Daredevil #1 is, of course, a classic issue. It marks the character’s first appearance and is the first of nearly five hundred issues of comic book history. I’m not sure what DD’s creators were smoking when they created him, but the idea was pure genius in all its “nuttiness.”
The story itself begins in medias res, as our mysterious hero crashes a poker game, looking for the Fixer. The reader is left in the dark as to why the costumed guy in yellow is looking for this Fixer person, while treated to a two-page fight scene which then cuts straight to the classic origin story:
The year is 1950 and Matt Murdock is eight. This, of course, makes him the hottest 65-year-old on the planet, but that’s the neat thing about comic book time. Anyway, eight-year-old Matt wants to go out and play with the other kids, his prizefighter father tells him that he has to stay home and study and make something of himself.
As the years go by, Matt suffers in silence as is stuck in his room studying (although I never got why he wasn’t even allowed to play sports). The other kids tease him and call him “Daredevil.” It’s a name that he will, of course, wear as a badge later in life.
Matt works out in secret and discovers that he can throw a mean punch. Being the good boy that he is, he remains devoted to his studies while spending hours at the gym. These days, parents probably have to bribe their kids with computer games to get them to work out, but these were different times indeed.
Meanwhile, Jack Murdock has his own set of problems. His best days as a fighter are behind him and desperate for a steady income he has no choice but to sign with the Fixer. By doing so, he manages to secure the money he needs to provide for his son. Jack returns to an empty apartment as his son is out on the street, about to make a fateful decision.
When Matt sees an old blind man about to be hit by a truck, he pushes him out of the way. The rest, as the say, is history. As radioactive material from the truck hits young Matt in the face, he loses his sight. Incidentally, this doesn’t seem to bother him much.
Soon after the accident, Matt discovers that he is now better at pretty much everything, which apparently includes studying. Though why going blind and having your remaining senses heightened would automatically make you a better student, no one will ever know. Matt, who is now in college explains his abilities as follows:
- “My hearing is so acute, that I can tell if someone is in a room with me just by hearing the heartbeat!”
- “And I never forget an odor once I smell it! I could recognize any girl by her perfume… Or any man by his hair tonic…” (Yes, this was back when men wore hair tonic.)
- “Even my fingers have become incredibly sensitive! I can tell how many bullets are in a gun just by the weight of the barrel…” (Aside from being a weird reference, wouldn’t this also depend on the make of the gun?)
- “While my sense of taste has become so highly developed that I can tell exactly how many grains of salt are on a piece of pretzel…” (Here’s a hint, count them with the tip of your tongue!)
- “But my most important new ability is in the form of a built-in radar that I seem to have developed! It enables med to walk anywhere safely, without bumping into anything!” “I feel a strange tingling sensation when I approach any solid obstacle, warning me which way to turn!”
While his son is breezing through college, Jack Murdock’s career is going well and he gets picked for a big fight. What Matt doesn’t know then is that the Fixer has told Jack to take a dive in the first round. Inspired by his son’s presence, Jack decides to fight and ultimately wins the match. For this, he pays the ultimate price as he is gunned down by the Fixer’s men.
Matt mourns his father for about one panel, and then graduates from law school. He goes into business with Foggy who, as his first order of business, hires the beautiful Karen Page as their secretary. For Matt, it’s love at first, uhm, whiff?
Still tormented by his fathers death, Matt decides to put his powers to good use. Since he feels he cannot break the promise he made to his father, he solves the problem by becoming somebody else. This idea leads him to make his first costume. By hand. You’d think someone could lend the guy a sewing machine, but no.
However, within a matter of hours, his work – the classic yellow/red/black costume – is complete. He then goes about transforming his cane into a weapon, and hits the streets. His first priority is to go after the Fixer and his men.
While Matt, or should I say Daredevil, is busy being the most “handicapable” superhero in the Marvel Universe, Foggy worries about his friend. Hoping to find him back at the office, he bumps into Karen. This meeting is preceded by a caption which would come across as questionable today: “But, entering the new office, Foggy finds it unoccupied, except for the most decorative accessory…” Yeah, the accessory in question would be none other than Karen Page.
Karen, meanwhile, seems to be just overcome with pity for her blind boss and more or less openly admits that she wants to be the one to take care of him. Needless to say, Foggy himself also has a thing for Karen and the soap opera that would characterize the trio’s relationship for years to come is already evident in this, the very first issue.
In another part of town (presumably), Daredevil is on the trail of the Fixer and his cohort Slade. He traces them by the smell of the Fixer’s cigar and follows them to a subway station. Trying to escape Daredevil, The Fixer’s heart gives out and he dies from a heart attack. Daredevil hands Slade, the man who pulled the trigger on his father, to the police and justice is done. And so ends the very first issue of Daredevil.
It’s a classic, and the storytelling is pretty tight. Daredevil’s origin story has been added to and ret-conned a few times, but the basic elements remain the same. I always liked the classic origin, and prefer it over Frank Miller’s Man Without Fear, even though Stick (who was added to the mythos by Miller during his initial run) is a nice addition. As are the more realistic elements of Matt actually having to struggle to gain control over his new abilities and adjust to his new life.
While Matt’s abilities actually come across as fairly modest in the first issue, the idea that the same powers which make him believable as a blind superhero could actually be painfully intense is introduced much later.