Daredevil has been in the news a little bit more than usual lately, due in large part to his title featuring the first ever appearance of the new Superior Spider-Man, as seen in Daredevil #21 (see below). The two will face off for real in next week’s Daredevil #22 and an unlettered preview of the event has already made the rounds on various websites. It has also generated some comments that are – believe or not – of a science nature. Sort of. Of course, I had to take a stab at trying to make sense of it all.
In the post Will Daredevil be the first to discover Spider-Man’s new identity?, movie and television blog Flickering Myth suggest the following:
“Since Otto is now Spider-Man, his heartbeat is different to the one Daredevil is used to, so in theory he should become the first person in the Marvel Universe to learn of Peter’s demise and Doctor Octopus’ victory.”
The same thing has been suggested elsewhere. When the extended preview for Daredevil #22 was posted on CBR’s Robot 6, someone had this to say in the comments:
“Are you guys really that daft as to not realize that Daredevil knows because of his heartbeat? Just because its Pete’s body, that doesnt mean his heartbeat will be the same…his voice would be off a lil bit too. I hope Daredevil figures it out right away.”
At the risk of coming off as, well, daft, I would argue that not only should Daredevil be no better equipped than anyone else to figure out the nature of Spider-Man’s change of character. If he actually were able to do it the way the proponents of this theory suggest, his ability to identify people generally would really be much worse than it is.
Part of what makes Matt’s ability to recognize people through his senses of hearing (heartbeats, voices, breathsounds) and smell is that it is, to a great extent, immune to most attempts to conceal these features. He can recognize someone through a layer of perfume or cigarette smoke and he can identify a person’s heartbeat whether they just got out of bed in the morning or came straight from running a marathon. He doesn’t recognize people by how fast their heart is pumping (his lie-detecting abilities, on the other hand, are tied to the actual speed and pattern of the beating heart), but by the unique “voice” of the heart as it is molded by that particular person’s physiology.
Even though Doc Ock’s consciousness is in Peter Parker’s body, the body will not automatically change in response to being inhabited by a new personality (though it’s conceivable that whatever new habits this personality brings with it might lead to gradual changes over time). The “voice” of Peter’s heart should be the same, even underneath a potentially uncharacteristic hyped-up-on-adrenalin frequency pattern. By the same token, the vocal chords of Peter Parker’s body will remain the same. The speech pattern will be different with Doc Ock at the helm, but Matt is more likely to think: “Why is Spider-Man trying to do a Doc Ock impersonation?” than “Ah, Doc Ock has taken over Spider-Man’s body!” If it were easy for people to override the paramaters set by the physical body, in terms of voice quality, body sounds and body chemistry, fooling Daredevil’s senses would be much easier as well.
The most relevant real-world comparison to the Doc Ock situation is probably Dissociative Identity Disorder (also known as Multiple Personality Disorder). While DID remains controversial to this day, it has been suggested by some that each personality may represent a discrete physiological state. However, even in that kind of scenario – and the available evidence is inconclusive – we’re likely talking about the kind of differences that come from different emotional states (where personality A may be fearful and defensive and personality B an adrenalin-driven adventure junkie). At the end of the day, the so-called alters are still inhabiting the same body.
Since the Daredevil #22 preview is unlettered – though we can probably expect a lettered version on Friday – there’s no way of knowing whether Mark Waid has decided for Daredevil to start suspecting a body switch/demon possession scenario (hey, it is the Marvel Universe and there was that Shadowland situation…), but this should be for reasons obvious to everyone who knows Spider-Man: The guy looks/smells/sounds like Spidey, but he’s acting out of character. One way you could have Daredevil’s senses play a major role in deciphering the truth is if he were to catch the good doctor in a lie. Other than that, his new body should give very little away that wouldn’t also be clear to other people through changes in body language, mannerisms and behavior.
Does that make sense? Do you disagree? If so, plead your case in the comments!