Name: Katherine ‘Kate’ Bishop
First Appearance: Young Avengers #1 (April, 2005)
Powers/Skills: Skilled in archery, gunmanship, fencing, martial arts and boxing
Team Affiliations: Young Avengers
With the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the name “Hawkeye” has become synonymous with Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of the snarky, sharpshooting Clint Barton. However, the movies aren’t always 100% canonically faithful (we won’t go into the whole “secret family” debacle) and not everything gets a mention, which is why many people might not recognise the name Kate Bishop. For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, Kate Bishop is Hawkeye.
Before anyone gets confused, Kate is, in fact, the third person to hold the Hawkeye mantle (Clint Barton and Wyatt McDonald being the other two). While the name obviously isn’t copy written to just Barton, Kate shares a similar skill-set to the cheeky archer himself as she is an impressive shot with a multitude of weapons, the bow and arrow being a particular favourite. First appearing in Young Avengers #1, the Young Avengers team is Kate’s most prominent affiliation and while she serves simultaneously with Clint Barton as Hawkeye in the Marvel Universe, she is a strong leader and hero in her own right; which she demonstrates right from the outset in her role in the Young Avengers.
The character, first introduced by writer Allan Heinberg and illustrator Jim Cheung, is relatively new to the Marvel ‘verse, debuting in 2005. While she’s not been around quite as long as her predecessor to the title, Bishop has some pretty impressive credentials to her name already, as well as a strong personality, a cracking skill-set and the kind of leadership that makes her a truly badass leading lady.
If one had to draw an immediate comparison between Kate’s introduction and any other Marvel character, one may be inclined to comment upon how Bishop’s connection with Marvel’s kick-ass PI Jessica Jones is significant in more ways than one. When Kate is initially introduced to the Young Avengers, we come to understand that her backstory holds a shocking history of violence, in the form of a traumatising assault in Central Park. Of course, her history of assault links her to the likes of Jessica Jones and it is only Jones that currently knows about this attack (as well as Kate’s therapist). The link seems to be clear and, indeed, Bishop is not cowed by her experiences. Like her sister-in-arms, she empowers herself to move past her violent history and embraces her strengths as a hero of both skill and bravery. The introductions of these characters are strikingly similar and the statements from each of their experiences are resounding. We talk about “strong female characters”, usually cardboard cut-outs of “badass” ladies with killer abs and sharp comebacks, but characters like Jones and Bishop are the strongest we can face. These characters are the kind of women who have suffered, a representation of the kind of suffrage that women face daily under the patriarchy, and have not allowed it to destroy them, rather, they have risen from it.
Also like Jones, Kate Bishop is an inquisitive mind (even serving as a PI in later comics) and it is her investigation into the Young Avengers that grants her a place on their team. Following them into the Avengers headquarters and donning an amalgamation of Mockingbird and Hawkeye’s costume, Bishop later proves herself in a battle against Kang the Conqueror and earns her place on the team. After this, Kate only goes from strength to strength, and after the team is ordered to be disbanded by Captain America and Iron Man, Kate establishes herself as a firm leader. Ignoring the demand, Bishop creates a new team headquarters, provides new uniforms and revitalises the Young Avengers to fight once more.
Already demonstrating herself as a strong leader, it is in this storyline that Kate has her first connection to the original Hawkeye. Surprisingly, it is Jessica Jones that gives Kate the original Hawkeye bow (leading readers to ponder on Marvel’s impressive use of supportive females in its narrative), stating that Clint Barton was the only person who had stood up to Captain America as Kate did and that the Captain wanted her to take the Hawkeye name. It’s a little debatable that Clint was the only guy to stand up to the Captain (Civil War anyone?) but it did the trick and Bishop quickly assumed the name.
Interestingly enough, the next time that Bishop is linked to Barton, she does in fact meet a disguised Clint. Although she does not recognise him, it is Bishop’s influence that causes the original Hawkeye to condemn Tony Stark for his part in the Civil War and go his own way, demonstrating Kate’s solid influence and leadership. The next time she sees Clint, it’s in the Young Avengers Presents series and while the interaction is not wholly positive for the pair, it establishes a student/mentor relationship that would later be employed in other series. A particularly notable example of this is in a later meeting, after the events of Seige, wherein Clint encourages Kate to keep the Hawkeye name, allowing the two Hawkeyes to work alongside each other in harmony.
Indeed, after this encounter, Kate appears alongside Clint in the 2012 Marvel NOW! Series Hawkeye. Perhaps the most notable series for Bishop, the series is a standalone wherein the pair co-star in fighting small, street-level crime. Notable for its Matt Fraction’s humour, David Aja’s fantastic art and it’s down to Earth portrayal of the characters and heroism, Hawkeye is a fantastic series and a career high-point for Kate. On a personal level however, Kate has trouble with Clint during the series, and his aloof behaviour forces her to leave for L.A, where she is left broke and works as a PI super hero for hire.
The tension between the pair has yet to be resolved as Kate is left furious with Clint after his actions in Civil War II and the news that she is set to star in her own Hawkeye series in the Fall Marvel NOW! Line-up only points to further conflict. While the two Hawkeyes undoubtedly work well together, there’s no doubt that the pair are as different as they are similar and it often leads to frustrations. Regardless, Barton once commented that there was room enough in the world for two Hawkeyes, so one can still be hopeful that we’ll see them reconcile soon.
Kate Bishop is a young character and for it she is still growing and changing. Being Hawkeye isn’t always easy and the role isn’t always as “super” as some of the other Avengers, but like all good heroes, Bishop has it where it counts. With heart, courage and an eye for trouble (and for targets), this Lady Hawkeye has her sights set firmly on making her own mark on the Hawkeye name.