If that sounds anything like the age-old “my dad can beat you’re dad,” you’re on to something. They are kind of the same thing, except the dads are fictional, have superpowers, and the people having these discussions are not (usually) children, but grown men (almost exclusively) who use their extensive knowledge of the details of comic book fisticuffs to argue their respective points. Many online comic book forums even have a special section for these kinds of discussions, such as ComiXtreme’s The Arena.
I will readily admit that I don’t find these discussions particularly interesting, though I’ve come across one or two threads of this nature and for some masochistic reason found myself reading the whole thing. It’s usually at times like that I’m particularly greatful that the fans aren’t writing the books, leaving that instead to people who, for the most part, know what the heck they’re doing.
When it comes to Daredevil, one common match-up is Batman. With Daredevil often being referred to as Marvel’s Batman, this is not surprising. They also have a few things in common, such as being “dark,” low-powered (in Batman’s case without powers, but a mighty tool belt), and heavily reliant on skill rather than brute strength. These debates tend to get fairly heated as you also have the Marvel vs DC angle. The debate usually sounds something like this:
Daredevil fan: “Yeah, well Batman just has a bunch of gadgets. DD is a ninja!”
Batman fan: “So, it would take Batman two minutes to figure out that DD is blind and has heightened senses, and then he could just take him out with a hypersonic device.”
Daredevil fan: “How would he figure that out in two minutes. DD has fought villains X and Y so many times and they never figured it out.”
Batman fan: “Well, Batman is really smart.”
Daredevil fan: “But DD has hypersenses!”
And so the debate rages on endlessly. Because there can be no resolution. Daredevil and Batman will never meet. Oh, don’t get me wrong, they’ve had at least two cross-overs that I know of, but unless they come to life, battle it out somewhere and some lucky kid catches it on their camcorder and posts it on YouTube, we will never truly know.
Perhaps the people who would have Daredevil battle someone like Spider-Man and the Black Panther (the last “battle thread” I came across) are in better luck. At least they have more fights to go on, and we all know the incredible reliability of comic book history. Sometimes a scene from thirty years ago will be pulled out and scrutinized. Every angle will be considered, down to whether one of the characters may have had a bad day or possibly a hang-over. Anything that might taint the experiment must be considered.
There are two things that baffle me about this kind of discussion. The first is the readiness of readers to take anything a character has done and turn a particular event into solid evidence without any regard for whether a character has generally been consistently portrayed or not. Someone of this inclination might take Daredevil’s trip into space mentioned in my previous post as evidence that he would be an excellent astronaut, regardless of whether this particular feat is really in line with what we would expect from the character. In my view, for this kind of discussion to make any type of sense, abilities must be based on the smallest common denominator. Daredevil has generally been shown to be able to evade bullets (though exactly how he does this is probably still being debated in some other thread as we speak), and this can then be counted as one of his skills. He has also been shown to be able to be able to “look” through solid objects with his radar sense. I’m not particularly fond of this nonsensical ability, but it is one that has been part of the book for as long as it’s been in existence. By that criterion, that ability would count as well. However, by not taking into account that characters and their abilities can be wildly misrepresented, the whole argument becomes even more pointless than it already is, which brings me to my second point…
Who the *beep* cares? This is a particularly valid question for Daredevil fans. According to how their respective abilities have been portrayed – in the comics and in the Marvel Universe Handbook – there is no way that Daredevil should be able to beat Spider-Man. At this point, some poor Daredevil fan is bound to go “But Daredevil is a ninja with hypersenses!” So what? I’m a hardcore Daredevil fan. I have a blog devoted to the guy, for crying out loud. However, my appreciation for the character and the stories he has appeared in has nothing to do with whether or not he can defeat Spider-Man, Wolverine, the Taskmaster, Galactus or Dr Doom. In fact, I would even say that having Daredevil routinely defeating any of them would cheapen the character.
Because this all brings me to my final point, which is that all characters benefit from being consistently portrayed. Daredevil doesn’t have superhuman strength and shouldn’t be portrayed as if he did. This will of course render him less able to defeat someone significantly stronger than him (though he has, of course, been shown to do so on occasion through skill and wit). This is not a problem. From a storytelling perspective, limited characters are actually easier to work with, and get readers to relate to. To quote Joe Quesada regarding his views on a nearly omnipotent character like Dr Strange:
“[…]I’ve been looking for a great magic proposal that makes sense of our magic characters. If you look around comicdom you’ll notice that although there are some pretty popular magic based characters they all have trouble supporting an ongoing series. I can only speak for the Marvel characters but I think that’s because there are no solid rules that govern them.
In other words, you can place Dr. Strange in peril but it never really seems like much because at any moment he can cast a spell of crimson bands of what have you and he’s out. There are no rules to his universe and from a storytelling perspective that’s problematic. When you look at imaginary situations, worlds like the world of Toy Story or even Roger Rabbit have rules of their universe clearly define. Heck in Roger Rabbit it’s very clear how to kill a ‘toon, so the viewer gets the feeling that the characters can be placed in peril and have their back’s placed against the wall.
This is exactly what I’m looking for in regards to our magic characters. Rules that govern them. How do you kill Doctor Strange? How do you hurt him?”
At the end of the day, Daredevil is the “superhero next door.” He’s best portrayed when his world is one next door to our own, and his powers are incredibly but almost believable. The day Daredevil beats the Hulk to a pulp is the day I’ll stop being a fan, or – more likely – wait until the next writer to come along. Matt Murdock is just a guy in a suit who learned most of his skills the hard way, and I wish all of his fans could just accept him for what he is, not because he might be able to beat Spidey on a good day with just a little bit of luck.