David Walker and Hawkeye take justice on the road beginning in November!
New York City, greatest city on Earth. Big. Sprawling. Filled to the brim with people. But not the whole country, not even in the Marvel Universe.
So, starting this November, writer David Walker and artist Carlos Pacheco will take Hawkeye and more on the highways and bi-way to explore the rest of the United States of the Marvel Universe and bring justice to the places super heroes rarely traipse in the new series OCCUPY AVENGERS. We spoke to Walker for all the details.
Marvel.com: OCCUPY AVENGERS begins with Hawkeye, Clint Barton. He’s obviously gone through a lot in Civil War II; where’s his head at as the book starts?
David Walker: He’s in a pretty messed up place. I guess the best way to describe where he’s at is he’s in a sort of existential crisis. There’s a lot of people that think he’s done the right thing and a lot of people who think he’s done the wrong thing. And a lot of the people who think he did the wrong thing are his friends, the people he’d normally turn to.
So he’s sort of on this mission to find himself and redeem himself, which is a lot of what drives this story.
Marvel.com: You’ve made the point elsewhere that lot of the people who think he did the right thing are your sort of everyday non super powered folks. What is about Hawkeye and what he did to the Incredible Hulk that strikes a chord with them?
David Walker: I think the biggest thing that strikes a chord with them is the Hulk has always been this character who represents a force of nature who you can’t control. When he’d go on his rages, he’d level a town. It’s like an earthquake or a tornado or a flash flood except in the embodiment of a living creature. For a lot of people, I think that someone was able to stop him, to put an end to it is a part of the appeal.
And then you throw in the face that Hawkeye, Clint Barton, is just a regular person. I mean, he’s really good with a bow and arrow but he’s not…even in comparison with other “regular” people, he’s not Tony Stark with a suit of armor. He’s a guy with a very modern version of an ancient weapon. I think that allows people to see themselves in him and that’s how he becomes the champion of the everyday common person. It’s so much easier to relate to Clint than it is to say, Steve Rogers.
Marvel.com: One thing I’ve seen come up a few times when you’ve talked about OCCUPY is you’ve sort of drawn a distinction between Hawkeye and Clint Barton. You’ve said the book is about Clint, it is not so much about Hawkeye. So for you, what is the difference between Barton the man and Hawkeye the man in the costume?
David Walker: That’s a really interesting question. I tend to do that in just about every series I write. In my scripts, I will refer to characters by their actual given names. I’m always referring to Iron Fist as Danny Rand even when he’s in Iron Fist mode.
But I think, as it relates to this story and mirrors the existential crisis he’s going through, the question is “Am I Clint Barton or am I Hawkeye?” Everywhere he goes now, he’s Clint Barton/Hawkeye, lost in that limbo of who’s who or are they one in the same?
I think it is pretty interesting because, you know, over the years, his costume has changed and so he’s become one of those characters that’s really really recognizable on the street. He used to be able to walk down the street in a mask and they would know he’s Hawkeye but they wouldn’t know Hawkeye is Clint Barton.
We are seeing it more and more in comics where the notion of the secret identity is becoming really either inconsequential or really important to others. That’s what I’m playing with: is Hawkeye actually a secret identity, especially when everyone knows he’s Clint Barton?
I think a lot of us go through that uncertainty—at our own levels—because we play many roles. We can be many things all at once, all wrapped up in the same package.
Marvel.com: OCCUPY AVENGERS is a road book taking place in various locations outside the New York City of the Marvel Universe. How does working with Carlos Pacheco as the artist made the world outside of New York bring it to life for you?
David Walker: Carlos…he’s an amazing artist. The art that I’ve seen so far—you know I don’t want to give away too much about the first story arc but it’s set from a place as far removed from the big city as you can imagine. It is definitely set where someone might call the flyovers. You can see it. There’s no giant tall buildings.
Again, without giving up away too much, you’ll see there’s a fight between Hawkeye and the bad guys and they’re in the middle of the desert. There’s no place to hide. It’s not like a city where you can run into an alley, where you can hide behind a car. There’s this outdoor element to it that Carlos is just capturing perfectly. In a way, it’s otherworldly. So much of comics is set in the big city or in worlds that are completely foreign—some underwater domain or some extraterrestrial planet—but this is set off Highway 8, in New Mexico or Iowa or Montana. This is set in real places that don’t often get seen in comics.
To me, that’s really exciting, that’s really fun seeing that.
Marvel.com: To expand on that, what attracts you to those locations we don’t usually see?
David Walker: It’s a combination of things. One is there are problems all over this country. You see it on the news, but for whatever reason you don’t see super heroes slugging it out out there. You don’t see super heroes in Flint, Michigan trying to figure out the water crisis that they’ve been having.
For me, that’s the appeal. We’re going places and attempting to address issues—in pretty broad strokes but—issues that really do impact the lives of everyday Americans. If you’re running around New York City—and don’t get me wrong, New York City does have its problems—but if you are running around New York, you are likely to run into Spider-Man or Power Man and Iron Fist or hundreds of other characters. So if you are in a jam, they can show up and help.
The thing about OCCUPY AVENGERS is that it starts with showing Clint in a world where there is no backup. Then he gets backup in the form of Red Wolf who is the first to join up with what will be this ragtag team. But even as a team, every time the Occupy Avengers get into a jam, they are by themselves. There’s no one to run down Broadway or Lexington and turn a corner to help them fight Doctor Doom or Galactus or someone. If you’re in Utah and you’re battling whatever—the meth crimelords in Provo—you might be on your own. There’s always a feeling that they’re on their own and always a question of how do they protect one another.
Marvel.com: Since you mentioned him, I’ll just jump to Red Wolf now. What made him such an attractive candidate for the book? How does he fit your themes?
David Walker: It’s interesting because Red Wolf was an editorial suggestion. I had asked them specifically for a character named Winona Wingfoot who is Wyatt Wingfoot’s sister and she’s had like three appearances but she was kind of cool. I really wanted a Native American character so I could start [to], hopefully, undo a lot of the negative stereotypes all over areas of pop culture.
I think it was [editor] Tom [Brevoort] who responded right away, “I get what you are trying to do but would you mind doing this with Red Wolf because he just reintroduced him and it would be nice if he had some place to go.” I thought, “Sure.” You know, he is more recognizable at the moment.
I think this is like the fourth version of Red Wolf. It’s this persona that is inherited or adopted so he has a very clean slate besides what we saw in Secret Wars last summer and in what Nathan Edmonson wrote in RED WOLF.
When Tom suggested Red Wolf, the first thought that ran through my head was, “Oh, he’s like Steve Rogers,” because he’s a man out of time. He’s a man of really strong convictions from another time that don’t necessarily fit within the world he’s in so I can play with that and build on that and never have to rely on some of more traditional and stereotypical tropes that are associated with Native Americans. They were old when I was kid and now I’m a grown man and they’re still old.
In a perfect world he and Steve Rogers would become best friends because there is something about Red Wolf—he’s like Rip Van Winkle. He just woke up after 200, 150 years into the future.
I’m not writing him as this sort of inept bumbling character from the 1870’s who is suddenly in 2016 though. He’s incredibly savvy and constantly trying to learn new things.
Marvel.com: Is Clint using the name Avengers for this as they’re out on these or is that just the name of the book?
David Walker: Right now that’s just the name of the book. It harkens back to the Occupy movement, the movement being associated with the 99% that are underrepresented in terms of wealth and power in this country.
Marvel.com: Occupy, as you just pointed out, has definite connotations in today’s United States political climate. In the past, you’ve utilized politics in your comics to enhance the storytelling and plots. Assuming this title is not an accident, how do you use them here? How do you balance super hero action and politics?
David Walker: There’s a challenge whenever you write comics to find the balance in action and whatever else you want to do, whether it is building story or characters or some combination. Personally, I think watching a super hero and a bad guy beat each other up for 12 out of 20-something pages can get kind of boring so to me, I’d much prefer character and story development.
In terms of “ripped from the headlines” politics aspects of stories, whatever you want to call it, I look back on the comics of my childhood in the 70’s. I look at the Harry Osborn drug issues of AMAZING SPIDER-MAN. And then going back even further. The creation of Captain America even. That was nothing but politics in that. It was a direct response to America’s involvement in World War II, of helping Americans wrap their minds around the concept of what they were being told was good versus evil.
I constantly [try] to find balance but I think a big mistake that can happen in a lot of comics is going for that sort of non-stop roller coaster ride of action and explosions and all that because no one, to this day—with the exception of the time Green Goblin was involved in the death of Gwen Stacy—most people aren’t talking about any one specific fight between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin or one specific fight between the Fantastic Four and the Mole Man except for the first time they met. What they remember are the character moments.
That’s what I love writing for Marvel especially because it gives me this opportunity to go back and read all this wealth of stuff. I’m constantly on Marvel Unlimited reading this stuff from all different eras and the things that always stand out are these character moments.
It’s really fun and I’m trying to find a good balance. I know there are a lot of readers who are looking for stories driven by character who they find compelling. Whatever action they’re doing, whatever adventure they’re on is important but not as important as the character themselves.
Without character, Clint Baron becomes just a guy with a bow and arrow, Captain America becomes just a guy in a star spangled outfit. They’d be empty vessels. The great thing about the best characters in the Marvel Universe is none of them are empty vessels. They all have things that make them incredibly unique.
Marvel.com: After Red Wolf joins, how does the team continue to form? Do you see it as a solid, steady roster or a rotation of characters coming and going?
David Walker: Starting in issues #3 and #4 we introduce three new members and then the final member and then the final member of the team is introduced in #5.
We’re still playing around with it. There’s one character I think who will be better served by being a sort of rotating—not a rotating member no, more like someone who is not there for every single issue, every story. The stories will be better served if this particular character shows up for particular cases or adventures.
The way it is being written is like there are two types of adventures. There’s the type where Clint or someone on the team recognizes some sort of injustice so they travel to some region of the country to try to correct it or investigate it. Then there’s the ones they totally stumbled into and had no idea was going on. So they’re sort of caught in the crosshairs of the Hatfields and the McCoys or whatever it might be.
Marvel.com: It sounds like this is a book that gives you lots of opportunities to create new characters or put characters—ones we perhaps haven’t seen in a while—in new roles. Have you found that to be the case?
David Walker: Yeah, definitely. There’s a couple of characters that are gonna show up on a regular basis that have not been seen in ages anywhere in the Marvel Universe. And then there’s some new people that show up for that particular story. There’s a few that I am thinking about just off the top of my head that I enjoyed writing so much that they could always come back again, show up again.
One of the notions I’m playing with with Clint is that he’s a guy who part of the way he survives is through favors. He’s very much “hey, I owe you one,” but he’s very quick to say, “hey you owe me” so you are going to see a lot of favors being exchanged and a lot of people that are like, “Barton, I really hate you,” and Barton being like, “Yeah, but you owe me a favor.”
On the reverse side, you are going to see him really stand up for what he believes in and not hesitating to stand up for people in need whether or no they owe him a favor.
Marvel.com: What would you say to those sitting on the fence, the undecideds, to move them over into pre-orderers and buyers? What would be the pitch?
David Walker: My pitch is that OCCUPY AVENGERS is going to be the most interesting eclectic team of individuals you’ve ever seen doing the best they can to really fight for what is right. And what is going to make the book really entertaining is half the team don’t even really like each other. There’s a lot of arguing. They’ll be more a family than a super hero team.
David Walker and Carlos Pacheco invite you to join the movement with OCCUPY AVENGERS starting in November!