Full disclosure: I haven’t read the first runs of Young Avengers where Kate Bishop first appears. Most of my knowledge of her comes from the Matt Fraction/David Aja run of Hawkeye and the Gillen/McKelvie run of Young Avengers. This is nothing against those storylines and creators. It’s just indicative of when I really got into comics.
If you were going to pick a time to declare Kate Bishop one of your favorite superheroes though, the past few years have definitely been the time to do it. Going from somewhat obscure Marvel not-quite-sidekick character to co-starring in the Hawkeye titles in just a few short years, Kate Bishop is having her moment in the spotlight that is well deserved and that I hope continues as Clint Barton appears to be bowing out from the MCU sometime in the near future.
Why though? What is it that makes Kate Bishop such a great character that puts her in these notable positions?
Well, I can’t speak for anyone but myself when it comes to her character appeal, but it might just be that Kate Bishop is the direct stand in for a lot of new comics readers, myself included.
I’ve often said that Carol Danvers is the character I aspire to be in the Marvel Universe. She’s strong, brave, funny, hotheaded and always chasing the horizon. However, Kate Bishop is the character that I am (with a little bit of Kamala Khan for good measure). Kate is snarky and low-key angry all the time. She doesn’t give a shit about what people think of her, but still wears her vulnerabilities close to her heart. She can simultaneously be a salted and salty veteran of being a superhero while still learning the ropes and being excited about it. She has no earthly idea of what she’s doing, but she fakes it until she makes it. And while I’ve never been rich or had Madame Masque try to kill me, I certainly felt her “LA Woman” arc in Matt Fraction and Annie Wu’s Hawkeye on a spiritual level of struggling to make it and find yourself outside of your usual relationships.
I think what really sticks out to me about Kate though is how much she is a story in bad things being an influence on your life, but not being a definition.
I’m not an assault survivor the way Kate is, whatever the nature of her assault was. However, I do have a panic disorder that was diagnosed when I was nine years old that came to the forefront after years of bullying in elementary school. My panic attacks were worse and more frequent then, making the bullying I experienced even worse. I have gotten better about keeping my panic under control as I’ve gotten older, especially since I stopped doing call center work, but it comes with near constant anxiety as well. Even though I’ve gotten better about speaking out for myself over the years, that anxiety is still why I’ve been turned down for jobs, why I was afraid to report a convention guest who tried to make me touch his dick after I made it very clear I didn’t want to and responded with “Sorry baby, I can’t help myself,” and why I nervously laughed instead of walking away from the mechanic old enough to be my grandpa who kept hitting on me after he asked about “my boyfriend” (which was a picture of NXT Champion Finn Bálor on my phone), to name a few notable situations. It’s mostly just little things like expecting my roommate to yell at me if I don’t get the dishwasher unloaded as soon as I don’t get home from work.
Every day, the panic and anxiety hangs over my head and I’m always waiting for it to fall. I’m always waiting for everyone to walk out or laugh at me the moment I start breaking down. I expect everyone to hate everything I do.
And then I look at Kate Bishop.
Kate Bishop, who’s stories don’t revolve around her assault. Who she became after it absolutely influences her character, but it goes back to that fake it till you make it thing. My favorite quote from Kate comes from Hawkeye #10 by Matt Fraction and Francesco Francavilla when Kate looks Kazi in the face as he tries to be the mysterious man leaving her at the party without a goodnight kiss and says, “You’re not the hero of this story. I am.” I feel like that quote encapsulates Kate even more than the “Being a superhero is amazing, everyone should try it” quote from the first issue of Gillen and McKelvie’s Young Avengers. Kate struggles with the fallout from her assault, but she also struggles with her love life, trying to find herself outside of her dad’s financial influence and Clint’s overwhelming car wreck of a life, and trying to make a difference in the world when all she has is sass, a bow and arrow, and her cell phone.
Somewhere along the way though, Kate decided that she wasn’t going to be just those moments. She was going to be the hero of her own story. Even if she was barely qualified to be a hero. She runs off to space and other dimensions with her best friends. She runs off to LA, babysits an ornery cat and uncovers a massive conspiracy involving life model decoys and people trying to kill Clint Barton. She gets drunk and steals Clint’s bow back after losing it in a bet with assistance from Speed. She drives Clint’s dream car better than he ever could and let’s him know it. She tells Noh-Varr that he lost his chance and never looks back.
Kate Bishop knows herself. She knows how great she is. She knows what weighs on her. She knows she wants to be a superhero and just does it in the face of doubt, whether it be from others or herself.
From that, Kate has given me the confidence to do the same for my own life. With a little less archery and avenger-ing, but with just as much purple and notable adventures.
People who have broken my heart, laughed at my panic, or have taken advantage of me are not the heroes of this story. I am.