One of Marvel’s Avengers Turns to Sign Language

The fight for justice can wear on the body. That is something that Clint Barton, the member of Marvel’s Avengers known as the archer Hawkeye, is going to have to learn to cope with. In issue No. 19 of “Hawkeye,” which arrives in stores on July 30, the writer Matt Fraction and the artist David Aja show the aftereffects of a battle that has left their hero with profound ear damage.

The story strives to connect readers with what he is experiencing: when he can’t hear, the word balloons on the page are blank. The comic also makes extensive use of sign language, but provides no key to interpreting them. “If nothing else, it’s an opportunity for hearing people to get a taste of what it might be like to be deaf,” Mr. Fraction said.

Drawing the issue was “very difficult,” Mr. Aja said. Without the traditional dialogue, his ability to convey gestures was even more critical. Mr. Aja also had to devise ways to depict certain signs that required multiple movements in a clear way. “There’s so much subtlety and expression on the page,” said Sana Amanat, the book’s editor. “You can understand what’s going on even without the balloons.”

The story builds on past adventures, including one where Hawkeye inflicted ear damage on himself to defeat a foe. (The hero’s reluctance to let on that he relied on a hearing aid once led him to demand interview questions in advance of an appearance on “Late Night with David Letterman.”)

The idea of using sign language came from a source closer to home. “When my wife and I had children, we taught them to sign,” Mr. Fraction said. “It cut down on their frustration immensely because they can tell you want they’re thinking.” He consulted with Rachel Coleman, who founded Signing Time, which sells instructional programs aimed at infants and children learning to sign, on how to approach the story’s use of signing. “There was a different grammatical and idiomatic structure,” he said. “Facial expressions were very important.”

Source: New York Times
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