“Echo” Hawkeye Spinoff Coming To Disney+!

It’s becoming increasingly clear that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is probably the least interesting part of the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series…which I imagine really sucks for Renner’s hardcore fans, but is great for those of us who are only going to be watching Hawkeye for the amazing women involved: Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, Vera Farmiga as Eleanor Bishop, and Alaqua Cox as the antiheroine Echo.

Echo
Echo | marvel.com

And despite being a complete newcomer to the acting scene, it’s Alaqua Cox’s Echo who’s apparently first in line for her very own Disney+ spinoff coming out of Hawkeye, a series that hasn’t even finished filming yet. Variety reports that, while the spinoff is still in the early stages of pre-production, Etan and Emily Cohen have come onboard to write the series scripts. This news, if true, would make Echo the first Marvel character introduced on Disney+ to get her own solo spinoff, further enriching this vast corner of the MCU, and hopefully proving once and for all that the Disney+ series’ aren’t just supposed to act as extended prologues and epilogues to other movies – they are their own thing, and should be viewed as such.

It’s been hard to convince some fans of that latter point, particularly when dealing with a universe where the occasionally eyeroll-inducing need for “interconnectedness” drove viewers away from Marvel’s previous TV collaborations with ABC (which hosted the long-running and criminally underrated Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Netflix (which only just recently relinquished the rights to Marvel’s Defenders content, including beloved heroes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones), after those TV series’ struck out on their own and forged new ground…in the process becoming less essential viewing for the MCU overall. That’s a pattern we saw repeated after WandaVision‘s finale, which proved to be controversial in part because fans felt cheated when the series didn’t halt in its tracks to introduce the Multiverse, or reveal villains like Mephisto and Nightmare, or reinstate Fox versions of the X-Men (though, to be fair, Evan Peters should have been playing Peter Maximoff), despite laying the groundwork for at least two other Marvel films and another Disney+ series.

Echo
Hawkeye | businessinsider.com

The news that Echo specifically is getting a spinoff is exciting for several reasons. The character – whose codename comes from her ability to expertly replicate or “echo” any opponent’s fighting style and techniques – is a deaf Native American antiheroine named Maya Lopez, who rises through the ranks of the criminal underworld to become a widely-feared and respected warrior. While operating in Japan and fighting a faction of HYDRA, she adopted the alias of “Ronin”, the same name we saw Hawkeye himself randomly pick up in Avengers: Endgame, during his five years as a vigilante/serial killer. The Hawkeye series will hopefully explain away all the mysteries surrounding the Ronin identity, including whom it belonged to first in the MCU canon, but Echo’s story doesn’t have to end there.

In the comics, Maya Lopez goes on to help and hinder the Avengers at various points, even playing a critical role in the Secret Invasion storyline which will be adapted for Disney+ in the near future. She’s had complex relationships with many of Marvel’s grittier street-level characters, including Daredevil, Moon Knight, and the Kingpin – who mentored her throughout her childhood, after first murdering her father. Maya later turned on Kingpin and left him temporarily blinded, but he’s honestly the least of the villains she’s battled while wielding her signature nunchuks, from Madame Hydra to the Skrull Queen Veranke – the former of whom at least deserves to be brought back into the MCU, with Mallory Jansen reprising the role she so brilliantly originated on Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. In one storyline, Echo even hosted the cosmic power of the Phoenix Force within her during an underwater battle with Namor.

Echo
Phoenix Force Echo | comicbook.com

Echo’s role in Hawkeye is still unknown, though I remain confident in my theory that she’ll be revealed to be one of the last remaining Red Room cadets trained by Taskmaster, positioning her at an intersection between the storylines of Hawkeye and Black Widow and making her the literal “echo” of one of Widow’s greatest failures, still reverberating through current MCU history. Having her own spinoff series, though, vastly expands the number of stories that could be told with the character – from undercover work as a ninja in Japan, to fighting alongside Daredevil on the streets of New York City, all while helping to increase onscreen visibility for the Indigenous and disabled communities.

But what do you think? Are you excited to see Alaqua Cox as Echo? Do you have any theories about her spinoff? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“Hawkeye” Casts Florence Pugh, Vera Farmiga, Several More!

With the Marvel Hawkeye Disney+ series having just started filming in New York City, official casting announcements were inevitable. The Hollywood trades proved to be a bit slow when it came to confirming that Hailee Steinfeld was, in fact, the series’ co-star (something that was reported by The Illuminerdi several months ago, and proven yesterday in behind-the-scenes footage from the Hawkeye set), and they weren’t even the first to break the news that Black Widow actress Florence Pugh will be reprising her role as Yelena Belova (can we say reprising if she hasn’t even had the chance to appear in Black Widow yet?) in Hawkeye, but they – specifically Variety – have now announced some exclusives of their own: including casting for Kate Bishop’s mother, the villains Swordsman and Clown, the antiheroine Echo, and her father.

Hawkeye
Yelena Belova (right) | indiewire.com

The biggest news is, of course, the Florence Pugh casting. Pugh, hot off an Oscar nomination and a string of other successes, will eventually debut in Marvel’s Black Widow as Yelena Belova, a suspicious assassin who reconnects with Natasha Romanoff, her “sister” and former Red Room classmate, in order to take down the shadowy Russian government organization that created her. Belova’s fate after Black Widow is still unknown, with many wondering if she’ll betray Romanoff at some point during the movie and have to go into hiding, reappearing after the Widow’s death in Avengers: Endgame; or perhaps she’ll become the founding member of the Thunderbolts team, a group of semi-reformed villains working undercover for a variety of different reasons…but whatever the case, we can be pretty assured she survives Black Widow, something that was previously in question. With COVID-19 continuing to delay the release of the Widow’s solo movie, more and more unintentional spoilers for the film are inevitable.

As for what Belova will be doing in the Hawkeye series, that’s a bit more mysterious – although it’s been rumored she’ll don the Ronin mantle that Hawkeye himself briefly wore during the events of Avengers: Endgame, while he was going on a murder spree throughout Asia. If Belova is coming back out of the shadows after Endgame, it would make sense for her to wear a disguise at first: though whatever crimes she commits while wearing said disguise would inevitably have consequences for the person who wore it before her. We’ve all been wondering how Hawkeye gets re-involved with the superhero business after retiring and settling down with his family – an ongoing fight between him and Belova to finally rid himself of the guilt and shame of the Ronin disguise and the damage it’s done to him…that would be just the thing, in my opinion, and it would be a great thematic throughline for the series.

But there could be another catch. The character of Echo, who will be played by newcomer Alaqua Cox (and when I say newcomer, I mean “does-not-even-have-an-IMDb-profile-yet” newcomer), is one of Marvel’s most interesting villains, with her own claim to the title of Ronin, and a possible connection to the Red Room – or at least people associated with the Red Room. Echo, a deaf Native-American woman born with the name Maya Lopez, takes the Ronin moniker in the comics while working undercover in Japan. She quickly becomes a prestigious crime-lord, but her moral code is complicated, and she sometimes offers her help to the Avengers as well. But one potentially crucial detail about her is that her superpowers are identical to those of the villain Taskmaster: the main antagonist of Black Widow. Both characters possess photographic reflexes, which allow them to flawlessly mimic the movements and fighting style of any opponent. From the Black Widow trailers, it’s become clear that photographic reflexes are also taught to all the Red Room cadets, including Natasha Romanoff herself, and Yelena Belova. In the MCU, it would make sense for Echo to be one of the last batch of Black Widows raised in the Red Room, or an apprentice of either Taskmaster or Belova, gone rogue after the events of Black Widow (which presumably ends with Natasha destroying the Red Room completely). Not only would it streamline the series, but it’s a choice that would make Echo even more significant: as the living legacy (or, one could say, an “echo”) of both Hawkeye and Natasha’s worst mistakes, but with her own unique identity and agenda. It also allows for Natasha to still be a part of the story after her death.

Hawkeye
Echo | fullcirclecinema.com

Echo’s father has also been cast, with Zahn McClarnon (most notable for roles in Westworld, Fargo, and Doctor Sleep) taking on the role. His character – named Willie “Crazy Horse” Lincoln in the comics, William Lopez in the show – is most notable for being murdered by agents of his former employer, Kingpin, and leaving the marking of a bloody handprint on his daughter’s face before he died: a marking she would adopt as her symbol. Hopefully he has more to do in the show, but no other details have been given on his role.

Two other villains are now confirmed, although there have long been rumors that they would show up. Fra Fee will portray Clown, a serial killer from the pages of the Hawkeye comics who comes from a circus and doesn’t really have any overarching agenda besides senselessly murdering people. I suspect that his tragic circus backstory will be retconned to tie in with Hawkeye’s own tragic circus backstory (it would be pretty bizarre to have two in one show, otherwise), but I don’t expect him to stick around long, or pose much of a threat. He’s minor antagonist material at best.

Swordsman, on the other hand, might have more to do. Set to be played by Better Call Saul‘s Tony Dalton, the character is getting a small name change – from Jacques Duquesne to Jack Duquesne – but his backstory should remain much the same. In the comics, Duquesne mentors the young Clint Barton at the circus where Barton grows up: before one day betraying him while attempting to flee with stolen money, and almost killing him in the process. Barton becomes Hawkeye and the two don’t really interact much beyond that. In the MCU, it’s possible that Barton will purposefully seek out the Swordsman for his help, or the two will be enemies. Either way, it’ll be interesting to see this part of Hawkeye’s history, which has heretofore never been referenced in the movies.

Hawkeye
Kate Bishop | gameinformer.com

And finally, we have Vera Farmiga – who will be playing Eleanor Bishop, the mother of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Farmiga, the Oscar-nominated star of the Conjuring horror franchise, is a high-profile actress for such a small role…except that Eleanor Bishop isn’t your average movie-mom character, and she may be one of the series’ major antagonists. In the comics, Mrs. Bishop fakes her own death shortly after the birth of her daughter, and then proceeds to live a life of crime, as the mastermind behind the villainous Madame Masque (who, as you might remember, is rumored to appear in Hawkeye). The comics distinguish Bishop and Masque as two separate characters – but I think the Hawkeye series will make them one and the same for increased dramatic effect when the masque finally comes off. Eleanor Bishop might not have a very strong connection to Clint Barton, but it’s worth pointing out that Kate Bishop is supposed to be the co-lead of this show – and as such, she should have her own circle of supporting characters and villains.

So what do you think of the casting, and of my speculation? Which character are you most excited to see? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Madame Masque Is Likely To Appear In “Hawkeye” Series!

Two stories (or, rather, one story and one completely unverified rumor from a previously unreliable source) about the upcoming Hawkeye Disney+ series dropped on the internet today, with both quickly becoming the topic of much uproarious discourse. The first, which I will address briefly so as to get it out of the way before we move onto the actual story, was the rumor that Adrianne Palicki – who played Mockingbird in early seasons of Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. – would be recast, and her character rebooted in the Hawkeye series. This report is nothing to worry about: the site that covered the “news” is notorious for clickbait, so much so that I will not be linking to their story as a matter of principle. With that in mind, let it be known that if Marvel does decides to ever recast Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird, I will not stand for it.

The second story, which comes from the folks at The Direct, carries much more weight due to their site having proven fairly reliable in past occasions. Per their exclusive reporting, the Hawkeye series will feature the MCU debut of an iconic comics villain, Madame Masque.

Hawkeye Madame Masque
fullcirclecinema.com

Interestingly, this means that both of these stories today are intertwined with the complicated rise and fall of Marvel TV, the studio’s subdivision which, until recently, produced offshoot TV programs for ABC and Netflix: including Agent Carter, which actually introduced a version of Madame Masque in its second and final season. Agent Carter‘s Masque bore little in resemblance to her comics counterpart – instead of an armored, high-tech villainess, Agent Carter‘s Masque was a 1940’s actress modeled on the real-life Hedy Lamarr, who worked secretly for the Allied Forces developing Isodyne Energy: during the course of her character arc, this version of Madame Masque never actually adopted the title, instead using the stage name “Whitney Frost”, a name which, in the comics, Masque sometimes uses. All of this means that, thanks to the show’s twist on the character, Marvel won’t have to explicitly say that this new Madame Masque appearing on the Hawkeye show is in fact a reboot or recast of Agent Carter‘s Masque, because they can legitimately claim that “Whitney Frost” was never really Masque at all. We all know that Agent Carter is Marvel President Kevin Feige’s favorite out of the entire Marvel TV division (it was the only one he himself worked on, and one of its stars, James D’Arcy, even got a brief but important cameo in Avengers: Endgame), so it makes sense why he wouldn’t want to just thoroughly disregard it even now, years after its cancellation.

Hawkeye Madame Masque
Agent Carter’s Madame Masque | imdb.com

But it begs the question: who is the real Madame Masque, the version of the character from the comics who will presumably be brought to life in Hawkeye? For starters, her real name is actually Giulietta Nefaria, and she is the daughter of an Italian crime lord, Count Nefaria. In the comics, she’s most often entangled with Iron Man (either as his enemy or his lover), so the MCU version could do something with that: Iron Man has already been shown to have had countless previously-unheard-of rivals during his career…one more wouldn’t hurt, right? Personally, I think one more could hurt: fans like Iron Man, but this is an MCU trope that’s getting real old, real fast. No, in my opinion, Madame Masque should be her own character, though if she does have to have connections to anybody else in the MCU it should be Baron Zemo. Zemo, who will appear as the main antagonist of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Disney+ series, is an associate of Masque’s in some comics: she’s even worked as his right-hand woman from time to time. With the MCU version of Zemo being set up to lead a new group of supervillains called the Thunderbolts, the time is ripe for Madame Masque to show up and secure her place on the team. How better to do this by than by trying to take out one of the last remaining Avengers?

In recent comics, Madame Masque has become a frequent enemy of Hawkeye and his young disciple Kate Bishop. They had a pretty infamous run-in on the island of Madripoor (which, as we know already, is also set to appear in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier), where Bishop was able to capture Masque and assume her identity briefly in order to help Hawkeye destroy some incriminating evidence of past potential wrongdoings, all while the real Masque was tied up in Bishop’s hotel room. In revenge for the humiliating incident, Masque later captured Bishop and took her to her California mansion – a mistake, in retrospect, as Bishop escaped and completely wrecked Masque’s home. Masque, motivated at this point purely by pettiness and spite, burned down Bishop’s house, but was eventually captured and put in S.H.I.E.L.D. custody when her secret base of evil operations was discovered in L.A. This is plenty of material for Hawkeye to dig into: but what’s most exciting is that we’ll finally get to see a truly menacing Madame Masque.

Hawkeye Madame Masque
cbr.com

Oh and, unlike the Agent Carter version of the character, one would hope this new Masque would actually, you know…wear a mask. In the comics, her bulletproof golden headpiece isn’t just decorative armor, but is meant to hide her disfigured face. Over the years, the fact that she wears a mask so often, and that so few have seen her true face, has become a major plotpoint: it allowed Kate Bishop to pass as her undetected on Madripoor, and it also led to her being a key target of the shape-shifting Skrulls during the Secret Invasion storyline. She was even attacked by Skrulls who planned to take her form as a disguise. In the MCU, there’s been plenty of hints and signs that point towards Secret Invasion being a major story arc in the near future, although we don’t know if Masque will survive long enough to be involved with any of that: it’s possible she’s merely meant for a one-time appearance.

So what do you think? How do you feel about her character possibly showing up in Hawkeye, and what do you think her future in the MCU will look like after the show ends? Share your own thoughts, theories and opinions in the comments below!

Marvel’s “Hawkeye” Aims To Cast Hailee Steinfeld!

Marvel Studios’ upcoming Disney+ series, Hawkeye, centered on the post-Endgame adventures of the former Avenger and expert marksman, has apparently just scored another win, mere days after landing Mad Men screenwriter Jonathan Igla.

Singer and actress Hailee Steinfeld, the Oscar-nominated star of True Grit and Bumblebee, is apparently in early talks to star alongside Jeremy Renner in the miniseries, as Hawkeye’s young apprentice Kate Bishop, a crucial member of the Young Avengers. Kate Bishop, an expert archer, fencer, and strategist, has long been rumored to make her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in Hawkeye, but this confirmation is an exciting stepping-stone on the path toward having the Young Avengers team finally assembled in the MCU – with other Disney+ shows like WandaVision, Ms. Marvel and Loki also possibly hinting at the gang of teen superheroes, it sounds like the family-friendly streaming service could eventually be home to the team: which, honestly, seems like a great fit. Though, considering that Steinfeld is twenty-two years old already, this makes it look like Marvel’s casting choices for the Young Avengers will be skewing slightly older than expected.

We don’t really know anything about the plot of Hawkeye, or how much of it will be about Jeremy Renner’s iteration of the character versus Steinfeld’s fresher, younger take. But a quick look at Kate Bishop’s character bio opens some interesting possibilities for potential plot points: in the comics, Bishop has also donned the nickname “Hawkingbird” because she stitched her own outfit together from bits and pieces of Hawkeye’s attire, as well as that of another hero, Mockingbird, a.k.a. Bobbi Morse. Morse has already shown up elsewhere in Marvel, on ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., played by Adrianne Palicki – while both she and her partner, Lance Hunter, were forced to retire from the S.H.I.E.L.D. team early on, both characters are still very much alive in the MCU – and in fact, almost got their own spinoff series onĀ  ABC, which was cancelled before airing a pilot. Palicki would probably be willing to work with Marvel again on the Hawkeye series, and her character, displaying super strength, agility and martial arts prowess, seems like a good fit for this mostly powered-down group of civilian heroes: plus, the retired agent would probably have a lot in common with Hawkeye himself, who notoriously left the main Avengers team to be with his family.

So what do you think about the casting? Is Hailee Steinfeld a good fit for archer-extraordinaire Kate Bishop? Could this be an opportunity to have Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. crossover with the main MCU? Share your thoughts in the comments below!