Some superheroes just seem to be a little more fun when they have a partner. Batman and Robin. Green Arrow and Black Canary. Darkwing Duck and Launchpad McQuack. And recently, we’ve had another such pairing reunited: Barbara “Bobbi” Morse and Clint Barton, AKA Mockingbird and Hawkeye.
Mockingbird was a biologist, then a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, then a superhero, holding her own with nothing but martial arts training and some cool batons that could merge into a staff. After several adventures, she joined with Marvel’s premier superhero team, the Avengers.
Hawkeye was an incredibly talented archer who was mistaken for a villain and then tricked into making enemies with Iron Man. He later proved his true worth and joined the Avengers, aiding the fight against evil with his arsenal of high-tech arrows, acrobatic training and his uncanny ability to argue with Captain America about everything from strategy to what TV show to watch.
They’ve definitely been through the ringer, these two. They had a whirlwind romance leading to a fast marriage that later led to divorce. Then Mockingbird was seemingly killed, though her ghost showed up on occasion. Then she showed up alive and well, as it turned out it was an alien impostor who had died in her place (and who, I guess, still masquerades as her in the afterlife). Meanwhile, Hawkeye died for real and was then resurrected by weird mutant magic, eventually reuniting with Bobbi. And through all of this, they have made a habit of tweaking their looks, more often than you might have realized.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Hawkeye was first introduced in 1964 in Tales of Suspense #57 (which is where Iron Man’s stories were featured before the hero got his own title later on). We met Clint Barton as a circus performer who was getting pretty annoyed that folks like Iron Man in the news made him seem rather silly or mundane in comparison. Barton wanted to prove that what he could do with arrows, particularly specially-made high-tech arrows, was just as impressive as anything people with fancy armor and superheroes could accomplish. So he made himself a costume meant to emulate the new wave of costumed heroes that had been appearing in the Marvel Universe (Spider-Man, Ant-Man, Iron Man, etc.) and “Hawkeye” was born.
Sadly, his first attempt to stop a criminal ended with him holding stolen merchandise just as the police arrived, which led from one bad thing to another and put our boy into his initial life of crime. But let’s focus on what Clint was wearing during this initial adventures, namely this archer outfit designed by artist Don Heck. As we can see, it’s a slightly stylish take on a medieval archer. You’ve even got the little sash/”skirtlet.”
This costume isn’t half-bad. Hawkeye’s from the circus, so we can forgive him for seeming a little outlandish. The fact that the mask has an “H” on it speaks of Hawkeye’s vanity. This is, after all, a guy who makes it a point to introduce himself and occasionally boasts about how skilled and heroic he is. With that little letter on his mask, he’s reminding anyone who looks at him just what his name is.
The medieval look also works when you consider that Hawkeye is introduced as an Iron Man foe at first. Iron Man’s armor is the stuff of science fiction and he has called himself a “test pilot for the future.” So Hawkeye’s a great contrast to this technologically enhanced hero because he looks like he stepped out of a Robin Hood story or King Arthur’s court. He’s also providing an interesting paradox because although he may seem primitive in his get-up and with his quiver, Hawkeye’s arrows are state of the art weapons, involving grappling lines, sonic grenades, gas canisters and concussion bombs.
If this suit has a major flaw, it’s that it looks cobbled together. There’s not a lot of unity here with the clashing colors.
THE CLASSIC LOOK
Amazing what a few minor touches can do. By simply turning Hawkeye’s chest guard and straps purple, the costume works as a whole now, coming off as a design rather than a few things thrown together.
Also notice that the shoulder guards have been removed for the most part and the sash has been altered. Hawkeye is no longer anachronistic. He is now a modernization of an old concept, with the cut and fit of his outfit clearly defining him as a superhero.
The tighter fit also makes sense since an archer does not want loose clothing getting in the way of what she or he is doing. And extending the mask outwards makes it look just a little bit better and showier. Definitely more attractive than tiny eye decorations that don’t do much for the look.
An excellent design. There’s definitely no need to make any drastic changes.
WE GO OFF-COURSE
AH! What the heck is going on here? Good lord, most of his shirt is missing! Who would only steal MOST of a shirt? And why is he calling himself the new Goliath? Isn’t that a name that the size-changing hero Hank Pym used for a while?
What’s that? Marvel decided Hawkeye needed a little shake-up so they let him duplicate the powers of Hank Pym for a short time? Weird. Okay, we’ll roll with it. So Clint Barton has tossed his bow and arrow and is now a guy who can increase his strength and size. Does this outfit work for him in this new role?
Not so much. First off all, the fact that he’s wearing 15% of a shirt underneath a studded bra just makes me think of a wrestler, especially when you have that weight-belt. I understand these things can convey a sense of strength, but that’s ALL this outfit conveys. Hawkeye’s still the same acrobatic jokester he was before, so superhuman strength shouldn’t become his defining trait. You’re now limiting the character, not enhancing him.
And changing the color scheme later does not help. In fact, it actually points out another flaw. This costume is too generic. That could be Hawkeye as “Goliath,” sure. It could also be Piledriver of the villainous Wrecking crew (who is depicted just below). Or it could be “El Giganto Gringo,” a new contender in Mexico.
Fortunately, Hawkeye (and Marvel) decided that he didn’t need a change like this. So it was back to the bow and arrows. But rather than return to his classic outfit, Hawkeye gave another look a shot.
Oh, dear God, it’s Peter Pan. Clint, Clint, Clint, what happened, buddy? You have this weird hippie headband. There’s a zig-zag pattern that just looks like a decorative zipper. You’ve got a V-neck that nearly hits your stomach. And not only has someone run away with your pants, but that skirt is so short, you may well expose your little arrow to the very people you’re trying to protect. Worst of all, this is all basically a circus interpretation of what a gaudy Native American archer might dress like, which makes this look offensive in a whole new way.
Nothing about this outfit tells me Hawkeye is a guy who spars with Captain America and has been able to give Iron Man a good fight. I tells me that Cirque de Soleil is in town and tickets are selling fast!
Thank God Clint went to his classic look again soon after this. Who could take this guy seriously in any context?
A GIRL BY ANY NAME
Mockingbird was not created overnight. Initially, she was just this strange girl Barbara who was trying to recruit the help of Ka-Zar (Marvel’s answer to Tarzan) and seemed to have psychic powers. A couple of issues later, she was blonde and with no powers at all. Eventually, we learned she was a scientist who became Agent 19 of the international peace-keeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. She started helping out Ka-Zar on his adventures and adopted a costume … of sorts.
I realize Barbara is supposed to be a secret agent of sorts, but she shouldn’t look like a stand-in for Emma Peel. How are you going to call yourself a super-spy and not have a gun holster on that fancy belt of yours? And why wear a turtle neck with short shorts? Wait, come to think of it, you’re in the jungle with Ka-Zar, lady. Why are you wearing a turtle neck and heeled boots at all? Obviously, practical jungle wardrobe was not covered in S.H.I.E.L.D. training.
Later on, Barbara got her act together and traded in her turtle neck and heels for something that worked in the jungle or in the gritty city. Under the new code-name “Huntress” (not to be confused with the DC character), our girl was in a general-purpose leather jumpsuit, ready for a fight at any time.
This isn’t a bad look, but, as the Black Widow can attest, it’s sometimes tough for us to take you seriously as a spy and serious fighter when you forget to zip up your top more than just above your belly button. And the size of that utility belt is rather large, almost resembling a girdle.
Barbara only wore this outfit for one story. When she appeared again, she had a new look and a new name.
At last, “Bobbi” Morse comes into her own as Mockingbird. She’s still got the boots and the tight outfit. She’s still got a bit of the chest showing, but now the neckline is high enough that it looks sexy rather than slutty. Interestingly, the only “bird” element is the mask. But hey, sometimes less is more.
The utility belt is gone, as Mockingbird now keeps her weapons and tools hidden in her large sleeves. It may seem strange at first to have such large, loose sleeves but in my mind, they evoke an image of a Japanese kimono and broadcast that Bobbi is a skilled martial artist. This look may seem a bit retro today, but that doesn’t mean it’s not cool.
Sometimes you just gotta change things up to see how they fit. In 1983, Hawkeye had his own mini-series, co-starring Mockingbird (though, sadly, she did not share the title with him). In this mini, Mockingbird designed a new look for Hawkeye. Like a typical guy, his response was “Not exactly like my old one, but it’ll do.”
This is actually a very cool look. It maintains the medieval archer appeal but enhances the superhero look just a little bit by adding gloves and sleeves. And the fact that he’s now wearing black instead of blue makes the purple stand out more. Also, this outfit is actually more practical than his old ones. The gloves can definitely help prevent injury when pulling that taught string several times in every battle. And a right-handed archer can appreciate covering his left arm with chain mail to prevent the bowstring from hitting the arm when it’s released.
Eventually, Hawkeye modified this further, cutting the sleeves short but keeping the arm guard. This look works just as well, so at this point I think it’s just a matter of preference concerning whether you have the sleeves there or not.
Around this time, Mockingbird made a small change herself. She ditched her pants and got even larger sleeves. This look, I’m not as wild about. It’s sexy, yes, but the other look was sexy too and now I think we’re sacrificing a little bit of practicality. Even for a comic, these sleeves are now so large that I have a growing concern about Bobbi catching them in a door or knocking over drinks when she’s gesturing.
There’s also the question of protection. I don’t personally mind heroes such as Wonder Woman, Power Girl or Supergirl not wearing pants because they all have super-powers involving incredible strength and resiliency to injury. But Mockingbird is a human being. A skilled one, yes, but still human. I’d think that she would want any kind of extra protection she can get and S.H.I.E.L.D. certainly has a large supply of body armor that fits as comfortably as normal clothing.
I GOTTA WEAR SHADES
ME: Hawkeye, what’ve you done to yourself?
HAWKEYE: C’mon, Kistler! It’s 1990 now. And what did the 90s teach us?
ME: That extra pouches are always a must for super heroes?
HAWKEYE: Sure. But they also taught us about shades. Shades are cool!
ME: Okay, no matter what, anyone who wears sunglasses at night looks like a tool. And the fact that your shades are shaped to resemble your old mask, that’s just weird. In fact, this whole suit is weird, why are you wearing armor?
HAWKEYE: Tony Stark designed it for me. I got shot up by a street gang, so I decided to get some armor to prevent that from happening again.
ME: Why didn’t you just start wearing Kevlar? This armor is too bulky. It doesn’t say medieval archer, it says you’re from a Renaissance Fair in the far future. You even have armor around your neck! It all just makes you look heavy and kills any notion that you’re an acrobat.
HAWKEYE: Aw, you’re just jealous of Br’er Hawkeye. Look, my shades are infra-red so I can shoot in the dark!
ME: I don’t care! And dude, what is with all the H’s? An H on the mask, I understand, but now you have another H on your shirt and another one on the back of your quiver? Really? You needed to put three H’s on your costume? You’re that concerned we will forget your name?
HAWKEYE: You gotta love the gauntlets, though.
ME: No. No, I don’t. How are you supposed to be able to delicately and accurately fire arrows in the heat of battle with metal gauntlets that thick?
ME: Yeah, I thought so. At least you went back to your classic look after wearing this for a few months.
HAWKEYE: Oh, wait! I had another cool 90′s costume a little while later! Wanna see?
ME: Why is there a quiver on your leg?
HAWKEYE: Well, in the 90′s, everyone added a belt or pouch to their thigh, so I figured, hey, I’ll add a quiver!
ME: You understand the concept of gravity, right? Okay, I get that your arrows in your main quiver are fixed into place because of how that thing was specially made and that probably applies to this other quiver as well, but it looks barely large enough to be a pocket. The arrows are so exposed that I think it would be really easy for an enemy to just grab them or snap them in half. And with all the acrobatics you do, it looks like you’d break those things yourself in the process.
HAWKEYE: Okay, maybe you’ll like the next look!
ME: Okay, you really need to stop this.
HAWKEYE: But look! I brought back the awkward shoulder pads and added a belt to the leg. AND the little arrows on my chest imply an H!
ME: Those are not arrows, they look like hockey sticks. This is a bad suit.
HAWKEYE: Well at least the mask looks less like Wolverine!
ME: I’ll give you that. But the rest has to go.
HAWKEYE: Wait till you see my Heroes Reborn outfit later! Just you wait!
And now let’s bid good-bye to Hawkeye and continue our program.
After returning from Counter-Earth, Hawkeye went back to his classic look for a few years. Then, in a 2003 mini-series, he adopted this new take. Like in the 80s, he had an arm guard. But instead of lightweight chain mail, we have armor that not only looks heavy but seems like it would impede his movements. We’ve also got a utility belt strapped across the chest that doesn’t really add anything except distraction.
And if those accessories seemed unnecessary, it got even worse later on in the mini. As you can see, this costume just looks too busy, too cumbersome for an acrobatic archer. Just doesn’t work for our boy. Sorry.
DARK TIMES AND NEW FACES
Clint Barton died in battle and soon afterward the Avengers disbanded. Months later, several teens with strange abilities banded together, calling themselves the Young Avengers. They wound up rescuing a rich girl named Kate Bishop. But Kate wasn’t just any old civilian who needed rescuing. Following an attack in Central Park, she had engaged in intensive combat training so she would never be a victim again, learning fencing, archery, boxing and martial arts.
Impressed with the Young Avengers, she decided to join them, arming herself with a mish-mash of items belonging to different Avengers. This original makeshift “Hawkingbird” look was soon dropped and Kate later got herself a more serious super hero outfit. Impressed with her abilities, Captain America gave her Clint Barton’s old bow and arrows and so she became the new Hawkeye.
Kate Bishop comes from money and this is reflected in her look. If you take away the weapons, she might very well be a runway model who just left Fashion Week.
The weapons she carries and the arm guard definitely let us know she’s an archer and the color scheme reminds us of Clint. But the exposed midriff is a bit strange. Sure, pretty women, and certainly teenagers, may enjoy showing off their stomach. But this is clothing she’s going to wear in battle and you’d think that Kate, having once suffered a brutal attack, would believe in armoring such a large area of vulnerable flesh. If Kate’s back story were different, I might have been okay with it.
The sunglasses are stylish, but are they supposed to hide her identity? Because honestly, I’ve worn sunglasses around my friends on many occasions, all kinds of shades over the years, and they have always been able to tell it was really me unless serious degrees of alcohol were involved. And yeah, the scarf and skirt are sexy, but they’re also completely impractical for a character whose main weapon is a bow and arrow. If the wind blows wrong, she’ll get tangled with the bowstring and possibly wind up dead.
Again, I actually respond very positively to this look for its own sake, but it just doesn’t work for an archer superhero or someone with Kate’s past.
After returning from death, Clint temporarily adopted the costume and name of “Ronin,” an identity that had been used before by a woman warrior called Echo. A ronin is a masterless samurai and this costume certainly says that. And the more I think of it, this costume fits Clint at the time. He was back from the dead, not sure how or why really. The world was a darker place at the time. Captain America was lost in time. And soon after Clint started wearing this suit, the villain Norman Osborn (one of Spider-Man’s arch-enemies) was put in charge of superhuman activity in the U.S., creating his own team of “Dark Avengers” who were actually villains. The Avengers that Clint now fought alongside were underground rebels rather than public heroes.
With all that in mind, I think it makes sense that Clint would feel like a Ronin for a while. Though personally, I preferred him wearing this costume without the mask. That way, we had a stronger visual reminder that this was our boy Clint, even if he was in a darker mood. And since he hasn’t had a secret identity for years, it’s not as if he has to hide his face anyway.
When Norman Osborn created his own team of “Dark Avengers,” he recruited various criminals to pretend to be superheroes so that the public could be lulled into a false sense of security. Bullseye, the assassin nemesis of Daredevil, took on the identity of Osborn’s very own Hawkeye, since his near-superhuman marksmanship allowed him to imitate the archer’s abilities. Bullseye’s suit here resembles Clint’s 1983 look, but it’s become, perhaps, too streamlined. If you ignore the Hawkeye mask Bullseye would wear, this could be any archer’s outfit. Only the purple lets it stand out.
So in the 1990s, Fox tried an Avengers cartoon, hoping it would be just as cool as the X-Men cartoon. Not a bad idea. But look at what they did to our boy Hawkeye. You thought that Stark armor was bulky and weird? Look at all that! He looks like he threw on Iron Man’s spare parts.
Whoever designed this suit seems to have no idea what the character even is. Sorry, moving on.
So in this story called Heroes Reborn, the Avengers and other superheroes were kinda reincarnated and lived out similar but distinct lives on “Counter-Earth.” Hawkeye was among those who got a new approach.
Wait a second. Why is Wolverine here? And why is he using Hawkeye’s arrows? This doesn’t make any … Oh, God. That’s supposed to be Hawkeye? Really? No, no, no. Earth tones may say “Robin Hood” or “I’m a friend to the trees,” but they do not say “wise-cracking circus performer who became a super-hero.” In fact, if it weren’t for the mask, this would barely be a costume. It’s just a brown bodysuit. There’s nothing to it. Wrist guards and pouches on the leg. I wonder if this was an artist who agreed with the whole 90s approach to things. Whoever he is, he apparently forgot to draw a bowstring.
Lame. What’s next?
Ah, Ultimate Marvel, a parallel universe where some Marvel characters are very different indeed. So let’s look at Ultimate Hawkeye.
Yeah, I don’t really care for this. This says “guy going skiing.” There’s nothing unique about this, nothing super heroic about it. Depending on the issue, Ultimate Hawkeye either looks too simplistic as a guy wearing a purple body stocking or too complicated as a guy carrying way more stuff on his body than an archer should reasonably carry.
Every outfit this guy wears is just so generic, except for the chest design of one of his suits which, sadly, just reminds me of the lame mid-1990s costume that preceded Heroes Reborn. The Ultimate Hawkeye uniforms may be more realistic designs and I could understand why a movie might one day use them as a basis for a live-action suit. But in the colorful, stylized world of comics and cartoons, this guy is sorely lacking.
Recently, Clint has resumed his role as the first and now only Hawkeye, returning to a more classic look. He has the chain mail guard again and has altered the straps of his quiver. Time will tell how long this lasts, but I’m all right with it. I don’t like it as much as the black-and-purple 1983 look, but it works and it may grow on me.
Mockingbird is also back in action and now has a killer look. This outfit says sexy spy, it says high-flying adventure, it says superhero. The boots make sense and this look certainly shows off her body, but it also covers her pretty well. Bobbi’s outfit has often been said to be a Kevlar and Beta cloth weave, making it resistant to bullets and fire. The cut of this new outfit looks a little heavier than her previous costumes, so I have an easier time believing it’s also custom-made body armor.
Like the shades Hawkeye wore in 1990, these glasses allow Mockingbird to see in the dark. They also have other technological tricks. I’ve been critical of sunglasses with some of the other looks, but these don’t look like full-on shades, they’re just tinted, which improves the situation immediately. Mockingbird’s old bird-mask would, depending on who drew it, occasionally run the risk of looking like a Mardi Gras leftover. But the shape of these glasses implies the same thing while also giving us a fun retro look. The fact that she would wear such things reminds us that Barbara Morse is not all-business and has a sense of whimsy too.
This design also looks very snazzy when Mockinbird throws on a long coat with sleeves that emulate her old 1980s outfit. Nice touch. In fact, I dig this entire design for Bobbi. Sexy, but practical as far as superhero outfits go. An excellent design by artist David Lopez.
Well, that about wraps it up, folks. I hope you enjoyed this look at these two adventurers. And if you have any interest in fun adventures with lots of spies, super-villains, intrigue and banter, you should definitely read the new Hawkeye & Mockingbird series by Jim McCann and David Lopez, the first issue of which was released this week. Trust me folks, if you know these characters, it’s a fun read. And if you have never read a story about them in your life, McCann makes a point of telling you everything you need to know about their past.
Be sure to join us here again next week and feel free to send us your ideas for future pieces. This is Alan Kistler, Agent of S.T.Y.L.E., signing off.
Alan Kistler writes the comic book history/fashion column Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. He is an actor and freelance writer living in New York who has been recognized by Warner Bros. Films and major media/news outlets as a comic book historian. He is also the creator/host of the web-show “Crazy Sexy Geeks: The Series.” He knows entirely too much about the history of comics, Star Trek, Doctor Who, time travel, and vampires that don’t sparkle.