Interview: The Avengers' Hawkeye Goes Solo With Writer Jen Van Meter

Hawkeye – a fan favorite character known as much for his wit as his talent with arrows – is making the leap to the big screen next year, but first, writer Jen Van Meter is taking him solo. Specifically, as the lead in a five issue miniseries called Avengers: Solo. To find out more, we chatted with Van Meter about the arrowed Avenger, why he’s going up against the villain formerly known as Paste Pot Pete, and whether she’ll be collaborating with her better half, writer Greg Rucka:

MTV Geek: Just to kick it off, what's the main idea of Avengers Solo?

Jen Van Meter: The pitch title was "Pathfinder," because I can't hear Hawkeye's name without thinking of the J.F. Cooper character, and because I wanted to evoke for myself that sense of a guy in unfamiliar terrain, learning how to move in a new environment.

The main idea is that some very ordinary people -- bank tellers, law students, teachers -- have been caught up in something that is dangerous and truly evil, and Hawkeye has committed himself to helping them, alone. He's not sure that he's the best person for the job, but despite having reasons for not trusting the superhero community, they come to trust him, and he's going to let them down.

Geek: Clearly, Hawkeye is the star here… What draws you to him, as a character?

JVM: I love his combination of rakish, brash bravado and straightforward honesty. His skill set is so much fun, and his sense of adventure makes him a delight to write. He's also kind of a novelty for me because so many of the costumed characters I've written are marked by some real distinction between who they are in and out of costume, so to speak.

To me, Clint and Hawkeye are pretty much the same guy -- it's not as if the mask lets him say things he wouldn't otherwise or he's got a 'day job' that's in conflict with his role as a hero-- when Clint suits up, he's putting on his work clothes. It's kind of cool to work with someone for whom that part isn't a huge source of tension.

Geek: Back in the day, Solo Avengers teamed Hawkeye up with a different hero each issue… I understand we’re getting a slightly different approach here?

JVM: Yeah, I took the 'solo' part pretty seriously when I built the pitch for this -- I'm not giving too much away to say that Hawkeye's faith in Cap, his desire to protect the reputations of the other heroes, are big motivators--he doesn't want them involved. This story casts him as more of a lone detective, structurally.

Geek: That said, what makes this different from just any ol’ Hawkeye mini-series?

JVM: Gosh -- the recent Hawkeye miniseries have all had so much going for them, and there's been so much terrific stuff done with his relationships with his brother, with Mockingbird, with Black Widow -- big sweeping personal stuff as well as great action and adventure. I think I'm relying on all that being there, in a sense, taking those elements for granted very gratefully; this story is much more about Hawkeye, with all that history, being dropped into a situation that doesn't ask him about his childhood or his marriage or anything else. Those things inform who he is, but the people he's dealing with only want to know what he's going to do right now.

Geek: This is a question I’m going to ask every Hawkeye writer from now on: how many arrows did you need to shoot to prepare for writing this book?

JVM: I did some archery as a kid; not very good at it, I'm afraid, though I loved it.

Geek: Are we going to see any new arrows for Barton in the book? Are you more into the trick arrows, or the idea that he’s just really great with the bow and arrow?

JVM: I like both kinds. There are some trick arrows, yes, and I'm pretty pleased with a bit I wrote last week where he adapts something kind of on the fly. It's a funny thing, because I used to hate the trick arrows, but it makes total sense to me too that, once you can make an ordinary arrow or five do anything you want, making arrows that can do things besides pierce targets would be a next logical step. I get why he'd want to have a lot of non-lethal options -- whether it comes off as goofy or not tends, for me, to come down to the art, and Roger is making the archery stuff look fantastic.

Geek: You’re playing with The Trapster here… How much of his past are we going to see, because I think a lot of people forget how integral he is to the history of the Marvel U (seriously)?

JVM: We're not seeing much of the Trapster's past, honestly. I'm trying to keep this story very immediate -- very little gets seen that Hawkeye himself isn't a witness to -- so Trapster here is explored pretty much in terms of what he wants right now, and the opportunity that's motivating him; he has a chance at a level of power and respect he craves, so he's pretty driven when he appears.

Geek: Who else is coming up in the series, villains or heroes?

JVM: That would be telling.

Geek: You’ve said that there’s more action than you’ve ever done before in this mini… What’s that process been like for you? What’s your approach to action?

JVM: Blocking out each issue, I've got 20 pages to tell 1/5 of the story, and it's tricky, trying to figure out how much room I can give a sequence that I want to have feel huge. Roger and I exchange emails about some of it, and it depends on the sequence how the script takes shape. There are times when I essentially write, "Here's three pages, these are the things that have to happen, people will need opportunities to say these things," because I want to leave Roger, who visualizes this stuff so beautifully, plenty of room to do his thing.

Other times, I'll go panel by panel if there's a particular effect I'm going for, always with the understanding that I want to know if he sees another way to accomplish that goal. I don't tend to imagine action in terms of how it looks, as much as I do in terms of how it feels and what the narrative is, if that makes sense. I'm much more inclined to write, "Yeowch. Whatever that ninja did really hurt," than I am to specify a right cross to the jaw.

Geek: Also, what’s it been like telling a slightly longer form story in the Marvel U? I know you’ve tackled bigger stories in the past, but I think this is the longest superhero series you’ve done? Maybe? I hope?

JVM: This is close to the same size as the Black Cat mini I did in 2009 and Black Lightning: Year One -- give or take a few pages. That said, this is the first time I've done something this big that is pretty much scratch-built around one character. The Black Cat story came close, but linked to other stuff that was going on in Spider-Man, and most of the other superhero stories I've done have dealt with preexisting relationships between the characters or have had some kind of structure in place when I got the job. This one is special for me because it really started with nothing more than: Hawkeye. Solo.

Geek: You’ve talked about him a bit already, but what’s it been like working with Roger Robinson?

JVM: Roger is fascinating -- he's got a great sense of motion and movement, his draftsmanship is gorgeous, and we've had some great exchanges about the lives of the objects as he designs them. I worried, putting the pitch together, that I'd get someone who was great at the moody noir-ish bits and kind of clunky on the action, or the other way around, and I feel like Roger's been a dream come true. He and I share a lot of interests in terms of style and story, and he's fantastic in terms of helping me think more broadly about how the action can work to tell more story. I can not wait for people to start seeing what he's doing.

Geek: Not to focus on your significant others…

JVM: I've only got the one!

Geek: …But Greg Rucka seems to write very, very seriously, while you seem to focus more on the fun characters… Does he ever look over your scripts and say, “Needs more grit.”

JVM: If he thinks it, he keeps it to himself. He knows I'd cut him if he dared.

Geek: Seriously, though, do you ever talk about working on a project together? Maybe a mini-series called “Punisher vs. Hawkeye: We Both Shoot Stuff, But Differently”? I guess that wasn’t that serious after all.

JVM: Seriously? We talk about working together all the time, and we talk about what we're each working on daily, but we work very differently, and we've yet to come up with the idea that we need to write together. He types faster than I think, for one thing, and we're 'on' at different times in our day, so it would have to be a really special project for us to add in the challenge of working against our individual habits. That said, our really special pitch for an ongoing in which Nick Fury and Millie the Model share an apartment odd-couple style is on Wacker's desk right now.

Geek: Greenlit! I mean, I don’t have that power, but I would if I could. You have Jim McCann – who’s been stewarding the character for a while – writing the back-up. How much have you chatted with him about Hawkeye, and/or how much are you picking up on his take?

JVM: I don't know Jim, I'm afraid to say, but as I said before, the work he's been doing has been a huge influence -- he's made Hawkeye's world and recent experiences so rich and complex, and the character carries all that with him now. I'm not necessarily developing any of those stories further, but those stories have developed the man, and I'm not ignoring that. I haven't gotten to see his Hank Pym story that will be running alongside mine, but I can't wait-- I know it'll be a lot of fun.

Geek: Similarly – and I have no idea where its going – but there’s been some budding romance with Spider-Woman in Avengers… Are we going to see any of that here?

JVM: Solo means solo. His romantic life may be an issue in the back half, but only as a motivation.

Geek: Lastly, give us a tease… For people who aren’t fans of Hawkeye, why should they pick up this book?

JVM: Okay, so, say you're not a Hawkeye fan. This is a beautifully drawn story about a guy who thinks of himself as a "leap into the fray" team hero being called upon to act as a detective and solve a mystery that implicates the people he admires most.

He's going confront a truly evil plot, meet a diverse and interesting cast of people who aren't entirely pleased with being rescued by a dude in a costume, and figure out how to do the right thing in a situation that forces him to really evaluate what that means.

There will be awesome action, some fun banter, and arrows flying everywhere. And zombies. (Not really. Kind of.)

Avengers: Solo #1 hits stands on October 26th, 2011 from Marvel Comics!

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