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Just about everyone loves Kate Bishop. This is both an objective observance and a subjective declaration of my own fondness for the character—I personally love Kate Bishop, and most people I’ve talked to about the subject feel the same way. OK, so that’s actually all subjective, but my point is: what’s not to love? Kate Bishop is one of the few superheroes who truly loves being a hero day after day and treats it like her job rather than an unending ethical burden. After moody and overly-aggressive heroes overwhelmed the landscape of comics for the better part of the last thirty years, sometimes it’s nice to just read a heartwarming story about someone who really loves what they do.
Kate might be a little impulsive and short-tempered sometimes, but she’s also fun-loving, pure-hearted, and hilarious. She’s dragged Clint Barton onto his feet with her sheer enthusiasm more times than anyone can count, and even when we see a glimpse of her in a possible future timeline in All-New Wolverine, she’s still the same Kate Bishop we know and love today. In short, this is one of Marvel’s best-beloved characters, and if we’re going to see her showing up in the MCU going forward, you’re going to need to know why she’s such a big deal.Not So Humble Origins
Though we don’t know a ton about Kate’s early life, we do know some. She is the daughter of the very rich Derek Bishop, the man who established Bishop Publishing. Derek doesn’t approve of Kate’s life as a superhero, nor is he particularly fond of her altruism, a trait generally attributed to her mother. An early story had Kate shaming her sister for spending too much on a wedding, rather than donating the money to charity. The wedding did indeed go terribly awry as it was busted up by criminals attempting to capitalize on the Bishop fortune, but the Young Avengers arrived and broke up the fight. Rather than fleeing for her life, Kate jumped into the fight and saved the Young Avengers despite having no powers or training.
In the Young Avengers Spotlight, we discover that Kate’s motivation for fighting back was that she had been recently attacked by an unknown man while walking home. We are shown very little of the attack, but the implications are clear. She was traumatized and told no one except Jessica Jones, who empathized and referenced her treatment at the hands of the Purple Man. Both women allowed the details of these instances to go unsaid, but this is a hugely important origin story. But leaving this subplot greatly unaddressed has given us more questions than answers as far as where this incident fits in Kate’s outlook or in her view of herself. We saw no emotional fallout from this event besides its apparent role in motivating her to fight crime.
From the start, the Young Avengers had a lot on their plates, but there’s no denying that Kate Bishop was key to their continued existence. Captain America was adamantly against the idea of training new heroes considering the several recent deaths his team had on their hands. While most of the Young Avengers decided to go ahead and disband the team, Kate insisted that the worse thing that could possibly happen is that they would tell their parents. She allowed the team to take up a temporary headquarters in one of her father’s unused warehouses, and stole some loot from the Avengers, including Mockingbird’s mask, Swordsman’s sword, and a set of bow and trick arrows, leading her teammate Patriot to jab, “Who does that make you, Hawkingbird?”
The Further Adventures of the Young Avengers
There are a lot of twists and turns along the way, but eventually, after both Iron Lad and Stature appear to have died, the Young Avengers all agree to disband—finally acknowledging that the other heroes were right and that their inexperience could cost people their lives. Yet, having been impressed by Kate specifically, Steve Rogers sent her Hawkeye’s old uniform and referred to her as Hawkeye in a note. This threw Kate for a loop, and she agreed to take up the mantle of Hawkeye with some bewilderment.
While Kate’s relationships tend to be one of the least interesting things about her and her first few years saw her in a bizarrely contentious flirtation with her teammate Patriot, another thing that should probably be mentioned is that while Kate refers to herself as straight, she and most of the women she's worked with have off-the-charts chemistry. The best-known example of this is her ongoing flirtation with “gal pal” America Chavez. Meanwhile, both of them are in relationships of their own, but the ongoing fandom around Amerikate is significant, passionate, and true. Considering that we’ve been waiting for over thirty years for about half of the X-Men to come out, chances are we’re never going to see a canonically Queer Kate Bishop, but the truth is out there (on ArchiveOfOurOwn.org, at least).
When Clint Barton returned from the dead, though they briefly quarreled over the title, he ultimately conceded that they could both be called Hawkeye and work as friends, rather than rivals. This was a shockingly mature move for Clint (or really any superhero), and they began to work as allies until Clint fell into one of his self-pity spirals for a time and Kate bounced to Los Angeles, tired of his lack of appreciation.
In LA, Kate realized that she had been cut off financially by her father, and she would need to get a job, so she began her own detective agency. Around this time, Clint had shot Bruce Banner seemingly for no reason on live television and as such had become public enemy number one. Baffled by Clint’s decision, Kate was besieged by people hitting her up through her agency to criticize Clint. Her first case began in earnest when she took on a job stopping a stalker from following a young woman. This particular story is notable because it is personal and rooted in a realism that isn’t always present in mainstream superhero stories.
After that, Kate had a brief team-up with Jessica Jones, then ended up finding her father and battling the infamous Iron Man villain Madame Masque. Discovering that her father likely killed her mother, but also believing that there was some chance her mother might still yet be alive, Kate engages in a full-out fight with Madame Masque who appears in the form of a clone of Kate Bishop. Clint shows up, and they team up to take Masque out.In the most recent Avengers: Endgame trailer, we saw a purple-clad girl wielding the bow under Clint's tutelage, leading many people to suppose that this was going to be the MCU’s take on Kate Bishop. Considering her significant comic book history, this is likely to ruffle a few feathers. Kate’s background is entirely separate from Clint, and while there was some mentorship involved, she has always been her own unique entity, taking on the mantle of Hawkeye only due to circumstance. Before becoming Hawkeye, Kate’s motivations were self-propelled, in response to an instance in which she had been powerless, and her development into full-fledged superheroics hinged on altruism, trauma, and her own sense of pride. If she is Hawkeye because her dad or male mentor is Hawkeye, that replaces the unique with the generic.
It is important that Kate is not so much younger than Clint so that their relationship is more based in mutual support than the tired teacher-student dynamic so many of these interpersonal relationships in superhero stories are ultimately reduced to. He had nothing to do with her becoming a hero. In fact, it took the pair several years to even meet for the first time. Besides the unnecessary undermining of one of genre’s few most successful examples of an equal, platonic, mutually beneficial mixed-gender friendship, Kate Bishop is one of the most popular new characters Marvel has released in the last two decades. That’s more because of her unique history as a survivor than in spite of it, and any changes should be made with caution.
Still, regardless of if or how Kate shows up in Endgame, she’s been a hell of a lot of fun to have around for these last several years in the comics. The Avengers are notorious for taking on a somber tone for years at a time anytime the Wasp takes a break or a vacation, and Kate is one of the characters that keep it real regardless of what is going on in her own life.