Clint Barton/Phil Coulson

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Pairing: Clint Barton/Phil Coulson
Alternative name(s): Bowtie, Blackhawk, Phlint, Shieldhusbands[1]
Gender category: Slash
Fandom: The Avengers (Marvel), Marvel Cinematic Universe
Canonical?: Non-canon
Prevalence: high
Archives: Clint/Coulson @ AO3
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Clint/Phil is a slash non-canon pairing of the MCU characters, Clint Barton (Hawkeye) and Phil Coulson.


Clint/Coulson in Secret Avengers (2015)

They are the third most tagged MCU pairing on AO3 although they only interact for 47 seconds in the movie Thor and were later featured together in a few pages of panels in one of the Avengers prequel comics.[2]

Since 2015, they've started to be featured together in the main comics universe as well. The new canon content often features surprisingly fandom-savvy elements in line with popular fic tropes, e.g. the two working together at SHIELD, Coulson crossdressing on a mission, etc.


Clint/Coulson fic was posted on AO3 as early as June 2011 after the Thor film was released, but the fandom took off in anticipation of The Avengers film in early 2012, and exploded after the movie's release.


Clint/Coulson first started as a ship on the Thor kinkmeme, probably because it was the only viable slash option that a) wasn't incest and b) didn't break up a canon couple. The foundation for the pairing might have been thirty seconds long but it also followed a well-loved tradition of snarky/deadpan pairings, so there was an easy setup there. Also, they were both blank characters with little backstory in the MCU who had no visible love interests, which lured in fans who are otherwise hesitant to write for comic book movies. Thanks to a couple good prompts and fills, C/C gained a modest but loyal following.

Then the Avengers came out, which provided a huge blow up in MCU fic in general, but also a) gave Coulson more characterization and b) resulted in people picking up the Fraction Hawkeye comics in an attempt to characterize Clint better. Upon the realization that Coulson was a secret dork and Clint might be a secret failboat, plus the fact that neither of them had an onscreen love interest, the pairing took off.

It also helped that some of the early fics were both longer and really, really good. People would click on the pairing tag out of curiosity, and find good fic--of course it got big.Anonymous
There were several things at work (in fandom, movies, and elsewhere) to make Clint/Coulson a juggernaut, and the pairing wouldn't have been nearly as...overwhelming if ALL of them were not present.

1) Very little movie backstory, but what's implied is ready-made for tropes popular in spy fiction. They clearly knew each other and had backstory, but it was never explicitly stated, so headcanons galore, plus a lot of plug-and-play case fic. Need a mission? Insert foreign country, maybe a kidnapping and light torture, possibly HYDRA.

2) Banter. Fandom does love its banter.

3) The new Hawkeye comics set Clint up as professionally competent but emotionally a failboat, which is always a popular character type. You'll see that characterization/backstory in most Clint/Coulson. He was a designated woobie, and Coulson seemed like the obvious healthy counterpart to take care of him, since he was hypercompetant. (Woobie!Coulson is pretty rare, not surprisingly.)

4) Kinkmemes were a lot bigger in fandom a few years back, and Clint/Coulson was the only slash pairing to come out of the movie that wasn't incest. If you don't like het or incest, what else were you going to ship? Kink meme niche.

5) Some of the early Clint/Coulson fics are actually very good. It had a snowball effect; people had no idea who they were, so they looked them up on AO3 and found enjoyable fic, and then they wrote more.

6) Didn't conflict with any existing juggernaut post-Avengers. They were actually pretty inoffensive until they started getting in everything.

7) Personal taste. I find both actors attractive enough to ship, but not so attractive that I have a hard time slapping my favorite insecurity trope onto either character. Good for pining.

I'm sure there's more, but seriously; it was a perfect storm of things, and it makes perfect sense.Anonymous

Prior to Agents of SHIELD premiered in September 2013, Clint/Phil was a popular pairing for the fandom despite the fact that there are currently no plans for Clint to be on the show. The pairing is still popular in that fandom.

Six Degrees Influences

There have been several fics that reference previous roles for both Jeremy Renner and Clark Gregg; crossovers with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (in which Renner played the spy character of William Brandt) tend to be the most common. Some notable examples are the Just Twinny verse, in which Brandt and Clint Barton are look-alikes but not related; Every Hero Needs an Origin Story, which references Gregg's previous role as Mike Casper on The West Wing; and the one out of many and all of them the same series, in which all of Jeremy Renner's previous character roles have been Clint Barton undercover.


It has received some criticism for being a Whitecock ship.[3][4][5]

Common Tropes in Fanworks

  • Fix-it fics for the big spoiler in the movie quickly became one of the most common tropes in the pairing after the release of The Avengers.
  • Espionage: Clint's job as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and assassin tends to get more focus in Clint/Phil fic than superhero adventures. Tropes spy fiction lends itself to are also popular: mission fic, undercover work, pretend relationship, kidnapping & rescue, torture as a part of hurt/comfort, handler/agent pining, etc.
  • Hurt/comfort with Clint most often taking the role of the hurt character.
  • Origin story: How Coulson recruited Clint for SHIELD. Clint's comics-verse background as a carny and ex-criminal is often incorporated.






Other Fanworks



Archives and Fannish Links

LiveJournal Communities




  1. The Avengers Ships: Master List
  2. We were asked to make this answer from yesterday a rebloggable post, so here it is!. (Accessed 08 July 2012)
  3. Comment by transemacabre on LiveJournal (2014) (Accessed 26 September 2017)
  4. Ask received by whoistorule on Tumblr (April 2014) (Accessed 26 September 2017)
  5. Thread on fandomsecrets on Dreamwidth (2014) (Accessed 26 September 2017)