A brief moment with Black Panther in Avengers: Endgame served as the perfect representation of how opinion on Hawkeye has warmed recently. Created by Stan Lee and Don Heck, Hawkeye made his comic book debut in Tales of Suspense #57. Also known as Clint Barton, the character began life as a villain (albeit a reluctant one) before joining the Avengers in The Avengers #16 in May 1965. He has remained a member of the superhero team ever since. Played by Jeremy Renner, Hawkeye made his first MCU appearance in 2011's Thor. He subsequently reappeared in each team-up film except Avengers: Infinity War and played a role in Captain America: Civil War.
The latter film served, also, as the introduction to T'Challa, a.k.a Black Panther. The future King of Wakanda would find himself on the opposing side to Hawkeye, when they aligned with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, respectively. The two briefly even come to blows, with Hawkeye officially introducing himself to Black Panther. T'Challa's widely memed response was to declare, "I don't care!" The reply was considered extremely meta at the time. Despite a long history in the comics, and many believing Hawkeye to be awesome, the character went underserved in the big screen adaptations. In 2012's The Avengers, Hawkeye was mostly reduced to a brainwashed henchman role. Although director Joss Whedon attempted to rectify that in Avengers: Age of Ultron, expanding the character and introducing his family, Clint Barton was still widely considered the weakest and least interesting Avenger. As such, Black Panther's retort served as a representation of how the audience at large viewed Marvel's archer.
While Civil War succeeded in giving Hawkeye more personality, as well as more for Renner to sink his teeth into, it was Avengers: Endgame that truly emphasized how the view of the character has changed over the last decade of movies. Once again teaming up with the Avengers, or what was left of them, Hawkeye played a pivotal role in undoing Thanos's infamous snap and bringing back the universe of people that had been lost as a result - including his own family. As a result of Endgame's opening moment, Hawkeye not only experienced a moment audiences could relate to and sympathize with, but he also became truly interesting. And it reached a new peak during the final, climactic battle when the Avengers were forced to relay the new Infinity Gauntlet through an army of their enemies. After taking his turn, Hawkeye once again crossed paths with Black Panther. Instead of uncaring nonchalance, however, T'Challa respectfully referred to Hawkeye as Clint.
The marketing for the latest record-shattering team-up installment teased a darker turn for the character, as he descended into his comic book Ronin persona. Though many accurately predicted the reason for his descent, it made it no less impactful when officially witnessed on screen. The interest and sympathy for the character were only exacerbated as Black Widow's heroic sacrifice played out - offering Renner some of his best material in the MCU to date. As such, Black Panther finally showing Clint a modicum of respect not only epitomized how much the new king had grown, but served as yet another meta representation from the Russo Brothers, paying off how public perception had shifted.
The change couldn't have come at a better time. Although Renner plays coy, a new Disney+ show is reportedly in the works. While it remains as-yet-untitled, the show will see Hawkeye training Kate Bishop as his replacement. Along with other announced TV spinoffs, including WandaVision and Falcon & The Winter Soldier, the MCU series are fully expected to intersect with the movies. Though Hawkeye is considered more powerful than people think, the character now also has a newfound popularity and respect, which will no doubt make his new show more appealing and exciting.
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