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The Truth About Hawkeye

A. David Lewis, writer of Mortal Coils and The Lone and Level Sands, has long been a champion of comics as a true art form, and currently teaches English at Northeastern University, where he does indeed sneak comics into the curriculum wherever he can. He first posted this article on his blog, Loose Pages.

Out, out, brief archer...
I know the real reason Hawkeye was killed off.

It has nothing to do with the Scarlet Witch, nothing to do with House of M, and nothing to do with any alien invasion kamikaze run. A far more nefarious and clandestine enemy had it out for the Avenging Archer.

Hawkeye was eliminated because of his name: Clint Barton. It drove a generation of men and women to madness, and this was how they had their revenge. Because of Hawkeye's secret identity, because of "Clint Barton," the letterers had him killed!

That's right, Richard Starking -- Hide behind your anonymous Comicraft. You, too, Chris Eliopoulos -- Even Erik Larsen can't save you now. Underbosses like Jaco Haney and Ed Dukeshire better watch yourselves, too. I know all about your cadre, your cabal, your throng of word-wrung wearies. You had a grudge against Barton, and you held Brian Michael Bendis' "Avengers Disassembled" caption boxes hostage until he committed the dirty deed for you.

For shame, letterers. For shame.

Why, you ask, would letterers, a group normally thought to be noble and precise, seek revenge on ol' Clint?

That's just it: His name was CLINT.

Think for a moment of the movie Election.

Young Reese Witherspoon (a name with its own problems, admittedly) stars as Tracy, the ambitious high school student determined to be chosen as President of her high school student government. In one of the more notable scenes from this Alexander Payne quirk-fest, Tracy prepares cupcakes which encourage voters to choose her come election day; in full caps, the baked goods have her last name and campaign slogan written in icing:


However, an errant morsel of sugary goodness or the slightest twinge of hyperopia can easily translate that phrase into:


Such are the perils of the capitalized "LI" combination, a well-known pitfall to those in the comic book industry...except, oddly enough, Stan Lee and Don Heck who created Hawkeye for Tales of Suspense #57 in September of 1964. (Or has this been an in-joke of their all along? Bedeviling!) The venerable Julie Schwartz (RIP) certainly knew about it, as he penned this warning for his Man of Two Worlds autobiography:

The Three Words You Must Never Use
When I first started off in comics, a wise man named Shelly Mayer gave me some advice, which I will now impart to you.

If you don't want to get in trouble:

1. Never call a character CLINT
2. Never use the word FLICK
3. And always avoid using the contraction WHO'RE. (157)

Surely, this potential faux pas must also plague movie theater owners or concert promoters when dealing with the likes of Clints Eastwood or Black, respectively. It's also a simple matter of Googling "Bill Cunton" to find a wealth of disparaging parodies on the former President employing this elision.

But, the fun doesn't stop there, oh no. Hawkeye became a thorn in letterers sides (or knuckles?) for yet another reason: Misspelling "Clint" leads to its own share of headaches. Missing the c isn't so bad; then you simply have changed the novel character into a navel character. But, botching the n is a special hazard unto itself.

Why, yes I have.
Take this imagined script from an old issue of West Coast Avengers:

Mockingbird: WHAT HAPPENED?
Wonder Man: NO, I... -- what?

The letterers had the opportunity. They likely had the ability. And it seems to me that they well had this deep, painful motivation to off this founding member of Cap's Kooky Quartet.

And, just to add insult to injury, the fomer Wacko chairman had an additional reason to vex letterers: You really want to confuse "fletching an arrow" with "feltching an arrow?" I realize that the error itself is a misspelling of "felch," but, even so, once that concept has mistakenly wandered on to a mighty Marvel page, proper spelling is going to be the least of your problems.

A. David Lewis

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