Clint Barton was born in Waverly, Iowa. At a young age he lost both of his parents in a car accident. After six years in an orphanage, Clint and his brother Barney ran away to join the Carson Carnival of Travelling Wonders. Clint soon caught the eye of the Swordsman who took the young boy on as his assistant. Along with the help of Trick Shot, the Swordsman trained Clint to become a master archer. Clint later found the Swordsman embezzling money from the carnival. Before he could turn his mentor over to the authorities, Clint was beaten and left for dead, allowing the Swordsman to skip town. Clint’s relationship with his brother Barney and Trick Shot soon deteriorated as well.
Clint adapted his archery skills to become a star carnival attraction, a master archer called Hawkeye, otherwise known as “The World’s Greatest Marksman”. He spent some time as a member of Tiboldt’s Circus, before joining the Coney Island Circus. He witnesses Iron Man in action and is inspired to become a costumed hero. However, after a misunderstanding on his first outing, Hawkeye is accused of theft and believed to be a criminal. On the run, the naive Hawkeye meets the Black Widow, a spy for the Soviet Union, with whom he falls in love. Blindly following the Black Widow, Hawkeye aids her attempts to steal technology developed by Tony Stark. In one of their battles with Iron Man, the Black Widow is seriously injured. Hawkeye rescues her and flees the battle to save her life. But before Hawkeye can take her to a hospital, the Black Widow disappears. Hawkeye decides to be a „straight-shooter“ from then on.