The first two episodes of Hawkeye are here, and they’re full of cheery Christmas charm. Even more than holiday lights and festive bells, though, the new Disney Plus debut is chock full of new characters. Not only do viewers get to know the MCU’s Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) but the opening of the series also brings some of the pair’s most famous foes to light.
And one of them, Jack Duquesne aka Swordsman, has a surprising new role as Kate’s would be stepfather. In the show he’s played by Tony Dalton, and director Rhys Thomas says the actor was the perfect vessel for the character’s brand of eccentricity.
“We knew that we wanted him to be a point of contention for for Kate, at least, coming in,” Thomas says. “Tony Dalton, when I met with him and started talking to him, things started clicking. And I had a great time with him. The fun was just constantly nudging him like a little bit further into absurdity. He was always just game like. I’d just throw out a line. And he’d kind of look at me like, ‘Really?’ And then he’d say it.”
But Duquesne’s comic book background is far less wacky and family oriented — and could easily live behind Dalton’s lighter touch in the show.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Hawkeye.]
It’s clear from the very first episode of Hawkeye that Kate and her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) have a prickly relationship at best. During the opening flashback we see that Kate was closer to her father, just before the show quickly dispatched him during the Battle of New York. So, when Kate returns from college after destroying a clock tower, she’s less than happy to see that her mother has a new beau living in their massive New York City apartment. With his smarmy attitude and outdated introduction — delivering Kate a rose from his lips — it quickly becomes clear that “Jack” is the classic silver age Hawkeye antagonist Jacques Duquesne A.K.A. Swordsman.
Who is Jack Duquesne?
Melding the superhero stories that were popular at the time with the classic fantasy adventures that had once held audiences in rapture, Duquesne first appeared in 1965’s The Avengers #19. Created by Stan Lee, Don Heck, and Dick Ayers, his debut was no minor appearance. In a story called “The Coming of the Swordsman,” readers were introduced to the swashbuckler later revealed to be Jacques Duquesne. Appearing at the Avengers Mansion, Swordsman has a cunning plan.
If he gains membership to the Avengers (which had recently changed to a roster of nearly all reformed criminals), his criminal career will be far easier to pursue. Alas, he ends up tangling with Quicksilver, Scarlet Witch, and Captain America, who discover he’s a career criminal known around Europe for his scandalous scheming ways.
While introducing an Avengers villain to Hawkeye makes a certain amount of sense, the real reason Swordsman is probably in the show is revealed in the second half of this Silver Age issue. Hawkeye reveals to Cap that he and the Swordsman have a tangled history. It turns out that as a young orphan Clint used to hang around circuses and carnivals for fun. There he met Duquesne, who became somewhat of a mentor to the young boy. But after Clint caught him stealing, they battled and Duquesne left him for dead.
While it seems unlikely that the makers of the Disney Plus series will draw from Clint’s comic book penchant for circus performers, the Avenger has already been LARPing, and Jack is clearly a showman. The show could very well play into some kind of historical connection between the two. Perhaps Duquesne was someone Clint knew from his days as an assassin? We’ve already seen the man’s talent with deadly bladed weapons, when he embarked on an unexpected fencing match with Kate in episode two.
But like many a Marvel character, Swordsman has been both villain and hero over the years. After reuniting with Clint during his battle with the Avengers, he went on to become a recurring antagonist, sometimes working for other major Marvel villains like the Mandarin. Seeing as it was the ’60s, there was some fun teleportation hijinx and even a fake Tony Stark. But he was never truly committed to his life of crime. Swordsman would often swing between ally and antagonist, protecting the Avengers as much as he fought them. And, in 1972, he finally joined the team officially after falling head over heels for Mantis — you would know her from the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
Introducing Duquesne in Hawkeye makes sense, but it’s also very interesting timing. His tenure in the Avengers saw him face down with Kang the Conqueror regularly. While the low level stakes of Hawkeye seem light years away from the sci-fi of Loki, it’s still intriguing considering everything that’s played out in the MCU this year. And while we might not see him take down Jonathan Majors, don’t be surprised if this Swordsman ends up being an unexpected ally to Kate and Clint when they most need it.
The first two episodes of Hawkeye are available on Disney Plus now.