Published July 19, 2018

Creator Commentary: Old Man Hawkeye #6

Writer Ethan Sacks gives a behind-the-scenes look at the series!

In our Creator Commentary series, we give the floor to our storytellers as they present behind-the-scenes looks at the decisions that go into every last panel and page—in their very own words. Today we celebrate this week's release of the absolutely brutal OLD MAN HAWKEYE #7 by taking a closer look at the previous issue of the series with writer Ethan Sacks. Read up on our previous Commentaries, then dive into issue #6 right here. 

Ethan, over to you.

Issue #6 is the second in a two-part element of this series, and this is when the second half of the Venoms storyline pays off.

We start in a flashback 45 years in the past. This was the day when the villains killed the heroes—but before the heroes knew the impending doom that was facing them. I’m going to shamelessly say I was out to break your heart here.

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Past and Present

We see Hawkeye in a relationship with Black Widow at this time, and they’re in their room in Avengers Tower. She’s wearing a robe, they both look very attractive because they’re in their prime, and their romantic talk is interrupted by an alarm. He doesn’t want to get out of bed and tells her to let the other Avengers deal with it. She’s yelling at him to get up, and this is the transition where he’s being brought out of his unconsciousness, medically, back to the horrible present.

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We see Black Widow yelling at him, and it transitions to Kate Bishop, in the present, yelling at him to get up, though the doctor who is treating Hawkeye does not advise this. Hawkeye’s been chomped in the shoulder by Venom and they tend to have a lot of germs. The doctor says he needs rest, and, of course, she’s offended by this idea. In her mind, he can rest for all eternity after he’s been murdered by her or that army of Venoms that are after them.

Then we see from her viewpoint, which is the highest point in this sanctuary, the army of Venoms, which have clearly multiplied, attacking their walls. They are hopelessly outmatched. Even though the orphans have gotten great training—the other refugees are armed with spears and bows and arrows—they’re not prepared for this at all.

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The Situation Room

Cut back to the White House, and we see Tobias kissing up to the Red Skull. The Red Skull sees that Bullseye is a lost cause, so he decides to take Bullseye on his offer for a challenge with his greatest warrior, which we haven’t seen yet. Another shocking twist, hopefully, yet to come…

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Then we have this twist. Red Skull talking to somebody who he’s annoyed with about the fact that there’s an Avenger running around in his domain. The person he is talking to is a holographic image of Baron Zemo.

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Baron Zemo, spoiler alert, is really the “big bad”. He’s the person who got the Thunderbolts to change the balance of power in a key moment, and essentially, destroyed Hawkeye’s life. They’re responsible for the death of the woman he loved, his teammates, and for leaving him alive. Baron Zemo is a big part of the story going forward.

We find out from here that the Red Skull says, “I cannot afford to have an Avenger interfering with our weapons project at such an important stage.” What “weapons project”? Well, you don’t know yet. Sorry.

Under Attack

Cutting back to the sanctuary, the Venoms are attacking, and the regular weapons are not doing enough damage. They’re hopelessly outmatched. Hawkeye asks if they have a sonic cannon ready, because Venom is allergic to sound waves. But obviously they don’t; this is not the Baxter Building. So…fire it is.

They realize the place is surrounded with torches. It’s nightfall at this point. Then we have this really cool action scene where Kate flips over several Venoms, pulls out a torch, lights an arrow, and shoots one in the head. She pulls the arrow out of the head and kills another Venom with it.

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It was very important to me to have Kate not just as a cameo; to have her actually earn her keep in this story. She hasn’t been sitting around for 45 years doing nothing or living a cushy lifestyle. She’s been training and honing her skills, and in a lot of ways, is in better physical shape than Hawkeye, who drinks a lot more than she does.

Kate drops the line, which becomes important later, “Clint, this area is infested with T-Rexes and bandits, but we didn’t have a Venom problem until you showed up.” And he says, “Wait, did you just say T-Rexes?” Remember, we saw the T-Rex skeleton in the previous issue. That comes into play later.

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Hawkeye, with his great idea, runs off…which annoys Kate because she obviously has true issues with him. Kate is literally left to hold down the fort as best as she can. She looks up and some of her kids, including Naomi (the character based on my daughter) and Dwight, AKA Ant-Kid, are trapped on the top of this wall by these Venoms that are climbing up the sides. They’re sort of pinned down, and Naomi kills one of them with a torch. Hey, if I’m going to write my daughter into a comic book, I definitely want her to have a cool action beat!

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Fight or Flight

At this point, it looks like she’s going to be eaten by the Venoms—which would cause a little tension in my household. And Kate Bishop is basically powerless because she’s below Naomi.

All of a sudden, you see Hawkeye. His big plan was to go get his car and drive through a bunch of Venoms. Because these Venoms are here for him, he needs to get them to follow him outside. And that’s what ultimately is going to save these kids because they’re not going to overpower these guys. They have to lure them out, pied-piper style, beyond the gates. Hawkeye, being his abrasive self, insults the Venoms at the top of his lungs, and he gets them to start following him.

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The problem for the Venoms is because they’ve spread themselves so thin, they’re slower. I wanted the effect to be that when they’re in their horde, they’re almost like a zombie horde. They’re not going to be able to catch him at that high speed. So the Venom symbiote decides to peel off from all of the Madroxes and ends up with three, if you will, “superior” Venoms. They can run much faster, and they look more like these monster gorillas. It goes from a hundred Venoms to three, but these three are much more powerful.

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They’re chasing Hawkeye deep into the wasteland and, at this point, we don’t understand what Hawkeye’s plan is. Kate’s driving, and Hawkeye’s able to kill one of them with a fiery arrow. Then the second one jumps on the car, and—breaking any car aficionado’s heart—rips off the roof to get at Hawkeye. The third Venom is crushed by Kate, who drives it against the wall of a cliff. That leaves one left. They’ve been honking the car horn, and we don’t know why. As it turns out, we see one of the T-Rexes.

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Dino Time

When I was starting to write this story, I knew in “Old Man Logan” that the symbiote was attached to a Tyrannosaurus rex. At some point, I had to get the symbiote off the Madroxes and onto that T-Rex. This is the secret origin story of T-Rex Venom. This is what I ultimately wanted to happen to the Venoms.

It looks like Venom gets eaten by the dinosaur, and Hawkeye’s all proud of himself because he thinks he’s outsmarted the Venoms and they’ll never bother him again. It’s a wink to us readers who know darn well that in five years he’ll be running for his life from a symbiote Tyrannosaurus rex.

Marco Checchetto drew this perfectly. Here’s a little secret: when an artist draws early “layouts,” it’s a very quick version just to show the staging of a panel. For this big, full-page splash of this awesome Tyrannosaurus rex eating this Venom, Marco used the dinosaur from Toy Story for inspiration! It made us all laugh. It’s in the right place, but it’s the dinosaur from Toy Story.

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Return of a Soldier

Now, we have one last major reveal. Taskmaster is waiting at this airstrip, because we know that Bullseye has called out this challenge, but we don’t know who this assassin on the way is. And it’s clearly not Taskmaster. They bring out a machine that is housing this thing that’s sedated because it’s so violent and angry. Then, we have the reveal: it’s Winter Soldier...minus his eyes.

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We were going back and forth on whether to do robotic eyes, and I wanted to do this. And fortunately, they let me do this. It’s this trope of the missing eyes and they’re sewed up. I always found that scary as a kid. The last time we saw poor Bucky, he was Captain America, with the Red Skull’s fingers in his eyes—a flashback from “Old Man Logan”. They didn’t let him die in peace, but turned him back into the Winter Soldier. He’s mindless, but controlled by a team. And Bullseye, whether it’s a smart plan or not, is waiting for him.

Not-So-Happy Ending

The final page. Kate is pulled abruptly from the life she knew. She knows she has to leave because all that smoke will catch the attention of the drones. She’s been living under the radar, but the best chance these kids have is not having a real-life Super Hero discovered there. She has to flee with Hawkeye and wants to know what was so important that he upended her whole life and put her kids in danger. He says, “I’ll tell you everything.”

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The next issue is my “red wedding” issue. It’s the issue we see where Hawkeye was on the day when all the heroes were killed, and it’s pretty brutal. That’s what you have to look forward to.