIELD agents that HYDRA had grown up right under their noses, and was planning to conquer the world through the agency that was supposed to protect humanity.

The part I specifically remembered was Steve saying, “The price of freedom is high.  It always has been.  And it’s a price I’m willing to pay.  And if I’m the only one then so be it.

“But I’m willing to bet I’m not.”

So maybe I am the only one who cares about what Marvel messes with in their comic book universe.  Maybe I am the only one in the world who cares about the characters as they were written and who wants to see that foundation built up, not torn down.  And if I am the only one who cares… then so be it.  I do CARE!!!

But, then again…maybe I’m not the only one.   I do not know.  I cannot know.

The U.S. Marines have a saying, “Is this the hill you want to die on?”  Not particularly. But if it is the hill I am forced to fight on, do not expect me to fight by halves.  A fight is all or nothing.  And if I have to die on this hill, standing beside the river of truth, well, you know – there are much worse hills out there on which to die.

So bring it on, Marvel.  I am willing to fight.

Are you?

The Mithril Guardian

Vote for Your Favorite Avenger NOW!

Assemble!

WAHOOO!!!! Avengers: Age of Ultron is finally here!!!!! And, while the new blockbuster may not be as much fun as its predecessor, it is great to have it out there. FINALLY we know what happens next!! Anyone want to theorize about Captain America: Civil War now? (Hint: I think it’s possible that Hawkeye’s family is going to die, and Cap might be on the chopping block, too – though I would bet that would not be permanent. Evans is supposed to start shooting the two-part Infinity War film a few weeks after wrapping up and promoting Civil War. He can’t be in Infinity War if he’s dead!)

In honor of Age of Ultron’s release (and at the behest of a friend who loves the Avengers’ films) I have compiled a poll of Avengers you guys can vote for. The list is hardly complete; there have been hordes, multitudes, and fire-teams of Avengers members over the years! That does not look like it will be changing anytime soon, but that means I have probably left a good number of people out (some because I forgot them, others because I did not like them and felt they were not “worthy” to be Avengers).

So I am sorry if you find this poll to be a paltry list of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. If you know of a hero or heroine whom I have left out, go ahead and tell me about them (though be advised that, if I know about them but do not like them, they are unlikely to make the poll).

I have done my best in writing this poll, and even voted for my two favorite Avengers! As with the poll of Autobots, this poll for your favorite Avengers is only going to be open for about a month, tops. If you find this post a month after its publication date, odds are good it will be closed.

But what am I jabbering on about here? You came here to vote for your favorite Avenger – so go on ahead and vote!

“Avengers Assemble!”

The Mithril Guardian

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Interested in Books?

The Cherokee Trail

“You’re interested in books, ma’am?”

She looked around at the storekeeper, surprised. “I’ve only a few, but folks like the very best. They like books they can read over and over. Right down the street, there’s a bookstore. He carries quite a stock, along with pencils, papers, notions, and such. That’s where Mark Stacy buys his books.”

“Mark Stacey? Somehow I did not imagine him to be a reader.”

“Some of these folks surprise you, ma’am. You never know who is the reader or who has the education. That’s why there’s few western towns without a bookstore.” – Exchange between Mary Breydon and a storekeeper in The Cherokee Trail by Louis L’Amour

Happy Independence Day!!!

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The Star Spangled Banner

By Francis Scott Key 1814

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Happy Independence Day, everyone!

God bless America!

The Mithril Guardian