Hawkeye: Seeing him go into action, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do with myself. So I modified my carny outfit a bit and strode off naively into the night to become a hero. Unfortunately, on my first time out, I was mistaken for a crook– and ended up going against the very guy who inspired me–Iron Man! Shellhead later learned my true motives, though. He even sponsored me for membership in the Avengers. It was then I knew I had really made something of myself. I’ve done many a stint with my Avenging buddies, but I think I’m finally ready to wing it solo for good. Much as I like ‘em, they cramp my style a bit too much.
Sheila: Fascinating story, Clint. Looks like I’ve got me a real self-made man. How about if I try to unmake you a little?
Origin stories are a tricky business. Some of them are radioactive-spider-and-dead-uncle or my-parents-are-dead level, eternal and unchanging. And some are a bit more malleable. Clint’s original origin story was first told in his earliest Avengers appearances, and for the purpose of explaining his connection to Swordsman. He didn’t have a civilian name, or a brother, or memory of his parents in that telling. The circus was the beginning of his existence. When Clint retells his story here, a few more details have been filled in—the car crash that killed his parents, the orphanage he lived at with his brother. The focus is still Swordsman, and his betrayal of Clint, and finally Iron Man, and what his inspiration led to. But that part of the story, that was actually told in Clint’s first appearances and ended with him joining the Avengers, is glazed over.
It’s easy to understand why. Part of Gruenwald’s point is that Clint puts his faith in the wrong people, and that’s why he constantly feels betrayed. Swordsman was the wrong person to trust, just as Sheila is. People who could be good for Clint—Captain America, and Mockingbird in this very issue—are the ones he brushes off the most. It’s a failing, and Clint pays for it.
It does raise the question, however, of what Clint’s origin story actually is. The one line that sets up his character and establishes his motivations. Is it “orphaned circus performer feels betrayed by mentors and is inspired to heroism by Iron Man?” Or is it “said performer mistakenly falls into life of crime, and joins Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for a shot at redemption?” This particular telling plays up the first point and glazes over the second (and for specific reason. Again, Gruenwald is playing up one romance, and so doesn’t want the significant presence of others). Both aspects of Clint’s origin are important, but I think the take away point is that his origins aren’t really the point. Everything truly pivotal for Clint happens on the page, after he’s already entered the universe. And that’s why his origin story can be played with and tweaked to fit a writer’s mood.
Also, Sheila comes up with some pretty unique come ons.
From Hawkeye Volume 1 #01 (Mark Gruenwald)