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Who Is Kate Bishop? – Hailee Steinfeld on ‘Hawkeye’ Show and Young Avengers

To hear Clint Barton say it, Kate Bishop is “like nine years old and spoiled rotten.” But after the astounding success of the Matt Fraction and David Aja-led Hawkeye comics, she’s also one of Marvel’s most enduring fan-favorite characters, a sharpshooter known for her back-talk as much as her talent with a bow. But now that she’s an official fixture in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe, that charisma will reach its real test.

In the Disney+ series Hawkeye, Hailee Steinfeld plays a college-student version of Kate, who idolizes Clint Barton’s Hawkeye for saving her life during the Battle of New York in The Avengers, way back in 2012. She’s since trained to master her archery and martial arts skills in his image, though she has little intention of ever meeting her hero—until she dons his old Ronin costume in episode 1, instantly gaining his attention during his Manhattan Christmas vacation.

While the ensuing street-level saga is certainly a welcome departure from Marvel’s usual universe-hopping adventures, Hawkeye is perhaps most notable for its introduction of Kate herself. Steinfeld is an ideal actress for the part; both her Dickinson comedic timing and her Edge of Seventeen knack for balancing bubbly enthusiasm and deadpan delivery are on full display. But to determine whether Kate has staying power in the MCU—and, in fact, why she should—it’s worth taking a dive into her history.

kate bishop hailee steinfeld in marvel studios' hawkeye, exclusively on disney photo by chuck zlotnick ©marvel studios 2021 all rights reserved

Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop in Hawkeye.

Chuck Zlotnick

In the Marvel comics as in the Disney+ show, Kate is the privileged child of Manhattanite one-percent-ers. After witnessing the Avengers intervene in a criminal case involving her family—the details aren’t worth rehashing here, trust me—she fixates on Hawkeye, whose talent, despite his lack of superhuman abilities, she admires. But she doesn’t begin training as an archer until she’s horrifically assaulted in Central Park, an incident that understandably traumatizes her but motivates her to learn self-defense. She becomes so proficient in combat that she catches the attention of the Young Avengers, a self-explanatory team of power-imbued teenagers who eventually invite her to join their team.

Steinfeld had never picked up a bow and arrow until she started training for Hawkeye, the actress told ELLE.com. “I watched a ton of videos of Olympic archers and beginner archers,” she says. “By the time I got to the archery range for the first time, I had this idea in my head of what to do. And I might have practiced in the mirror. [Kate]’s all self-taught. The minute I started training, I was like, ‘If she could do it, if she could accomplish all of this by doing it herself, then I have to.’”

As is typical in comics, things go a little off the rails once Kate proves she’s worthy of a position as a junior Avenger. After Clint Barton’s apparent death, Kate takes on the Hawkeye mantle to honor him, but when he’s resurrected, he discovers a more-than-capable Kate filling his shoes. Convinced he’s no longer needed in his old role, he dons the cape and boots of sword-wielding Ronin while Kate retains the Hawkeye moniker. Eventually, Clint’s convinced to scoop his bow back up again, and they become a team of dual Hawkeyes, fighting the so-called “Tracksuit Mafia” in Brooklyn as Clint spirals from a number of poor life decisions. They soon establish a sibling-like rapport, Clint frustrated by Kate’s sass and Kate equally irked by Clint’s immaturity. Somehow, the balance they strike is sublime.

hawkeye marvel comics

Matt Fraction/David Aja/Marvel Comics

The Kate we meet in the MCU’s Hawkeye has a somewhat similar origin story: Rescued by Clint in 2012 and jaded by her family’s glitzy surroundings, she trains as an archer and inadvertently stumbles into heroics. But what matters most about Steinfeld’s Kate is not how she came about the purple supersuit—it’s whether she has the personality to carry a team.

In the comics, Kate is a fixture of the Young Avengers, a team composed of fellow heroes Billy Kaplan (Wiccan), Tommy Shepherd (Speed), Teddy Altman (Hulkling), America Chavez (Miss America), Cassie Lang (Stature), Eli Bradley (Patriot), and a number of others over the years. If you’re not a comics reader but still recognize a few of those names, it’s because they’ve already appeared—or are set to appear—in the MCU. Billy and Tommy show up as Wanda and Vision’s twin boys in WandaVision. Cassie Lang is Scott Lang’s now-teenaged daughter in Ant-Man and Avengers: Endgame. Eli Bradley makes a couple cameos in Falcon and The Winter Soldier. America Chavez is set to show up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It’d be laughable to suggest Marvel isn’t attempting to build a Young Avengers for the screen.

But who will lead them? Kate seems the obvious choice. The character has enjoyed an enormous following, even pre-Disney+: “It was actually wild, everything that I was seeing online,” Steinfeld says of the fan devotion. “The minute I started to dig into a little Kate Bishop research, I instantly could understand why people have been very excited to see this character on the big screen for a while.”

But Steinfeld’s Kate is also a signal of Marvel returning to its roots. In Hawkeye, she’s grounded but cheeky, a “normal” person thrust into extraordinary circumstances. She’s not a witch or wizard, nor has she been poisoned by any radioactive ooze. She has no knowledge of alternate dimensions or aliens. She, like Clint, is a human with an unusual skill set. The MCU launched with a character like this: Tony Stark was smart, but he had no superpowers. He could die—he did die. Kate, as Clint’s protege, has a similar vulnerability behind her stubbornness and wit, and Steinfeld can deliver this combination more convincingly than many actresses her age. If she’s given the screen time and a script worthy of it, she could take the Young Avengers—a very larger-than-life ensemble featuring a cocktail of bizarre superpowers—and make them feel as relatable as they did in the comics. Such a change would be a delight in an MCU plagued by explosive (and, yet, increasingly uninteresting) storylines.

Plus, it’s clear Steinfeld wants the job. When asked if she’d consider returning to the role for a Young Avengers suit-up, she told us, “I mean, would I be interested?” A laugh. “It’s not even a question.”

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