“Marvel's Avengers Assemble” took Hawkeye back to his roots this past Sunday, with grease-paint laden consequences.
Hawkeye and Falcon, responding to a distress call at Stark Industries, arrive to find their teammates’ mind have seized by the Ringmaster of Crime in this week’s “Crime and Circuses.” As the duo race against the clock to stop their fellow Avengers from being used as tools of villainy, Hawkeye tries repeatedly to hide his connection to Ringmaster’s team of crooks and Falcon grows tried of the archer’s half-truths and misstatements.
This week’s recap with Supervising Producer Cort Lane explores this relationship plus the idea of Avengers in circus drag, another villain’s quest for redemption, and the joy of heroes making sound effects with their mouths.
Please snag the trapeze and join us under the Big Top for the discussion!
Cort Lane: The idea really came from telling a Hawkeye origin story. We also thought if we’re going to do that, let’s take the opportunity to move his relationship with Falcon forward as well.
But if you are telling a Hawkeye origin story then you are telling a Hawkeye as a criminal story. We wanted to keep it in the super hero universe and the Circus of Crime just really provide us the opportunity to do that, because we frankly couldn’t tell the Black Widow super villainess for the Soviet Union story. [Editor's note: When Hawkeye first appeared in the comics, it was as a criminal aiding the Black Widow, who was a spy for the Soviet Union at the time] That story isn’t how everybody’s experienced the Black Widow today. And also Hawkeye has the carny background, so the Circus of Crime really fit in with that. It was just a really neat solution, and all of us being fanboys sort of had a giggle about getting to see the Circus of Crime animated as well.
Marvel.com: You bring up Hawkeye’s carny background. I’m surprised that Swordsman didn’t show up. Did you guys ever play with bringing him in?
Cort Lane: We talked about it but that’s a different story down the road, maybe.
Marvel.com: Cool, very cool. When you were pulling together the Circus of Crime, they had a few rosters over the years, so how did you guys go about picking which ones to use?
Cort Lane: Just the ones that really felt iconic to us and that served the story. The Clown, for some reason, didn’t really seem to be a threat in battle.
Marvel.com: But you did get Hulk into a clown costume.
Cort Lane: Well, yes. That’s a whole thing. Hulk was in a clown costume in AVENGERS #1, so that, for us, was an homage to AVENGERS #1. No one remembers that, but, yes, he was in a clown getup in the circus in that first issue.
Cort Lane: Just because we didn’t show it doesn’t mean it might not be the case. But that would also be a big, different story, and we wouldn’t want to give that short shrift by revealing, “Hey, it’s his brother!” and [then] we’re not going to resolve that.
Marvel.com: You mentioned that you really wanted to develop Hawkeye’s time with Falcon, so Falcon’s the only character that isn’t mind controlled aside from Hawkeye throughout the episode. What was it about that dynamic in particular that you wanted to explore, besides the fact that you might not have seen them paired off much before?
Cort Lane: The main arc for the reason is about this group of diverse personalities ,who don’t necessarily get along, ready to become a real team. And Tony being able to lead them and become team leader is the other part of the arc.
[The Avengers] have not gotten along very well, so many episodes throughout the season focus on a couple characters and resolving their issues and moving that relationship forward. We’ve had some great episodes about Tony and Cap learning to understand each other. One of my favorites is the Hulk/Black Widow episode. That was very surprising because there is no trust there on her side at the beginning on that episode. Then, their relationship changes.
In this particular case, Hawkeye sort of resents Falcon as the rookie and also treats him like crap through much of the season. This episode helps them develop a more mature relationship where Hawkeye can really respect Falcon and Falcon can understand Hawkeye more. Understand that this guy who’s been giving a hard time for months, that comes from some tough experiences. [Haweye’s] working really hard to prove himself because a.) he doesn’t have powers, but b.) he started out as a villain. He feels like he has so much more to prove than the other heroes, so Falcon has that understanding of him now. They end that episode with a better relationship, just as all the team members are working through their stuff throughout the season so they’re prepared and more united to face the big threat that’s coming in a few episodes.
Marvel.com: I felt like Hawkeye was a little condescending towards Falcon at times.
Cort Lane: Very, yes.
Cort Lane: Yes, and that’s deliberate. Hawkeye has trust issues. When you understand his past then you understand where it comes from. Whereas Falcon has had such different experiences and really respects all of the Avengers, is really in such awe of them, he’s going to trust Hawkeye even if he Hawkeye is such a jerk to him.
Marvel.com: With the look of the Avengers when they get into their circus personalities, at first you see them and you laugh a little bit because they look a little strange. But then once you see them moving they have this very almost zombie quality to them. There’s one shot in particular, after they had been freed from all their restraints in the tent, you see, I think, Hulk and Thor and Captain America sort of shambling in a zombie-like walk towards Hawkeye and Falcon.
Cort Lane: What we didn’t want to have was Ringmaster be like some sort of all-powerful, all-omniscient villain in terms of his mind control power. He’s not that guy. His mind control is a little sloppy, so they look a little sloppy in how they move in their ridiculous getups. That was part of the story for us. These are not A-level villains. Ringmaster doesn’t have that level of control. That’s ok. We wanted to play out an interesting story with Hawkeye and Falcon going up against their teammates and villains. It was less about the threat and more about the Hawkeye story.
Marvel.com: Hawkeye is, as we know, one of your favorite characters. So when you were developing this story were you even more invested in it than maybe some of the other ones, because of your attachment to Hawkeye’s character?
Cort Lane: Yes, whenever there is a Hawkeye story. But this one really developed in the room with [writers] Man of Action having a great idea and working with us.
["Crime and Circuses" co-writer] Danielle Wolf is so great with the character back-and-forth, which you get with the bickering between Hawkeye and Falcon and also the humor, so they brought her in to take it to outline. She did a beautiful job scripting it.
Cort Lane: Yes! That was the point, that she was at the point that Hawkeye was when he began to leave the Circus of Crime. It’s a really nice touch that he’s able to help her get over that--get past that point and choose the right side against her better judgment. And he does it.
So not only does [Hawkeye] get to know himself better and improve his relationship with Falcon, but he also helps this other villain choose the right path.
Marvel.com: I liked it because it allowed the viewer to relate more easily to Hawkeye’s decision, which we see in flashbacks. So to see that same decision in the present helped me at least to make a stronger connection.
Cort Lane: That’s a really good point. I suppose that makes more sense for this show. We don’t like to use a lot of flashbacks. We like to stay in the moment so the story feels very relevant. Like it’s happening now and you are experiencing it. That’s a really great point about using her as somebody with the same arc, we didn’t have to revisit much of the flashback to find those emotional beats.
Marvel.com: And when you do, you can do it like you did, with just a 30 second flashback but still have it resonate because we saw the exact same thing. What about your favorite moments from this episode?
Cort Lane: Mine is, this is going to sound weird, but when Iron Man is firing his repulsors and goes “Pieu, pieu. Pieu, pieu, pieu” and Adrian Pasdar did that in such a funny way...I don’t know, it just cracks me up. On “Marvel's Ultimate Spider-Man,” Brian Michael Bendis liked to make that joke in scripts and even referred to lasers as “pieu pieu” guns. It just made me think of Brian and just all of that. It’s a funny moment for Adrian and for Iron Man.
Marvel.com: That was actually my second favorite one of the episode.
Cort Lane: What was your favorite? I always loving hearing this.
Marvel.com: My favorite also was Iron Man-related, but it was when Clint comes into the circus and he sees all of the Avengers in all their Bondian circus death machines. You cut to Iron Man and you see the fuse lighting on the cannon he's in, and Tony just has the strangest grin on his face.
Cort Lane: He enjoys waiting for death. He’s just so excited!
Cort Lane: You would think that the wacky mind controlled circus getup stuff would be funnier on other characters, particularly Hulk, but it actually plays most funny on Iron Man. I have no idea why.
Marvel.com: Very true. Coming up we’re getting close to wrapping up the season. We now have 2 episodes left, so what have we got going on?
Cort Lane: The last two episodes, to put it simply, are the epic conclusion of the Avengers vs. the Cabal storyline from this season. I will tell you that the Tesseract is in play for the storyline. I will tell you that some bad things happen to our characters. Two of them emerge very changed, even visually very changed.
The villains have nearly as interesting a story to play out in this two-part finale as the heroes do. We’ve always know that [the Cabal] could betray each other, but the consequences of that and how some of them would actually come together through that is actually very interesting to see.
But, ultimately, this is a story about the Avengers taking everything that they’ve learned and every last bit of teamwork and unity and friendship and respect and, in Iron Man’s case, leadership that they’ve worked on all season, and seeing it all put to the test. It doesn’t go very well at first.
It’s very, very big. Universe shattering with a massive cosmic twist at the end.
Watch "Marvel's Avengers Assemble" and more every Sunday morning beginning at 8:00 a.m. ET inside Marvel Universe on Disney XD!