How Hawkeye on Disney+ Changes Kate Bishop’s Backstory
While the name Hawkeye has only been associated with actor Jeremy Renner’s character up until this point in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, fans were thrilled when Marvel confirmed the other Hawkeye would be making her debut. Kate Bishop is as versatile as a trick arrow in the quiver of Marvel’s spunky younger heroes. More than just a legacy title, her time as a Hawkeye has rocketed her to popularity and recognition among fans everywhere.
But there are those who might not be as familiar with this Young Avenger fan-favorite outside of Hailee Steinfeld’s on-point performance in the recent Disney+ series. As with any adaptation of killer source material (namely writer Matt Fraction and artists David Aja and Annie Wu’s 2012 Hawkeye series), there are bound to be some updates. Especially in a post-Blip landscape.
So, if you’re inspired to pick up or revisit some of the must-read comics that inspired the Hawkeye series, you might notice a few differences regarding the newest archer on the block. Here are the biggest details that the MCU changed in Kate Bishop’s backstory.
(Content warning for mention of sexual assault)
The most notable change to Kate Bishop’s backstory comes in the opening moments of Hawkeye‘s premiere episode. In the Battle of Manhattan in 2012, we witness a young Kate Bishop lose her father in an explosion that rocks her family’s penthouse apartment. Her mother Eleanor quickly carries her to safety, but not before Kate spies Hawkeye on a distant rooftop, fending off Chitauri legions. This inspires her to want to learn archery as well as other athletic pursuits, so she can defend herself in danger and be just like her favorite hero.
Fans who haven’t been keeping current on the recent comics might be surprised to learn that in 2018’s West Coast Avengers book, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Leonardo Romero actually introduced Kate’s mother Eleanor Bishop to the comics for the first time. Eleanor had previously been mentioned in the inaugural Young Avengers series in scripts by writer Allan Heinberg, but hadn’t physically appeared until recently. Since Kate’s introduction, her mother had actually been estranged from the family and was later presumed dead while her father survived. So, what is her father usually like?
Father Knows Worst:
Derek Bishop is a distant father and a publishing tycoon who sends his daughters (more on that shortly) to boarding school in their youth. This causes Kate to become both lonely and fiercely independent. She eventually witnesses her father’s violence against his subordinates, and her curiosity about the incident gets her caught by a villain, El Matador. The Avengers save her, and she sets her sights on Hawkeye as a new role model. This element remains loosely the same in the Hawkeye television series, but there’s more darkness Kate’s rise to heroism in the comics.
Being independent as she is, Kate walks home alone at night in Central Park, where she is sexually assaulted. While it is not delved into in explicit detail, the incident leaves her traumatized and isolated before she seeks therapy. Wanting to learn more forms of self defense, she quickly and efficiently picks up on swordsmanship, archery, and martial arts. With these skills, her natural tenacity, and her disillusionment with the family business, she often finds herself at odds with her father. Derek Bishop has only continued to maintain his cold, capitalist pursuits as the Bishop family splinters further apart.
Now, back to Kate’s mother. You’ll actually find Thompson and Romero in the “special thanks” part of the credits in the opening episode because of their hand in introducing Eleanor to Earth-616. When we finally meet her, we learn that like her husband Derek, Eleanor isn’t exactly on the up-and-up.
Definitely not dead, she has been working quietly alongside the Masters of Evil West Coast division to recruit villains like M.O.D.O.K. and Madame Masque to thwart Kate’s heroic adventures. What’s more, Eleanor turns out to be a vampire, part of the Temple of the Shifting Sun, a cult of creatures of the night trying to become daywalkers (think Blade) so they don’t have to hide in the darkness any longer.
While Eleanor does try to drink the blood of America Chavez, Kate’s teammate and closest friend, it turns out she’s not all bad. She reveals she has only been working with Madame Masque to try to cure her vampirism, but after the Temple of the Shifting Sun is destroyed, we don’t see whether Eleanor escapes or not.
Though she’s probably not going to ever become a vampire in the MCU, we do see some similarities with Vera Farmiga’s portrayal — she’s not above recruiting villains to get in the way of her daughter’s plans. Bishop family business gets messy across all media.
There’s actually more to Kate’s comic book family than a cruel, criminal father and an undead mother. As we mentioned earlier, Kate has an older sister from whom she is estranged — Susan Bishop. Susan and Kate are occasionally amicable with one another, but their relationship has always been strained. The elder Bishop doesn’t understand her sister’s desire to help people, and is focused more on their family’s wealth and reputation.
After the Young Avengers saved Susan’s wedding party from being held hostage at gunpoint, Kate revealed her heroic identity to her sister. Susan was less than thrilled, essentially ending their speaking relationship. From there, Kate moved to Los Angeles, and Susan took over the family business, Bishop Publishing. They have, however, tenuously reunited for writer Marieke Nijkamp and artist Enid Balám’s Hawkeye: Kate Bishop miniseries currently running at Marvel, though the results of this reunion remain to be seen.
Respect the Boomerang:
One of the biggest, most character-redefining retcons to Kate’s backstory is the fact that she actually does respect the boomerang arrow.
Okay, not really a retcon. But fans of the Fraction/Aja/Wu series may remember a humorous exchange between Clint and Kate that resulted in one of the book’s more iconic and quotable lines. When Hawkeye introduces Hawkeye to his cache of trick arrows, Hawkeye tries to burst his bubble on the boomerang arrow.
“You gotta respect the gear, there, Hawkeye. Like this here. Boomerang arrow, Kate — it comes back to you in the end. Boomerang. Respect it.”
“Why the hell do you need an arrow that comes back to you after you shoot it, Clint?”
In the live action adaptation, Kate Bishop is actually the one to suggest this trick design to her reluctant mentor, about which he is skeptical. However, given that Hawkeye’s need to collect expended arrows has been pointed out not only by the character himself in The Avengers but also in a hilarious SNL skit about the Battle of Manhattan, it might not be entirely off-base either way.
While not truly a significant detail, this change in tone regarding the infamous trick arrow does actually signal a larger distinction in the series…
While no one would call Kate Bishop stuffy or allergic to fun, when the Fraction/Aja/Wu series began, she had much more of a dry humor and (mostly) level head when compared with the lovable screw-up that was Clint Barton. This isn’t to say she never serves as comic relief — in fact, a lot of her observations about the Hawkeyes’ predicaments were hilarious in how sharp and biting they could be. Kate’s goofier side developed once she received her own solo series by Thompson and Romero in 2016, which is what we see more of on screen.
It seems that Clint has taken on the more serious, grounding role of the duo in Hawkeye. Kate has always had a rich, privileged naivety and cunning to her, knowing exactly how far she can push the envelope before things truly get dangerous. We see a lot of this carried over in Hailee Steinfeld’s performance, though she delivers drama and seriousness when called for. However, in the beginnings of the Hawkeye comic series, she was always more of a voice of reason, helping Clint from an outsider’s perspective. Most of the problems in that series were, after all, Clint’s fault.
Even in the second iteration of the Young Avengers by writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie, Kate was one of the team leaders, and she also took the lead in the latest incarnation of the West Coast Avengers. She is a sassy and often overconfident character, but that’s why we love her. Kate can be lighthearted and shortsighted, or she can be serious and play the straight man to her teammates’ antics.
But as America Chavez once told her, “I’ve seen the way you look at me. You’re not that straight.”
Other Minor Changes
Of course, any series adaptation is going to make changes from the source material. We’ve learned a lot about Kate in the short time we’ve spent with her on screen, and it’s been incredible to see her own individual story really flesh out since her first solo title in 2016. While fans are clamoring for the Young Avengers to unite on screen soon, it’s clear they’ll be a whole new version of the beloved teen heroes we’ve never seen before.
A few other small changes the series has made with Kate include the fact that she has never become the Ronin, Lucky the Pizza Dog is actually found and adopted (or stolen from the Tracksuit Mafia) by Clint Barton before Kate takes him in, and she eventually gives up working with the other Hawkeye to become an investigator in Los Angeles.
Apart from Clint, one of her closest mentor figures is actually Jessica Jones. With the introduction of both Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) in Hawkeye, and Matt Murdock‘s recent cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we might see Kate team up with Krysten Ritter’s sour super detective. Kate might want to lose the purple getup before that happens, though.
No matter what, we think this adaptation of a beloved character totally hit the bullseye, and we can’t wait to see where she’ll show up next in the MCU.
Was Kate Bishop new to you before beginning Hawkeye on Disney+? What do you think of these story changes? Don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow and tell us in the comments!