Many media outlets have been excitedly reporting on the pending Disney+ Hawkeye series, and it has already been rumored that this show will feature our friendly neighborhood Clint Barton from the Avengers, training the new Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, to replace him.
Well, we're not here to make a fuss, but we are here to make it clear that no Clint Bartons trained any Kate Bishops to be Hawkeye. This is a pretty key point in both Clint and Kate's character evolution, so we're hoping that it won't get lost in the fray. Kate stepped up and jumped in as Hawkeye when Clint was at one of his many "lowest ebbs," and she's been proudly serving as co-Hawkeye ever since.
From beginning to end, Kate has been clear about one thing, and that is that she is no one's trainee, second choice, runner-up, or sidekick. We respect and admire an empowered archer, so we're here to back her case.
The Two Hawkeyes
Kate's debut team, the Young Avengers, were a whole group of not-sidekicks. The Avengers actively discouraged their participation in superheroics. The veteran Avengers were both dismayed by their lack of training and completely unwilling to offer them said training. This hubris behind this choice is questionable, as the benefit of mentorship would have far outweighed the threats that were already very present. Yet, the team itself was a group who had no mentors, even if they wanted them. And most of them did want one — except Kate Bishop.
As great as Kate is today, in her early appearances she was an anti-capitalist archer with nerves of steel and a heart of gold. Of all the Young Avengers, she was the most certain of her destiny to become a costumed crusader. Possessed of a strong moral compass, Kate had no issue standing up to authority figures and even flat-out walked away from her family's fortune when it became ethically difficult for her to reconcile with.
Captain America disapproved of the Young Avengers, but it was Kate who changed his mind. While Barton was AWOL doing… well, doing Clint Barton stuff, Steve sent Kate his mantle. Only Clint had confronted Steve during their early days as Avengers, and only Kate had called him out over his treatment of the Young Avengers. Drawing a thread between the two, it was America's Ass himself who finally urged Kate to step up as Hawkeye.
Of course, that still left the small matter of the other Hawkeye.
One of the most highly praised mainstream comics of the last decade, Matt Fraction's Hawkeye brought Clint Barton to the forefront in his own solo title. Though Hawkeye had enjoyed various stints as leader of the West Coast Avengers and was the subject of various miniseries dedicated either to him alone or in partnership with Mockingbird, this was his first ongoing. This title gave us a glimpse into Clint's life, which turned out to be mostly comprised of him struggling against forces far greater than himself. The running joke of the series was the line "I know this looks bad," which began every issue and has since come to define much of what we understand of his character today. His pure intentions and desire to do good while being plagued head-to-toe by his own shortcomings added a human side to Clint that readers had seen surprisingly little of.
These flaws are exactly why it was so important for Kate Bishop to join the book as his co-star. Very few issues went by without at least one appearance from Kate, and most of her time in the series was her helping Clint, saving his life, or calling him out on his tendency to flee emotionally uncomfortable situations. Kate's unwillingness to walk away from Clint even at his very worst, as well as her firm refusal to take any abuse from him, made her an integral part of his evolution.
In addition to making Clint a better person through her mere presence, Kate also showed why she was a Hawkeye in her own right. In one of the first issues of the run, she and Clint discuss an archer who was supposedly able to shoot four arrows at once. Clint rolls his eyes and shrugs it off, calling the archer a "show-off." Later in the issue, Kate shoots four arrows at once and saves the day.
No One's Sidekick
Clint is a guy who has been put through the wringer and then some. He would be the first to point out that he is a regular guy placed on a team of gods, cosmic entities, and heroes. If anything makes comic book Clint work, it is his fearlessness and his willingness to throw his whole body into doing the right thing, regardless of how woefully unprepared he might be. Kate is also "just" a regular human, but she doesn't seem to notice that. She inspires Clint and lifts him up, but not by actively trying to do so, just by being there for him.
Since the Fraction run ended, there have been various further takes on both characters, but Kate has risen in the ranks while Clint has tried to ease out of superheroics to whatever extent he is capable. This shows a gradual passing of time and change that is almost completely alien to superhero comics, and it's a welcome dynamic.
The most important thing about Kate and Clint's relationship is that it is an equal platonic partnership in which both parties benefit. There is no mentor in this scenario, nor any trainee eager to learn the ropes. It's just two friends, one young and confident and one who has been beyond and back and has the scars to prove it. In this way, the story of Hawkeye has evolved from "just a regular guy with a bow" to a revolutionary look at a relationship in which power dynamics are put to the side for the betterment of each character, no sidekicks to be found.