In my continuing quest to prove that I have my finger firmly on the pulse of five years ago, I thought that this week I’d write about a comic series I really enjoyed: Matt Fraction and (mostly) David Aja’s run on Hawkeye. Hawkeye had never been one of my favourite superheroes growing up (among other things, his classic costume is pretty goofy) but I heard a lot of very good things about this series and so when it started coming out in trade paperbacks I picked it up.
I’m really glad I did. Although the title is Hawkeye, it’s really about two characters, Clint Barton (classic Hawkeye of the formerly-goofy costumer) and Kate Bishop, who (in a classically comic-booky situation) picked up the Hawkeye identity when everyone thought Clint was dead. One of the things I liked about it right away is that the book isn’t about Hawkeye and his sidekick. They’re both Hawkeye. They both have their moments of brilliance and moments of disaster. It works really well. After reading Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye, now Clint and Kate are two of my favourite superheroes, to the point that I kind of don’t want to read more of the series in case it’s not as good. That’s the good part about reading comics late and selectively – I can just pretend the series didn’t continue if I want to.
Most of the time the stories are reasonably light-hearted street-level superhero-y action, although it’s probably fair to say they get a little grittier as they go along, which ends up hitting harder than a lot of straight-up grim stuff does because it kind of crept up on you from behind a fun facade, if that makes sense. Even in the early issues, though, every so often a little bit of seriousness peeks through, as when Clint wonders what it says about him that every time he goes into a room he starts looking around for things he could use as a weapon. Fraction really emphasizes the idea that while Clint is a really good archer (although Kate is probably better, or at least will be), that’s just one of the very many ways he knows how to inflict damage.
The usual backstory is that this is something Clint learned from a mentor during his time with the circus (really) but Fraction starts it off much earlier, when Clint and his brother Barney were still living with their parents, and in particular their abusive father. After one especially bad night, Barney gives his little brother some advice. “Make everything something to hit with. Then we outlast him.”
Which is a pretty bleak thing for a kid to be saying to his little brother, but when I was re-reading the books lately, that one line really resonated with me. I seem to be thinking (and writing a lot of these blogs) a lot about perseverance, these days, although I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because I’m struggling to write. Maybe it’s because my workload these days feels a little heavy. Maybe there’s some other reason.
Anyway, even though I don’t get in actual fights, the idea behind Barney’s advice seems solid. Whatever the battle is, even if it doesn’t necessarily seem like you’ve got the weapons you want or need, you keep trying with whatever you’ve got. With my writing problems, even if the words aren’t gushing out of me, if I get a couple sentences out that’s at least moving the ball forward a little. It’s not following any ideal plans for how to write a novel, but as long as it’s moving the word count upwards, even slightly, it’s something. I can keep reading things that inspire me. I can keep at least outlining out the stuff that I’m having difficulty turning into prose on the page, so that when I’m ready to pound out the text I’ll know right where to go. I can send out some of the stuff I have done to the Eager Volunteers so that their feedback can give me some ideas for how to proceed. Every day, I can find some way to continue working on this project and refusing to quit on it until it’s done. Keep fighting, and outlast whatever the problem is.
Barney Barton’s other piece of advice on fighting (offered in the same issue, and also to small children, which is slightly distressing, although he goes on to explain that anyone can get into a fight but that doing good is difficult) is that sometimes the winner of a fight is the person who is willing to get hurt the longest. I guess I feel that way about a great many challenges in life, these days. Sometimes you just have to stand in there, say absolutely no I will not quit, and keep plugging away with whatever tools and assets you can find, whatever you can lay your hands on and make into something to hit with. Keep at it long enough and eventually you’ll find a way through, or around, or maybe under, the problem you’ve got in front of you.
It even occurs to me, as I write this, that this isn’t the worst philosophy to keep in mind given certain, uh, current events. A lot of people have an enormous battle in front of them that looks pretty difficult to win, and if you look at it quickly it may seem like we don’t have any weapons. But the battle is everywhere, and so are the tools we can use to fight it. Everything we do, every choice we make, can be part of continuing the struggle and continuing the resistance. The things we buy, or don’t buy. The voices we listen to. The people we choose to help. We can make everything within our grasp something to hit out at the enemy with. It won’t all be super effective. But it probably all adds up, and if nothing else it shows that we aren’t down yet. We’re still fighting.
Make everything something to hit with.
Then we outlast him.
Thanks for reading.
In case you missed me ballyhooing this earlier, I did an interview for Black Gate Magazine with Brandon Crilly. If you’d like to read even more of me jabbering on about stuff I write, you can check it out here. Black Gate publishes a lot of great fantasy-related content so you really should be reading them anyway.