This summer marks the beginning of the second phase of Marvel’s plan for complete cinematic domination, with the arrival of Thor and Captain America in the wake of two successful Iron Man movies. Next year’s Avengers will bring the three heroes together… and then, the real fun begins. At least that’s the message sent out by Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige, who is quoted in the upcoming issue of Disney twenty-three, the quarterly magazine of the Disney fan club. (FYI: Marvel was purchased by Disney in 2009, and The Avengers will be the first Marvel film distributed by Disney.) IGN got a sneak peek at the issue, in which Feige talks about potential sequels to this summer’s tentpoles: “Thor will go off into a new adventure, and Captain America will continue to explore the modern world in another film of his own.” But then, the big twist: Feige also hints that spin-off plans are in store for the supporting characters in Avengers, including Hawkeye, Black Widow, and the various jumpsuited agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., “all of whom are more than worthy and capable of carrying their own films.”
Don’t jump out of your seats just yet, Maria Hill fans. Feige’s comments seem purposefully vague and undefined, and representatives for Marvel would not confirm any superhero development plans to EW beyond the previously announced Iron Man 2. In all likelihood, Marvel will make considerably more official announcements as to the existence (or non-existence) of Thor 2 and Captain America 2 the Monday after those films hit theaters. (Remember the week after Iron Man, when Marvel announced their current superhero parade?) Still, Feige’s comments bring up an important question, which dates back quite a few decades in the world of comic books. Call it the Hawkeye Dilemma: Can a superhero designed to be a supporting character actually carry his or her own story?
Let me make myself very clear here: I think Hawkeye is awesome. Compared to the weighty backstories that hang around Marvel’s Big Three — Captain America’s a Nazi-fighting man out of time, Iron Man has no heart and is a recovering alcoholic, Thor’s a freaking god — Hawkeye was always a great breath of fresh air. Like Batman, he’s a regular non-superpowered dude; unlike Batman, he’s the opposite of morose, quick-witted and occasionally just full of himself. When I was a kid reading various Avengers comics — who can forget Avengers West Coast? — I immediately noticed that any Avengers team that featured Hawkeye was noticeably cooler and more entertaining.
But every now and then, Marvel would try giving Hawkeye his own comic book… and all the magic was gone. Maybe it’s because the character doesn’t have the mythic resonance of a Captain America; maybe it’s because there are really only so many stories you can tell about a dude who shoots arrows real good. At a certain point, I think Hawkeye plays well off of bigger, more serious characters. He, himself, is not a serious character, and any attempt to make him so is doomed to failure.*
The problem is that, at a certain point, most modern superhero films are serious. And even though I’m sure Jeremy Renner will totally crush it as Hawkeye in Avengers, it’s hard for me to picture him headlining a 120-minute, $150-200 million dollar tentpole movie. Same goes for Black Widow — loved Scarlett Johansson during her fifteen minutes of Iron Man 2, uncertain if even the average adolescent American male mind can handle two straight hours of pure leather-karate hotness. But I’m interested to hear what you think, readers: Would you want to see a Hawkeye movie? Or, for that matter, an entire film about Nick Fury and the agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.? Are there any supporting Marvel characters who you do think could handle their own film? (Feige also mentioned the possibility of films based around Dr. Strange and “the world of martial arts,” so start praying for Shang-Chi vs. Iron Fist.) Do tell in the comment boards!
*As I’m sure plenty of you know, there’s a character who appears to provide a handy answer to the Hawkeye Dilemma: Wolverine. The two characters have much in common — both were originally introduced as villains, both rose to prominence on a Marvel superteam. The big difference, I think, is that Wolverine for a long time was essentially a fascinating blank, a man without a past, whose inner life was dominated by rage, debauchery, and near-existential confusion. Predictably, when we actually did learn Wolverine’s origin, it featured every comic cliché: murdered parents, lost love. Wolvie’s been notably lamer ever since.
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