I once read a quote by some former writer that the relative success of Daredevil as a character is quite surprising considering that he’s the superhero no one really wants to be.
While young kids may dream of having the powers of Superman or Spider-man, nothing about Matt Murdock’s life inspires any real amount of envy. For the benefit of those who might not be familiar with the character, let’s take a look at the more obvious reasons. I should add that these are in no particular order, I’m sure Matt would rank these quite differently.
Of course, instead of regular eyesight he develops a form of “radar sense” which lets him perceive his surroundings. The power of this sense seems to vary quite a bit depending on the writer, but aside from some extra bells and whistles, it’s probably a far cry from 20/20 color vision.
So, while he’s at no risk of bumping into out-of-place furniture, it’s a safe bet that most people would prefer not to have their sight replaced by a fairly crude, “black-on-black” vision analogue. There is no doubt that he paid an unusually high price for his powers. With his luck, he’ll probably develop cancer from that radiation exposure too.
His remaining senses are heightened.
And, yes, that’s supposed to be a good thing, right? Well, for the most part it is a good thing, but since his senses are something of a double-edged sword, I’m including them here anyway. While hearing heart beats is probably pretty neat, it’s a well-known fact that these senses are a mixed bag of goodies, at once both empowering and potentially incapacitating.
These senses are what make him work as a superhero, and they come in handy in court as well. However, I’m not sure most people would want to pick up the traces of urine in the subway or the exact details of what their co-workers had for lunch. As for that super-hearing, I forsee a bad case of tinnitus for our favorite guy in red within the next twenty years.
While hard work and discipline have allowed him to control his senses, he remains more sensitive than the average person to overwhelming stimuli.
The people he loves keep dying on him.
It started with his dad being murdered and pretty much went downhill from there. I think that he should take a hint from the Black Widow and start calling himself the Black Widower. No, but seriously, let’s look at his list of girlfriends:
– secretary turned actress, then porn-star and heroin addict. Murdered.
(the Black Widow) – former Russian spy, all-around cool chick, and – surprisingly – very much alive.
– goofy heiress, commits suicide (for which Matt feels partly responsible).
– college girlfriend turned assassin. Murdered (then brought back from the dead in classic comic book fashion).
– photographer with ties to the IRA. Murdered (a long time after they broke up).
– current wife. Was driven insane and manipulated by Mr Fear, and is currently (as of #105) in a mental institution. So far, they seem to have had about a month’s worth of normal married life, but other than that everything is just peachy.
His grip on sanity is not as firm as it should be.
Matt has had two major mental breakdowns. And that doesn’t even include the time he was impersonating his own twin. Sure, that wouldn’t count since he was doing it on purpose in order to maintain his secret identity, but it still led to a lot of identity issues where he even contemplated becoming his own “brother” full time. Yeah, I’m not sure that’s healthy. I also don’t think digging up Elektra’s body to make sure she’s really dead ranks very high on the sane-o-meter.
His first major breakdown came during Frank Miller’s Born Again arc when the Kingpin pretty much drove him insane by ruining his life. Of course, he was already a little unstable at the time which didn’t exactly help. His second major breakdown came when he developed some kind of split personality (after D.G. Chichester’s less than stellar time at the helm), and fought himself. Or different sides of himself, Or, uhm, something like that…
He gets his @$$ kicked – a lot.
While people generally like DD’s underdog quality, it also means that he often takes on foes which are much more powerful physically. This translates into pretty severe beatings on a regular basis, and his body bears the marks of his former battles.
There’s a pretty funny scene from a few years ago (vol 2, #48) when his wife (though they weren’t married at the time) asks him about his scars, and he does a show and tell, Lethal Weapon style. However, unlike Mel Gibson’s character, he openly admits that he doesn’t like them. Probably a good thing that he can’t see himself in the mirror.
And on that depressing note, we end this tour of the less pleasant aspects of Matt Murdock’s life. For my next post, I think I’ll revisit the very first issue of Daredevil from 1964.