Ben Urich, who made his return to the pages of Daredevil in #106 (no, I don’t think that qualifies as a spoiler) after being absent since Brubaker’s first arc, has been a member of the Daredevil cast since issue #153, which came out in 1978. The writer who breathed him into existence was Roger McKenzie. Starting with issue #158, McKenzie was joined by new penciller Frank Miller who later took over the writing chores as of issue #168. With the exception of the first two pictures, all of the art below was supplied by Miller.
Since I wrote a post a while back about the introduction of Becky Blake, I thought I’d to the same with Ben. Ben is introduced as something of a mystery element; we see him working in the shadows, his story providing something of a subplot running in the background until issue #164, Exposé, when he surprises Daredevil with the knowledge of his secret identity. The rest, as they say, is history. But, let’s start at the beginning…
The very first page of issue #153 shows us Ben’s typewriter. Ben is working on a story that doesn’t make sense to him. At the end of issue #152, Matt was called to Heather Glenn’s apartment after a frantic phone call from his then-girlfriend. As he arrives at her home, he is surprised by Mr. Hyde and Cobra and Heather herself is nowhere to be found. At the end of the issue, Daredevil is dragged into the sewers by the two villains, and it is here that Ben’s story begins, as the rest of the issue is told in sort of a flashback. What Ben can’t figure out is why Daredevil would be at Heather Glenn’s apartment to begin with:
Ben: “Why did he do it? I wonder… What connection was there between Heather Glenn and Daredevil?”
After this panel, we don’t see Ben again until issue #159, where he’s following up on what Matt has been up to. You get the feeling that he’s been doing some research since his last appearance, and that he may have had some kind of hunch even before the events of issue #153.
Ben: “There’s more to Matt Murdock than meets the eye — I’d bet my card on it.”
“Ben Urich takes a final drag on his cigarette. The veteran reporter doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s just embarked on what will prove to be the most astonishing story of his career.”
In Daredevil #160, we see DD himself seek out Ben Urich for information on Bullseye. Their relationship, if we may call it that, appears out of the blue in this issue, but it seems like Ben and Daredevil have met many times before. However, no information on their previous encounters is ever given. It is possible that Ben may have gotten some additional clues about Daredevil’s most peculiar trait after meeting him a few times and observing his behavior. (Since he is beginning to suspect that Matt Murdock and Daredevil are one and the same, something as innocent as the latter not asking to view any of Ben’s information personally might be a hint.)
“[A hunch] that has supplied yet another fact to what will undoubtedly prove the most sensational story of Ben Urich’s twenty-year journalistic career…”
We meet Ben again in Daredevil #163, where he is watching DD take on the Hulk. Heather Glenn, next to Ben in the crowd, proves to be a very unreliable girlfriend, yet again (it wasn’t her first time), calling out “Matt” as she witnesses the horror on the street.
Ben: “That’s Heather Glenn, Murdock’s girl! But what did she just say… Matt?”
“Few people remember battling Jack Murdock now. He was a second-rate boxer who lived and died in and era of second-rate boxers. All he wanted was a shot at the top. Instead he was shot in the back. It was his murder that prompted his son, Matthew, to become Daredevil…”
In Daredevil #164 (just click the pictures to see them enlarged), Ben Urich confronts Daredevil by going into his hospital room. At first, Matt tries to deny the allegations, but in a few classic panels, Ben Urich calls his bluff by asking him to describe a photograph of his father. He sees no other option but to confess. He begins to tell Ben his life’s story, beginning with how his father raised him and how the other children teased him…
…continuing with his accident and his heightened senses (I included this in part, because I thought it was an interesting take on the original in DD #1). He finally tells him about his father’s murder.
“I think you already know the answer to that, Ben. Justice. Blind Justice.”
Matt: “So that’s how my career began. But, Ben, it’s as good as over if you print this story.” Ben: “I know that and I know what you mean to this town. But I’m a reporter, Matt, and I know what this story means to me. This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, but… this one’s for you Matt.”
Ben burns his story, and goes on to become one of Matt Murdock’s closest allies, as well as an important character in his own right in the Marvel Universe. This is why we love Ben Urich, and why he’d make such a lousy paparazzo.