Daredevil vs Punisher

I’m probably not the best person to be writing about Daredevil’s long and complicated history with the Punisher. It’s not that I don’t find it interesting – and I’m actually very enthusiastic about seeing Jon Bernthal tackling the role in the upcoming season of Daredevil – it’s just that there are other fans out there who are more interested in it, and definitely more knowledgeable about Frank Castle as a character. For a great list of some Daredevil/Punisher crossovers, look no further than this June 2015 IGN article on that very subject.

However, with the release of a certain official photo of Matt and Frank on a rooftop, everyone who is even vaguely familiar with a certain story from Punisher #3, vol 4 (2000-2001), by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, have been pointing out the obvious similarities. When this scene was mentioned in the comments of my last post, I decided to pay it a little visit for myself.

So, the brief backstory to the infamous scene where Matt finds himself with a gun in his hand and an impossible choice to make, is that Nelson & Murdock are defending Dino Gnucci, brother of the matriarch of the Gnucci crime family who stands accused of multiple homicides. While Dino is basically the kind of hardened criminal no one would want on the streets, he was actually framed for the particular crime he is being accused of – this time – by rival crime families and the District Attorney’s office. So, Frank wants him gone, and Matt wants him found innocent of the crime he didn’t commit, whether he’s a scum bag or not. You can see why these guys don’t see eye to eye on this matter – figuratively speaking. That’s when Frank decides to set at trap for Daredevil (click to zoom in):

Daredevil catches up with Frank Castle to stop him from assassinating a mob boss, as seen in Punisher, vol 4 (2000-2001) #3, by Garth Ennis and Steve DillonDaredevil and Punisher start debating, as seen in Punisher, vol 4 (2000-2001) #3, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

After Daredevil arrives on the scene, the two fight. At first, things seem to be going well for Matt, but that’s all part of the plan. Frank narrates the action:

“I’m letting him have the first round because he’s in for a bad night. He’s not the enemy. He doesn’t deserve to be destroyed. Giving him the round is easy. I haven’t got a change against him. Never do. He’s not the enemy but I’m sick of his self-righteous garbage and he deserves a wake-up call… I rigged the ultrasonic an hour ago. Works like silent whistles do on dogs. Every pooch in the neighborhood starts howling. Even with the earplugs I feel like puking my guts up. What it does to those senses of his — I can’t being to imagine. So I make it as quick as I can.”

When Matt comes to, he makes a shocking discovery:

Daredevil comes to and finds himself chained to a pole with a gun in his hand, as seen in Punisher, vol 4 (2000-2001) #3, by Garth Ennis and Steve DillonDaredevil, desperate, realizes what choice Frank is forcing him to make, as seen in Punisher, vol 4 (2000-2001) #3, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

Always the lawyer, Matt starts pleading with Frank (see below), and this is where the differences between the two are clear. In a parallel to classical rhetoric, we have Matt’s ethos set against Frank’s pathos. To quote Jon Bernthal from yesterday’s TCA panel: “Punisher’s superpower is his rage. That he’s not going to quit. That he’s going to keep going no matter what.”

Daredevil: You have to be out of your mind! I’m not going to kill you!

Punisher: Then Dino Gnucci’s a dead man.

Daredevil: No! Nobody has to die! You don’t have to do this! Dino Gnucci deserves to be taken off the streets, but legitimately! For something he’s actually done! And it has to be that way or else everything, these laws we have, the society we’ve built is all completely worthless! For crying out loud, man, don’t you see that? Don’t you see?

Punisher: The thought of Dino Gnucci living one more minute is enough to drive me insane. Don’t you see?

Daredevil: Oh my God.

Punisher: That’s the spirit.

So, how does it all end? Well, Daredevil actually pulls the trigger. Of course, even that part of this elaborate set-up is a trap. Frank gets to go on “punishing” with his head intact, probably satisfied in the knowledge that Matt will be tormenting himself for weeks. Since this story takes place in a Punisher book, we never actually find out how Matt deals with the aftermath.

When Frank gets ready to take his shot, Daredevil pulls the trigger, as seen in Punisher, vol 4 (2000-2001) #3, by Garth Ennis and Steve DillonDaredevil has been tricked, as seen in Punisher, vol 4 (2000-2001) #3, by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon

So, how much of this can we expect to see in season two of Daredevil? I personally think that the similarities will be superficial. Frank may very well have Matt witness him commit a crime, but there might not be a choice to be made, as Matt’s options appear even more limited than in the comic.

More importantly, the scene from the comic builds on the fact that Matt and Frank are well-acquainted with each other in every way. In fact, Frank’s annoyance with Matt stems mostly from the fact that he’s so very predictable in these matters. Likewise, Matt’s choice is informed by his knowing exactly what kind of man Frank is. In the Netflix show, Frank will be the newcomer. He may know a thing or two about Daredevil, who has obviously been patrolling the streets for some time, but considering Matt’s relative lack of restraint in season one, it seems unlikely that he’s built a reputation of moral superiority. Then again, this scene may actually be set fairly late in the season where the two have had some time to cultivate their mutual animosity. And maybe that’s the amount of time Matt will need to realize, definitively, that he is not the Punisher. What do you guys think?

Matt Murdock’s happier times: Introduction

Panel from Daredevil # 1 by Stan Lee and Bill Everett

First of all, thank you so much to everyone who commented (or contacted me through other means) to offer support in response to my latest post. It means the world to me, and just proves that the TOMP community is made up of some of the best people – and comic book fans – in the world!

And, thanks for all the post ideas. I’m making a list of all of them and hope to get to them over the next few weeks and months, interspersed with ideas of my own, and the usual reviews and comments on whatever comes up.  First on my list is to begin to tackle Daniel’s idea to look at Matt’s happier times, and that whole side of his personality. It feels like the perfect topic to lighten anyone’s mood, and it also makes for an interesting contrast with the darker side of the character.

Mark Waid has strongly indicated that Matt Murdock has underlying issues with depression, which made his take on Sister Maggie’s battles with post partum depression even more meaningful (aside from her story being compelling in its own right, depression is often at least partially hereditary). Of course, Matt’s long list of actual trials and tribulations, along with his mental health battles – which go back decades – don’t negate the fact that he has had happier times and that he’s got a real optimistic streak to motivate him. To quote myself from an earlier post:

“What I recognize in a character like Matt Murdock is that ability to joke, smile and laugh – and do so genuinely, not as a front (or in Matt’s case, perhaps not only as a front) – while at the same time navigating the inevitable slumps and rough patches that you know may be waiting around the corner. It is possible to be both an incurable optimist, to have your “center” propel you forward and give you meaning even while occasionally dealing with feelings that seem to threaten to stop you in your tracks. Real people are complex, and it’s a great thing to see creators of fiction let that complexity shine through their characters as well.”

It’s interesting to note that whatever is bothering Matt Murdock at any one time, and that may be nothing at all, the answer always seems to be Daredevil. When he’s feeling low and defeated, his life as Daredevil seems to act both as a coping mechanism and a compulsion based on a (somewhat exaggerated) sense of duty. When he’s happy, that too spills over into his life as a vigilante. He clearly enjoys the physical aspects of throwing himself off high buildings and the obvious sense of accomplishment that comes from having trained his body to endure almost any situation.

Credit panel from Daredevil #178, by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

During the first few years of the title, being Daredevil clearly offered him a way to escape the persona of Matt Murdock, the uptight and timid blind lawyer. I’ve talked about the conflicted feelings around his identity in How Daredevil became Matt Murdock. This is interesting because it shows that even the relative carefree days of the Silver Age were not devoid of underlying conflicts. Matt may have thoroughly enjoyed playing the part of Mike Murdock, his made-up identical twin brother, and Mike may have even been a more genuine take on the underlying character. But pretending to be someone else, even as a way to manage a secret identity, is hardly the sign of great mental health. Even early in Daredevil history, there were clear signs of self-loathing and resentment.

As the topic of Matt’s personality and changing moods is a pretty big, I will only be able to scratch the surface with this post, and will be doing so by going back to the very beginning of the title’s history. At the end of this post, you’ll find links to previous posts that deal with Matt’s emotional life (aside from the one’s I’ve linked to above). Altogether, that should make for a good foundation for exploring this topic further in the coming months.

The frustrated optimist

As origins go, I quite like the one we see in Daredevil #1. You would expect no less from someone who loves the character, but considering how weak the writing was on some of the early issues of Daredevil (Daredevil #2 anyone?), the relative quality of the very first issue stands out. The pacing is good, it covers a lot of ground and it cleverly establishes Daredevil’s raison d’être. 

One interesting conflict that is apparent right from first glimpses into Matt’s early fictional life is the one between his desire for self-realization and the demands and expectations placed on him by those around him. In his early adult life, the same conflict is evident in terms of how he feels about being Daredevil, as opposed to being Matt Murdock (again, see my previous post). But this struggle pre-dates Daredevil, and even Matt’s accident. As a young boy, the source of frustration was not the need to conform to society’s expectations of a blind man, and a lawyer, but rather the strict rules laid down by his father. While young Matt is presented as a genuinely good student, one who probably would have excelled in academia even under less rigid circumstances, his strong desire to express himself physically, and play sports with the other kids, shows us another side of him aching to get out.

Panel from Daredevil # 1 by Stan Lee and Bill Everett

Even before he was Daredevil, Matt responded to frustration the same way we’ve seen him do time and time again: By finding ways around it. Instead of accepting the limitations placed on him by his father, he works out in secret. As he builds his physical strength, he finds a new mental strength as well. Allowing himself this way to escape gives him great joy. His secret life as a would-be Daredevil in training fills the very same purpose here as his life as the de facto Daredevil does later in the series. When he finally dons the costume, that too is in response to the frustration he feels over the fact that no one has been tried for his father’s murder. Becoming Daredevil means doing “something” as opposed to doing nothing. I think Mark Waid really nails it in the interview I linked to above:

“I think you see very clearly in Daredevil that depression is inertia. What fuels depression is that sense of helplessness, that sense of not knowing what to do next, that image of sitting on a gargoyle in the rain on the rooftop, frozen by inaction. To me, Daredevil come to grips with that and is actively pushing past. I wrote a scene where he feels that paralysis that comes with depression and he pushes through it.  He makes an active decision to move forward.  Any movement is better than no movement at all.”

To Matt, the Daredevil identity becomes a vehicle for action, and a way to directly address the inertia which looms whenever disaster strikes. As Matt, he is subject to the whims of others to some extent. He’s burdened by his father’s expectations, the taunts from the others at school (who misunderstand his reasons for keeping to himself and consequently mislabel him), and later by the prejudices of society. While the latter is not often touched on explicitly, it’s obvious that Matt – at least in the early days – had resigned himself to being regarded as weak. As Daredevil, he instead becomes the “actor,” his way of transforming himself from a chess piece into a player. It is perhaps no coincidence that the storylines which have brought Daredevil his greatest defeats, and been the most demoralizing, are not the ones in which he is challenged physically, but the ones in which that agency is taken away from him by the manipulation and scheming of his enemies.

The way this all feeds into and strengthens the need for the secret identity is something that Mark Waid later picks up on. The secret identity, and secrecy in general, can be viewed as coping mechanism, as summarized in Daredevil #22 (vol 3), when Matt explains: “Even when I was first blinded, I never told anyone about my radar or my hyper senses. Not even my dad. I enjoyed having a big secret. When people make you feel like you’re weak and helpless, it’s empowering to know something they don’t. And, boy, did I need empowering.”

Panels from Daredevil #22, volume 3, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

The Daredevil identity was borne out of frustration, but is fueled by an incredible amount of optimism, sometimes bordering on over-confidence. The way Matt decides to go after his father’s killers in the very first issue clearly demonstrates his willingness to throw caution to the wind, in the hopes that his hours of training and heightened senses will be enough to carry him. He’s not certain that they will, however, and at least once he catches himself wondering whether he’s bitten off more than he can chew. This, in turn, is a behavior that will continue repeating itself over the coming decades. Matt often gets in over his head, does foolish things, and is prone to recklessness. We see him as fearless, but perhaps optimistic to the point of delusional is a better word for it.

One thing is for sure, Matt Murdock needs Daredevil. He needs the physical joy of it, the power it gives him, as well as the adrenalin rush. Being Daredevil is one of the best ways Matt knows to express himself when he’s happy, and it is often the only way for him to exist at all when he’s down (see much of the Brubaker/Lark run at the end of Daredevil vol 2). When you look at the entirety of the character’s life, it’s easy to see why.

As mentioned, I will have plenty of opportunities to return to this topic, looking at Matt’s remarkable ability to bounce back, and what exactly – besides being Daredevil – brings him the most joy. In the mean time, here are some recommended posts that deal, in one way or another, with Matt’s psyche:

Je parle français? Mais oui!

Daredevil speaks French in Daredevil #90 by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

We don’t really know much about what Matt Murdock studied in school except for that he eventually graduated with a law degree. One thing that seems certain though, is that French was likely on his list of electives. While it was hinted in New Avengers #16, by Brian Michael Bendis and Mike Deodato (the issue when Daredevil fights Nazi-robots and joins the team) that Matt speaks German – at least if Jessica Jones is to be trusted – he has been caught speaking French “on panel” several times. See them below!

Daredevil versus voodoo practitioners

Panels from Daredevil #310, by Glenn Alan Herdling and Scott McDaniel

Daredevil goes up against forces greater than himself in Daredevil #310, by Glenn Alan Herdling and Scott McDaniel, which was part of the Infinity War crossover, but he seems to have a decent handle on the language at least. In his own words:

French was never one of my best subjects, but I know enough to understand these goons, even through their Haitian dialect.

Daredevil goes deep undercover in Paris

Matt as Laurent Levasseur in Daredevil #376 by Scott Lobdell and Cully Hamner

The Flying Blind arc, written by Scott Lobdell with art by Cully Hamner came right at the end of volume one and spans issues #376-379. I’ve mentioned this story arc in another post so I won’t go into the details except to say that it basically revolves around Matt having his brain rewired by S.H.I.E.L.D. This not only restores his sight(!), but has him believing that he’s a frenchman by the name of Laurent Levasseur. I think we can assume that some of his language skills (he’s able to pass for French…) are part of the rewiring, but it probably didn’t hurt that he had a foundation to build on.

“I’m trying to concentrate on the conversation in front of me. But it’s difficult. It’s as if… As if I can hear every word – every sound – on the waiting area outside. […] Oddly enough, It’s all in French. Odder still – I find that odd. I mean, I’m French. Right?”

Torture by American accent

Daredevil speaks French in Daredevil #90 by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

After Matt breaks out of prison early in Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s run, he heads back to Paris as part of a trek around Europe in search of Foggy’s killer (Foggy was presumed dead at the time). Here in Daredevil #90 (vol 2), he is seen doing his regular routine. In French:

“Je ne peux pas promettre que vous atterrirez dans la rivière…”

The exchange ends on a very humorous note when the man dangling above the river begs him to switch to English. 😉

There may be other cases I’ve missed, but I think the above instances pretty much cover it. As a well-versed and well-traveled man, I wouldn’t react too strongly if writers come up with new languages for Matt to have at least some very basic proficiency in, but I can’t remember seeing other languages spoken by him being featured in the comics. If you can think of any, let the rest of us know!

Daredevil’s demons

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the movie Bully, a documentary by Lee Hirsh. It presents a heartbreaking look at bullying and got me thinking about all kinds of things, including my own childhood. I get why people want children (I do too), and even why people want to work with children, but I don’t understand the romanticized view of children and childhood that many people seem to have. Of all the people in my life who have treated me badly, the vast majority where other children, while I was a child myself. I’ve never had to deal with anything nearly as bad as that depicted in Bully, but I honestly would never want to relive my childhood. I learned early on that being “me” was, for some reason, not okay. The joy of adulthood has been to realize that the very same personal traits that were deemed uncool when I was younger, are now the same traits people like about me. Life has a way of working out in the end, I suppose.

So, what does this have to do with Daredevil? Well, it got me thinking about him too. I would argue that there are three obvious traumas behind Matt’s becoming Daredevil, and they are central to the Daredevil mythos. The one that is referenced most often is probably the loss of his father. Jack Murdock’s murder, and the legal injustice that followed it, was the final trigger (no pun intended) which caused Matt to start working on both sides of the law. Another key components is, of course, the accident that blinded him. It not only gave him his heightened senses, but strengthened his resolve to do something important with his life. And then, there’s the bullying. While it’s not a facet that’s touched on quite as often as Matt’s relationship with his father or the consequences – good and bad – of his altered physiology, it is an important part of the character and what makes him tick. It even inspired the name Daredevil, first given to him as a sarcastic label to describe everything young Matt wasn’t. Making that name his own is an act of defiance, a big and loud “up yours” directed at everyone who thought less of him. Matt’s status as an adult survivor of childhood bullying is one of the many things that make him relatable and I suspect that it appeals to a lot of fans.

People from Matt’s younger years have shown upp every now and then over the years, but one of the best examples of him coming face to face with a former tormentor is Daredevil #203, by Steve Grant and Geof Isherwood. The villain of the issue is Carlton Sanders, aka Trumps, a magician and “kidshow host” (Sideshow Bob anyone?), but the more interesting part of the story revolves around Matt and his meeting with Stewart “Stymie” Schmidt. Stymie is a crook, and has been arrested for driving the getaway car at the break-in Daredevil tried to interrupt the previous evening. Matt is shocked to realize who he’s dealing with, but surprises Foggy by agreeing to take the case. (Click the pages below to zoom in.)

Matt recognizes Stymie, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood Matt remembers bullying, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood

As it turns out, this is only the beginning of Matt’s odd behavior and Foggy soon becomes suspicious of Matt’s way of handling the case.

Foggy criticizes Matt's judgment, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood

So, which are the facts Foggy is rushing to verify? Well, the issue is a little weak on the details, but next time we see Foggy, he has ended up in Matt’s old neighborhood, talking to the owner of a local shop about the kids that used to come by. He shows him a picture of Matt and one of Stymie (see the page below on the left), and soon, Foggy has the answer to Matt’s irresponsible lawyering. To confront his friend, he calls Matt and asks him to come.

Foggy goes to Matt's neighborhood, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood Matt arrives at Max's, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood Matt breaks down, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood

Coming back to the old neighborhood, has a profound impact on Matt (see pages above) who suddenly realizes that his recent behavior has been inspired by nothing more than petty vengeance. We also see him fully express, in a way that’s rare, just how much the torment that he had to endure as a child still haunts him. This scene may be lacking in subtlety, and it’s hard to accept the extent of Matt’s denial, but it’s still an interesting take on a favorite character.

The bespectacled Matt Murdock

A while back, when I wrote a post about Matt Murdock’s hair – because, apparently, no subject is too mundane for this blog – I got a request for a post about Matt’s sunglasses. Yes, I write weird posts about Daredevil minutiae and you surprise me by asking for more. So, let’s once again take a journey into the Daredevil archives and check out Matt’s shades.

Before getting to the show and tell part of this post, however, I wanted to talk a little bit about why he’s wearing them in the first place. While sunglasses are often associated with blindness (in people’s minds at least), not all blind people wear them. In fact, a majority do not and there are only two real reasons anyone would. The first is that many eye conditions make people light sensitive, meaning that bright light actually becomes painful or prevents the full use of whatever residual vision that person might have. The other reason is cosmetic. While some blind people have perfectly ordinary-looking eyes, some conditions or eye injuries obviously alter the appearance of the eyes. To save oneself and others from whatever discomfort this might presumably cause, some choose to cover their eyes. While I have no statistics to support this, I suspect wearing sunglasses solely to cover up some kind of eye deformity was much more common back in the days when Daredevil was first created (i.e. 1964), if only for the reason that society generally has become more aware and accepting of physical differences.

In the case of Daredevil, I don’t think any of the early creators even considered letting Matt go without dark glasses. In fact, the artists seemed to really go out of their way to hide them from the readers’ for the first few years (one notable exception being a scene in Daredevil #9 where he has his eyes examined by a doctor). One of the first times we get a good look att Matt’s exposed face that isn’t partly obscured by a shadow or at a strange angle is in Daredevil #51 (written by Roy Thomas and pencilled by Barry Smith, see panel below), and even in this case the eyes aren’t really visible. On a side note, isn’t this a fantastically dramatic couple of panels? Also, why does that barbell look all crooked, and is that an ashtray I see?

Matt's eyes are revealed (sort of) in Daredevil #51 (vol 1), by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith

Over time, it has become much more common for artists to draw Matt’s eyes, even in close-up panels, but how they are drawn differs quite a bit. I suspect a separate post could be devoted to this subject alone (wait a couple of years until I’ve really run out of things to write about…), but suffice it to say that some artists – David Mazzucchelli comes to mind – have drawn them looking completely normal whereas others (I suspect a majority) have drawn some version of what one would expect damage from a chemical spill to look like. In case you needed another reason to avoid getting nasty stuff anywhere near your face, high doses of radiation are actually known to cause cataracts (i.e. a clouding of the lense), so artists who choose to draw Matt’s eyes looking a bit pale and semi-opaque probably aren’t far off. Of course, cataracts would likely be only one of several signs that something is amiss and it’s pretty unrealistic that he could have made it through a chemical accident bad enough to blind him almost instantly and walk away without fairly obvious visible reminders of the ordeal.

Either way, Matt clearly wears sunglasses for cosmetic reasons. On the one hand, as a lawyer, it might be wise to eliminate any cause for distraction that would lead a client or jury to focus more on a physical peculiarity than on the case he’s trying to argue. On the other hand, there could be more to it than that. Matt has always struck me as relatively vain, or at least concerned about looking presentable (see my post The fashionable Mr Murdock), but it’s also quite telling that he only ever shows his eyes to people he knows extremely well, even in very private settings where professional considerations wouldn’t be necessary.

There are several recent examples that hint at what might be a genuine insecurity on Matt’s part. In Daredevil #107 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, Dakota comes knocking on his door. Matt at this time is in a really bad place, having just lost his wife to insanity, and he isn’t even showing up to work. When Dakota decides to pay him a visit, he’s wearing nothing but the bottom half of his Daredevil costume, but when he gets to the door to let her in, he’s put his glasses on and thrown on a shirt, though not bothering to button it. Apparently, Dakota is a close enough friend at this point to get a good look at his chest, though not close enough to see his eyes. Four issues later, in Daredevil #111 (by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann), their relationship reaches a new level of intimacy when the two train together in Matt’s private gym. Despite the fact that wearing glasses seems downright inconvenient in this kind of setting (especially when they don’t actually do anything for him), he keeps them on. Well, until we see him wake up next to her in bed the next morning, that is.

In stark contrast to the kind of modesty he seems to show around most people, Foggy is clearly a close enough friend that Matt won’t bother hiding anything from him. This distinction between Foggy and other people is evident in the 2003 Daredevil movie, but it’s something I’ve noticed many times in the comic as well, especially in the last several years. His choice to “hide” behind a pair of dark glasses does seem to be less about putting others at ease and more about what he feels comfortable with personally. The only instances that come to mind of Matt not bother to wear glasses for an extended period of time is during Born Again (in a story that saw him descend into madness) and during his time as Jack Batlin, an alter ego he assumed while pretending to be dead…

Well, enough psycho-analyzing for now. For whatever reason, Matt Murdock and his shades have seemed nearly inseparable for almost fifty years. Let’s take a look at some of the trends, as drawn by some of Daredevil’s artists through the years.

Wally Wood

Once upon a time, Matt was really attached to his shades. Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say that his shades were attached to him. Possibly with glue. Below, we see Matt work out in the pair of black aviator-style sunglasses he wore at the time. We also see him come to the odd conclusion that blind people shouldn’t get married… The scene is from Daredevil #8, written by Stan Lee.

Matt works out in his shades, Daredevil #8 by Stan Lee and Wally WoodA real world example of these glasses might look something like this.

Gene Colan

Whenever I think of classic Daredevil, I think of Gene Colan’s artwork, and I guess this is true for a lot of fans. In his hands, Matt’s eyewear got a little heavier and I suspect he was trying to emulate another the typical 60’s version of men’s horn-rimmed glasses. Below are panels from Daredevil #25, written by Stan Lee. As a small bonus, I also included a look at “Mike Murdock’s” decidedly crazier eyewear. 😉

Matt's glasses as drawn by Gene Colan, from Daredevil #25, written by Stan LeeReal-world example of the above look.

Mike Murdock, as seen in Daredevil #25, by Stan Lee and Gene ColanIn the event that you’d like to emulate this particular look, you can get your own here, fortunately more neutral in color and more modest in style.

It’s worth noting that Gene Colan pretty much stuck to this style for his work on Daredevil, which spanned decades. Here is an example from the 90’s, as seen in Daredevil #366, written by Joe Kelly.

Bob Brown

In Daredevil #115, written by Steve Gerber, we see Matt in a different look. More precisely, a flat top metal rim creation that I had a hard time finding a real-life example of (follow this link to see one of the closest matches I could find). In case you’re curious, Daredevil #115 came out in 1974.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #115, by Steve Gerber and Bob Brown

Frank Miller

Another classic look is the one from Frank Miller’s run, as seen below in Daredevil #173 (finished art by Klaus Janson). These aviator glasses are still fashionable today and don’t look too different from how Paolo Rivera would draw them.

Matt's glasses, as seen in Daredevil #173 by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

David Mazzucchelli

Mazzuccheli also stuck to the aviator look, even though these frames don’t look quite as light-weight as the ones seen above. Below are panels from Daredevil #210, written by Denny O’Neil.

Matt's glasses, as seen in Daredevil #210, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

John Romita Jr

John Romita Jr’s take on the shades is heavier yet and have a definite late 80’s feel to them. Maybe something like this? The panels below are from Daredvil #254, written by Ann Nocenti.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #254, by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr

Lee Weeks

Lee Weeks continued in the same vein as Romita Jr, though the lenses below (from Daredevil #292, written by D.G. Chichester) look slightly less opaque.

Matt's glasses, as seen in Daredevil #292, by D.G. Chichester and Lee Weeks

Cary Nord

We are now firmly into the 90’s, and Matt’s look has been updated a bit. As you might recall, rounder glasses were in fashion there for a while. The panels below are from Daredevil #254, written by Karl Kesel.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #354, by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord

Alex Maleev

Somewhere along the line, in 2003 to be precise, the Daredevil movie happened. In the movie, Matt Murdock wears red-tinted glasses and this was a trend that spread to the comic as well. I kind of like the red lenses myself, and Maleev obviously incorporated the look in his take on Matt. The panels below are from Daredevil #43 (vol 2), written by Brian Micahel Bendis.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #43 (vol 2), by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Michael Lark

The red tint stayed during Ed Brubaker’s and Michael Lark’s run, though Lark’s take was a little less round and a little more like this. The panels below are from Daredevil #82 (vol 2).

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #82 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

Present day

Not going to say much about the current run since it’s ongoing and you can all check for yourselves (you’re not going to make me do all the work, are you?). What little I will say is that it’s interesting the Paolo Rivera abandoned the red tinted lenses in favor of the more classic Miller-esque look whereas Chris Samnee’s take is more of a Maleev meets a late Gene Colan. I like that each artist has his own take on this little detail. Besides, I would imagine that Matt owns more than one pair of glasses. Maybe he’s got a drawer somewhere of all the different pairs he’s worn through the years. 😉

Which look is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section!

Update 2018: This post now has a follow-up. Click here to read The other “mask.”

Matt and Foggy’s roller-coaster friendship (part 2)

Matt tells Foggy that he's going to Japan

Hey gang! The time has come for the second installment of a series of posts looking at Matt and Foggy’s many past quibbles, a topic as relevant as it was just over a month ago when the first part of this series was posted. As you might recall, it ended with my mentioning Matt and Foggy’s reunion following the attempt on Foggy’s life. Matt returned from San Francisco to be at Foggy’s side in New York in Daredevil #108 (vol 1). While Natasha would continue to hold a grudge against Foggy for quite some time over his involvement in her being charged for the murder of the Scorpion (see the previous post). Matt and Foggy are quick to resume their friendship, though their professional partnership fails to get back to business as usual. Under pressure from his re-election campaign as District Attorney (to make things worse, this is one of those strange, rigged, only-happens-in-comics kind of campaigns), Foggy asks Matt to come back to working as assistant in Daredevil #126. Matt asks for some time to think about it, but never takes Foggy up on his offer.

Face-off in court (Daredevil #129, vol 1)

In Daredevil #129, by Marv Wolfman, Bob Brown and Klaus Janson, something interesting happens. Matt decides to take on a case defending Man-Bull that sees him go up against Foggy in the court room. The case revolves around whether Man-Bull is guilty of the premeditated murder of a man who died while he was breaking into a jewelry story. Matt contends that his client is innocent of the charge against him because the victim died six months after the burglary and only as a result of being badly shocked by Man-Bull’s appearance. Kind of a strange case, if you ask me, but Foggy goes on to win a conviction and Man-Bull goes mental and gets busy smashing up New York. As far as the two partners are concerned, things are pretty tense.

Despite the Man-Bull trial, Matt and Foggy are heading toward a legal reunion. In Daredevil #130, Matt decides to go into business for himself by starting the Storefront legal clinic (for the first time), and Foggy happily cheers him on. When Foggy goes on to lose his re-election campaign against Blake Towers (after some villanous meddling) the following issue, he joins Matt at his new practice.

Civil War (Daredevil #148-152, vol 1)

Troubles start brewing again almost as soon as the Storefront gets off the ground. The legal clinic is financed by Heather’s father Maxwell Glenn who also is soon found to be involved in more than a few shady deals (As early as Daredevil #131, we learn that he’s apparently a slum lord). Over the span of some twenty issues, this develops into a complex plot that finally reveals that Maxwell Glenn is being manipulated by Purple Man. Meanwhile, Foggy’s girlfriend Debbie Harris is kidnapped, for what might be months, and there seem to be ties to Glenn. With the heartbroken Foggy seeking vengeance on Maxwell Glenn and Matt (as Daredevil) discovering his innocence, it doesn’t take a genius to see a rift opening up.

In Daredevil #148, by Jim Shooter and Gil Kane, Matt asks Foggy to defend Maxwell Glenn. This leads Foggy to kick him out while muttering under his breath that Nelson & Murdock are through if Matt chooses to defend him (see the panel below). The fighting continues over the next two issues, and in Daredvil #150, Foggy calls to yell at Matt for missing a court date.

Matt and Foggy fight, from Daredevil #148

This sequence of events brings up an interesting first in Daredevil. While Matt had certainly been shown to be moody, even a bit melodramatic, earlier in the book’s history, Daredevil #151 sees Matt going through his first bona fide mental breakdown. On top of everything else, Maxwell Glenn has committed suicide and Matt is wracked with guilt. He has trashed his apartment and when Foggy comes over to check on him, his partner’s state has him worried.

The next issue, we see the two partners appear at Maxwell Glenn’s funeral and neither one of them is in great shape. Foggy punches a nosy reporter and when Matt tries to help, Foggy responds with: “Help? Surrrre, Murdock. I’ve heard that old song before! Yeah, you’ve been a big help these last few weeks, haven’t you? Frankly, Murdock, I’m getting sick and tired of carrying you on my back!” Hm, and here people seem to have the impression that Daredevil didn’t get dark until Frank Miller came along…

Finally at the end of Daredevil #152, it is Matt who makes things right by reuniting Foggy with the estranged Debbie Harris, who had been a traumatized recluse since her kidnapping. Next issue, Foggy announces that he’s getting married and asks Matt to be his best man. The Matt and Foggy ride sure is a wild one.

Truce

For most of the Miller run, there’s little to report in terms of Matt and Foggy’s relationship. In the sense that it’s running pretty smoothly. Foggy is portrayed as a pretty good-natured guy whereas Matt is the moodier of the two, but there isn’t much in terms of diva antics going on. The possible exception might be later in the run when the tables are turned around a bit and Foggy begins to strain under his many perceived burdens and responsibilities. This time, Matt is the one to come to the rescue.

The two remain friends into the Denny O’Neil run, until Micah Synn and his gang from the Kingorge tribe show up in Daredevil #202, that is. That odd chapter of Daredevil history has already been touched on in another post, however, so I’m going to refer you to that instead of covering it again here. The short version, though, is that Foggy behaves very, very badly.

While Matt and Foggy manage to rebound from Foggy’s betrayal during the Micah Synn storyline, things are heading in the direction of yet another break-up for the two partners. The law firm is not doing well financially and when Matt skips town in Daredevil #221, in the wake of Heather Glenn’s suicide, Foggy is not happy, warning his partner that there might not be a practice to return to when he gets back. In Daredevil #225, the last issue before the Born Again story arc, the practice finally tanks and both Matt and Foggy find themselves out of a job.

Face-off in court, round 2 (Daredevil #255, vol 1)

During Born Again, Matt and Foggy drift apart and lose touch as Matt descends into madness and Foggy gets a new flashy job working for the Kingpin. Foggy pretty much disappears from the scene during the beginning of the Nocenti run, but when Matt takes the case of suing a company named Kelco for dumping the toxic waste which blinded a little boy called Tyrone, he finds himself going up against Foggy in the court room. Matt isn’t actually allowed to practice law after being disbarred so he works with/through another lawyer. In Daredevil #255, by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr, we see Foggy dealing with the guilt of representing Kelco.

Foggy has a guilty conscious, from Daredevil #255

In Daredevil #256, Matt comes to see Foggy, offering him a job at the legal clinic he’s running and berating him for his actions. Glorianna O’Breen, who has been dating Foggy since Born Again, turns Matt’s behavior back on himself and accuses him of being a bully and using his morality like a club. It would take much longer still for the partners to get back together again. In Daredevil #287, we see Foggy busy at work trying to get Matt’s disbarment reversed. At the end of Daredevil #291 (Nocenti’s final issue), Matt and Foggy are finally reunited, and happily so.

Fake deaths and secrecy

Nothing tests friendship quite like faking your own death and then showing up again to reveal you’ve secretly been a superhero for years. After a string of issues of business as usual for Matt and Foggy, at the start of Chichester’s run, Matt uses experimental technology and clones (the plot itself is far too complicated to get into) to fake his own death in Daredevil #324. Much later, in Daredevil #347, by J.M. DeMatteis and Ron Wagner, Foggy and Karen find Matt alive and confused, wearing his yellow Daredevil costume. As one might imagine, it takes Foggy quite a while to digest this information, and the two don’t start working together again until Daredevil #353, the first of Karl Kesel’s run, when Matt simply shows up in the court room and follows Foggy back to his office. Despite Foggy’s reservations, this is the beginning of a relatively positive era for Nelson & Murdock and many of the stories told by Kesel, and later Joe Kelly, revolve around the law office and the parterns’ personal lives.

Foggy finds Matt, Daredevil #347

For now, we’re leaving Matt and Foggy on a high note, but we’ve got plenty of drama left when the time comes to look at Daredevil, volume 2.

Matt and Foggy’s roller-coaster friendship (part 1)

Foggy thinks about Matt, from Daredevil #50, by Stan Lee and Barry Smith

Although this particular plot thread wasn’t dealt with in Daredevil #15 (despite what had been hinted at in the solicitation), it looks like we might be heading down a rockier road for the two friends and law partners in the months ahead. With that in mind, I thought we’d take a look at all the other times there has been trouble in paradise. And, to be sure, there is no shortage of examples. In fact, with the way they always seem to be pulled back into each other’s lives despite all the drama, I almost expect one of them to finally blurt out “I don’t know how to quit you!” Though with a slightly less bromantic vibe, of course. 😉 For this first part (of three), let’s start at the very beginning…

Matt takes a surprising leave of absence (Daredevil #11, vol 1)

So, the first incarnation of Nelson & Murdock lasted all of, well, ten an a half issues. While Foggy decided to run for District Attorney in Daredevil #10 (after being approached by the corrupt Reform Party), Matt had given no one reason to suspect he was looking to leave the firm. At the end of Daredevil #11, by Stan Lee and Bobby Powell, after Foggy talks about how he won’t be the new D.A. after all (that’s what happens when you’re unwittingly backed by a criminal mastermind), Matt remarks that they still have a law firm to run. Yes, it would seem like Matt is 100% on board. If it weren’t for the fact that he utters these words just two panels before he suddenly reveals that he’s taking a leave of absence, that he’s got some money saved up and has always wanted to travel. What happens within these two panels to prompt such a complete change of heart? Well, Foggy tells Matt that they have no clients and are all in a big jam. Yes, this is when Matt decides to bail. Asshole…

Matt takes a leave of absence, from Daredevil #11, by Stan Lee and Bobby Powell

Matt isn’t gone for long though. In the next issue, the ship he’s on is attacked by the Plunderer and he ends up in the Savage Land, on an adventure with Ka-Zar. This gives Foggy the opportunity to be the bigger asshole of the two. After hearing that his supposed best friend is missing after a ship wreck, he seems more concerned about improving his odds with Karen than worrying about whether his best friend is still alive. After this less than restful vacation, Matt decides to return to the practice, and by Daredevil #15 he’s back in New York.

The two part again… (Daredevil #48, vol 1)

In Daredevil #36, Foggy once again decides to run for District Attorney and this begins a period of Foggy often being under a lot of stress and Matt acting like a less than supportive friend. A lot of times, there’s good reason for this (such as the fact that he’s trying to find time for superheroics and ways of covering it up), but it has to be said that Matt’s skills might be lacking in the diplomacy department. In Daredevil #48, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, the situation reaches a boiling point when Matt forces Foggy out of his office at a crucial time in his campaign to attend to some “personal work.” In reality, he’s really trying to protect Foggy from Stilt-Man, but he can’t exactly say that, can he?

Matt saves Foggy from Stilt-Man in Daredevil #48, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

It takes a while before Matt and Foggy patch things up. In Daredevil #54, Matt fakes his own death (after evil genius Starr Saxon has figured out Daredevil’s secret identity), and is not reunited with Foggy until Daredevil #58 when he is offered the position as Foggy’s special assistant. In Daredevil #50, below (by Stan Lee and Barry Smith), Foggy expresses his anger and Matt – and his appreciation for him.

Foggy thinks about Matt, from Daredevil #50, by Stan Lee and Barry Smith

A Russian wedge (Daredevil #83, vol 1)

The next time Matt’s and Foggy’s friendship hits a rough patch, it involves a newcomer to Daredevil’s world. The Black Widow saved Matt’s life by fishing him out of the sea in Daredevil #81, and shortly thereafter he has the chance to return the favor when she is falsely accused of killing the Scorpion. First, however, he has to go through Foggy, and it turns out that the two have very different views on vigilantism. From Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss:

Matt and Foggy fight, from Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss

Matt is very upset, and in Daredevil #84, he even refers to Foggy as an “ex-friend.” But that’s before he runs into Foggy, as Daredevil, and listens to Foggy tell him about the pressure he’s been under while he’s been blackmailed by a mysterious man named Klein. He was forced to do things against his will, including going so hard on Natasha.

In Daredevil #87, Matt moves to San Francisco with Natasha, marking the first of a long separation between Matt and Foggy. Fortunately, after a heartfelt conversation in the previous issue, the two leave on good terms. When they meet again, in Daredevil #108, Foggy is in critical condition after a shooting, and Matt flies back to New York to be at his friend’s side. But that’s a story for another day. 😉

I’ll see you again very shortly for some more action on the Matt and Foggy front!

Locks without fear – Matt Murdock’s fabulous hair

“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.”

– Mark Twain

I occasionally joke about how no Daredevil-related subject is too obscure for this blog. And this is certainly proof of that (long-time readers may recall that I’ve already devoted a post to Foggy’s facial hair and his tattoo!).

With Chris Samnee’s work in Daredevil #12 – where he juggled two time frames and two different hairstyles for Matt – I knew I had to do a post about Matt’s hair. When I think about it, it’s actually a little strange that I haven’t covered it already considering it’s such a trademark feature. It’s not only the character’s blindness that makes Daredevil unusual, there really are not that many red-headed heroes out there. I’ve seen more than one redheaded fan comment that this was something they appreciated growing up. My best friend is a gorgeous redhead, and I’ll be sure to read Daredevil to her strawberry blond son as soon as he’s old enough. 🙂

So, for this post, we’re going to take a trip into the archives of Daredevil canon and check out Matt Murdock’s impressive head of hair!

Classic Colan

This is the classic, suave look I most associate with early Daredevil and Gene Colan’s long run on the book (the panel below is from Daredevil #29). Shorter on the sides and more length on top. Bright red and sexy!

Matt, sporting his classic Colan hair do, changes on a window ledge, from Daredevil #29

70’s hip

The seventies brought a new varied line-up of artists, such as Bob Brown who supplied the art below (from Daredevil #115, written by Steve Gerber). It also brought a slightly shaggier look and, depending on the colorist, a lighter tone to Matt’s hair.

Matt's hair, as drawn by Bob Brown, from Daredevil #115, written by Steve Gerber

Miller magic

Miller kept Matt’s hair on the long side, with noticeable bangs combed to the side. The color throughout his run was a medium orange. The panels below are from Daredevil #182.

Matt's hair during the Miller run, from Daredevil #182

Nearly blond

Some color artists have given Matt a very blond look with few traces of red. Below is an image from Daredevil #249, by Ann Nocenti with pencils by Rick Leonardi. Colors by Max Scheele.

Matt as almost-blond, by Rick Leonardi. From Daredevil #249, written by Ann Nocenti

Nice and short

By the mid-nineties, someone (Cary Nord, apparently) decided that it was time for a hair-cut and switched to something a little shorter, as seen below in Daredevil #360, by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord. It stays short for the rest of volume 1 and the first issues of volume 2, before temporarily growing back out for the Parts of a Hole arc.

Matt on the couch watching Law & Order, from Daredevil #360 by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord

Goatee? Why not!

While Foggy has been able to play around with his facial hair, Matt has only had any to speak of while he’s been on hiatus as Daredevil (such as during the King of Hell’s Kitchen arc), not counting the times he’s simply forgotten to shave. So, for a while he had an honest to goodness goatee. The image below is from Daredevil #56 (volume 2), by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.

Matt and Milla, from Daredevil #56 (volume 2), by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev

“Hair cut? I’ve got a ninja cult to run!”

While Matt looks reasonably well-groomed in the below panel, from Daredevil #506 by Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston, with art by Marco Checchetto, there’s no denying that the longish shaggy do made its return in the Shadowland era.

Matt and Elektra, from Daredevil #506, by Diggle, Johnston and Checchetto

Not even trying anymore

Whether you liked the “Abe Lincoln” beard of Daredevil: Reborn or not, it sure gave Matt that look of not really caring. At all. Panel below from Daredevil: Reborn #1, by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice.

Matt from Daredevil: Reborn #1, by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice

Volume 3 goodness

Since the relaunch, Matt has definitely settled into a more relaxed look, which I guess goes well with his new attitude. From left to right, below is art by Marcos Martín, Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee.

Matt's hair as seen in volume 3

Fashions may have changed, and Matt’s hair along with it, though we haven’t seen anything too extreme. Whether on the short or long side, it looks like the kind of low-maintenance swirl of coppery goodness that even a guy with no use for mirrors can trust to look half-decent no matter what. 😉

Faking it with Matt Murdock

Matt goes to visit Chuckie, in Daredevil #191 by Frank MIller, quoted above

A very important part of the superhero sub-genre is the division between the costumed persona and his or her civilian alter ego. The superhero business often takes place behind a mask to protect the hero’s anonymity and, when out of costume, said hero often has to go to great lengths or develop elaborate schemes to protect his secret. This will often entail lying to friends and family, something which, in turn, tends to cause a great deal of anguish for our self-appointed crime fighters.

All of this is true of Matt Murdock as well. However, in the case of Daredevil, there’s an additional layer of deceit at play that I must admit bothered me occasionally when I was new to the character. Some of you may have thought about this as well while others will certainly think I’m over-analyzing things, but I think it’s clear to most people that Matt has to go to much greater lengths to conceal his powers than someone like Peter Parker.

To take the example of Spider-Man, we can be relatively sure that he considers just walking down the street like any non-powered person to be just as natural as hanging from a wall. He’s not denying his true nature simply by not displaying a skill given to him by his powers. In the case of Matt Murdock, it’s very different. In order to keep his powers (and his secret life) hidden from others he has to act, move and do things in ways that will at times be just as bad as telling an outright lie. He has to pretend to be a non-powered blind person when he’s really not. Whereas Peter Parker can hide his powers passively, Matt Murdock has to do so actively.

Karen walks Matt to court, from Daredevil #4, by Stan Lee and Joe Orlando
Panel from Daredevil #4, by Stan Lee and Joe Orlando

Whether or not you’ve given this much thought in the past, I think we all can agree that it doesn’t exactly do much to paint Matt as a sincere person. You could argue that he’s deceiving people around him for a higher cause, but how far can you really take that idea? In Matt’s case, it’s also the case that he would have had to lie for years before even coming up with the idea to put his abilities to use. Is doing what Matt does really acceptable from a moral standpoint?

Shortly after I started thinking about this issue (troubled as I was by the fact that I really wanted to like this character for whom living a lie came so easily), I came to the conclusion that arguments can be made for why Matt’s behavior is justified, and I’ve been able to enjoy my Daredevil without worrying about this pesky little detail ever since.

The right to privacy

First of all, before even getting to the part about what Matt has to do to hide his powers, let’s look at this from a broader perspective. Should you be obligated to tell people around you that you have supernatural abilities? Or, to compare this to something we might find in the real world: Should you have to tell people that you’ve been trained to kill someone with a single stroke by a secret government agency and that your whole body could technically be considered a deadly weapon? Well, so long as you don’t intend to use this knowledge to kill your next-door neighbor, it really is nobody’s business but your own.

Most would agree that people do have a right to privacy, and there are few things more private than a person’s own body. Only when, say, a disease you carry represents a serious public health hazard do other people’s rights take precedence over your right to not disclose this information. You don’t have to carry a sign around your neck alerting everyone to the sexually transmitted disease you picked up the month before, but you’re strongly urged (or possibly even required) to reveal this information to those you risk passing it on to.

While Matt is a skilled fighter, he’s not required to make this public knowledge, nor is he obligated to share with total strangers that he has the ability to hear people’s heartbeats or smell what they had for dinner last night. Judging but what we can piece together from canon, he apparently made the decision early on to not share these special abilities with other people. Why? Well, one guess could be that he might have feared further poking and prodding by doctors, in which case laying low, even around his father, would have made a lot of sense.

Between a rock and a hard place

If you’re Matt Murdock and you know that you have been endowed with certain abilites that lie outside normal human capacity, but which you’ve chosen to conceal, there are really only two options available to you. You can either pretend that you don’t have them, or you can try to use these abilities to pass yourself off as a sighted person without powers. Why? Because the reality is that Matt represents such an odd mix of enhancements and deficits that the true nature of his physique would be revealed if he were to come clean with exactly what he can and can’t do. He simply can’t act, react and behave in the way that would be most natural to him without disclosing his special abilities, which we’ve already decided that he’s not morally obligated to do, and which he obviously doesn’t feel comfortable doing.

When it comes to deciding to either pretend he doesn’t have powers or to pass for non-powered but sighted, it’s interesting to note that since first donning the Daredevil costume, Matt seems to have compromised by creating two ways of being. In the world where Daredevil operates, it’s possible for him to act as if he were sighted since his lack of vision is rarely a problem when he’s going about the predominantly physical task of policing the underworld.

In Matt Murdock’s world however – both that of the young boy and the grown man – doing so would be nearly impossible (and not only because everyone would obviously know about his accident). Despite his heightened senses, the idea that Matt could have made it through high school, college and law school, followed by his professional career, while pretending to be able to see things he clearly cannot, is simply too far-fetched. Not only would he be doing himself a disservice academically, people would easily be able to tell that something was off. And, he would have to subject himself to unnecessary stress, being constantly in the dark (literally and metaphorically) about what information he might be missing. As Frank Miller puts it in Daredevil #191:

“The secret identity can be a relief, Bullseye. When I’m Murdock, I don’t have to use my amplified senses to pretend I’m not blind.”

Matt goes to visit Chuckie in Daredevil #191 by Frank Miller, quoted above

As Daredevil, faking sightedness is fully attainable and a logical decision. In the more (visually) complex world that exists away from the dark alleyways of Hell’s Kitchen, such as decision risks putting Matt at a serious disadvantage, though I’d argue that it couldn’t be done at all, at least not consistently for any real amount of time. After all, it’s easier to pretend that you know less than you do, than it is to try to fake knowing more and risk coming off as a fool.

A matter of degree

So if concealing his heightened senses is a valid personal choice and the only way to do this in a wide range of situations is to simply act as if he doesn’t have them, then just how much would he have to supress his natural instincts?

The most obvious example of Matt going out of his way to not reveal his secret is, of course, his use of a white cane. In fact, aside from not being able to drive (which is much less of a deal in a place like New York City than it would be in most other places in America), his level of mobility is not at all affected by his blindness. On the contrary, the 360 degrees nature of the radar sense combined with his level of physical fitness makes him much better able to navigate even extreme physical environments than any average human. Based on comic book history, the only things known to affect this ability are very noisy or otherwise chaotic environments as well as physical injury and disease (you might remember scenes like the one below from the 2007 Daredevil Annual, by Ed Brubaker, Ande Parks and Leandro Fernandez, in which Matt suffered from a bad case of the flu).

Panel from the Daredevil Annual (2007), by Ed Brubaker, Ande Parks and Leandro Fernandez

So, if Matt’s walking to work near a busy construction site the morning after having had his head banged against a brick wall, he might feel some comfort in having the extra protection, but this is certainly the exception rather than the norm. For most intents and purposes, the cane is a prop.

Having said that, there is no reason for this part of the Murdock charade to take on “magooesque” proportions it often did during the early years. More often than not, he’s playing the part of a skilled non-powered blind person in environments with which he would be intimately familiar – such as the areas in and around his home, the office and the court house etc. People would expect him to be able get around easily, and no Academy Award-level acting performance would be needed to convince anyone that he’s anything other than ordinary. The simple mechanics of moving the cane back and forth would be so well-rehearsed that he wouldn’t consciously have to think about it. It’s all an act, but probably not one that is particularly challenging to pull off.

When it comes to other things, the lines between necessity, preference and pretense start to blur. As current Daredevil artist Paolo Rivera put it in an interview he and Mark Waid did with CBR:

“Vision is such an important part of human life that it dominates every aspect of how we conduct ourselves, from the tilt of a neck to the arrangement of furniture. When I draw either Matt or Daredevil, I want his distinctive “point of view” to be apparent merely from his body language. On one level, Matt’s blindness is an act — an interesting aspect of his personality by itself — but on another level, he really should conduct himself differently than any other superhero.”

This is spot on. While conducting himself like a non-powered blind person wouldn’t come completely naturally to Matt, neither would acting just like his sighted peers, whether within or outside the “superhero community.” Humans, like all primates, are highly visually oriented. Relative to most other mammals, vision is the most acute of our senses and it accounts for the vast majority of our sensory input. In this sense, Daredevil is a completely different animal.

Panel from Daredevil #301, by D.G. Chichester and M.C. Wyman
Panel from Daredevil #301, by D.G. Chichester and M.C. Wyman

“My head swivels up at the voice, partly for appearances, partly reflex from when I could still see.”

Despite the assertion by many fans and creators alike that “Daredevil can see better than all of us,” for this to be even remotely true, we’d have to completely redefine the meaning of the word. Without color vision and consequently without any sense of fine detail, the pseudo-vision provided by the radar sense would still be Matt’s weakest sense, especially when you take into consideration his others senses being dramatically heightened. For instance, Matt would exhibit a much greater than average need (and desire) to touch things, a fact that is quite often on display in the Daredevil comic. The same thing goes for an increased reliance on scent and sound, and for this reason Matt probably would go about doing a long list of things about the same as any other blind person; the main difference being that he would be much better at it.

In closing

Like I said at the start of this post, I doubt that most fans have given this issue as much thought as I did when I first made my acquaintance with the character (I think the mere existence of this website is a sure sign I spend way too much time thinking about all things Daredevil). Nor do I suspect that the extent of Matt’s deceit is as disturbing to most fans as it was to me. For those of you who have spent any amount of time thinking about this, I’d love to hear what you have to say about this issue.

If being a lying super-powered bastard is comparable to illegal parking, then doing what Peter Parker does is like lingering a bit too long in a drop off zone. In Matt’s case it’s more like parking in the handicapped spot, something that is just… well, it’s much, much worse. However, I’ve found that the more you really think about it, the more you come to realize that while we don’t have to forgive Matt for coming up with an imaginary twin, faking his own death or being something of a jerk a lot of the time, we can forgive him for not telling the world the whole truth about what he can do.

Matt’s decision to pass himself off as a non-powered blind person is not so much a lie as an exaggeration, one he engages in because his only other choice, if he wants to keep key aspects of his physiology private, is to attempt the vastly more challenging task of denying his blindness. I guess when it comes down to it, this omission of the truth is hardly the most unsightly skeleton in his closet. 😉

Update: Regarding the white cane, see also:

The fashionable Mr Murdock

Almost two weeks ago, I promised to do a post about the fashion history of Matt Murdock. Obviously, I lied. No, that’s a little harsh. Frankly, I totally forgot about it (even after digging up all the panels I needed). So, for those of you who have been looking forward to this post – go ahead and admit it – let’s have a look. The 94.1% of you who have JavaScript enabled can just click the thumbnail images to make them pop up to full zoom (click again anywhere on the image to close). This is true for all images on the site in case you didn’t know.

Matt Murdock – mild-mannered attorney

Matt with Foggy and Karen, from Daredevil #25 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

In this early panel from Daredevil #25, by Stan Lee with art by the inimitable Gene Colan, we see an example of the classic Matt Murdock look. A dark suit, usually black, brown or blue, coupled with a tie. It’s a nice, clean conservative look, perfect for a lawyer. Though I have to ask: What the heck is up with that purse?

While Matt has kept to this kind of workwear to the present day, it’s interesting that early Daredevil features nearly exclusively images of Matt in either his Daredevil costume or a business suit. Matt Murdock the civilian who lounges around his apartment in a t-shirt and sweat pants obviously hadn’t been invented yet.

Mike Murdock – wanted by the fashion police

Mike Murdock charms Karen Page, Daredevil #28, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

I’ve said before that Mike Murdock is the proof that Matt doesn’t really do colors. This is what happens when he decides to ditch the safe suits and improvise. And this outfit, from Daredevil #28, wasn’t even the worst in “Mike” Murdock’s wardrobe. We must wonder where he got this suit to begin with. Maybe a dishonest salesman decided to dump some of the harder to sell suits on the blind customer. Note to Matt: Go with something safer or take your girlfriend with you when you go shopping. Please. This is a travesty.

The groovy seventies

Matt and Heather, from Daredevil #127 by Marv Wolfman, Bob Brown and Klaus Janson

By the 70’s, with more than one hundred issues under his belt, Matt’s wardrobe had diversified quite a bit. There are many items that don’t match the straight one-piece dark suit description. For the most part, he looks pretty darn classy too (as classy as the decade itself allowed).

From Daredevil #128 by Marv Wolfman, Bob Brown and Klaus Janson

On the left, in a panel from Daredevil #127, by Marv Wolfman with art by Bob Brown and Klaus Janson, we see Matt being more or less attacked by new acquaintance Heather Glenn. I’m not sure I’d match a striped tie with a plaid jacket, but the fit is nice at least.

On the right, from the following issue (same creators), Matt is hitting the streets of New York – still with stalker Heather Glenn in tow – in a different kind of outfit. The jacket looks a little big, but I like the fitted pants.

Miller and the 80’s

Matt showing his suit in Daredevil #185, by Frank Miller

I really like this panel, from Daredevil #185, because it’s such a classic superhero image with the hero revealing the hidden costume underneath his suit. All artwork in this issue is actually courtesy of Klaus Janson, but it’s a good representation of the whole Miller era and echoes his penciling style (which was usually inked by Janson). Lots of blue suits, occasionally ill-fitting, but pretty stylish for the most part. There is definitely a Robert Redford vibe happening here.

The hideous winter coat that should never be Born Again

Matt sports a hideous winter coat, Daredevil #229 by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

Matt spends quite a bit of time during the classic Born Again storyline walking the streets of New York, out of his mind and stripped of everything he owns. To add to the whole street look, he wears this hideous winter coat. It looks even nicer after the Kingpin nearly drowns Matt although we may have to give it some credit for possibly pulling double duty as life vest. David Mazzucchelli drew an oftentimes stunning Matt Murdock, but this winter coat should be left in the back of the wardrobe where it belongs.

Casual in the 90’s

Matt sports a casual look in Daredevil #361, by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord

The 90’s may be known for a lot of things, including Daredevil’s switch to the now infamous armored costume. After things got back to semi-normal following Chichester’s time at the helm, Karl Kesel came along and gave the book an unusually carefree vibe. Daredevil suddenly started featuring lots of scenes of Matt and Karen hanging around the house, and we got to see Matt wearing clothes that didn’t scream lawyer. One such example is from Daredevil #351, with art by Cary Nord.

Modern sex appeal, Maleev style

Matt and Foggy, from Daredevil #37, vol 2, by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev

During the Bendis and Maleev run, Matt reached new heights of both style and general attractiveness. Like something from the pages of GQ, Matt really started dressing like a hip New Yorker and even got a goatee to match for a while when he took a break from superheroing.

Matt fighting ninjas, from Daredevil #57, vol 2, by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev

As far as I’m concerned. Maleev’s Matt was as hot as it got, and it was nice to see him wear a wide range of different outfits. Or hardly any clothes at all. That worked too. And yes, drooling over a fictional comic book character is totally fine. Guys do it all the time…

That’s a lot of suits…

Matt picks out a suit, art by Michael Lark

Michael Lark also had the opportunity to try a few different styles, though the orange jump suit was definitely a first for Matt Murdock. After traveling around Europe following his escape from prison, Matt settled back into his normal routine for a while. Though maybe things got a little too boring since his wardrobe (shown here in a panel from the Without Fear arc) is obviously filled with many nearly identical business suits. Brown was a common color too, as well as black, bringing us right back to basics.

Matt Murdock – leader of The Hand

Matt in a panel from Daredevil #505, by Diggle, Johnston and Checchetto

We haven’t seen much of Matt lately as he’s spent most of his time in his Daredevil costume since Diggle took over the book. During the most recent arc, Left Hand Path, we finally got to see him out of costume again, and it was something to behold. Here we see Marco Checchetto try out a new look for Matt and I have to say I like it!

Only the current creative team knows when Matt Murdock will show up in a business suit again, but he usually looks nice when he does.