Meet the Unsung Avengers

Black Widow and Hawkeye never got their own movies. They clearly should!

“The Avengers” comes out tomorrow, bringing together three men reprising their roles as four heroes with five movies between them. Joining the cadre of crimefighters are two Avengers who didn’t get their own films, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, left) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, right). Renner had a cameo in “Thor” and Johansson a supporting role in “Iron Man 2,” but neither got their names in the title.

That tracks with the characters’ history in comics, says Ben Penrod, event coordinator for Awesome Conventions, which runs the annual Annapolis Comic-Con. “Marvel Comics has tried to give both Hawkeye and Black Widow their own starring comic series over the years, but without much success. They’ll do a limited series, where an entire story is told in four or six books. That seems to work with Black Widow — every two or three years she gets her own miniseries.”

And while Hawkeye is a popular, if niche, character, he works best when he’s a member of a group, says Penrod. “He’s not Captain America. He’s not Iron Man. He doesn’t have TV shows and cartoons. But his personality is really cool and I think he really shines when you put him up against other personalities.”

While it’s yet to be seen how Black Widow and Hawkeye join the Avengers in the film, in the comics both come from the wrong side of the law: She was a Soviet spy, he fell into a life of crime.

Hawkeye’s walk on the wrong side of the law meant he had a strained relationship with the buttoned-down do-gooder Captain America. Hawkeye “was kind of an antihero,” says Penrod. “Captain America is the image of the perfect American, while Hawkeye is this guy who had been a criminal.”

On the other hand, “Hawkeye can really relate to someone like the Hulk, who’s a little persecuted, better than Iron Man or Captain America could,” says Penrod.

Black Widow is an outsider in her own right, as the only female member of this Avengers iteration. (Other women have been a part of the group in the comics.) Penrod says that never seems to bother her. “There aren’t a lot of people, male or female, that really stack up to her. She’s super-confident, she’s smarter than most people and she can beat up almost anybody.”

Kristen Page-Kirby covers film for The Washington Post Express.
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Kristen Page-Kirby · May 2, 2012