In 1962, Neil Sedaka famously lamented "Breaking Up is Hard to Do," a truism that holds especially true if the couple involved are superheroes and super-spies like the titular characters of Marvel Comics' "Hawkeye & Mockingbird" series by writer Jim McCann and artist David Lopez. In issue #5, in stores now, Hawkeye AKA Clint Barton and Bobbi Morse AKA Mockingbird decided to end their romantic and professional partnerships after a violent confrontation with the villainous Crossfire and his ally, the new Phantom Rider. So where do Hawkeye and Mockingbird go from here and what does this mean for their future? For the answers to these questions and more we spoke with McCann about his plans for issue #6 of the series, the upcoming "Widowmaker" mini that features his protagonists alongside the Black Widow and his plans for Hawkeye and Mockingbird once "Widowmaker" wraps.
In "Hawkeye & Mockingbird" #1 through 5, McCann forced his protagonists to confront a traumatic incident - Mockingbird's abduction and sexual assault at the hands of the Old West vigilante known as the Phantom Rider - that occurred back during their stint as members of the West Coast Avengers. Things were further complicated by the fact that Hawkeye initially refused to believe that the Phantom Rider did anything wrong. When Bobbi confronted the Rider about what happened, a scuffle ensued, ending with her allowing the Rider to fall to his death. The Rider's spirit proved restless, and in the first issue of the new series #1, he possessed the body of his descendant Jamie Slade and formed an alliance with the terrorist known as Crossfire in order to take out Hawkeye and Mockingbird. In issue #5, McCann's protagonists defeated their foes, but what they had to do and what they had to endure to stop them proved too much for their relationship to bear.
"This arc was about revealing that Clint and Bobbi have serious issues between the two of them that they haven't resolved. In the 'New Avengers: The Reunion' miniseries that preceded this, we resolved Bobbi's feelings surrounding the last time she saw Clint before her abduction by the Skrulls. At the time, she wanted to divorce him, but eventually came around to dating. Then in this book, by issue #5, we finally put to rest the specter of the Phantom Rider, because I felt like the two of them had not really dealt with that and Bobbi still had a lot of post traumatic stress built up from it and the aftermath; the way she and Clint dealt with it and the death of the Phantom Rider," McCann told CBR News. " So this time around, Clint has been doing everything he can to try and help her. And that's been great, but she's still been kind of pushing him away. They've had a bit of a push and pull throughout all of this arc, in how much Clint is overstepping into her life and how much she is comfortable letting him in. Also factoring in is the question of how much is Clint himself overstepping his own boundaries that he has set up? So we've really taken both of these characters on a ride and pushed them to see how comfortable they are each willing to go and to see how comfortable they're willing to see the other one go. That's pretty key to what's going on right now."
At the end of "Hawkeye & Mockingbird" #5, readers saw that Hawkeye wasn't comfortable with how cold-blooded the spy life was making him. After disarming Crossfire, the Avenger ripped the villain's cybernetic eye out and almost did something even worse before realizing how brutal he was behaving. "Clint is looking at what their relationship and being a part of Bobbi's lifestyle as a spy brings out in him. That's an aspect of a relationship that people in real life don't tend to look at as much. They tend to look at the other person and ask themselves if they're happy. They don't usually stop to consider, though, what they're bringing out in the other person and what the other person is bringing out in them," McCann said. "In this arc, he's really been pushed to the brink. He reunites Bobbi with her mom as a way of trying to help her, and almost gets her mom killed. Then, they concoct a plan to take down Crossfire and the Phantom Rider, which leads to Hamilton Slade, the heroic modern day Phantom Rider, being killed by Crossfire. Hawkeye then retaliates by ripping Crossfire's eye out.
"So that leads to Clint questioning his own place in all of this," McCann continued. "How far can he go, personally? Does that mean he doesn't fit into specific groups and specific life styles? He asks Bobbi, 'Is this what spy life is?' Bobbi's answer, 'Only if you let it.' is very true. I think she really does mean that. She feels like he's got a choice. He just needs to figure out what his choice is and hold to it."
Bobbi also tells Clint she's made hers and that the spy life is what she needs right now. " In Mockingbird's earliest appearances, in books like 'Astonishing Tales: Featuring Ka-Zar,' she was a very strong and a very capable spy, and I always loved that. She meets Clint in the original 'Hawkeye' miniseries and goes on to help him found the West Coast Avengers. Most of their arguments at that time were about how she felt she was a spy first and an Avenger second. Ever since her return from the Skrulls at the end of 'Secret Invasion,' I wanted to get her back to that. She follows a spy code. She's not going to kill indiscriminately, but she will kill if she feels she has to," McCann explained. "That's where she's comfortable. Other people want just Bobbi Morse to come first, and others want Mockingbird, the superhero. She can't give them either of those solely right now, so that's why she's thinking there needs to be a separation between her and Clint."
While readers saw Clint and Bobbi make their confessions about the spy life, they did not get to see what happened in the three hour gap while they waited for their separate modes of transport to come pick them up. "There's more to the break-up than what you saw. When issue #6 [in stores this week] begins, about two weeks have passed, so we'll see what the split means for both of them and we'll see each of them questioning themselves. We'll get insight into what was talked about, but we're not going to flash back and fill in those three hours," McCann revealed. "I thought back and forth about it and decided that it was more interesting to see people talk about it with others than it is to see what their actual conversation was. Because then you see what they took away from it as opposed to just what was said. Instead, you're seeing what their personal reactions to it are a week or two later and how that's affecting everybody around them as well."
The people reacting to Hawkeye and Mockingbird's break up in issue #6 include Steve Rogers, Nick Fury, Luke Cage, Jessica Drew and the enigmatic Dominic Fortune, who has been a major supporting player in "Hawkeye & Mockingbird." "Issue #6 is my favorite of any story I've written with these characters. A lot of secrets are laid out, including Dominic's. We finally learn the truth of why Dominic is working with Bobbi and what his connection is to the previous Dominic Fortunes. What happened to the Dominic Fortune of the World War II era? What happened to the recent younger Dominic Fortune that was running around? And where does this Dominic Fortune fit in? All of those questions are answered in a really cool layout that David Lopez did," McCann explained. "There have been hints laid out throughout this series. As soon as I was able to use Dominic, I knew exactly how and what Dominic Fortune would be. I love the character. I think he's a blast to write and we see a little bit more into Dominic in issue #6. You'll understand a little bit more of his actions when you read this, too. Especially the people who think he's just an obnoxious jerk."
"Hawkeye & Mockingbird" #6 will also set the stage for the four issue "Widowmaker" by McCann and Lopez and the current "Black Widow" creative team of writer Duane Swierczynski and artist Manuel Garcia, which begins in December. "The last few pages of issue #6 are kind of the prequel to 'Widowmaker.' You can go into 'Widowmaker' totally cold though too. So 'Widowmaker' is designed very much to be a great jumping on point for readers who haven't had a chance to pick up 'Hawkeye & Mockingbird' or 'Black Widow.' It's really cool because it's also designed to move these characters forward. It doesn't deal with too many past issues. This arc of 'Hawkeye & Mockingbird' was definitely about setting the past to rest. 'Widowmaker' sets up a lot of new things," McCann revealed. "There are threats from the past that do show up, but that's because there are so many awesome things out there to play with. So the mini features the debut of a new villain group that David Lopez got to design and we're going all over the world. It's really fun and exciting. I'm really stoked."
Globe-hopping action is just one aspect of "Widowmaker." McCann and Swierczynski have also designed the story to be a very personal and dramatic tale for their respective characters. " It's an incredibly personal story for each of them in different ways," McCann hinted. "There's a mysterious character running around wearing Hawkeye's old Ronin costume and is killing spies around the world, including some that Bobbi and the Black Widow know. On top of that, they're both targeted for death and it doesn't get much more personal than that."
"Widowmaker" comes to a conclusion in January with the book's aftermath setting up a new status quo for both Hawkeye and Mockingbird. "There have been a lot of questions about the future of this book and the characters. I can tell you that David Lopez and I are not done working together, and the story that I've plotted, planned out and wanted to tell after 'Widowmaker' is still going to be told. I just can't say how, why or where, yet, but expect details very, very soon. Possibly even right after this interview hits," McCann revealed. "I'm very thankful for the vocal and supportive fan base that developed around 'Hawkeye & Mockingbird.' I love you guys very much. So just keep following David and I. Pick up 'Widowmaker' for the next chapter and after that, you won't be able to miss where we go next. The story that started with the end of issue #5 and all of #6 is really kind of the beginning and that's really exciting. It's strange to be able to say that because I know there's been some books that have been canceled and stories that haven't been give a chance to wrap up. The word "hiatus" is scary for some people, but in all honesty we're still going forward with our stories. Keep following us and you will continue to see the evolution of what happened in issue #5, what happens in issue #6, and beyond as we keep going. I'm still writing certain character names down in scripts and outlines and I will be for a while.
"Critical and audience reception has been great for the book over these past five issues. This is my dream couple to write as everybody knows and I hope to keep writing them," McCann continued. "So fans, if you want to get friends in on the book pick up issue #6 and also go into 'Widowmaker' then keep following us. There are some awesome things in store. I can't believe what I'm going to get away with."