Writer Ethan Sacks reveals the secrets behind the book!

In our Creator Commentary series, we give the floor to our storytellers as they present behind-the-scenes looks at the decisions that go into every last panel and page—in their very own words. Today we celebrate the release of OLD MAN HAWKEYE #4 by taking a closer look at the previous issue with writer Ethan Sacks.

Read up on our coverage of issue #1 and issue #2, then dive into issue #3 right here. 

Ethan, over to you…

Man on a Mission

When we left off last time, Hawkeye had just gotten to an amusement park called Arcade’s Murderworld, because of course that would be the amusement park in that world. The first person he’s out to check off his revenge list is there, but we don’t know who that is yet.

As the father of a daughter who has been to Disney World and all those places, I thought an amusement park in this world would have what Disney World has—where you can take a picture with characters or princesses. So I figured they’d have employees dressed as the super heroes. But here, the kids are actually beating this poor guy who’s dressed as Captain America, because I thought it kind of set up the world a little bit.

And Hawkeye can’t really do anything about it because he can’t break cover—obviously if people find out a super hero is running around then he’d get in a lot of trouble, and he’s very much focused on his goal.

So he gets stopped by this fortune teller, and if you’re a big X-Men nerd, you may recognize her as Blindfold. I needed a fortune teller character so I felt like part of the fun of research is looking through all the bloody panels from when the X-Men were knocked off in the original Old Man Logan story, and she wasn’t in it. I don’t know if she was actually created at the time, but she was not among the dead bodies so I figured she was elsewhere.

The Big Bad

Then we cut to Bullseye, and this is a little bit of a showdown with his boss, the Red Skull. This is the first time we see the Red Skull, who is obviously the “big bad” for that world. But Bullseye’s gone off the grid and he’s not taking messages or listening to his boss, so that could set something up later.

Bullseye, in this case, is very busy torturing the Orb and ripping the Watcher’s eye out of his chest to get as much information as he can about where Hawkeye is. This is probably the goriest panel so far in the series, but I want to warn you, it gets worse later.

Then we go into Blindfold’s tent and, if you didn’t recognize it right off the bat, there’s a Xavier School mug on Blindfold’s table.

She was a tough one to write because she has this strange speech pattern. But I like this scene a lot, especially with the way Marco drew it with the steam from the coffee showing little bits of Old Man Logan—and specifically Hawkeye’s demise in Old Man Logan. Clearly she can tell what’s going to happen to him and she drops hints that if he keeps doing what he’s doing, down the road he’s in for an ignoble end. But he brushes that off and goes to find the big target he’s after…pun intended.

Bullseye, however, is not the only one chasing Hawkeye; we have Venoms. Yes, “Venoms” plural. For those who remember, the Venom symbiote bonded with a surviving Madrox gang clone and now it’s replicating. Just to find his path to Hawkeye, the Venoms end up at the garage of Tonya (Hawkeye’s ex-wife) and they overhear one of the exotic dancers from issue #2 who’s trying to get the hell out of there, and they realize the next step on their quest…

Keep Your Friends Close

And now we get to the main event. The issue is called “The Price of Admission” and it’s called that for two reasons. One: the person who Hawkeye is chasing has become a showman and has decided that if they’re going to go out, they want to go out with a grand show. And two: this is where Hawkeye commits and realizes there’s no going back, because once he kills this person, he’s all in. This person actually works as the main event, but we see they draw almost no crowd. It’s a sad existence.

We flip the page and it turns out the character he’s chasing is Atlas. Yes—the big conceit of this book is that Hawkeye is hunting his former Thunderbolts teammates.

I wondered where the Thunderbolts would have been on the day that the super villains took over. When they were approached for the final battle, they knew the heroes were going to lose, so they decided not to come. But I wanted to make some of them sympathetic—and show that they weren’t out for power, they weren’t out for glory; some were just out to survive.

There’s this exchange where Hawkeye says, “How could you do this to me?” and Atlas says, “God, man, not everything is about you.” He wanted to live—and this may not seem like much of a life, but it’s a life. And Atlas drops a clue about the only person who’s still talking to him, Abe. Abe’s working at a doombot factory in Kree Haven. Again, he bought the right to live.

Atlas realizes there’s no talking Hawkeye out of this, so he stands up and says, “Let’s give them a show worth the price of admission.” Then he grows incredibly big, rips the tent, and they go at it.

One of the things I wanted to do with this fight was make tributes to certain arcs that I loved. One of the things I tried to put in here, which may or may not be obvious unless you’re as old as me, is Hawkeye uses this green gas arrow, and it’s the same arrow that he used the first time he met Atlas. So Atlas is dumb enough to fall for the same thing twice. No disrespect to him, but he was certainly not a Reed Richards-level genius.

At one point, he’s incapacitated, lying on the floor, Hawkeye has his bow arched, and we cut to this panel that’s a throwback to those ‘90s Thunderbolts comics. It’s actually a panel imitating Mark Bagley’s original art, and it just shows them in happier days.

But he shoots the arrow because he’s all in. Now there’s no going back. Hawkeye has now crossed the line.

Crosshairs

For the closing shot, Bullseye has arrived a few hours late, but he’s arrived at the crime scene that Hawkeye left behind. And the Deathlok computer that’s integrated into his brain makes the ID match and he realizes that the Thunderbolts are Hawkeye’s targets.

He knows where to go next, and he’s getting closer and closer to intercepting Clint.

Last thingI want to give a shout-out. I owe a lot of this issue to my friend Paul Pelkonen, who introduced me to the Thunderbolts back in the 1990s. Who would’ve guessed that 20 years later, here we are.

Continue the story by reading OLD MAN HAWKEYE #4, from Ethan Sacks and artist Marco Checchetto, today—April 25!

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Ethan Sacks gives a behind-the-scenes look at the issue!

In our Creator Commentary series, we give the floor to our storytellers as they present behind-the-scenes looks at the decisions that go into every last panel and page—in their very own words. Today we prepare for this week’s release of OLD MAN HAWKEYE #3 by taking a closer look at issue #2 with writer Ethan Sacks. Read up on our coverage of issue #1, then dive into #2 below. 

Ethan, over to you…

Hunter and Hunted

In issue #2, Jebediah Hammer, a descendant of Justin Hammer, (and the merchant that was with Hawkeye when the Madrox gang first attacked) is frantically packing because he knows there will be consequences after the events of last issue. So he’s trying to get his family out of there. His wife thinks he’s totally overreacting but of course he’s not, spoiler alert, because on page 2, my favorite page so far in the series that Marco is an absolute wizard at, we see that Bullseye’s found them.

What I wanted to do for this scene is capture the vibe of “Inglorious Basterds,” the very opening with Christoph Waltz, where he plays this Nazi and he’s in this farmhouse and it’s this really tense scene because on the surface it’s just a conversation but you know it’s going to end badly at some pointyou just don’t know when. So I was trying to sort of capture that vibe a little bit. I really like how the scene came out, not patting myself on the back or whatever, but between the art and the conversation I think it’s pretty cool.

But meanwhile, we have Hawkeye who’s started his quest and the first thing he does is search for one of the Wastelands purveyors of information. So who sees everything? A guy with a giant eyeball for his head. I just love the visual for the Orb. So he goes and of course the Orb would have a club called Eye Candy—an exotic dancer joint.

Light and Dark

Apart from the mob drama scene, I also wanted to show one of the most heartbreaking things about this world is how these heroes are totally debased and how generations are going to grow up not knowing what a hero is. I thought the idea that these people would be watching women and men scantily clad as heroes and sort of the voyeuristic thing of that would be heartbreaking so there was a little bit of a visual I was hoping to get here.

From page 5, I just want to say every day should be colorist appreciation day and I want to give a shout-out to Andres Mossa. So what he did here is, you look at this club and if you notice every panel is alternating with shades of blue and shades of purple because of the strobe effect of the lights of the pulsing dance vibe. So that is just an example of how you may not notice it the first time you see it but that is a skilled colorist right there, basically makes the story better.

Related to the color, you’ll see the flashbacks have this fiery red, it looks like a hell, so that’s just the mark of a great colorist, bringing you in and out of different locales with the palette.

We see a couple pages later, Bullseye has this computer interface which gives an advantage to him, so you’ll see that through the book a little bit.

Targets

One little subplot (that’s a very small subplot in this issue), with Jebediah Hammer and his wife Susannah, there’s actually kind of a love story. They clearly love each other because when, spoiler alert, Jebediah Hammer basically has his artery cut by a playing card and he’s dying, his last act is drawing out a clue in his own blood because basically he’s warned by Bullseye, “You better come through before you die or I’m going to kill your wife.” So he saves her and she, spoiler alert, lives no matter what the last page seems to indicate. I just wanted a little bit of love in this horrible, horrible existence to actually mean something.

You’ll notice too that Hawkeye is starting to miss more frequently. Throughout the book we’re going to see the consequences of his diminishing eyesight, so during the big action scene in this book, which Marco rendered amazingly, we’ll start to see some more of that.

The most damning two-page spread is a flashback scene. We parse out a little bit about the horrible event, 45 years ago, that’s driving Hawkeye now. We know from a line in “Old Man Logan” that he kind of was upset that he was left alive. We kind of wanted to show that, so we get to see a lot of dead Avengers. I felt a little bit like a serial killer, just choosing who would be on this page and how they died and why they were included in this team. But the thought that I had was that there would be several Avengers teams, all of a sudden imagine you’re getting an alert that all these super villains are attacking out of nowhere so they send teams to various locations—and Hawkeye was in charge of one of them. Captain Marvel would have been in charge of one of them, Black Panther would have been in charge of one of them, Captain American, certainly—and we know from “Old Man Logan” how he died and where he died.

So this was a team that was sent to Las Vegas, and we know it’s Las Vegas because Thor’s hammer is there, and the city is now called Hammer Falls. So we’re telegraphing stuff that we will learn later in more detail. I will say this, there is a clue on this page as to the identity of the people he’s hunting but you have to be really, really eagle-eyed to figure it out.

Coming out of the flashback to the present, Hawkeye takes a swig of bourbon, and it’s Marcus Daniels…which is the name of a minor super villain called Blackout. You can keep an eye out, there are going to be little tweaks here and there or little visuals here and there that kind of allude to the super villains who weren’t so super that they earned monuments or anything.

Family Fortunes

Speaking of which, when Bullseye has tracked Hawkeye’s trail to Tanya’s garage on page 17, panel 2, he confronts Clint’s daughter Ashley about his whereabouts, and she’s wearing an “Angar and the Screamers” t-shirt. That’s another little Easter egg—kind of figured she’d be into punk and that sounded as punk a band as there would be in the Wastelands. I really like her character, and I wanted her to stand up to Bullseye and Bullseye to be impressed enough that he doesn’t kill her right where she stands. I like that exchange where she’s not intimidated at all by him. Possibly because she’s so young that she doesn’t know who he is, but she clearly doesn’t care one way or the other, so I like that about her.

Then we have the second to last page, Hawkeye reaches the location where he’s going to have his first major fight next issue with one of the people he’s looking for. Especially because I have such a gifted art team working on this, I wanted to explore a new type of setting. What would an amusement park look like in this world? We’ll see more of it in next issue but of course it’s Arcade’s Murderworld because who else would have started a theme park?

There’s another little clue as to who his first opponent is on the bottom of that page.

Then finally, we see—this is the big cliff hanger in this issue on page 20—we see, as poor Susannah is burying her husband and kids and confessing her love for her family, she is disturbed by three Venoms.

So basically what we find out is the Madroxs can of course keep replicating themselves, but also duplicate the symbiote, which is going to be a big headache for Hawkeye later in this series. So it’s Venoms—plural—and his troubles are just beginning.

Continue the story by reading OLD MAN HAWKEYE #3, from Ethan Sacks and artist Marco Checchetto, on March 28!

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Ethan Sacks gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the comic came to life!

In our new series, Creator Commentary, we’re giving the floor to our storytellers as they present behind-the-scenes looks at the decisions that go into every panel and page—in their very own words. And for our first installment, writer Ethan Sacks gives a tour of the hidden secrets and influences behind OLD MAN HAWKEYE #1.

Ethan, over to you…

The Inspiration

One of the breakout characters from “Old Man Logan” was Old Man Hawkeye. That the seminal event, set 50 years from the present, has a blind Clint Barton—though he’s been able to adjust; he’s a great fighter, and he’s driven. Hawkeye has a plan in “Old Man Logan” to strike back at the Red Skull, who has harmed him in so many ways, but I’ve always wondered what the hell was Clint doing for 50 years before that? Why did it take 50 years to get there?

My original pitch for OLD MAN HAWKEYE was to set it five years earlier than “Old Man Logan,” as he’s losing his vision, to see the struggle. He has survivor’s guilt that he got to be one of very few heroes still living in this era while many “better” heroes didn’t. He’s been looking for a way to make everything right, but at his heart, he feels powerless. When he realizes he’s losing his vision, he decides there’s one thing he can do: get revenge against a specific set of people—people I will not yet reveal until a later Creator Commentary—before he runs out of time.

Easter Eggs

One thing I loved about “Old Man Logan” was seeing that the Hulk grandchildren flew in the Fantasticar—the Fantastic Four vehicle—so I thought about what would happen to some of these random vehicles and things from the Marvel Universe 45 years into this horrible future. During the scene in the very first panel on page one of issue #1, the characters are driving a vehicle from the 1990s series FORCE WORKS—the Force Wagon—which, in the future, is just a vehicle that a merchant of illegal drugs bought to ferry his stuff across the country.

They’re also driving through Tannenbaum Gorge, which was a little nod to an obscure Marvel villain called Doctor Tannenbaum. I figured that the better villains would have cities named after them but, because this poor guy couldn’t even beat the Great Lakes Avengers, he’d have this uninhabited ravine named after him. Apologies to any Doctor Tannenbaum fans out there.

With the first issue, we wanted to show what Hawkeye is doing at this point in time—that he’s essentially running protection for merchants. And here, his crew gets ambushed by the Madrox gang. In the opening action scene, we have the Madrox gang and, on page three, we see them in all their glory. We thought that, over the years, all that self-cloning and breeding would make him actually forget who he really was; he would evolve into this totally different personality. He was like a copy of a copy of a copy, and he’s degraded. I like the idea of him being an entire outlaw gang and, every time he gets killed, he just makes more of himself. The other purpose of the scene is that we see Hawkeye—who never misses—actually miss one of the people he’s aiming at, accidentally hitting him in the shoulder. And that miss has consequences later.

On page eight, you may notice that Hawkeye has a little scar in the shape of the Avengers “A.” That was Marco Checchetto’s contribution. He liked that. There are many little visual nuances like that.

Old Man Logan

By page nine, Hawkeye’s been given the bad news that he’s losing his eyesight quicker than he thought, so he goes and tries to recruit Logan. Now, I love Logan and he’s obviously the hero of “Old Man Logan,” but in our story—because he’s still a pacifist for another five years—he has to deny Hawkeye’s request. Hawkeye has a crushing realization that his best friend has no interest in helping him.

I wanted to put in a couple of little details that allude to “Old Man Logan,” so on pages 10 and 11, Hawkeye brings a gift—an Xbox. It’s the same Xbox that Logan’s kids have at the beginning of the story that begins five years from this point. I wanted to reveal the secret origin of that Xbox, just in case people were spending sleepless nights wondering about that.

After Clint talks to his friend, he speaks to Ashley. Now, for those who have not read “Old Man Logan,” Ashley is Hawkeye’s daughter and Peter Parker’s granddaughter. And by the point we see her in the original story, she’s essentially a super villain. So I wondered how this daughter of an Avenger—this granddaughter of one of the best super heroes ever to live—could have turned out the way she did. I wanted to explore Hawkeye’s neuroses about being a dad and how he wasn’t always there for her.

The Big Bad

Then, because the sole surviving Madrox clone is in a lot of pain, he can’t concentrate on duplicating, so he’s just trying to survive and he runs into the Venom symbiote. We talked about some of the villains we could use and we thought—without giving too much away—that Venom merging with the Madrox clone might be really, really cool.

The wonderful world that Mark Millar and Steve McNiven made allows for a kind of an upside-down feeling, because the villains run everything. So villains do so some of the functioning jobs. And we have a great villain in as the local Marshal—as the law enforcement. Once it becomes obvious that a real super hero has resurfaced after all these years, it is on this Marshall to hunt down that super hero.

I begged my editors to allow this bad guy to have Deathlok enhancements. Because why not? I wanted to enhance him, while diminishing the skills of his prey; I wanted the reader to see that this villain outclasses Hawkeye.

So, Hawkeye is hunting some people who’ve wronged him in the past and, unbeknownst to himat least for nowhe’s being hunted as well.

Continue the story by reading OLD MAN HAWKEYE #2, from Ethan Sacks and artist Marco Checchetto, tomorrow—February 14!

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