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Utah mom gives Marvel’s Hawkeye a helping, signing hand

Marvel Comics

By Michael McFall

The Salt Lake Tribune

First published Sep 02 2014 01:01AM
Updated Sep 2, 2014 09:26AM

Marvel’s archer superhero Hawkeye, who recently lost his hearing, got a helping hand from an empathetic Utah mother, whose own daughter is deaf, too.

Hawkeye, whose real name is Clint Barton, damaged his hearing years ago in a fight and wore hearing aids for a while. That eventually was written out of the comics — which the current writer of the Hawkeye series, Matt Fraction, felt was a shame. The deafened Hawkeye had been an inspiration for children such as 4-year-old Anthony Smith, who didn’t want to wear his own hearing aids because superheroes don’t have them. After his mother reached out to Marvel Comics, the publisher told him about Hawkeye and sent him a drawing of a newly created, hearing aid-wearing superhero named Blue Ear in a team-up with the archer Avenger. After that, Anthony started wearing his hearing aids.

So this past July, Fraction gave Hawkeye his hearing loss again in Issue No. 19. Fraction had been inspired by a Salt Lake City area woman, Rachel Coleman, who hosts a program called Signing Time, which teaches children American Sign Language. Rachel Coleman’s deaf daughter Leah appears on the show.

Coleman and Fraction were already friends through social media and met in person at a Signing Time concert in 2012. Fraction’s son, who is not deaf, still watches Coleman’s show. The writer was fascinated, struck by the similarities between signing and the visual communication of comics.

"They watched [my daughter] Leah grow up on Signing Time," which provided Fraction a perspective into the world of signing, Coleman said. At brunch, Fraction told Coleman about Hawkeye’s history with deafness and that he would look for the opportunity to write it back into the character.

A year later, Fraction sent Coleman a draft of Issue No. 19, making good on his word. Hawkeye was deaf once again, in a comic that was largely "silent" and filled with sign language graphics to communicate information.

Twitter: @mikeypanda

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