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The Untold Truth Of Marvel's Kate Bishop

We can finally say for certain that Hailee Steinfeld is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's version of Kate Bishop, thanks to apparently clandestine on-set footage from the set of the Disney+ series Hawkeye. A short clip of Jeremy Renner, once again playing Clint Barton, running across a subway platform alongside the True Grit and Into the Spider-Verse star validates rumors that started making their way through the pop culture rumor mill more than a year before.   

Perhaps just as importantly, we see a mysterious golden retriever join Renner and Steinfeld on their journey into public transportation. Whether this means Lucky The Pizza Dog — celebrated canine companion of both Barton and Bishop in the comics — is also a recurring character in the series slated to premiere in 2021, time will tell. 

Since launching with Iron Man in 2008, the MCU has evolved into a virtually omnipresent media entity with its own identity and fanbase, independent of its source material in sequential art. So it stands to reason that plenty of diehard MCU fans have read Steinfeld-related headlines this week and thought to themselves, "Who is Kate Bishop? Why do people seem excited about her showing up in a live-action TV show?"

For those folks, we've rounded up a primer on Kate Bishop, a.k.a. Hawkeye. Whether you're brand new to the character or just need a refresher course before she starts slinging arrows onscreen, don't worry — we've got you covered. This is the untold truth of Marvel's Kate Bishop.

Take Oliver Queen, and subtract the whole weird deal with the island

A lot of superheroes have origin stories of questionable plausibility involving other dimensions and/or intergalactic disasters and/or radioactive mutations and so on. Not so for Katherine Bishop. She picked up the codename "Hawkeye" during a time when Clint Barton was assumed dead, and hung on to it afterwards, because why not? Just like the original Hawkeye, Bishop's powers — and there's nothing supernatural about them — include a willingness to practice archery and hand-to-hand combat as if her life depends on it, which it quite often does.

As one of the heiresses of Bishop Publishing, the second Hawkeye was born a multimillionaire — which means she has slightly more in common with that other costumed comics marksman: Oliver Queen, a.k.a. DC's Green Arrow. The major differences between Bishop and Oliver Queen are probably generational. Wonder Woman screenwriter Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung created Bishop in the mid-'00s, so unlike Green Arrow, she's never had to undergo a reboot or reimagining to fit into the zeitgeist. 

Early in the 2012 Hawkeye run, Barton describes Bishop as "The finest and most gifted bowman I've ever met, but she's like nine years old and spoiled rotten." So maybe it's worth thinking of Bishop's Hawkeye as if one of the younger Kardashian sisters was an awesome archer, and decided to become a superhero instead of a professional celebrity. That's probably not completely accurate, but it's pretty close.   

Some of the best Marvel comics of the 2010s are Kate Bishop comics

To say that Matt Fraction and David Aja's Hawkeye (2012) is the best Marvel comic of the 2010s is about as close to an objective statement as anyone can get while tossing around words like "best" in reference to culture or art. At the absolute minimum, it's somewhere in the top three.

Fraction writes Clint Barton as a damaged everyman who feels out of his element fighting the sorts of robots and aliens he often encounters with the Avengers. This direction might've benefited from some foresight or good timing. The Avengers definitely let the audience wonder what this guy with a bow and arrow brings to the team, so it helps that one of the titular Hawkeyes starts the comic exploring that very question. Bishop — whose codename, once again, is also Hawkeye — offsets Barton's insecure and world-weary tendencies with an irreverence and fundamental optimism. It follows that she winds up the breakout character of the series. Of the two Hawkeyes, she's probably the more fun to read about. 

While not as essential to the series overall, Kate Bishop is on the team in the 2013 Young Avengers run by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie. Not only is Young Avengers another best-of-decade for Marvel, it's a harbinger of The Wicked + The Divine, Gillen and McKelvie's wildly successful follow-up project with Image Comics.   

Sometimes she works as a hero for hire (lowercase intentional)

Kate Bishop first appeared with the rest of the inaugural crew of Young Avengers in 2005. However, a majority of readers probably encountered her for the first time in Fraction and Aja's Hawkeye seven years later, simply because that's the more widely-read book.

In that one, after aiding Clint Barton with a handful of endeavors — ranging from a mission to sabotage international super-crime to a battle of wills and wits against a gang dubbed the "Tracksuit Draculas" — Bishop bails on Barton, and absconds with Lucky the Pizza Dog for a fresh start in Los Angeles. Upon arrival, she discovers her credit cards have all been mysteriously voided. Ergo, Hawkeye must find work for the literal first time in her privileged life. So she goes into business as a professional crime-solver and clobberer of ne'er-do-wells, leading her into a sequence of quirky, bizarre street-level adventures. Though she returns to New York before the end of Fraction's run, she sets up shop in L.A. again at the onset of the Hawkeye series by Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero released in 2016. 

Purely hypothetically, if Disney+ executives decide to pick up Hawkeye for a second season, but don't feel like spending money on Jeremy Renner again, they've already got a template for a Kate Bishop solo show just kind of sitting there in their proverbial warehouse of intellectual properties.  

She once dated a guy with explosive fingernails

A career in costumed crimefighting offers very few social benefits. Maintaining a healthy, long-term romantic relationship becomes virtually impossible. But on the bright side, at least superheroes on teams are pretty much all guaranteed flings with each other. What else are extraordinarily fit people in spandex outfits supposed to do when the world doesn't need saving?  

Arguably, Hawkeye's had more significant romances with co-Young Avengers Thomas Shepherd, a.k.a. Speed, and Elijah Bradley, a.ka. Patriot, plus last we checked she's dating Johnny Watts, a.k.a. Fuse. But you can't forget about Noh-Varr — Hawkeye's coolest ex-boyfriend by a mile. Created by Grant Morrison and J.G. Jones in 2000, the anti-hero occasionally referred to as Marvel Boy arrived on Earth as the sole survivor of a crashed Kree ship sent from another dimension on a diplomatic mission. In addition to all the other powers typically associated with Kree warriors — strength, flight, invulnerability, so forth — Noh-Varr wields deadly explosive fingernail clippings, saliva with properties akin to LSD, and there's at least a strand or two of cockroach spliced into his DNA. Cockroach abilities come in handy somehow, apparently?  

Anyway, early in their relationship, Noh-Varr gives Hawkeye a Kree composite soul bow, which is basically a rad sci-fi laser bow. She returns the epic gadgetry and goes back to using regular arrows after Marvel Boy breaks up with her to get back together with his kinkster super villain ex. Dumb move, Marvel Boy.  

She's toured her share of alternate universes

Kate Bishop has participated in her fair share of "realistic" derring-do, but she's also traveled across the threshold of observable space and time, and rampaged across impossible alien landscapes. Not every superhero can manage the street-level combat as well as the space opera fare, but Hawkeye seems to do just spiffy. 

In the 2013 Young Avengers series, the gang avails themselves of Miss America's teleportation powers to chase a monster that looks like, but obviously isn't, their former teammate Patriot as he hops from dimension to dimension to dimension. The pursuit lasts for at least five months. During this period, the Young Avengers come to a version of Earth occupied by hostile anthropomorphic hawk monsters with heads all resembling Bishop's. Not long after, they stumble into the best Korean barbecue restaurant in the entire multiverse. It's that kind of trip.

In the leadup to Young Avengers hitting the market, writer Kieron Gillen took to Tumblr and shed some light on how he went about selecting the team. His post on Hawkeye offers some provocative observations about how we talk about superheroes without superpowers. 

"With Young Avengers, we're firing everything about being 18-20 through a superheroic filter." wrote Gillen. "As such, powers tend to come across as potential, talent, ability or whatever. And as amazing as Kate is, as hard as she's worked... She looks around the room and knows that she lacks in a way that all her hard work can never overcome."

Kate Bishop rescued Brian Wilson... kind of

Okay, so Hawkeye did not literally save the reclusive genius behind the Beach Boys, because Brian Wilson lives in reality and Kate Bishop lives in the 616 branch of the Marvel multiverse. But she did help Will Bryson of the Bryson Brothers out of a pretty horrific jam. In some ways, that's the same thing. 

In Hawkeye (2012) #16, Bishop's neighbor Finch describes the Bryson Brothers as a 1960s hit machine memorable for "harmonies and doo wop and production work that made their little teenage love songs sound huge." In the story, Will Bryson has been working on the same album for decades, and he's on very poor terms with his untalented, bottom-line-oriented brother. Will Bryson reflects the occasionally tragic life of Brian Wilson far beyond any possible coincidence. 

Bishop encounters the possibly high-as-a-space-kite songwriter babbling and wandering the Interstate 405, and offers to intervene on his behalf in whatever situation happens to be causing him turmoil. It turns out Bryson's upset because someone leaked unfinished demos of his long-labored upon album, Wish, on the internet. Maybe the situation really calls for a good copyright lawyer rather than an Avenger. And if a good copyright lawyer had picked Bryson up during of his fugue state session on the highway, then this would be that lawyer's story. But instead, it's a Hawkeye story. That's how it goes sometimes, folks.    

Madame Masque and Hawkeye are not pals

You can tell a lot about a superhero from their personal rogues' gallery. If they've got a solid dozen-or-so certifiably serious big bads, then they're either Batman or the X-Men, because they get to hog all the best villains for some reason. Realistically, if a newer character's got at least one solid arch-nemesis, that's a good sign for their potential longevity. 

Madame Masque is a Stan Lee and Gene Colan creation from the late 1960s, meaning she predates Bishop by decades of reality time. Yet they easily function as the opposite versions of each other on the proverbial morality spectrum. They're similar physical archetypes with similar lifestyles. When Bishop needs to infiltrate an evil auction, she disguises herself as Madame Masque to fit in with the supervillains, and nobody can tell the difference. When Madame Masque seeks revenge for this slight, she casually approaches Bishop in broad daylight, which she can do because they're coincidentally lounging around the same pool because they have the same taste in hotels. If it wasn't for the attempted murders and that time Hawkeye blew up Madame Masque's house, they'd maybe be friends? 

In theory, we won't see Hawkeye and Madam Masque engage in a comics-accurate battle for supremacy on Disney+ because the MCU version of Madam Masque apparently lived during the 1950s and is therefore likely dead. Then again, if she came back, she'd only be the third 100-something-year-old running around doing mayhem throughout the MCU. 

All that, and she plays the cello

There are those among the MCU faithful who may view Kate Bishop as an unwelcome encroachment upon the Hawkeye to whom they've grown accustomed. On the other hand, it's easy to imagine other viewers having difficulty forming any strong opinion about the MCU's version of Clint Barton at all. He appears in five movies, but usually in the figurative and literal shadows of more powerful, charismatic figures. 

All that could change with Disney+'s Hawkeye. At the close of Avengers: Endgame, two of Barton's closest friends are dead, one of his living friends is suddenly elderly, and the only other original member of the Avengers who still lives on Earth is the Hulk. That's a lot of ground for a show to potentially cover. 

But even if Barton becomes more interesting, he still won't be able to play the cello. As she's his equal in archery and crimefighting, that makes Kate Bishop an upgrade on Barton in every meaningful way, plus a third thing. 

"I'm a cellist. I don't listen to that pop nonsense." Bishop casually notes to explain how she has no idea who the Bryson Brothers are in Hawkeye (2012) #16.

Hopefully the TV Hawkeye doesn't deviate from the source material too much. Though Bishop doesn't specify whether she's into classical or modern jazz or what, whatever the case, if there's one thing the MCU could use, it's some more sophistication.