Writer Ethan Sacks talks about how he wrote one of his family members into the Wastelands!
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 OLD MAN HAWKEYE #6 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 #5 right here.
Ethan, over to you.
Previously in OLD MAN HAWKEYE…Unbeknownst to him, Clint is being chased by the Jamie Madrox-Venoms and Bullseye for the first four issues, so at some point that has to pay off. The Venoms in the last issue bonded with Blindfold, who has the ability to see the future, so they were able to figure out where he was going to be.
We open up in the White House. Red Skull is annoyed that Bullseye’s doing his own thing. It’s been brought to Red Skull’s attention that Bullseye may have an actual reason, not just having gone insane from the Deathlok implants in his brain. Then there are reports of a guy with a bow and arrow, and it shocks Red Skull because he’s been told for years that the Super Heroes are all dead, including Hawkeye. Is it possible that out of all the Avengers this is the idiot that would’ve survived?
The Old Haunt
We cut back to Josie’s, which is a bar on the outskirts of Paste Pot Creek, run by the old Daredevil character, Turk. I liked using Turk for a couple of reasons: I wanted to look at which characters would’ve survived that weren’t really heroes or villains—or if they were villains, they weren’t super-powered. They would still have to carve their own place in this awful, awful world. In this case, he has this mistaken—or misguided, I should say—nostalgia for the old Josie’s bar, where Daredevil used to rough ‘em up for information.
He’s watching over his nephew, who is Dwight from “Old Man Logan”. I was so interested by that character when Mark Millar and Steve McNiven were doing him ten years ago that I wanted to learn more about him. He’s kind of quiet. He’s just this little kid, and he’s five years younger than we saw him before. I think he looked like he was roughly 11 or 12 in “Old Man Logan”. We wanted to look at him as this child prodigy. He was given the Ant-Man helmet as a gift that he reverse engineers and plays around with, so he obviously knows what he’s doing, even at that age. That comes into play later (and as we’ve seen, he hangs onto it in “Old Man Logan”).
At the bar, the Venoms strike, and no one is more surprised than Hawkeye. He starts to realize that this is something to do with not killing all the Madroxes in the beginning of the first issue.
The Doctor’s In
Meanwhile, we cut back to Claire Temple’s clinic. Because she’s—through hushed whispers—been revealed to work on rebels, Bullseye comes to her to stitch up this stab wound from last issue.
He realizes he’s being tracked by a GPS chip in his head, so he wants her to get rid of it—something that she can’t do. It’s beyond her technology there, but she says it would require high-end neural remapping technology, which one can’t find easily. That gives him an idea, which will play out later…but I won’t spoil that.
He Said, He Said
One thing I wanted to do is give little Easter eggs. This, hopefully, is a series you can read without having read “Old Man Logan”, and it’ll still make sense and be fun. But I wanted to reward the people who loved “Old Man Logan”. There’s a little line in here on page 4 where Turk says, “Shocker told me that the team’s old boss is running some secret weapon project for the Skull up north.”
That’s important, because it’ll come into play later, but even more important is the allusion to Shocker. There’s a line in “Old Man Logan” where someone heard from Shocker that Reed Richards and Sue Richards were lost in the timestream. Now we know that Turk is the guy—the bartender who hears this from Shocker, who’s another regular customer. Just little things like that I wanted to play off of.
Venom Strikes Back
Once the fighting starts off with the Venoms, it goes south pretty quickly. We get to see the money shot of—this is where Marco Checchetto is just a genius—seeing the Venoms actually split in two, like a horrible amoeba from the bowels of your nightmare-ravaged brain.
We find out a couple things: they’re vulnerable to fire, which will be important, and the more Venoms there are, the slower they get, spreading the symbiote thinner. They kill Turk—poor Turk—which allowed us to do a really cool action beat with Dwight. He, with his helmet, gets a swarm of flying ants to attack one of the Venoms.
Basically, Dwight saves the day, when Hawkeye is overpowered, by getting behind the wheel of the car and crashing into, one of the Venoms. Because he’s so tiny, he uses the ants to play with the accelerator and the brake.
That was a fun, fun scene. Once Marco and Andres Mossa got their hooks into that scene, it just came out looking great. I recommend if anyone is going into the comics industry that they get Marco and Andres as an art team because then it really doesn’t almost matter what you write. The art just looks so good. And also Joe Caramagna, his letters, especially with the Venoms—it really does feel like nails on a chalk board.
Cutting back to Bullseye, I like the idea of Taskmaster well beyond his prime. He’s had a hip replacement. He’s still smart and one of the few people Bullseye respects—as close to a friendship as people like that can get—but there is this mutual respect. It’s two guys talking instead of trying to kill each other in that moment, and Taskmaster takes this message to the Red Skull because Bullseye is already making plans, which will pay off later.
On the Run
Hawkeye has been rescued by Dwight. They’re driving away, but Hawkeye’s losing a lot of blood, passing out, and he needs help. Unbeknownst to them, there’s a little bit of symbiote on the grill of the car, so the Venoms will know where to go. Just so you know that they’re not going through a normal scenic drive, you see a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton. One of the things from “Old Man Logan” was there were dinosaurs—for various reasons—in the Wastelands. I definitely wanted that connective tissue to the original series. It reminded me of that moment in the original Star Wars when you see that long skeleton on Tatooine, and you wonder what the story was behind it.
Hawkeye has to go to someone who’s not going to be happy to see him—an old ally from years and years ago. They had a falling out and haven’t talked in decades. At this point, Hawkeye is beyond the ability to do this by himself, so we don’t know where they’re going yet. They do get to this sanctuary that’s not on any map. It’s in the middle of nowhere, and it is run by this mysterious person from Hawkeye’s past.
When I was first game-planning this long story, I wanted this mysterious hero running the equivalent of an orphanage out in the middle of nowhere, saving refugees. Because this is a horrible world, that often means there’s a lot of orphan children. This is a really important series of pages for me because I ended up writing my own daughter into this story.
The mystery person keeps them safe and trains them to survive in this horrible world. I had this idea of her second-in-command being this general who’s 14. This person growing up in this terrible world had to grow up quickly, learn how to fight, and everything like that. And as I was writing this, I’m thinking “My daughter is 14. I think this would be pretty cool to have her immortalized as a Marvel character.” I ended up talking to Mark Basso, the series editor, and Marco Checchetto to see if that was okay, because it was going to be written in anyway. So that character is inspired by my daughter!
The strangers come to her gate. She’s responsible, so she takes the bow and runs to her boss to reveal that they have possible intruders and to find out what her boss wants her to do. As she’s running down the hallway, we start to leave a couple of visual cues as to who the mystery person is. You may notice a shield on the wall, from YOUNG AVENGERS, and there’s a bow on the next panel on the wall.
Finally, we see in shadow this person who predicts exactly who came. The general says, “How did you know?” Then we flip the page, and she says “Do you want me to kill him, Mayor Bishop?”
We now know it’s Kate Bishop. She responds, “That won’t be necessary. Yet.” Obviously, they’re not on great terms. We don’t really know what happened between them.
I love the idea of bringing in Kate Bishop. A couple of story reasons make her perfect. Number one, Hawkeye’s eyesight is almost gone and he can’t do this alone anymore. He needs help, and she’s perfect for several reasons. One, they have that long-standing, great relationship that you saw being used in the HAWKEYE books—especially in Kelly Thompson’s run, which was amazing. Once you strip all the mistrust away, they have this great banter. They just know each other and know they can fight well together because of that, which will come in handy. Secondly, her skillset is similar to his. I felt that if I suddenly introduced someone like She-Hulk, it would take away from Hawkeye’s place as a hero. This is something that they’re going to have to stumble through together, shooting a bow and arrow. They’re going to be over their heads, so I liked that.
Finally, Kate says in voiceover, “–And what the hell kind of trouble did you bring with you?” Then we see the Venoms and see them going past that same skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Visually, we know that they’re right on their trail. That skeleton wasn’t there for no reason.
Keep reading with OLD MAN HAWKEYE #6, by Ethan Sacks and Marco Checchetto—available this week, on June 27!