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Why is there a golden retriever in Hawkeye? Meet Lucky the Pizza Dog

The real star of Hawkeye on Disney+ isn't Jeremy Renner or Hailee Steinfeld. It's a good pup named Lucky.

Marvel Entertainment

It's the worst kept secret in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hawkeye, a new Disney+ Marvel series starring Jeremy Renner as his archery Avenger, will feature Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee) as Kate Bishop, his protege and sidekick. After months of casting rumors, the news was finally confirmed when leaked set footage flooded the internet

But the most important character in Hawkeye is, in fact, a golden retriever. His name is Lucky. He is a dog who loves pizza. He is Lucky the Pizza Dog, and he will inevitably be the secret weapon of Hawkeye.

Here's what you need to know about why it's such a big deal that Hawkeye on Disney+ will star a golden retriever.

Wait, first: What is Hawkeye?

Hawkeye is a new Marvel series coming to Disney+. It will star Jeremy Renner in the role of Clint Barton/Hawkeye and Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, a young woman who studies archery from a reluctant Hawkeye.

While Steinfeld's casting has long been a rumor, her role in the series was finally confirmed on December 2, when set footage from the show's filming in New York was shared widely on Twitter. The footage originates in a cell phone video recorded by an unknown party.

Besides the appearance of Renner and Steinfeld, who wears a distinct purple casual wear that is strikingly evocative of Kate Bishop, there is also a golden retriever on a leash by Steinfeld's side.

Lucky's debut in 'Hawkeye' #1.Marvel Comics

The Disney+ show is heavily inspired by the acclaimed 2012-2015 comic book series Hawkeye by Matt Fraction, David Aja, and a rotating group of artists. One of the most popular comics of the 2010s, the series is celebrated for its uniquely minimalist yet expressionistic art style, humorous storytelling, and sharp dialogue.

Critics and fans also point to its grounded setting, which has Clint fight petty and organized crime in New York City instead of cosmic supervillains, as a unique characteristic that defines the series.

As io9 wrote in 2015:

Hawkeye was jam-packed with action, but it was almost entirely with mobsters and henchmen, never supervillains. The main thrust of the overarching storyline wasn’t the end of the world or a gigantic evil plot—it was Clint Barton protecting the residents of his apartment block from the Russian Mafia. Heck, even right down to Hawkeye’s stripped down redesign, one of the first permanent major costume changes for the character in his entire history, Hawkeye grounded itself in a sense of normalcy, tucked away from the world of Avengers and superpowers.

Among the hallmarks of Fraction and Aja's Hawkeye is a golden retriever named Lucky, who attaches himself to Hawkeye's side.

Lucky in 'Hawkeye' #11.Marvel Comics

Lucky the Pizza Dog: "Fix. This. Dog."

In the Marvel Universe, Lucky made his first appearance right in Hawkeye #1. He's introduced when he's brought to a hospital by a beaten up and bloodied Clint Barton.

As the issue's non-linear plot reveals, Clint met Lucky — and fed him a nice slice of New York pizza — when he was a guard dog for the "Tracksuit Mafia," the Russian mob who tripled the rent in Clint's apartment building. When Clint fights the mob, Lucky springs into action and bites his former Russian masters. But during the fight, Lucky wanders into the street and gets hit by a car, which is when Clint rushes him to a hospital.

At the end of the issue, Clint is by Lucky's side when a doctor tells him he has a tag, etched with the name "Arrow." Clint rolls his eyes and tells Lucky while petting him, "I'll come up with something better." Afterward, Lucky becomes a mainstay in Hawkeye as a pet Clint and Kate keep around. (Kate even takes Lucky with her when she moves to Los Angeles in the middle of the series.) And somehow, he always finds a way to get a pepperoni slice to keep in his mouth.

One of the most popular issues in Hawkeye is issue #11, which is told entirely from Lucky's point of view.

Kate Bishop and Lucky, in 'Hawkeye' #22.Marvel Comics

Why fans love Lucky the Pizza Dog

Lucky isn't secretly a powerful superhero or Mephisto in disguise. He's just a dog. He's an adorable golden retriever who happens to love pizza. Not all comic book characters have complicated origins.

But Lucky does have emotional origins for writer Matt Fraction. In interviews, Fraction says Lucky was based on his real dog, a golden retriever named Captain Applejack, who was put down just before Fraction started working on the series. Amidst an emotional and professional crisis (Fraction says he believed his comic book career was on a severe downturn at the time), Fraction decided to give Hawkeye a dog. Suddenly, his new book snapped into focus.

In a 2015 episode of the Live Wire! Radio podcast, Fraction said:

"When Captain Applejack was a puppy I found him under a car. And he was so sick and so little and so mangy I didn’t know if he was very young and very sick or very old and about to die. He was wrinkly. So I gave him to Hawkeye. I gave him this beat up mutt who was neglected and ignored. And as I started to kind of write and give him this kind of emotional thing he was connected to, like, the character’s anima appeared. That was it, it wasn’t a hawk. It was a dog. And then I got the book. I understood what the book was. I knew what happens. I knew what it was about. And if I couldn’t save Captain Applejack, Hawkeye could save Lucky.

Following the book's acclaim and sales as it outlasted its original six-issue span, Fraction now believes the series to be a rebirth of sorts for his career, and it's all thanks to his dog. He said later in the podcast:

"If I said ‘miraculous,’ it would actually insult real miracles but I don’t know what else to say. I was on my way out the door but it turned out the door was revolving and I was right back in and my entire life turned around. And everything in my career exploded off of this book. I tried to save my dog, and he saved me.”

There is no release date for the Disney+ series Hawkeye.