Interview: Jim McCann on Hawkeye: Blind Spot

WARNING! Major spoilers for Hawkeye: Blind Spot abound!













In a major media release, Marvel writer Jim McCann made an announcement in USA Today last Wednesday about his upcoming miniseries Hawkeye: Blind Spot. Why all the attention? Well, something very serious happens to Marvel's Avenging Archer, who's been a mainstay of the Marvel Universe since Stan Lee and Don Heck created him in 1964, and will star in the upcoming Avengers movie. He loses the one thing most important to him; his eyesight. Spinning out of the recent Widowmaker miniseries, Hawkeye: Blind Spot , in stores this Wednesday, aims to show us just what an archer can do when he can no longer trust his own eyes. I spoke with Jim McCann to get more info on the series and where he plans to take the character.


Matt Adler: You've been chronicling the adventures of Hawkeye and Mockingbird since the end of Secret Invasion. What made you want to write these characters?

Jim McCann: They've honestly always been my favorite couple. I think that as far as romantically and then just as a pair of characters, either on their own, or separate. I think that the greatest thing about Hawkeye is that he is the most relatable character to me, because he represents the potential in all of us. Yes, Captain America is at the maximum of human potential, but he's aided by the super-soldier serum. Hawkeye worked his ass off to get to where he is. And every shot is a testament to that. And he has to continue to improve and to work. He's also the most fallible. His temper, ego, and insecurities can get in the way just like any of us. And he masks it (or sometimes it's just genuine) with humor, snark, and a little bit of bucking the authority.

He worked his way up from orphan, to a carnival sideshow, to misunderstood villain, all the way up to leading his own branch of the Avengers and being honestly, a cornerstone of the Avengers. To me, he's the fourth… instead of a Holy Trinity of Avengers, with Steve Rogers, Iron Man, and Thor, I think he is pretty much up there with them to make… a Square of Avengers? (laughs)

As far as what led to Blind Spot, it's the story that I've wanted to tell since I found out I was getting to write Hawkeye. He has worked his way up to all of this, and gained a lot of this, but he's lost a whole lot along the way. His origin story is really rather clean; it's not like there's some nefarious villain behind it. I mean, he lost his parents due to his father's alcoholism; he lost his brother due to a last second change of heart and trying to redeem himself from his criminal ways; he's lost/gained/lost again Mockingbird. He's really kind of been through the wringer, and it was always my plan to kind of forge Mockingbird for today when I started writing Hawkeye & Mockingbird by putting her through the wringer.

But in the back of my mind, I knew that I wanted to get Hawkeye to this place where I could take away the one thing that's really important to this character, because, hell, the word "eye" is in his name. So, losing his sight is the worst possible thing for somebody like him to have happen. We've seen it in Last Avengers Story and in Old Man Logan, but he's generally a really competent archer still; the only difference is he has a cloth tied around his eyes or sunglasses on. But I wanted to see, "How did he get there?" So that was another mitigating factor in this, that I've always been fascinated with how he overcame it, but we've never been shown those early days and what happened to him, and is this something that can make or break this hero?

MA: You said you see him as sort of the fourth corner of the square with Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, and that's interesting to me, because… I don't know if you've heard the story that says Stan Lee originally intended for Hawkeye to be the star of his own feature, but they just didn't have room for him at the time?

JMC: Wow, go Stan.

MA: Yeah, he apparently really wanted to do a Hawkeye comic, or at least have him split a book with someone else, but they just didn't have room at the time. And I've always wondered, if history had gone differently, if they had not been under the restrictions that they were, and could publish as many books as they wanted, do you think history would see Hawkeye differently? Do you think history would see him as just that kind of fourth corner, as you were saying?

JMC: I think there are a lot of people out there who do see him that way. Maybe not in terms of the people who have supported his books over the years (laughs), but West Coast Avengers really did that, Mark Gruenwald's Hawkeye miniseries I know shaped my love of the character, and in the early days, because I went back and… I've read just about every Avengers and West Coast Avengers appearance of Hawkeye, plus his miniseries and the Fabian Nicieza run, but for the purposes of this, I've been re-reading a lot of those early issues when he first joined and it's really interesting, because while Cap had been there honestly just a mere 12 issues longer than Hawkeye, and it was "Cap's Kooky Quartet", Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver didn't do as much in those early issues; it was really about Hawkeye and Cap. And I can see that, that makes sense now, hearing Stan's intent, because sometimes he would go off on his own, or Cap would go off on his own, and Hawkeye was almost left to be de facto leader! So, I think it would have been interesting to see.

I definitely think that he's going to be a breakout star in the Avengers movie. Obviously I know nothing about the movie, the script itself, but having seen Jeremy Renner in a number of things, especially The Town and in Hurt Locker, and just the charisma of the character; I think when people see him come on-screen, the mass audience out there are going to "I really like that guy!" Or at least I know I will!

MA: So, the impetus for Blind Spot spins out of the Widowmaker storyline; can you tell us a little bit about how you and Duane Swierczynski collaborated on that?

JMC: Well, like I said, Blind Spot has been something I've really wanted to do, so when we were talking about Widowmaker, that was one of the things where I said "Coming out of this, we need to have Hawkeye get hit in the head as hard as possible without killing him." Because I had done a lot of research on what the different types of blindness were. And I didn't want him to have the same sort of thing that happened to Matt Murdock, where his retinas have been taken away. And that's when I came across occipital lobe blindness, which is caused by swelling, and can be caused by trauma to the head. And the occipital lobe is really interesting, because it doesn't just affect the way you perceive things visually, but also aurally (not orally!). It affects how you perceive things through your senses; hearing and sight and… it's how your brain interprets images. So it can be a blindness that takes many forms in addition to just flat out eventual "blind blindness."

So Blind Spot spins out of Widowmaker, but it's also a really good entry point for anyone who's wondered why Hawkeye is such an awesome character and has been so cool, and why there have been so many vocal fans. And while there's a payoff to a number of seeds that I've sown throughout telling Hawkeye's story for these past 2 years now, this is also a really clean entry point for people. But this was definitely there; Duane and I worked it out, and he was kind enough to let me hijack just part of the ending. We worked really hard together on the whole series; there's stuff that he wanted for Black Widow, in case he gets the chance to return to the character, and there was stuff that I needed and wanted in relation to Hawkeye and Mockingbird, as well as for Hawkeye.

MA: When I was reading Widowmaker #4, in which he gets the injury, it seemed almost incidental; the hit came without much fanfare, at the hands of a faceless henchman. It kind of reminded me of the Captain Marvel story where he's fighting the minor villain Nitro and he gets exposed to nerve gas in the course of the fight. And you don't think anything of it at the time, and then years down the road, it leads to cancer. Did you have that in your mind, that it was going to be this almost minor incident in passing?

JMC: Yes, because I wanted it to take the audience and the character by surprise. Again, he's the most human character to me, and as such, this could come at any time and from anyone. It didn't have to be Ronin or Kang or anybody big. It literally blindsided him. It came from behind. Somebody got too close, he got hit really hard– so this is something that could have happened at anytime, and did.

MA: And you don't even realize right away what a big impact it's going to have on him.

JMC: Yeah. You get a hint of it in the end; he's kind of pushing Mockingbird away. And especially coming off of the heels of what seemed like we were headed down the path of reconciliation in issue #3, he's suddenly keeping her at arms length. And it's kind of that reaction to "I hurt, I know something's wrong, but just give me a minute. Let me figure out what in the hell's going on." And then when we open Blind Spot, it's been a little bit of time later (even though it's only been one week in-between issues!) and something is definitely wrong in Clint's world, as you see in the 5-page preview.

MA: This injury is probably not the sort of thing that could happen to, let's say, Thor or Iron Man. Do you think that vulnerability is part of Hawkeye's appeal?

JMC: Absolutely. It draws me to him, and I think it adds a layer to the character. I think that fans can relate to him, and I wanted to show a different way that fans can relate to him, in that this could happen to pretty much just to Hawkeye. There are a few other characters out there that are human but with technological assistance; but in a fight, Hawkeye's pretty vulnerable. And he himself has acknowledged that in the past when he took on the identity of Goliath, when he was at a place where he felt like he needed to be more powerful. So I think he's always been cognizant of the fact that he has stood next to gods and men in iron suits and super soldiers, and here he is, an ex-carney, on a team that calls itself "Earth's Mightiest Heroes." He is a mighty hero, but he is also a human.

MA: How do you walk that tightrope between tantalizing the readers with enough information to make them want to pick up the next issue, but not giving away the big reveal? Were you worried that by calling the series "Blind Spot" you were giving something away?

JMC: You know, we really thought about it. "Blind spot" can mean a lot of different things. So along with Tom Brennan and Rachel Pinnelas, the editor and assistant editor on the book, we were very careful about how we solicited it, how we worded the solicitations. And it's funny because a couple of people had guessed what the series was going to be about online, but a lot of people had not. Because it can mean a lot of different things; it's something that you're not looking at, and again, that factors into it, because Hawkeye's been ignoring this problem when we open up the issue. And so, a blind spot can be something your brain doesn't want you to see; it can be something that takes you by surprise; and it also can be exactly what it is, that he's going blind. And in all honesty, all three of those things happen.

It's not just Hawkeye each issue looking at an eye chart and seeing if his condition's worsening. (laughs) There are things that take him by surprise; there are things that he's been ignoring; and there are things that he could never, pardon the pun, see coming in this issue. We go back in some flashbacks to show people how he got to where he is today; not just with the injury but also as an Avenger, and what has made Clint Barton be Hawkeye. As well as defining who Clint Barton is going to be, and what will define Hawkeye for the future.

MA: Would you say his ego is as much at risk as his physical ability here?

JMC: Oh, definitely. His ego, and his own abilities. Is he solely reliant on his eyesight, or is he to the point where… you know, muscle memory plays a part in his skill set. He's practiced and practiced. Can his other senses help compensate, and will he even accept this help, or will he just keep going about and fighting the good fight? Or does he even have the opportunity to deal with all of this, given the threats that are coming at him? Because there are some big threats– (spoiler alert– it was in the USA Today article, and on the cover to issue #2, but…) Baron Zemo plays a huge role in this. So, y'know, we got some big guns coming out after Mr. Barton.

MA: Can you say anything Zemo's motivation for going after Clint?

JMC: Nope!

MA: (laughs) Can't say a word, huh?

JMC: I will say it will be made very clear in the series; you will get hints of it, and then by the end you'll know. And you'll also find out there's another villain that's involved in this who has a very strong motivation as well.

MA: Speaking of Zemo, given Clint's ties to the Thunderbolts, have you ever thought about doing a Hawkeye/Thunderbolts crossover?

JMC: Oh God, yes. During the planning stages of Hawkeye & Mockingbird, it was something that I absolutely wanted to do; I got a little bit close to it when he went to see Crossfire at The Raft in issue #6 of Hawkeye & Mockingbird, and interacted with Luke Cage. But there are definitely characters in addition to Zemo that I would love to see him interact with now, especially Moonstone and Songbird. But hey, if this mini does well, it would be very nice to see. Hawkeye's star is definitely on the rise, so I think that it would be really cool to see him back in his own book, with a supporting cast, and I would love to be able to write not just Hawkeye and Mockingbird, but to write a book where you see Hawkeye and everybody that he has touched in his life (that sounds dirty)… you know, everybody that he has come contact with and has been a part of shaping their lives as heroes and as villains.

MA: You mentioned that these events might cause some distance between him and Mockingbird; how would you describe the status of their relationship at the moment? And can you tell us anything about what Mockingbird's role will be in the series?

JMC: Well, Mockingbird… for people who've read New Avengers #9, Mockingbird has her hands full right now, and I won't spoil that issue because it just came out. Blind Spot is really taking a look at Hawkeye, and you'll see early on why this has a tight-knit supporting cast, which consists of Donald Blake, Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and a couple of surprise characters. But mainly, this story takes place in a very short amount of time. So while Bobbi doesn't appear very much in this story, there is reason for that.

MA: So the WCA won't play a big role here either?

JMC: No, this is a really clean entry point for people, however there are payoffs for people who have been reading my take on Hawkeye since New Avengers: The Reunion. But this is a Hawkeye story. This is something that people will be able to pick up and read now, it's something that people will be able to pick up after they come out of the movie, and say "Damn, that character's really cool!" And get a sense of the character and also where he is going. While this is the end of one chapter, it's really a turning point and a defining moment for Hawkeye. I kind of feel like this is similar to the Gruenwald miniseries that really defined Hawkeye for 20+ years. While I'm not going to have the hubris to say "This is just like that! I'm as great as Mark Gruenwald!" Not saying that! But this is similar in that this sets him up and changes things for him for a while.

MA: I know this doesn't really pertain to Blind Spot, but I think the supporting cast you built for him over the course of the H&M series was great, in particular Twitchy. He seems like such a real person; did you draw on anyone you know to create him?

JMC: Me. (laughs)

MA: (laughs) I didn't want to say anything, but I was looking at him, and I was like "Is that Jim McCann?" So he is based on you?

JMC: Well, David Lopez drew him based on me. I am nowhere… I am the exact polar opposite of Twitchy when it comes to his technical abilities…

MA: Are you as neurotic as he is?

JMC: Oh yeah. He's kind of me, hypered-up. The name of the character comes from a nickname that Tom Brevoort gave me. Tom can make me be very twitchy. (laughs) I would come into his office especially when I was working with David Bogart, and trying to gauge where artists were, and if we needed to bump a book, I would generally… this was 6, 7 years ago now… I would be the person sent in to say "Well, guys, we're going to have to bump this book a week, because I don't know if we're going to make the deadline." And Tom always made me really nervous. I sat right outside of his office, and he's a loud guy sometimes! And a big guy! But at the same time, he's also one of the nicest men that I know, deep down. I just… when I first met him, he scared the crap out of me! And so I would go into his office, and eventually he started calling me "Twitchy."

MA: (laughs) Which I'm sure relaxed you even more.

JMC: Oh yeah, oh yeah, it was really comforting (laughs). Although, for him, I think it was his way of being like, "It's alright, look, I'm giving you a nickname, and we're cool, and everything's fine." But in my neurotic mind, I was like "Oh God, oh God, wait, what did I do now?" So yeah, that character is somebody that I do very much love and not in a narcissistic way.

But David Lopez picked up on that very quickly, and drew him as an over-caffeinated version of me. He always makes fun of me because he thinks that I never sleep, because he'll see me online, promoting the books, and then writing, and go-go-going, so that's why Twitchy looks like a REALLY tired version of me. So while I kind of was very tempted, not gonna lie, to put him in this series, it really needed to be kind of a clean entry point for the character. If and when I get to continue writing Hawkeye, I would love for him to be part of the supporting cast, or whatever the next chapter holds for the character, and if I am a part of it, I definitely want to bring that character back onto the canvas. So the WCA exists out there for people to play with, and I would love it if Twitchy is used by other people. But if he's only used by me (which sounds weird, because then it sounds like I'm playing with myself) then that's fine too.

MA: (laughs) Ok. One other question about the supporting cast; what made you bring Dominic Fortune into the book?

JMC: There were two things. One, I knew from the beginning that I wanted to showcase Mockingbird's early appearances, and the fact that she's not just a chick that had been in a one-piece bathing suit with giant sleeves for so long, and defined mainly as Hawkeye's on-again, off-again wife. And I wanted to honor her scientific and spy abilities. And as you read in the series, Dominic Fortune has been revitalized from the last time we saw him, when he had started to look his age, by finding Bobbi's super-soldier serum that wasn't fully completed. And at the same time, I wanted a character that could really get under Hawkeye's skin, the way that Hawkeye used to get under Captain America's skin.

MA: A more extreme version of Hawkeye.

JMC: Yes. I wanted a bad boy. And Dominic just fit that bill so perfectly. Howard Chaykin had set him up as such, and I was really excited to be able to use that character, and move him into today's tapestry.

MA: Now, David Lopez was your artist throughout the Hawkeye & Mockingbird series, and also Widowmaker, but Paco Diaz is going to be handling art chores on Blind Spot. Does that mean a shift in tone for the series?

JMC: It does. At first it was a little strange not having David there because we had developed such a shorthand with the characters and I knew exactly what I was getting. And when I was writing the script for the first issue I didn't know what would happen, and then Paco turned in these pages and I knew that I was in very good hands, and that this book was in great hands with Paco on art. There will be other artists handling some flashback moments in the book. I can say that in issue #2 Nick Dragotta is on some of the art pages and does a gorgeous job as well. But Paco brings a different feel to the book and I think that he does a really, really great job with it. David had this really great, hyper-kinetic, energetic feel to it, and he still was able to handle a lot of the emotional beats.

Paco does that as well but in a different way. It's superheroic and then very personal, almost in a voyeuristic way. It's almost like we as the reader shouldn't see Hawkeye at this point in his life, and see the things that we're seeing. But that's what's great about comics and about storytelling like this where you can see somebody at their most vulnerable or at their most angry. All the five stages of grief that somebody will go through. And Paco nails that, in his expressions. Also, that opening page splash, you see Hawkeye, Spider-Woman, Iron Man, and Thor… it's just fantastic. And then when you see the villains, and the fight sequences… issue #2 is… they're all my favorites. So yeah, while it was weird and different not working with David, I really have to say Paco knocks this out of the park. And what David is going to be working on hasn't been announced yet, but fans are going to be really excited about it, and I can't wait for it; I'm really, really excited for David.

MA: Are you and the editors intending for this series to have lasting consequences for Hawkeye?

JMC: That is a hope, and… well, yeah, because you don't go into these and play with the toys and then put things exactly back the way they were…

MA: Some people do. (laughs)

JMC: (laughs) Well, yes. But this is definitely something that is going to change Hawkeye and that really is a turning point for the character, and is the start of the next chapter in his life. Almost like "Hawkeye Reborn"!

MA: What would you say are your hopes are for the future of Hawkeye?

JMC: Me writing a book? (laughs) No, obviously to continue growing the character and showcasing what he can do, increasing his rogues' gallery, and seeing him deal with the consequences that this book will set up for him. This is the start of a journey, and I really can't wait to see where that journey takes him, whether it's me at the helm or someone else.

MA: What other projects do you have on your plate these days?

JMC: Zombie Christmas Carol for Marvel, where we're taking the Charles Dickens classic and putting a zombie spin on it, which is actually not that different from the way Dickens wrote it; I mean it Scrooge is very much described as, one could say, a Victorian-era zombie. So that's been really fun to work on, and we're just getting started with that. I am working on the second volume of the Dapper Men trilogy, Time of the Dapper Men, again with Janet Lee. And then I have a couple of other things up my sleeve that I can't exactly say with whom yet, or where you'll see it, but knowing me, trust me, you'll hear about it, if I have to shout it from the rooftops… which I will.

MA: You must be really happy with the response Dapper Men has gotten.

JMC: Oh God, I can't… I'm happy, I'm humbled, I'm overwhelmed… it was received far better than I could have possibly imagined. I definitely hoped that people would enjoy it, but the response has exceeded my hopes, much less my expectations. So I'm really excited to get back to the world of Anorev and take people on the next journey for Ayden and Zoe and what things mean now that the world has changed because of 41 and the other Dappers.


Matt Adler thinks it takes courage to fire off sharp-pointed weapons blindly, and wonders why more people won't take that leap. Cowards.


  1. Huh I must be more out of the loop than I thought. I didn’t know Hawkeye was going blind. Definetly going to pick up the trade now.

    Also, though, the top part with the Avengers has some really forced dialogue. Personally speaking I just want the writer to tell the story, he doesn’t need to add flavor. I’ve read so many manga with bad translations that I STILL buy just because it STILL tells the story.

  2. Yes! Another major story point spoiled for fans. Flash Thompson = New Venom. Hawkeye = effing blind. Johnny Storm = Dead. Comic readers = eff u.

  3. @iSpiderMan  Did you not see the giant red spoiler warning?

  4. there are those Dapper Men again, oh joy

  5. @conor Yes, I did see the spoiler warning. It’s just sad the state of the comics world that we no longer are gifted the surprise of opening a comic and being surprised; that’s a big part of the fun of reading: discovery. sigh. don’t take it personal. i know i shouldn’t, too. sooo desperate to spur sales, Marvel & DC, are trying anything, even if a decision hurts them in the long-term. sigh…

  6. Terrific interview, Matt. McCann always great insight and enthusiasm in these conversations. Really cool.