Kate Bishop– the younger of two heroes code-named Hawkeye– emerged when the older one, Clint Barton, had temporarily retired. A hero by choice, she took up his color scheme (purple on purple on purple), his bow-and-arrow theme, and his acrobatics-and-bruises fighting style, first with his resistance, then with his blessing, and then at his side. She then took her talents and their floppy-eared dog Lucky to Los Angeles, where she set up shop as a private detective, though she’s currently back in New York. Wherever she’s found, she comes with trick arrows, wisecracks, interior monologues, insecurities, and ten tons of gold-plated family baggage: she also comes with problematic ex-boyfriends, multiple best friends, and fans who can’t get enough.
Introduced as one among a pack of teen would-be heroes in Young Avengers 1 (2005) by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung, Kate’s early adventures rarely gave her lead roles. (For a while she had no clear hero name either: Hawkingbird, Taskmistress, Ladyhawk…) She provided a hideout and money, flirted with Eli Bradley (Patriot), then dated the hapless and naive– but powerful– Kree warrior Noh-Varr, accompanying her teammates on the interdimensional. very queer-friendly journeys of Gillen and McKelvie’s fan-beloved Young Avengers vol. 2 (2013-14).
As Clint Barton took up more space in 2010s comics, Kate appeared more often at his side, as his voice of reason, his conscience, or his de facto babysitter. That’s how Kate operates in Matt Fraction’s celebrated, artistically challenging Hawkeye series (2012-13), confusingly released at times that overlapped the Gillen/ McKelvie Young Avengers. The two volumes of All-New Hawkeye (2015-16), by Lemire and Perez, established clear, heartstring-yanking childhood trauma for Clint and then for Kate, throwing past and potential future Hawkeyes into the best focus yet on their mutually needy, splodie-arrow-filled relationship.
After small roles in big crossover events and a fun (no, really) mini-series with Deadpool, she became the star of the show in two lighthearted, L.A.-based comics written by Kelly Thompson, Hawkeye (2017-18) and West Coast Avengers (2018-19), where she kept facing off with Madam Masque and other adult villains linked to her parents’ misdeeds. In these Kate-first comics, props and mannerisms that remained hints or one-offs in Fraction had room to breathe and grow.
Kate Bishop was never supposed to be a marquee name or a fan favorite– until she was. She doesn’t even have her own codename. Nor does she have extraordinary, supernatural, or startlingly powers: instead, like her bruised and battered older namesake, this younger, more privileged, and equally purple Hawkeye brings to the superhero game pluck, persistence, a nose for clues, a way with fletchings and bowstrings (including the cello), and a gumshoe’s ability to read the room.
Like Barton, she’s usually the least powerful in any group of superheroes: like him, she can take a beating, and often does. Unlike him, she knows how to lead a team– but like him, she often needs saving. By him, and very much vice versa. When Clint and Kate interact they’re a good example–and the world needs more of these– of how an older dude can mentor a younger woman without making it a sex thing (see also: Logan and Kate Pryde, Logan and Jubilee, Logan and Armor, etc). Sometimes it’s banter: sometimes it’s hearts laid bare, and often it’s her telling him to stop running away. The TV-show versions– which may be what brought you here– took much of the humor out of their interactions, but it kept their earnestness, her dedication to superhero business, and their shared reliance on Band-aids.
When Kate interacts with other heroes her age, she can crack them up or show their soft sides. As for hero fights, she’s out of her depth and she knows it. She can go back to her old life as a Manhattan rich girl at almost any time, unless her evil dad cancels her credit cards. Instead, every day is a choice to stay on the case, and a way to show her loyalty to her ever-growing chosen family. If you’re reading about a flustered heroine who’s taken on way too much responsibility (and likes it that way), who walks into rooms and sees dozens of potential targets (shown by arrows and bullseyes), who seems to keep dating or almost-dating the queerest teen heroes Marvel can provide, and who keeps running out of frozen vegetables to put on her banged-up limbs, you are probably reading a Kate Bishop comic. Just don’t call her Lady Hawkeye.