Today marks the premiere of Marvel Studios’ newest series, Hawkeye, which shines a spotlight on one of the founding members of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Avengers: Clint Barton.
The series set in post-Blip New York City, where former Avenger Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has a seemingly simple mission: get back to his family for Christmas. But when a threat from his past shows up, Hawkeye reluctantly teams up with Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a 22-year-old skilled archer and his biggest fan, to unravel a criminal conspiracy.
Created by Stan Lee and Don Heck, Clint Barton made his first Marvel Comics appearance in 1964 in Tales of Suspense issue #57. Meanwhile, Renner’s Hawkeye has been a part of the MCU since Phase 1, making an uncredited appearance in Thor and then earning a formal introduction in The Avengers.
While MCU Clint Barton shares similarities with his comic counterpart, one thing has been largely missing: the fact that several of his comic iterations have been portrayed as hard of hearing or deaf. In the 1983 Hawkeye miniseries, Clint put a sonic arrowhead in his mouth to counteract the effects of Crossfire’s mind control machine, which also blew out his eardrums in the process. Matt Fraction and David Aja’s critically acclaimed 2012 Hawkeye series reintroduced Clint’s deafness, which stemmed from abuse he suffered at the hands of his father as a child and from when the Clown (who appears as a character in the show) stabbed him in the ears and ruptured his eardrums.
The unnecessary erasure of this important aspect of Hawkeye’s character has long-since been a sticking point for MCU viewers. So when previews for Hawkeye began to trickle out ahead of the show’s premiere, audiences were quick to point out the fact that Renner could be seen wearing a hearing aid. The series goes on to directly address this in the first two episodes.
In the first episode, the sound goes quiet for a few moments when Clint is watching Rogers: The Musical with his kids. His daughter, Lila, turns to him and asks if he turned his hearing aid off. Later, in episode 2, Kate remarks that Clint is being a gentleman by walking on the outside. He clarifies that he’s doing it so that he can hear her, and he points to the hearing aid that’s in his left ear. Though he declines to give Kate an explanation as to what happened, viewers are shown an onslaught of clips of Clint’s on-screen MCU history with the Avengers — which is full of intense battles, crash landings, and explosions galore.
This means that Clint Barton’s deafness is now a canonical part of the MCU as a direct result of the damage inflicted on his ears in battle over the years. The decision to finally include this aspect of his character is an important step forward in terms of disability representation from Marvel Studios.
Clint isn’t the only deaf character in Hawkeye, either, as audiences were also given a first look at Maya Lopez in episode 2, who is portrayed by newcomer Alaqua Cox. She already has a spin-off series, Echo, in the works.
Meanwhile, the MCU’s first Deaf superhero — Makkari the speedster, portrayed by Lauren Ridloff — was introduced earlier this month in Eternals, Chloé Zhao’s groundbreaking new film about a group of heroes from beyond the stars.