Reevaluating early Daredevil

Daredevil swings down and lands on a car in Daredevil #14, apparently guided more by its sound than its shape.

If you were thinking that I had gone back into hiding, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you. It’s been over a month since my last post, and I’ve had my share of false starts over the past few years. However, I do have a few posts planned that I would like to get out there before too long, and I’m hoping to finish the year with a total of at least twenty for 2021.

For this post, I would like to talk about a rather surprising epiphany I’ve had over the summer, while working on my book. Or to be more specific, while rereading every single issue of Daredevil and taking detailed notes about how Matt Murdock’s senses are actually used. What I’ve discovered is that, contrary to the idea I’ve had that Daredevil’s senses have stabilized and gotten more “grounded” over time, a case could be made for a very different kind of evolution. Depending on what aspect of the character’s senses we’re talking about, Daredevil has actually been getting more powerful in at least some respects.

Considering that this is not my first time reading every issue of Daredevil (I have, in fact, read most runs many times), how could I have missed the things I’m now noticing? Where does my bias against the sensory portrayals of early, “pre-Miller” Daredevil come from? Well, I think it comes down to a few different factors:
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Let’s talk about Daredevil’s “World On Fire”

A still frame showing the world on fire effect used on Marvel's Daredevil

I’ve decided to start this new chapter in the life of The Other Murdock Papers, by tackling a topic I’ve been meaning to address since 2015, when the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil came out. I’m talking about the short-lived special effect known as the “world on fire.”

The effect appeared for the first and last time in the fifth episode of the first season, which also carries its name: World On Fire. I’ve briefly talked about my issues with the world on fire in other contexts, most recently on the “exploring the senses” episode of the #TalkDaredevil podcast. However, I’ve never gone into detail about why I’m not a fan of this particular interpretation of Matt’s “pseudo-visual” abilities.

Don’t take it literally

And let’s start there, with the word “interpretation.” Because, I think it’s important to keep in mind that every single artistic take on Daredevil’s radar sense (and beyond) in every comic book, and live-action appearance have been attempts to translate Matt’s inner world into something that we can comprehend. The natural constraints of telling a story in two-dimensional color means that we can never get a real sense of what “seeing” in colorless three dimensions is really like.

Considering the challenges various artistic takes on Daredevil’s “radar” sense come up against, a case could be made for never showing it at all. If we’re talking about the show, I would argue that such a choice would have been preferable to the world on fire effect. Especially since, from the way it’s described, you really do get the sense that we, the viewers, are meant to take this literally. I would love to know how an otherwise exceptionally ambitious creative team arrived at this particular choice.

However, I also truly believe there are good ways to portray Daredevil’s “radar,” as long as you still keep in mind that it can never be literally what Matt “sees.” In my opinion, the focus of any such attempt should be to not include any information that is strictly visual. Instead, creators should think long and hard about what features of the world that we typically access through vision, can in fact be accessed through our other senses. Those features should realistically be the only one Matt Murdock has any knowledge of.

Frame taken from the scene where Matt "looks" at Claire. Her iris and pupil are visible.

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Fear and self-loathing in Hell’s Kitchen

This post contains references to teaser trailers and promos, as well as interviews with people associated with the show. Read at your own risk.

I have to admit that I’m really excited for season three. Probably more excited than I should be. In fact, I’m reminded of the days when much more of my time revolved around Daredevil: Thinking about the character, reading the comics, planning what to write about and then putting those thoughts into words for all of you to read. 

At times like these, I’m also reminded of the downside to getting this passionately involved in anything. The risk of disappointment is obviously proportionately related to the level of emotional investment. I’m currently re-watching seasons one and two of Daredevil, and my feelings about the tail end of season two will always be mixed. It’s good stuff throughout, but watching Matt’s self-sabotage during the final half of the season can be rough.

Going into season three, I probably should be more terrified than I am. All the teasers are indicating that we’re going darker than dark. (And it’s not as if the first two seasons were all fun and games.) But that’s paradoxically part of the reason I feel a sense of calm. A “fight for Matt Murdock’s soul” is quite obviously not going to end with his soul being lost. Teasers tell you where things begin and hint at where the journey will lead you, not usually where it actually ends. Or else we’ll have thirteen episodes of going in circles, taking us right back to the beginning with no ground covered in terms of character growth. That’s clearly not what’s going to happen.

But I will admit that I’m interested in where Matt begins his journey this season, something I mentioned in my last post that I wanted to get back to. From the Entertainment Weekly interview with season three showrunner Erik Oleson:

“Matt goes to pretty much the darkest place you can,” Oleson says. “When he realizes that he’s incapable of being Daredevil, he would rather just end it than go forward in his life without abilities. He’s decided to set aside his Matt Murdock persona and just be the Devil, to isolate the lighter part of himself.”

So, Matt will find his powers reduced. Incidentally, he’ll apparently still go out as Daredevil (which we have seen before in a story from the Miller run, I mention it in A history of the radar sense #5 – Frank Miller part 2). Then again, if you’re feeling suicidal, thoughts of your own safety might go out the window. If you’re Matt Murdock, the impulse to stay safe from harm was not strong to begin with.

What this all reminds me of is a an observation I’ve occasionally made about this character before: He’s got a very skewed sense of self-worth.

Without being overly dramatic, I’d say that I can personally relate to Matt’s tendency to base his self-esteem on his accomplishments (only). In theory, he knows that the concern he feels for other people (sure he’ll screw over Foggy professionally, but would lay down his life before allowing any real harm to come to any of his friends), should apply to himself as well. You could also argue on religious grounds that he should know that the sanctity of human life includes his own. But, at the end of the day, he looks at himself as a tool first. And a tool has no real value apart from its usefulness in doing work or solving problems.

That’s not to say that Matt doesn’t have a hedonistic side that thoroughly enjoys going out as Daredevil. The way I see it, there are two sides to this. First of all, being an adrenaline junkie is a basic part of his personality (something I coincidentally co-wrote a chapter about for the book Daredevil Psychology: The Devil You Know). Even if he never developed heightened senses from the accident, he would have found outlets for this distinct trait. Secondly, being Daredevil allows him a physical freedom his civilian life doesn’t, and that becomes a goal in and of itself. If he feels his capacity in this respect suddenly reduced, it is natural that this would be deeply traumatic, the way it would be for anyone.

Matt holding his Daredevil mask, from the Netflix show

Added to this, though, is this idea that being Daredevil gives him a sense of purpose. I would think that this would be even more important to Matt in light of his nighttime habit also being something of a compulsion (see above). If, on top of a genuine concern for other people’s safety – that his heightened senses won’t let him ignore – he is also able to put his darker side to work for the higher good, what’s not to love about that?

A third thing to consider is that being Daredevil also makes his childhood accident, his point of origin as a superhero, meaningful. I remember that Mark Waid often spoke about this, and pointed out that being able to go out as Daredevil brings a sense of justice and purpose to something that was, in other ways, fundamentally unfair. In committing a good and heroic deed, a young boy loses his sight for life. It’s a textbook case of “no good deed goes unpunished.” If he also gets special abilities as a result, is that not God’s way of giving someone a higher purpose? If you’re Matt Murdock, you may very well interpret it this way.

If Matt believes his ability to be Daredevil has been taken away from him (and of course, we all know he’ll recover) it takes away all of the things I’ve mentioned above. And aside from the normal and very human grief someone would experience at a time of such crisis, it also shines a light on how little Matt thinks of his own worth without these things. Always ready to shield others from harm, and never judging them by their level of power (physical or otherwise), Matt is not nearly as good at showing himself that same level of kindness and respect.

Just looking at the Netflix show, it’s not difficult to understand where this might be coming from. The first person to come along, after the loss of his father at a very young age, is Stick. Despite the fact that Stick evidently develops deeper feelings for young Matt than he intended to, he still views Matt primarily as a tool, a “soldier” to fight alongside him in the coming war. And again, Matt is of use to him because of his heightened senses and physical prowess. If he were just some random unfortunate blind orphan, he never would have received a visit in the first place. Stick also stresses the importance of secrecy, as well as the need for Matt to isolate himself socially from people who might want to get close to him. No wonder Elektra’s brand of intimacy, authentic as it might be, is the one he is best equipped to wrap his brain around.

So, I guess what I’m getting at is that I’m actually looking forward to seeing Matt’s deeper issues dealt with. He needs to understand that his worth as a human being goes deeper than his gifts. Only then can he see them for what they are, as opposed to an obligation to do more, a debt to be repaid, a source of arrogance, or a reason to keep the people who can see through it all out of his life.

The other “mask”

One of these days, I’m going to try to catch up on reviews of the current ongoing Daredevil book (it’ll probably be as a video). And, when I get some time this weekend, I want to do a post detailing Daredevil’s many encounters with Bullseye. However, in search of a topic for a slightly less ambitious post to start the week, I turned to Facebook to ask TOMP’s followers for ideas. One idea was put forth about a science post on Matt’s kinesthetic abilities. Of course, this is a great idea, but one I’ll be covering in the book. When I get to that chapter (I’m currently busy writing about the “radar”), I’d be happy to put together a digest for the site.

The other suggestion, endorsed by two people, was to write a little something about Matt’s (pretty obvious) insecurities about showing his eyes to people. I actually touched on this subject when I did a post about the various looks of Matt’s sunglasses over the years, But 1) that was six years ago (pre-Netflix), and 2) psychoanalyzing the shit out of Matt Murdock can usually be done on short notice and with a minimum of preparation. So, perfect for a slightly shorter post.

Matt and Dakota North having a heart to heart while working out, as seen in Daredevil #111 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann

Perhaps the handful of panels you see above, from Daredevil #111 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann, is really all that needs to be said on the topic. Aside from the rather odd segue between what Matt says in panels three and four (which I think has to do with Matt’s recent loss of his wife Milla to villain-induced insanity and relating this to his own father’s inability to protect him), much of what I think this boils down to is: “So much of my life… It’s been about how people see me. Not wanting to let them see too much.”

What I like about this line is that there are so many facets to it. There are at least three ways to read it that all say something about Matt. We have the literal interpretation that reminds us that Matt has to pay very close attention to his outward behavior so that he doesn’t rouse suspicion. In his civilian life, no one except a select few can know he has heightened senses, and as Daredevil, no one can know he’s blind. This, in and of itself, would inspire a certain amount of paranoia and hyper-vigilance about how he’s perceived.

The second way to read this reminds me of what Elektra said to Matt at the end of the second season of Daredevil, when she suggests to him that he hides from the world, and refuses to let people in. In so doing she calls out a character trait shaped by a lonely childhood and some pretty major abandonment issues. Of course, the Netflix show takes this to extremes, in that Matt is actually raised in an orphanage. Add to that the thoughts that Stick put in his head, and you can begin to make sense of other reasons Matt may not want people to “see too much” of his inner thoughts and wants.

More to the point here is the third way to look at this: Heightened senses or not, Matt obviously knows he is perceived differently than the average person, and that he risks standing out. I also think it’s very much in line with his basic personality to try to manage people’s perceptions as much as he can. I think it boils down to a control thing with him, and in this context the shades make sense and become a different kind of mask. If he can’t look people in the eye, making sure that no one can look him in the eye either evens out the playing field.

Matt and Foggy working in the office while Karen is out, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil, episode three of season one

Because Matt’s behavior in the comics surrounding when and to whom he will reveal this side of himself (see that post from six years ago) has been carried over more or less intact to the Netflix show, you would have to assume that the writers and directors of the show have done so very deliberately. As in the comic, it kind of becomes a proxy for trust and intimacy, and perhaps says even more about Matt’s level of trust in Foggy than anything he says or does.

In that first episode scene with Karen, he makes what we can assume is a big exception for her. But he does so in a situation where she’s feeling exceptionally vulnerable and he’s willing to go to great lengths to put her at ease. In the third episode, Matt and Foggy are working in the office (see above). When Karen comes back from lunch, Matt is very quick to put his glasses back on (see the featured image). He continues to do this more often than not throughout the show. It is hard to interpret it as anything other than a physical manifestation of him raising his guard.

Of course, there’s a slight difference between “managing others’ perceptions” and a genuine insecurity about one’s appearance. In Matt’s case, and this goes for the comic as well as the show, you definitely get the sense that the latter cannot be completely disregarded. I actually find this incredibly humanizing. Even people who seem to have everything in life sorted out probably have a complex about something. Things we experience in childhood seems to have a particular power over us, and a stupid comment by the school bully can linger for years. For all we know, hearing something insensitive said about him at just the right (wrong) age might have planted an idea in Matt’s head that he can’t quite shake, despite knowing better on a rational level.

Considering Daredevil’s near-complete mastery of his body and remaining senses, his eyes become that one part of his anatomy that will never behave as expected, and can never be fully reigned in. Effectively covering his eyes is the only way Matt has of addressing this, and I suppose his need to do this is yet another one of those quirks that makes him interesting.

The 50+ additional ways in which Daredevil and Defenders remind you that Matt is blind (for real)

In August of last year, I wrote my longest posts yet (now second longest since this one is even more of a monster), detailing scenes and details from the first season of Daredevil in which the viewer is reminded, directly or in more subtle ways, of Matt’s de facto blindness. I’d already prepared the background notes for that post when certain events prompted me to put them out there. I won’t rehash everything here, but I invite anyone who is interested to read that post again for my longish preamble on the topic. Since that post was published, I’ve had quite a few people ask me to do a follow-up with scenes from the second season, as well as the Defenders. I’m obviously happy to oblige, which is why I spent a lot of time over last weekend revisiting a massive amount of televised footage (though I must admit to skipping most of the scenes that didn’t have Matt – in and out of costume – in them) and taking plenty of notes.

A couple of things are interesting to point out, before I get into the details. Daredevil season two contained less of some of the kinds of things I found noteworthy during the first season. Between season two and Defenders, I was still able to reach and exceed fifty things that qualify for this list, but when comparing the two seasons of Daredevil, there’s a slight difference in both number and quality of the cases I was able to spot. I think this might be due in part to the greater need for season one to establish the character and his power set. It probably also has to do with Matt doing considerably less office work in season two than he did in season one. Defenders, meanwhile, contains quite a few pretty explicit examples of Matt’s occasional limitations. In the Defenders, the writers and directors had to introduce the Daredevil character to people who may not have watched his solo show, which may account for the difference.

Matt and Foggy have a talk on their way to work, as seen in episode one of Daredevil, season two

Also, what makes both season two of Daredevil and the Defenders show different from Daredevil’s first outing, is that he’s spending much more time around people who know him both as Matt, and as Daredevil. This makes it much easier to pin down the difference between Matt asking about something as part of a kind of performance to hide his powers, and his doing so because he’s genuinely suspecting that he might be missing something. There are a few instances where this is quite enlightening.

Matt’s interactions with Elektra in season two also show how easily the two fall into a very natural division of labor, along these lines. He casually and unapologetically passes on the vision-heavy work to her while focusing his attention on the things that he does best. I’m personally quite pleased with this as it proves the point I’ve always tried to make with regard to this character: There are things he can do that makes him truly one of a kind and a very strong player for anybody’s “super team,” but there are also perceptual “holes” for him to work around.

I’ll have more to say about this when we get to the specifics, so let’s move on to the actual list. There’s much less snark this time. On the other hand, there’s also more going off on tangents. My bad.

Daredevil season 2

  1. Episode 1 (at 06:10) – The walk and talk

    Matt and Foggy are walking down the street, chatting about Foggy’s failed romantic adventure from the night before. This includes the following exchange.

    Foggy: “You know what my problem is?”
    Matt: “Well, it ain’t the moves.”
    Foggy: “You know I got the moves. That’s the tragedy of you being blind, you’ve never seen me dance.”
    Matt: “Yeah, but I can cite the legends I heard in law school.”

    To anyone who is even the least bit interested in what Matt does and doesn’t perceive – and how – the above exchange is quite interesting. We know that some time has passed since last season, and that Matt and Foggy have likely talked more about what exactly Matt “sees” or otherwise perceives. Obvious signs of this are the many subtle examples throughout the season (more on that below), where Foggy will supply just the right amount and kind of information that you would expect might be useful to Matt. No more and no less.

    Which of course brings us to what exactly Foggy means when he says that Matt has never seen him dance, and what Matt means when he, at least indirectly, agrees. He must have, in a general sense, “experienced” Foggy dancing (for some reason, thinking about this brings to mind the scene of Elaine’s dancing on Seinfeld…). What this experience entails is honestly unclear to me. Of course, I have my own personal idea of what Matt “sees,” and in what detail (and at what range), but the Netflix show has also been pretty inconsistent in this regard.

    On the one hand, we have the dubious “world on fire” effect which might suggest that a dancing Foggy might appear as a flailing body-shaped “flame.” On the other, we have the “silent ninja” scenario, later in this season where a (ridiculous) case is made that Matt can’t detect silent objects – or bodies – despite the fact that his whole way of operating is completely dependent on his ability to do just that. What does make sense to me, and I base this in part on the comic, is that Matt 1) may have real trouble distinguishing the movements of individual people in dense crowds, and 2) this is especially true at some distance away from him. If Foggy is out on the dance floor, in the middle of a crowd, some twenty feet away, Matt’s impressions of what he’s doing may very well be dominated by (direct) sound, and not be very “sight-like.”

    I will, of course, also allow for this exchange simply being a case of Matt not wanting to screw too much with Foggy’s memories of the friend he knew in college. However, it does show that Foggy has come to understand that referring to Matt as blind is still appropriate in many cases, and whatever Matt’s senses may allow, they at the very least offer a very differnt “view” of the world, including Foggy’s dancing.

  2. Episode 1 (at 17:50) – The water at Josie’s

    At Josie’s, Matt and Foggy joke with Karen about the very questionable quality of the water. Matt mentions the rust and mold, and Foggy says, “I think I can actually see the bacteria floating in there.” So, I’m obviously mentioning it here because Matt wouldn’t be able to see whether the water is cloudy or not. Of course, he would know as well as anyone – probably better – that the water isn’t safe to drink, and this is also evident from this scene. However, it is a reminder of the types of properties of liquids (and other objects) that are exclusively visual, i e. color and opacity. Milk barely lets any light through and is essentially opaque, water appears to be virtually transparent and colorless (at least in small quantities), and beer is translucent and registers as amber in color. But these are visual qualities. It’s the same thing with a piece of window glass on the one hand, and a mirror on the other. In the world of light, these surfaces behave very differently. If your experience of them is not light-based, they may appear virtually identical and will not give you the experience of either the mirror or the window.

  3. Episode 1 (at 19:00) – The game of pool

    Matt and Karen playing pool, as seen in episode one of Daredevil, season two

    The scene where Matt, Karen and Foggy are playing pool has become a fan favorite. It is not only entertaining in and of itself, it also reminds fans who are well-acquainted with the comics of a scene from the mini-series Daredevil: Yellow where Matt impresses at the pool table. I don’t doubt for a minute that Matt would be great at sinking one ball after another, given his typical arsenal of skills. One thing has always bothered me slightly about the idea of Matt playing pool, however. That is when it is talked about without reservations, as if we’re forgetting that there are rules to abide by.

    In this scene, Karen guides Matt’s hand to the cue ball, and this is the one ball I’m sure he would he could keep track of pretty easily. What I’m less sure of is how he would keep track of every other ball, during the length of an entire game (especially early in the game), without an occasional verbal reminder. To him, they all appear identical. Of course, there are people who can keep track of every move in parallel games of chess, but now we’re talking about an exercise that is more about perfect recall than anything else. In this scene, Matt actually does prematurely sink the eight ball, and at least a part of me likes to think that he forgot it was the eight ball. 😉

  4. Episode 1 (at 20:35) – The guy at the bar

    Matt notices that Grotto, who has shown up at Josie’s, is taking an unusual interest in the three of them, and so asks Foggy: “The guy at the bar looking this way, you know him?” There are two ways for Matt to recognize people, and that is either if he has ever met them before, or if he has heard their voice. I suppose he could also recognize someone from the way they smell, but that of course takes having access to a sample of that person’s clothing or a personal item beforehand. When Matt asks Foggy, he knows that Foggy might either recognize the person in question from a personal contact, or from having seem him on TV, a wanted poster, in a newspaper of through some other visual medium. Simply put, the odds that Foggy might recognize someone he hasn’t met in person are substantially lower than Matt doing the same.

  5. Episode 1 (at 38:20) – The slaughter house

    After squeezing Turk for information, Daredevil goes looking for the Mexican cartel in the Meatpacking District. He finds several men there, one still alive, hung from meathooks among the animal carcasses. He doesn’t recognize that they’re there until he gets fairly close, and even then, it takes him a beat or two to realize what he’s up against. Given that the smell of dead human body is probably drowned out pretty well by the overall stench of the place, it’s not surprising. A sighted person would probably react much sooner to the contrast provided by the men’s clothing and spot them from a greater distance. It’s a nice detail that Matt unveils the horror of the scene a bit more gradually.

  6. Episode 2 (at 12:00) – The silent panic

    In what was a pretty shocking scene to me when I first saw it, Matt temporarily loses his hearing in the beginning of the second episode, after having had his head grazed by one of the Punisher’s bullets. Considering everything Karen and Foggy get up to while we cut from this scene, and then back again, it is safe to assume that he probably went full Helen Keller there for a good couple of hours. What this scene shows pretty clearly is that, in losing his sense of hearing, Matt is losing his all sense of his surroundings as well (there is no traditional radar in this show). What he probably experiences as two senses – hearing direct sound from a sound source and “feeling” objects through sounds reflected off their surfaces – really stems from the same sensory organ.

  7. Episode 2 (at 32:00) – The crime scene

    I’ve talked about this scene before, and I really like it. Matt goes to examine the scene of where the Irish mobsters were shot, and examines it for himself (he’s already overheard what the crime scene investigators have had to say about it). There are a lot of nice details about this scene, including a hitherto rare display of Matt’s sense of smell – this much underused sense! There’s also some touching going on, such as feeling the bullet hole in the wall to sort of verify that it’s there, and the kicking of the dog chain. Of course, he’d have to be carful with touching a scene like that, or risk leaving fingerprints.

  8. Episode 4 (at 07:05) – The wardrobe

    Matt picks out a shirt to wear

    This was one of the scenes I mentioned as a suspected homage to the Daredevil movie, where Ben Affleck’s take on the character has a very similar moment going through his clothes. Anyway, what we see here is that Matt’s shirts, more specifically the hangers, are all labeled with braille tape stuck to index cards. (And it’s a nice little detail that the braille labels are Daredevil red.) This is an obvious indication that Matt’s relationship to the world of colors is like that of any other person with little to no vision.

    Early in the life of the comic, Daredevil used to be able to distinguish colors by touch, but it was an ability that was completely phased out over the first ten years or so. Probably a good idea given that it doesn’t make much sense at all. Color is, first and foremost, a visual quality. Even the gadgets many blind people use to match clothes or separate laundry may not always behave perfectly because the underlying task is so tricky. For an illustration of how something as simple as the tone of the incoming light might affect the color something appears to be, I’d remind you of that dress that went viral a few years ago because people couldn’t agree on what color it was.

  9. Episode 4 (at 08:20) – The tie

    Matt is just getting ready to put on his tie for Grotto’s funeral when Karen shows up and offers to help. As Karen goes through the motions, Matt comments “Not that I can verify, but you seem good at this.” Well, Matt actually can verify, by using his hands, but if his definition of verify boils down to a visual inspection, he’s certainly right. Like I mentioned for the list from the first season, everything that has to do with dressing and grooming, for which sighted people typically use mirrors, are tasks that Matt would approach the same way as any other totally blind person: tactually.

  10. Episode 4 (at 15:00) – The X-ray

    Karen is telling Matt and Foggy about what she’s found out about the Punisher, showing off Frank’s head X-ray that Matt obviously can’t see.

  11. Episode 4 (at 17:25) – The Punisher files

    Karen leaves the office without telling Matt and Foggy, the two of them busy discussing other things. When they realize she’s gone, Matt wonders aloud whether she took the Punishers files and briefly pats around on her desk to look for them. If he could see, he wouldn’t have to do that.

  12. Episode 4 (at 18:45) – The new mask

    Matt goes to Melvin’s place to pick up his new mask (or should we call it a helmet?) Melvin has placed it in a case, which Matt doesn’t even bother opening up all the way, instead examining the contents with his hands which obviously give him a better feel for it. It’s actually quite surprising how little interest Matt has in at least pretending to look at things around Melvin (this isn’t the only scene like this).

  13. Episode 4 (at 52:00) – The arrest

    After the Punisher is arrested (and Daredevil nearly arrested with him) Matt meets up with Foggy and Karen at Josie’s for a drink. Meanwhile, the story about Frank Castle’s arrest is playing on the news. Matt obviously gets the audio only version of these events.

  14. Episode 5 (at 01:30) – The flirtation

    Matt meets Elektra for the first time, as seen in episode five of Marvel's Daredevil, season two.
    After we all learn that Matt was an assignment from Stick, Elektra’s approach to reeling him in at the faculty party makes much more sense. There’s the clattering of her bracelets, and the sound made by her finger circling the rim of a cocktail glass that she uses to get his attention. Of course, Matt seems almost hypnotically drawn to her. Whatever the pull may be though, it is not her physical beauty that does the trick.

  15. Episode 5 (at 08:50) – The Castle photo

    Karen shows a photograph she stole from Frank’s house. Matt can’t see it, obviously.

  16. Episode 5 (at 20:05) – The complication

    In another flashback scene, Matt and Elektra breaks into Fogwell’s gym, where she soon discovers his secret. Although, to be fair, she knew before she even met him that he had certain gifts. What’s interesting is the conversation between them.

    Elektra: “You said you were blind.”
    Matt: “You said I was blind.”
    Elektra: “So you can see?”
    Matt: “It’s complicated.”

    Considering that Matt had told Elektra, something like two minutes earlier, that he wasn’t born blind (emphasis on the “b word”), he may need to get his story straight regarding who said what to whom. 😉 However, I was quite amused to hear him describe his sight status as complicated. And I guess “complicated” is as good a description as any.

  17. Episode 5 (at 35:05) – The menu

    Matt is taking Karen out to dinner at a fancy restaurant (much too fancy, it turns out), and when she steps away for minute, Matt asks the waiter for help with the wine. This is very obviously not merely a blindness-related issue, as Matt’s main concern is that he doesn’t know much about wine, but the fact that he can’t read the menu (and in places like that, they often go on for many pages) probably doesn’t help.

  18. Episode 5 (at 36:20) – The driving

    In another flashback, Matt and Elektra drive up to Roscoe Sweeney’s house. When they arrive, Elektra tosses the keys to Matt and says jokingly, “Any time you want to drive…” Daredevil has driven occasionally in the comic, with varying results, and I once read a piece of fanfic that had Matt drive casually down the freeway. I was flabbergasted, to say the least. Of all the complex and visually demanding tasks you can think of, I think driving is near the top of my list of things Matt should realistically never attempt outside of a parking lot or a closed road.

    It’s not merely a matter of “Does his radar penetrate the windshield?” or “But he can hear the lights change!” There’s signage. Lots of it. And lanes with markings in and around them. And weirdly designed intersections. And subtle turn signals of cars way up ahead. The list goes on. There’s a reason people with even relatively modest vision impairments are barred from driving. In my native Sweden the cutoff is an acuity of 20/40, which is also a common limit in many U.S. states. That translates into half the normal (20/20) acuity or five times better than the legal blindness limit (20/200). Matt shouldn’t be driving in real traffic. I’m pretty sure he knows this, jokingly telling Elektra, “I think it’s illegal… Driving under the influence of blindness.”

  19. Episode 5 (at 42:10) – The Indian restaurant

    Matt and Karen eating Indian food, as seen in

    Karen and Matt move on from the stiff, fancy restaurant and find a cozier spot at an Indian place. During this scene, Karen tells Matt that she wishes he could see the place, and he asks her to describe it.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the makers of this show chose such a visually distinct place for this scene. It makes the scene feel much more genuine to have Karen describe something that is overflowing with light than if they were in a place where Matt’s take on the place would have been more in line with hers. This way, Karen – who is still in the dark about Matt’s abilities – can talk about something he can’t really appreciate otherwise.

  20. Episode 6 (at 13:35) – The hospital lobby

    When Matt and Foggy arrive at the hospital to visit Frank Castle, the lobby is full of people. Matt asks “What’s going on?,” directing it at both Karen and Foggy. True, Karen is there too, but this is not an unreasonable thing for Matt to be asking. He can obviously tell that the place is packed, that there’s a general commotion, and it wouldn’t take long to figure out that some of them might be reporters, cops, and hospital staff respectively. But, there are certain visual shortcuts available to Foggy and Karen that makes this particular information-gathering exercise much quicker for them.

  21. Episode 6 (at 14:10) – The promotion

    Along the same lines as above, and as mentioned in the first item on this list, Foggy seems to have figured out a nice balance for what kind of information Matt might find useful. When they step out of the elevator on Frank’s floor, Foggy exclaims: “Brett? You’re wearing a tie. And it’s not a clip-on!” This quickly segues into talking about Brett’s promotion. Would Matt realize pretty quickly that there’s something different about Brett, including how he wears his badge? Sure. But Foggy’s ability to casually weave these little details into their conversations is probably helpful.

  22. Episode 6 (at 16:20) – The red tape

    When the trio enter Frank’s room, Matt steps forward and is about to step over the red tape around Frank’s bed when Karen calls him back. I can actually sort of buy that he might be able to sense the tape (it would cause sounds to reflect differently compared to the tiles around it, and even have a distinct smell), especially since they’ve all been told about the tape before going in. But, it’s a much more subtle detail from his vantage point compared to everybody else’s.

  23. Episode 6 (at 30:55) – The fawning men

    When they arrive at the gala, Matt points out to Elektra that “You must look nice.” She responds with a “How would you know?” This is another example of Matt interacting with someone who presumably knows everything relevant to know about how his senses work. As has usually been the case in the comic, Matt’s idea of what people look like is rudimentary, at best, aside from their overall shape, and Elektra knows this. And, of course, Matt responds with how it is that he knows what she looks like: Indirectly, by gauging other people’s reactions to her as they walk by.

  24. Episode 6 (at 39:50) – The key card

    After knocking out Gibson and his guards, Matt feels for the key card in his jacket pocket and verifies that he’s got what he was looking for by scanning the surface with his fingers. For anyone worried that we’re straying too far into the print reading of the comics (I’m fine with it there, but think it’s been an appropriate move to downplay it in the Netflix show), I’d say there’s no need. Identifying the name and logo, printed on top of the card, should fall perfectly within the realm of what’s actually possible in real life. You’d barely need heightened senses for that.

  25. Episode 6 (at 45:30) – The search for the ledger

    Matt sits back and lets Elektra look for the ledger, as seen in episode six of Marvel's Daredevil, season two

    After opening the safe – very cool scene, by the way – Matt sits back and lets Elektra do all the visual searching for the ledger. I’ve mentioned this scene before and think it’s a great example of what any type of team-up between Daredevil and other (sighted) characters should look like, all the time.

    Of course, if you think about all this a bit longer and harder, you also realize everything that is always conveniently skipped over in both this show and the comic book. Daredevil rarely comes up against obstacles that might actually be quite challenging for him, despite the fact that these should realistically be quite common. The same way early Daredevil faced off against an unusual number of villains with blinding rays and the like, his stories are often written in a way that plays to his strengths, not his weaknesses. This is reasonable from a storytelling perspective, but obviously biases people’s perceptions of the extent to which Matt’s blindness might be a real issue. As I mentioned in my previous post on this topic, we rarely follow Matt to the store (or a tailor) to buy a new business suit, or pick up a present for Foggy, or to a law conference. Those kinds of things lie far outside the typical scope of the book, so it’s easy to downplay vision-heavy tasks. We’re simply not reminded of them very often.

  26. Episode 6 (at 50:10) – The pupil check

    Matt gets his pupils checked by the security guards after he and Elektra are found making out. There was a pupil check last season too, as you might recall. Obviously, Matt’s pupils are unresponsive to light. This doesn’t really prove anything, though, in terms of whether he should be viewed as blind or not, since no one has ever argued that Daredevil can see with his eyes. I’m still bringing it up here though, since it might be a good reminder that total blindness is relatively rare. In this case, Matt is extremely fortunate that he really has no light perception, since he would have otherwise been pegged as a fraud. This despite the fact that most people who fall under the blindness umbrella can, in fact, detect light.

  27. Episode 6 (at 50:55) – The secrets of the ledger

    In the car leaving the gala, Matt and Elektra go through what’s in the ledger. Matt leaves the reading of it up to her, not only because it’s in Japanese.

  28. Episode 7 (at 04:00) – The laptop

    There’s not a lot of office work this season, since Matt’s been busy elsewhere, but in episode seven, there is at least one scene of Matt on his laptop, which looks about the same as last season, that is perfectly ordinary but with some additional equipment.

  29. Episode 7 (at 10:25) – The dictaphone

    Before he runs off with Elektra, Matt makes an attempt to get started on his opening statement. He does so by recording it on a dictaphone, rather than writing it down. This may simply be a personal preference, but it’s probably safe to assume that blindness affects this preference.

  30. Episode 7 (at 14:50) – The note from the creepy professor

    Matt receives the note from the professor who encrypted the ledger and immediately passes it to Elektra, in another division of labor task.

  31. Episode 7 (at 20:00) – The train cars

    The note sends them on an expedition to the docks in search of the particular train car revealed in the previous scene. While Matt is very helpful in identifying which cars need closer inspection, Elektra obviously has an edge when it comes to identifying the one that matched the number they were given.

  32. Episode 7 (at 24:20) – The cut

    Matt and Elektra get into a fight with some bad guys down by the docks and Elektra ends up with a nasty cut on her neck. “Let me see,” Matt says before he examines the cut with his hand. It’s certainly not very hygienic, but it’s his best chance of actually getting a good look at it. In the next scene, he stitches her up too. I found that bit mildly questionable, not because he shouldn’t be able to do it, but because he’d have to do it entirely by touch which is probably not the best idea when stitching up human skin. On the other hand, they don’t really have much of a choice.

  33. Episode 7 (at 26:50) – The scar

    The above scene leads into a rather amusing one where Matt and Elektra compare scars. For the complete show and tell, Elektra guides Matt’s hand to a scar on her thigh that he obviously wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

  34. Episode 8 (at 00:50) – The silent ninjas

    Matt and Elektra fighting ninjas, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil season two, episode eight.
    I covered this topic separately in an earlier post, so you know how ridiculous I find the notion that Matt can’t detect the ninjas in this scene. Detecting otherwise silent objects is kind of what he does, after all, and he couldn’t be Daredevil without this ability. However, this idea, flawed as it might be, is yet another indication that Matt’s abilities are fundamentally dependent on hearing.

  35. Episode 8 (at 18:00) – The origin of the Hand

    One thing occurred to me when I saw the scene where Stick is telling Matt the history of the Hand and the Chaste, and that’s the neat inclusion of an additional soundtrack to go with the story being told. Rather than showing the audience a visual image of ancient Japanese warriors invading villages, we get only an idea of what it might have sounded like. Of course, the main reason there are no visual images probably has to do with the cost of shooting such a scene, but I actually think that omission works brilliantly here. This is, after all, a case of a blind man telling another blind man a story. Both of them, Stick especially (being born blind), would play such a scene to their “mind’s ear” rather than imagine the scene in full color.

  36. Episode 8 (at 33:20) – The courtroom

    In a scene that’s similar to the hospital scene mentioned earlier, Matt asks Foggy to tell him what’s going on when Frank enters the court room. In this case, he is asking Foggy specifically, and Karen doesn’t really factor in to it, so we have to assume the question is genuine. Foggy goes on to tell him what Frank is wearing. While we didn’t see it happen, it also makes sense for Foggy to have told Matt what was written on all the signs the people were holding.

  37. Episode 8 (at 35:05) – The missed glance

    Frank trades glances with the bailiff, as seen in episode eight of Marvel's Daredevil, season two.
    Before Matt questions Frank, he hears the bailiff whisper something to Frank and gets that something is seriously off with the way Frank is acting. With Frank on the stand, though, quickly glancing over Matt’s shoulder to look at his co-conspirator, I’m reminded of how Frank would not be counting on Matt to notice such subtleties. He would be right, and this would, of course, be a more general issue. Matt is very good at noticing how people react to things, he (usually) knows when he’s been watched, and so on. Subtle glances, and other interesting things that people’s eyes are doing, and that people have been shown to be very sensitive to, are a bit beyond him though.

  38. Episode 9 (at 53:30) – The Farm

    There is something about the way Matt decomposes the scene when he reaches the kids in the basement of The Farm that appeals to me. It’s as if he’s making sense of it a little at time before full comprehension happens.

  39. Episode 10 (at 06:50) – The painkiller

    At the hospital, Claire gives Matt two aspirin. He asks her what they are. While one might argue that he’d be able to smell aspirin, he would obviously be unable to glance at the bottle in her hand and recognize it visually.

  40. Episode 10 (at 14:40) – The X-ray, part two

    Reyes shows Matt, Foggy and Karen the picture of a skull X-ray she found in her daughter’s backpack. Karen explains to Matt what it is they are being shown.

  41. Episode 10 (at 21:00) – The braille document

    Matt gets a braille document to sign while visiting Fisk in prison. I read or heard somewhere that they didn’t plan for Matt to be handed the document upside down, as happens in this scene, but I like that little detail.

    Matt then signs his name at the bottom to consent to the terms, but we sadly don’t get to see what his little scribble looks like. As I mentioned for the first list post last year, Matt should be able to write by hand (and he does so in the comic), but he’d be relying on muscle memory much more than a person who can see what they’re writing while they’re writing it. (It might look a bit odd, as in this example from Daredevil #26 (vol 3), by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.)

  42. Episode 11 (at 26:50) – The paintings by Madame Gao

    A minor detail, certainly, but Madame Gao is painting when Daredevil pays her a visit. To him, her paintings won’t look like much.

  43. Episode 12 (at 11:30) – The subway map

    Matt examines a tactile subway map, as seen in episode 12 of Marvel's Daredevil, season two.
    Matt is frustrated that the Hand is eluding him so goes to the soon to be empty law office to do some research, which entails some kind of tactile subway map, and a book of what appears to be tactile maps. Foggy surprises Matt by helping put. This actually isn’t the first time we’ve seen Matt use a tactile map. He did so way back during the Chichester/McDaniel run, as seen in this panel from Daredevil #314.

  44. Episode 13 (at 11:00) – The billy club

    Melvin gives Matt his billy club, and he takes his glove off to feel it. As I’ve mentioned before, I think Matt is surprisingly lax with his routine around Melvin. He very possibly doesn’t care what Melvin might suspect.

  45. Episode 13 (at 14:25) – The phone call

    Foggy calls as Matt and Elektra are getting ready to head out, and we hear it call out the name of the caller for the first time this season. I sounds to me like Matt switched to a different, much weirder-sounding voice for his phone.

The Defenders

  1. Episode 1 (at 09:20) – The braille printer

    I think I may have cheered when I saw Matt’s braille printer for the first time. Because I’ve honestly been wondering where this fairly essential piece of office equipment might have been hiding for two seasons of Daredevil.

  2. Episode 1 (at 11:40) – The pep talk

    Matt gives a pep talk to his client Aaron James, as seen in the first episode of The Defenders.

    It might seem strange to include Matt’s talk with his client Aaron James in this list. Does it really suggest or “prove” anything with regard to Matt’s blindness, specifically. I think it does. This whole conversation, and the impact of it, hinges on Matt’s genuine ability to emphasize with Aaron. Like Matt, he’s had his life dramatically altered at a young age and knows that he may never walk again. I don’t think anyone would deny that, regardless of the eventual outcome, losing his sight would have been very traumatic for Matt, so we might argue that his ability to relate begins and ends there.

    But in this situation, Matt clearly represents something very important to Aaron as a role model. Aside from the details of their respective injuries, Matt has been where Aaron is, and has gone on from there to build a life and career for himself. If blindness wasn’t still something that impacted Matt’s life in meaningful ways, despite his heightened senses and his being Daredevil, then much of the speech would fall flat. Of course, Aaron wouldn’t know it, but we as viewers would.

  3. Episode 2 (at 11:10) – The bandaid box

    After Matt gets his knuckles bloodied, he searches through a box for what looks like an antiseptic wipe, a compress or some kind of bandaid (it’s hard to tell). This is a scene where he’s very clearly using his hands to find what he’s looking for.

  4. Episode 2 (at 12:10) – The phone call, part two

    Foggy calls again! And it sounds like the old voice is back.

  5. Episode 3 (at 17:30) – The braille case files

    When Matt and Foggy meet up, Foggy gives him some case files he might be interested in. When I first saw the pile of documents, I wondered at first whether they were braille files or the originals (had it been the latter, I suppose Matt could have scanned them and used OCR software), but when Matt goes to see Jessica in jail, we see that they are already in braille. Nice little detail.

  6. Episode 3 (at 26:20) – The pursuit

    Matt and Jessica play a game of cat and mouse, as seen in episode three of The Defenders

    To everyone who thinks it’s insane for Matt to miss that Jessica is right behind him taking pictures, I wholeheartedly agree with you. It’s not that Matt should be expected to be simultaneously aware of everything. All humans have a limited amount of attention to go around. However, this is the kind of thing he should have actively been paying attention to.

    But this is not why this scene is on the list. Rather, it reminds me a little bit of the scene from season one, where Matt is following Wesley’s movements, but doing so only by listening. Here, we see him pay attention to Jessica’s footsteps, which really does seem like the best way for him to track someone in a crowd (as opposed to following specific physical shape that may be much less distinct and vanish completely when there is a lot of movement going on).

  7. Episode 3 (at 50:45) – The return of the dead ex-girlfriend

    When Elektra appears again, it takes Matt several minutes to realize that it is her. Probably because, on top of being presumed dead, she likely smells different than she used to, and may seem different in other ways as well. Had he been able to see, though, he would have recognized her instantly.

  8. Episode 4 (at 11:15) – The non-explanation

    I know a lot of people groaned at Matt’s explanation of how he can do what he does, when it comes up after meeting the other defenders. “Well, sight is overrated” really isn’t much of an explanation after all. But at least it’s a subtle acknowledgement that whatever he can do, seeing isn’t how he does it.

  9. Episode 6 (at 13:05) – The braille Bible

    When Elektra goes to Matt’s apartment, she finds a braille Bible (parts of one, more likely) and the program for her own funeral. I really have to applaud the Netflix people for including so much braille in these shows, and demonstrating so clearly that this would be Matt’s preferred mode of written communication, regardless of whether or not he technically can read print in the show.

  10. Episode 6 (at 18:15) – The brownstones

    “All these brownstones look the same, don’t they?” Jessica asks, as she and Matt head to the home of the now dead architect who was going to blow up Midland Circle. Matt gives her an expression of “how should I know?” and she catches herself. Of course, it makes perfect sense that subtle architectural details are not what Matt uses to figure out where he is in relation to where he needs to go.

  11. Episode 6 (at 34:40) – The hidden plans

    When Matt and Jessica find building plans inside the piano of the dead architect, it is obviously up to Jessica to figure out what they are.

  12. Episode 7 (at 06:30) – The new shirt

    Matt finds himself in a strange environment wearing a new t-shirt, as seen on episode seven of The Defenders.
    When Matt comes to at the police station, he is not only very disoriented, to the point where Foggy rushes in to tell him where he is (he probably would have figured that out sooner rather than later, but being able to see the bulletin board in the room would have been helpful). He’s been given a tee shirt to wear in place of the clothes that were confiscated for evidence, and does a quick touch check of his new attire.

  13. Episode 7 (at 23:20) – The surprise change of clothes

    When Foggy mentions to Matt that he’s brought him a change of clothes it takes a few moments for him to realize what it is, and puts his hand inside the bag to verify. In general, there’s been a good amount of “touching” going on in season two and the Defenders. It’s a step in the right direction, if you ask me, since his sense of touch is almost as ignored as his sense of smell (though probably for very different reasons).

  14. Episode 8 (at 49:50) – The map of Midland Circle

    At Midland Circle, there’s more map reading again, by pretty much everyone but ol’ hornhead

Oh boy, with that out of the way, I’m off to bed! I never intended for this post to be this long, or anal, but I guess I have a lot of stored Daredevil energy that needs somewhere to go. As alway, feel free to comment. And have a great week!

The 50+ ways in which Marvel’s Daredevil reminds you that Matt is blind (for real)

Matt talking to Foggy and Karen, as seen in episode eight of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

Since this post was originally published, I have also written a follow-up piece featuring details from season two and The Defenders

I did not set out to write a manifesto, but I don’t really know what else to call this post. A plea perhaps? I suppose what makes it a “manifesto” is the amount of heartfelt emotion that I’ve put into this post. For as long as I’ve been a Daredevil fan, I’ve always been very protective of his “blind side.” Regular readers of this blog (which passed 800 posts just last week) know this. I know quite a few of you agree with me. Others are probably tired of my occasional rants on the subject, but thanks for sticking around anyway.

This is me pouring my heart out. Again. And my end goal is this: I want to elevate the way “we” (fans, creators, and critics) speak about this character so that it truly reflects his full complexity. Most people have no trouble doing this when it comes to his “lawyer who breaks the law” state of moral shadiness. But when it comes to his physiology, far too many people accept the creed of “my other senses more than compensate” (see, for instance, Daredevil #168, by Frank Miller, below) without a second thought. The problem is that this has always been, and always will be, a logical fallacy. It’s a tagline, a shorthand for describing the character’s powers in one brief statement. And, it’s inaccurate. We can do better.

Scene from Daredevil #168, by Frank Miller. Matt meets Elektra for the first time and comes clean about his powers, saying. "I'm blind, but I have other abilities that more than compensate."

This post is the result of the copious amounts of notes I took on various trends and patterns during season one, which is why I’ve been able to throw something this lengthy together in one evening. Most of what you’ll read below has been living in an Excel sheet that I put together two years ago. This is the reason it only covers season one, though much of this obviously holds true for season two as well. The reason I’m getting this out now has to do with some of the ways Daredevil actor Charlie Cox has been talking about the character he plays so well in several recent interviews, where Matt Murdock is described as a lie, Daredevil is the true identity, and Matt is only pretending to be blind (in some cases, “blind” is even exchanged for the much broader term “visually impaired” which makes the statement even more questionable).

But there’s also a reason I’ve been hesitant to put this down in writing as boldly as I’m doing here, and that boils down to the fact that I don’t wish to “shame” anyone, least of all someone who seems as genuinely nice and caring as Charlie Cox. Who, I should add, does a fantastic job in the role, and who I know has shown an incredible amount of dedication to making all aspects of Matt Murdock’s life as real as anyone could hope for (and he’s also said plenty of things that actually run completely counter to the bits I’m giving him a hard time about here). I’m actually quite dismayed by the current “outrage culture” that sees people being shamed for using slightly outdated terms, not expressing themselves “just right,” or for not being “woke” enough. I think it’s sad when we expect the worst of each other, scrutinize every word someone says and don’t give people the benefit of the doubt. I am not going to be a part of that. In fact, I even suspect that some of the wording that I’m reacting to may actually have come about as a result of not wanting to offend.

Stan Lee has talked about how worried he was, back when Daredevil made his debut, that blind people would find him offensive, that they would say “We can’t do that!” And I’m sure there are droves of blind and visually impaired people who do find the mere concept of Daredevil offensive, just as there are many that feel just the opposite. (What people actually find offensive obviously varies greatly from person to person.) Still, I would imagine that people associated with this show may actually feel that underscoring that Matt only “pretends” to be blind is the best way to shield Daredevil from criticism. Add to this that Cox’s description of Matt hasn’t surfaced in a vacuum but actually reflects how many of Daredevil’s fans and past creators would talk about him as well. I happen to disagree with this decision, and feel that a chance is being missed to highlight the fact that, for many people, vision impairment is more complicated than the simple blind-sighted dichotomy suggests, and that Daredevil is actually an interesting example of this.

So, what gives? What is this “more elevated” way of talking about Daredevil that I’m suggesting gives a better and more complete understanding of the character? Certainly, I can’t be suggesting that Matt doesn’t live a life where there isn’t a lot of pretense? And no, I’m not suggesting that. I quite agree with Cox and many others who would point to the many ways in which Matt Murdock’s civilian life is a façade. It very obviously is, and I agree that Matt likely feels very conflicted about this. But I wouldn’t call “Matt Murdock” a lie. I would call him a necessary half-truth. Matt’s heightened senses allow him to be Daredevil, and to do a number of other things that you would not expect of someone who is totally blind, but they don’t – and here’s the kicker – actually make him sighted. Part of the irony of Matt’s peculiar condition is that if his senses actually did compensate for his blindness in any and all situations, he wouldn’t have to “pretend to be blind” in the first place. The reason I’m saying that “my other senses more than compensate” is a logical fallacy is that it is true in some situations, not quite true in others, and not even a little bit true in others still.

There is a reason that Matt Murdock the college student, if he wishes to keep his heightened senses hidden, has no choice but to go “full blind guy.” His advantages over any other blind student in a setting like a college classroom is pretty much nil. He can’t see the blackboard (whiteboard these days), the slides, or whatever movie is being shown. He may know what the professor ate last night, but that’s probably not particularly relevant to next week’s homework. If he wants to type up a paper, he needs to use a computer with a screenreader. (This bit, almost all fans seem to get intuitively, just going by the number of rather inane “how are you tweeting this?!” comments directed at the official Daredevil Twitter account. Sadly, these people seem to have missed the part where Matt owns and operates a computer on the actual show…).

Even Matt Murdock, the lawyer, would find himself in a situation where he, if he were to unwisely try to use his heightened senses to pass for sighted, would find himself severely limited. Many pieces of evidence are highly visual in nature. If he didn’t exercise his right to have photographic or video evidence described and transcribed to him, he would be less effective at his job.

The civilian identity places physical and behavioral restrictions on Matt, there’s no doubt about that. It makes sense that Matt would, at times, find these restrictions limiting and tiresome. And yes, they would often make him feel like a phony. I would point out though, that the Daredevil identity also comes with restrictions. I understand and empathize with Matt’s need to be Daredevil, I understand the immense freedom it gives him. But the thing is, Daredevil can only exist in Daredevil’s world, where the need to be able to see and interpret strictly visual information is minimal, and most situations can be solved by doing exactly those things Daredevil does best.

The mundane truth, however, is that “Daredevil” has to eat, make a living, find a place to live, go to the store, and transport himself over greater distances than his billy club can take him. He has to interact with regular people he is not beating up for information, and generally exist in a society where there is a truckload of incidental visual information that he is not able to see and that his other senses really don’t make up for. The reason people rarely think of these situations is because they are generally not something you would see featured in the comic. You see more of them in the show, but even then we have to live with the fact that following Matt to Barney’s so he can shop for a new suit does not make for riveting entertainment. This means that there is a natural bias in most Daredevil stories against featuring the more mundane situations where his blindness might be an issue.

Panel from Daredevil #301, by D.G. Chichester and M.C. Wyman. Daredevil, in battle, thinks to himself: "My head swivels up at the voice, partly for appearances, partly reflex from when I could still see."

So far in the Netflix show, Daredevil has rarely found himself in situations where he awkwardly has to pretend to be able to see in the traditional fashion – his meetings with Melvin Potter are an interesting exception – but these situations do exist in the comic (see a couple of my favorites here, and here). Where Matt can really be his true self is around people who know about his senses, but these situations too do not suggest that he can see in the traditional sense. He does have his own unique way of interacting with the world that is unlike that of a (totally) blind person, but also unlike that of a sighted person. Even something as simple as communicating with the eyes, through eye contact and almost imperceptible glances, is a big part of how (sighted) people communicate. Matt conducts himself differently. Having to pretend to be more functionally blind than he is, is not Matt’s natural state of being, but neither is having to pretend to see things he cannot or conduct himself in ways identical to someone who can see. Perhaps Frank Miller put it best: “The hidden 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.” (From Daredevil #191, Roulette)

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

In many ways, Matt is more typical of a visually impaired person – in the broader sense of the world – than most people realize. Of all the people who find themselves in this category, the totally blind (or nearly so) are the minority. Most exist in a gray area and are perhaps best described as partially sighted. Someone with retinitis pigmentosa, who has lost most of his peripheral vision, might need a cane but can read a regular book with his sharp central vision. Someone with macular degeneration might have a fuzzy central blindspot and need screenreader software, but be able to get around quite easily without a cane, reach for objects with no trouble and not be pegged as blind by the casual observer, even when classified as legally blind. They can see some things, but not others. Kind of like a certain someone we know. To deny this is to sell him short.

With this longish preamble out of the way, let’s get to the many ways that the Netflix show actually proves my point. Overall, the show really does an excellent job of handling Matt Murdock’s strange blend of blindness and heightened senses. In fact, all things taken together, I can’t think of a single run of the comic – with the possible exception of the recent Waid/Samnee/Rivera/Martín run – that has been more successful in this regard. Which is why it’s ironic that these things aren’t talked about more accurately by the people who do everything right to make this work on screen.

“The List”

  1. Episode 1 (at 08:45) – The phone swipe

    Matt’s phone announces that he’s receiving an incoming call from Foggy. He responds by using gestures on his smart phone. Pretty much exactly as any other totally blind person would, and in this particular situation, his heightened senses completely fail to compensate in any way.

  2. Episode 1 (at 10:45) – The view

    “You can flip a coin with your partner for it,” says the real estate agent. “He can have the view,” Matt responds when he and Foggy are looking at offices for their firm. It makes sense that Matt would offer Foggy the room with the view, if he wants to hide his senses. It also makes sense because he legitimately can’t see the view or derive any esthetic pleasure from it. Does not being able to see the view detract from his crime fighting? Not in the least. But, enjoying the view of the Hudson river is clearly something Foggy can do that Matt can’t. Because he cannot visually detect any light. It’s that simple.

  3. Episode 1 (at 15:05) – The braille watch

    Matt and Foggy check the time while interrogating Karen, this in response to her asking how long they’ve been practicing law. Matt has a braille watch. Which makes perfect sense since he wouldn’t be able to see the face of a regular watch. Because he’s blind. Incidentally, the braille watch is perhaps the earliest adaptive device featured consistently in the Daredevil comic.

  4. Episode 1 (at 15:45) – The notepad

    Matt subtly indicates to Foggy to take down what Karen is saying on his notepad. Matt could write if he wanted to, as can many other blind people, though he would be subject to the same difficulties in that he can’t monitor what he’s writing while he’s doing it (in a way that is analogous to how a deaf person can’t hear his or her own speech). He could use a notetaker device for the blind. Either way, the act of taking handwritten notes would not be something he would approach much differently than any other blind person. As for reading them, he’s got a leg up, if we’re going by traditional canon.

  5. Episode 1 (at 19:45) – The dictaphone

    Matt's dictaphone, as seen in season one, episode one of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt is double-checking the dictaphone on his table by running his hand over it, possibly to verify that the braille labels that are revealed on a later close-up are still there. I will absolutely go along with his playing up the blind guy bit here, but the case I’m making is that it’s completely logical that he would label buttons on various things, either by using braille labels or little plastic “bumpers”. If he had a TV, one such item would be the remote control (I challenge anyone with a semi-complicated remote to know what all the buttons are without looking at the often tiny numbers and symbols on or near them). Another such item would the microwave or oven in his house. It just makes sense. This information is simply less accessible to him than it is to someone who sees with visible light.

  6. Episode 1 (at 25:15) – The signs around town

    “I’ve seen their signs all over Hell’s Kitchen,” Foggy says when Karen tells them about Union Allied leading the reconstructions of the city. Included here simply because Matt wouldn’t have. Because he can’t see signs.

  7. Episode 1 (at 29:30) – The billboard

    Matt talks about how he got the apartment cheap because he’s not bothered by the giant billboard outside. Which he wouldn’t be because he can’t see it (for the same reason that he usually leaves the lights off in his apartment). This is certainly a good thing in this situation (hey, cheap NYC apartment!), but logic dictates that this isn’t the only billboard in town which the vast majority of people can draw information from that he can’t.

  8. Episode 1 (at 30:20) – The styling of hair

    Karen asks if she can ask a personal question. Matt quickly responds with how he hasn’t always been blind. Karen realizes that that’s probably what everyone wants to know and Matt jokingly answers: “That, and how do you comb your hair?” This is, of course, a silly question to ask a blind person as we can assume that the vast majority have no problems combing their hair. It’s included here for the simple reason that while Matt obviously can comb his hair, he would be no better at it than anyone else who is blind since he can’t use mirrors. By extension, anything that falls into the category of personal grooming of the kind that sighted people would do by sight – aided by a mirror – are things that Matt would have to approach the same as any other person with little to no sight.

  9. Episode 1 (at 31:30) – The sky

    “It doesn’t change the fact that I’d give anything to see the sky one more time.” While I question the sincerity in what Matt is saying here (see my review of episode one), there’s no denying that he, in fact, used to be able to see the sky and no longer can. Because he’s blind. Are there other esthetic pleasures of a visual nature that he cannot appreciate that other people can and that he might miss, ever so occasionally? Of course. This doesn’t affect his ninja moves at all, but does point to there being a legitimate sensory deficit.

  10. Episode 1 (at 47:50) – The folding of bills

    Matt hands a folded bill over to the guy at Fogwell’s gym. This is something that regular blind people often do. There is no reason to assume that Matt wouldn’t do the same for reasons that have nothing to do with keeping up appearances. Even if we make allowances for the print reading of the comics, it would be more efficient for him to have a folding system when quickly trying to go through his wallet.

  11. Episode 2 (at 03:20) – The unresponsive pupils

    Claire checks Matt’s pupils for a reaction. They are unresponsive to light. As they should be.

  12. Episode 2 (at 04:10) – The missed light

    Matt gets up to leave and heads straight for Claire’s brightly lit kitchen instead. True, he’s very disoriented, but the sheepish look on his face pretty much confirms that this is not a mistake that a sighted person would have made quite as readily.

  13. Episode 2 (at 11:20) – The missing mask

    Claire is taking care of Matt who is on her couch, as seen in the second episode of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt wakes on Claire’s couch, disoriented. His first question is: “Where am I?” Not “Who are you?”, that comes next. The order of the questions Matt asks, along with not readily realizing that he’s not wearing his mask (he actually tries to feel for it on his face) clearly indicate that he’s not taking in the scene in the same way and with the same priorities as he probably would if he were sighted. Yes, there’s a massive amount of disorientation involved here, but the subtle differences remain. I’m not suggesting that Matt is necessarily at a disadvantage compared to a sighted person in this scenario, only that his behavior overall is not what we would expect from a sighted person.

  14. Episode 2 (at 18:15) – The facial expression

    Matt to Claire: “You’re looking at me like I’m crazy, right?” Matt has never really been able to detect subtle – or even not-so-subte – facial expressions in the comic, and the same seems to be true here.

  15. Episode 2 (at 22:20) – The searching hand

    Matt finds a knife in Claire’s drawer. How quickly he finds it is certainly impressive for a blind guy, but he does actually briefly explore the drawer with his hand.

  16. Episode 2 (at 29:25) – The inaccessible phone

    Up on Claire’s roof, Matt is hoisting the fake Detective Foster up by a rope, asking Claire – who has the man’s phone – whether she found anything on it. The reason he has to ask? He legitimately can’t see what’s on it and has no way of operating it. Because he’s blind.

  17. Episode 2 (at 32:55) – The feeling of silk robes

    Young Matt runs his hands over his father’s new robe. While this is a young Matt who has yet to learn how to use his senses fully, it would make sense that this kind of exploration would have to happen by tactile means even as he grows up. As a general rule, I can see no reason why Matt would approach something like shopping for clothes or getting the sense of a fabric any differently from anyone else who has a pretty severe visual impairment.

  18. Episode 2 (at 39:40) – The trigeminal nerve

    Claire suggests that Matt try stabbing their captive Russian in his trigeminal nerve, and she shows Matt where it’s located by tracing its path on Matt’s face, near the eye. I’m sure Matt could have made sense out of her gesture even if she had shown him by pointing to her own face, but there’s not doubt in my mind that he would get a less detailed sense of it that way.

  19. Episode 3 (at 12:30) – The big check

    Wesley slides a piece of paper over to Foggy, with an monetary offer printed on it. Later, after Wesley has left, Foggy says of Matt’s doubts that if he could see the number of zeroes on his offer he wouldn’t care. This situation is a minor one, but highlights the fact that Matt can’t casually glance at any kinds of documents strewn about on a table, or posted on a wall, the way a sighted person could. In fact, Matt’s lack of access to incidental and potentially useful visual information (in writing or presented as a graphic), is perhaps the most significant issue not addressed by his heightened senses. With the way the character works, in and out of the comics, he could miss an enormous amount of information available to other people, and never even know it. The reverse is, of course, also true. Matt detects things others don’t, but the two don’t automatically cancel or balance each other out.

  20. Episode 3 (at 14:40) – The sound of a watch

    Matt follows Wesley and listen as he walks to his car, from episode three of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt follows Wesley by the sound of his watch, then stops at the curb and follows the latter’s moves. By listening to them. This is clearly a case of Matt putting his heightened senses to great use, but let’s not pretend that a sighted person couldn’t have visually tracked Wesley’s movements just as easily, and possibly even more so. This is a classic case of Matt’s senses just compensating, by means that are mostly non-visual in nature, but quite honestly do little more. Matt’s ability to sense the shapes of things in a way that resembles vision also has a limited range.

  21. Episode 3 (at 30:30) – The screenreader

    This scene shows the first real look at Matt’s computer set-up, which includes a braille display. It’s on Foggy to look up the right section of the penal law and read it to Matt, in this particular scene. As a general rule, this is clearly the area of Matt’s life where his heightened senses benefit him the least. As has been comic lore for at least some twenty-five years (I’m counting back to those weird couple of issues in the early nineties where Matt could read computer screens by touch), Matt cannot access screens. He would need to use the same kind of assistive technology as any other person with little to no useful vision. This is not pretense – not part of “the act.”

  22. Episode 4 (at 05:05) – The voice

    Matt to Claire: “Maybe I just like the sound of your voice.” This is probably meant to indicate that non-visual qualities are particularly important to him. As they would be.

  23. Episode 4 (at 05:30) – The burner phone

    Matt hands Claire a burner phone. He asks her to enter her number into it. Which makes sense. And, if this is just a regular phone with no special features on it, he might run into some problems doing it himself. Though dialing shouldn’t be a problem if there’s only one or a few phone book listings as the right sequence of key presses could be learned easily.

  24. Episode 4 (at 28:30) – The Veles taxi cab

    Matt asks Santino if he heard or saw anything that can help him locate Claire. Santino mentions that he saw them get into a cab, Veles Taxi. Incidentally, this specific nugget of information is one that Matt could never have come by on his own, save for someone mentioning it in passing.

  25. Episode 5 (at 00:50) – The breakfast

    Matt is cooking. Which is not at all strange. There is absolutely nothing that says that even completely blind people cannot be great cooks, and I’d like to think that Matt’s heightened sense of smell, in particular, might make him quite adept at it. This scene is included here for the simple reason that Matt’s approach to cooking would probably have more in common with that of a blind person than that of a sighted person. He would determine whether the food is properly cooked by smell or by how it responds to being poked with kitchen utensils. Also, some kitchen equipment, to the extent that he uses it, would probably be of the talking variety.

  26. Episode 5 (at 02:50) – The “world on fire”

    “I can’t see. Not like everyone else, but I can feel. Things like balance and direction, micro-changes in the air density, vibrations, blankets of temperature variations. Mix all that with what I hear, subtle smells… All the fragments form sort of an impressionistic painting.” I take issue with some of Matt is saying here, in particular the bits about balance and direction being quite so high on the list. These are things that clearly help with the acrobatics and the ninja fighting, as they have to do with body awareness, but these are not the kinds of impressions that are vital to the detection of objects in space. With a radarless interpretation of the senses, the hearing of echoes should account for the overwhelming majority of what feeds into Matt’s awareness of space. However, that’s a topic covered elsewhere. The reason I include this scene here, is that at least Matt is clearly stating that he can’t see like everyone else. Which should be obvious to everyone.

  27. Episode 5 (at 03:45) – The actual “world on fire”

    Matt’s world on fire, while a far from ideal way of picturing Matt’s senses, at least brings home the point that he does not “see” particularly well. Well enough to move about freely and make out decent-sized objects? Certainly. As he should. 20/20 color vision? Nope, not even close.

  28. Episode 5 (at 06:00) – The crooked tie

    Matt’s tie is adorably askew. Maybe if he could actually use a mirror, it wouldn’t be… 😉

  29. Episode 5 (at 36:35) – The inaccessible phone, part two

    Claire helps Matt check what's in the phone he found on the crooked cop, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix, episode five

    Matt found Detective Blake’s phone while he was roughing him up. Back in his apartment, Claire is going through it to look for clues. She finds a text message that gives the addresses to the locations which will be bombed later. Matt could not have gotten this information on his own. Clearly one of many situations where he doesn’t “operate better than a sighted person”.

  30. Episode 6 (at 12:20) – The movies

    “It’s not as easy as it looks in the movies, you know.” “I don’t really go to the movies. I like records though.” I saw this scene referenced a couple of times in the push to get Netflix to add audio descriptions, because it hightlighted the irony of a show that the main protagonist, if he were a real person, would not be able to access fully. When it comes to visual entertainment, and visual arts in general, Matt is in the same boat as every other totally blind person. This tends to get handwaved away by some fans as inconsequential, and it certainly doesn’t affect Matt’s prowess as a crime fighter (much), but movies and television are not only a major source of information but are a big part of popular culture. It does surprise me that he doesn’t have a TV though. There’s the news, which he might legitimately be interested in, and many shows can be enjoyed by blind people even without audio description.

  31. Episode 7 (at 03:40) – The braille

    Matt is reading braille. Kind of like a blind person who can’t read print. Of course, in the comics, Matt can read print (though this ability has been somewhat downplayed over the years), but regardless of whether this is a real ability in the Netflix show or not – it appears to have been scrapped, for which I’m grateful (though Charlie Cox has mentioned that they did tape a scene for the first season, that was later cut, of him reading newsprint) – I could never find any good reason why Matt would actively choose to read anything but braille when given the option. Preferring print would be like saying “Oh, I’m fine reading six point faded type under poor lighting, in fact I prefer it to reading things comfortably!” In the Born Again story arc, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Matt actually talks about reading print as an occasional strain.

  32. Episode 7 (at 47:10) – The clean up

    Matt is cleaning up his floor after his fight with Stick, lightly brushing his fingers over the carpet in a way that looks remarkably like what we’d expect from someone with impaired vision. How about that? He then finds the ice cream wrapper bracelet that he made for Stick as a child. It’s his fingers, not his other senses, that recognize it. He knows it by touch.

  33. Episode 8 (at 04:40) – The talking alarm clock

    Matt's talking alarm clock, as seen in episode eight of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    Matt wakes up to his talking alarm clock. Which makes sense since he can’t see digital displays. Not part of “the act.” (Interestingly, there was another alarm clock on his night stand at the beginning of the series. I guess someone figured that this made more sense.)

  34. Episode 8 (at 16:40) – The screenreader, part two

    Close-up of Matt's braille display, as seen in the eighth episode of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt is reading something from his computer on a braille display. He’s also got an earpiece for the audio output. Part of his regular blind guy cover or actually useful thing because he really can’t see the screen? Well, both. No pretense involved. Matt would realistically have to “blind guy” his way through the vast majority of his office work, which anyone who has spent more than five seconds thinking about this knows, including everyone involved in this project.

  35. Episode 8 (at 49:50) – The Fisk speech

    Matt is listening to Wilson Fisk give his speech over his computer at home. Emphasis on listening.

  36. Episode 9 (at 19:30) – The newspaper

    Karen shoves the newspaper in Matt’s face, and Foggy says “You know he can’t see that.” As Foggy is about to learn, there’s a lot he didn’t know about Matt Murdock, but on this point, he is absolutely right. Matt is not pretending he can’t see what’s printed on the front page of the newspapers, because he really can’t see what’s on the front page of the newspaper.

  37. Episode 9 (at 22:10) – The art gallery

    Matt meets Vanessa at the art gallery. Where he really literally can’t see any of the paintings. When Vanessa says that “You don’t need sight to appreciate art,” Matt replies that “sight helps.” If we’re talking strictly about visual art, then he’s certainly right. And he would know.

  38. Episode 9 (at 21:00) – The painting

    Matt and Vanessa, admiring her favorite painting, as seen in Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    Vanessa shows Matt one of her “favorite pieces” and, in a rather humorous misstep, seems to have completely forgotten that her customer can’t see the painting in question. Matt asks her to describe it to him, which she does. There is a lot of pretense going on here: Matt pretends to be a customer, and he pretends to need to use a white cane. There is no doubt about this. He does not, however, have to pretend to not be able to see the painting.

  39. Episode 9 (at 27:05) – The caller ID

    Foggy calls, and Matt dismisses the call, though not before the talking caller ID has announced to both Matt and Father Lantom who the call is from. Clearly, Matt would have no other way of knowing who the caller is.

  40. Episode 9 (at 29:50) – The task better handled by the sighted staff

    Karen tells Matt about how she and Foggy identified the men who attacked her from the photos on their contractor’s licences. Incidentally something Matt would not be able to do. With his being blind and all that.

  41. Episode 9 (at 30:45) – The Nelson & Murdock sign

    Foggy gives Matt their new sign to “look at” and he runs his fingers over it. Despite the embossing and large features, it is unlikely that Matt can get any detailed sense of the sign using his other senses, so it makes sense to examine it by touch. Kind of like a blind guy.

  42. Episode 9 (at 35:25) – The muted TV

    Foggy draws everyone’s attention to Wilson Fisk on the muted television screen behind them. Matt asks Josie to turn up the volume, something he would not have known to do if it were not for the sighted people in his company.

  43. Episode 9 (at 43:35) – The limited “view”

    Matt examines the building plans with his hand, from episode nine of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    Matt enters the warehouse down at the docks and examines the large prints on the table next to him. He takes his glove off and runs his hand over the building plans. It is unclear how much information he’s getting from this, going by the comic book version of Matt’s powers, he should be able to feel the printed lines under his fingertips, provided the layer of ink is thick enough. However, a sighted person could take in the entire “scene” of what’s on the table in the fraction of a second. There has never been an incarnation of the character that can match or compensate for the effeciency that ordinary vision provides for cases like this.

  44. Episode 10 (at 07:35) – The caller ID, part two

    Karen calls while Matt and Foggy are having their big confrontation. Again, the talking caller ID lets us know it’s from her.

  45. Episode 10 (at 17:50) – The unseen footage

    Foggy mentions “that news footage of you, in the alley after bombings” and then adds – perhaps because he feels the need to elaborate – “the way you were flipping around…” Which is apt because while Matt obviously experienced the scene first hand, he can’t know anything about how he appears in the footage.

  46. Episode 11 (at 05:30) – The task better handled by the sighted staff, part two

    Karen talks about the misfiled piece of papers she found at the county clerk’s office. Incidentally, not the kind of investigation Matt could undertake unassisted with any kind of efficiency.

  47. Episode 11 (at 07:55) – The balloon

    Karen gives Matt a balloon. She tells him there’s a monkey on it. Which he really wouldn’t know if she didn’t tell him.

  48. Episode 11 (at 34:10) – The workshop

    Matt examines the materials in Melvin’s workshop. It’s all very hands on.

  49. Episode 12 (at 37:50) – The blind workers

    Matt inspects the blind workers, as seen in season one, episode 12 of Marvel's Daredevil

    Matt discovers the blind workers. His different way of taking things in is clearly on display in this scene, and here it takes him quite a bit longer to figure out that the workers are blind than it probably would for a sighted person. This is one of those situations where an inability to monitor subtle eye movements comes into play.

  50. Episode 13 (at 05:55) – The people known from their photos

    Karen talks about Ellison being at the funeral, hinting at his disposition. It is unclear whether Karen has ever met him before (probably not), but she could have recognized him from a picture, his byline in the paper, etc. Matt couldn’t have. Matt can, of course, recognize someone’s voice from a previously heard audio feed though.

  51. Episode 13 (at 20:00) – The screenreader, part three

    Matt, Foggy and Karen working in the conference room, as seen in episode thirteen of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix

    More office work for Matt. In this scene, we even see him use the computer keyboard, searching for the right key with his fingers. As he would since he can’t see the symbols on them. Meanwhile, Foggy and Karen are searching through a bunch of printed documents that Matt presumably can’t read (though he could potentially scan them and have them transcribed with OCR software). Even though comic book Matt can read print (to varying degrees), the task of scanning entire pages and looking for irregularities is much better suited for vision.

  52. Episode 13 (at 39:50) – The costume

    Matt goes to pick up his new costume and gets an explanation from Melvin what the different colored pieces are for (I guess he’s going to have to find out about which are the better protected areas some other way), and then touches the garment to examine it.

  53. Episode 13 (at 49:55) – The newspaper, part two

    Karen reads about Daredevil in the newspaper. Which, by the way, Matt can’t see. Too bad, ’cause that is one cool first page!

  54. Episode 13 (at 50:35) – The Nelson & Murdock sign, part two

    For the second time this season, Matt feels the Nelson and Murdock sign. It’s impossible to know what is other senses might tell him about that sign (something sqaure and metallic with a surface irregularity where the letters are?), but his sense of touch is still his best bet for getting the detail that others can get visually.

Okay, that’s it. I’ve made my case. Please share this with anyone who needs to read it. At this point, I don’t care if I ruffle a few feathers.

10 favorite things about Marvel’s Daredevil

Now that I’ve watched all the episodes again, and found a whole new level love for this show, it’s time to pick it apart and look at all the individual components that made it great. Of course, these are just my own opinions, and the list is far from exhaustive, but I hope we’ll get a good debate going. Some of these are characters, some are relationships, and others are themes or individual scenes. I list them here in no particular order, and will follow up with a “part 2” of this post tomorrow. Did you love the same things I’ve listed so far?

Obviously, this post will contain FULL SPOILERS for all thirteen episodes so don’t read further unless you’ve seen the whole season already!

The willingness to do an original story

Marvel’s Daredevil borrows heavily from Frank Miller’s The Man Without Fear, Miller’s earlier work – especially as it pertains to the Kingpin – and the Bendis/Maleev run. The show obviously draws inspiration from other runs as well, but the end result is, interestingly, something completely new.

This is exactly what I had hoped for. I wasn’t looking to see Born Again, or any other classic storyline, adapted for this show. I know how those stories end, I want new stories. And with comic book canon being as convoluted as it usually is, creating something original for the Marvel Cinematic Universe provides an opportunity clean up some of the mess. The end result ends up righting some oversights that have bothered me. More on that below.

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil

I know that when Charlie Cox was first cast as Matt Murdock, some of us were perhaps a little skeptical of his brown (not red!) hair, relatively slight build, and boyish good looks. Since then, he didn’t dye his hair (good!), put on just the right amount of muscle, and managed to bring more gravitas to this role than I ever could have hoped for. More importantly, he nailed the character in all those little ways we didn’t even realize to expect.

He’s got the charm, the obsessive drive, the doubts, the demons, and all that heart. It didn’t take long to realize that he was Matt Murdock. I felt good about this casting choice from his very first scene, where he’s talking to a priest about his father and the tears start welling up in his eyes. With all the hurt you know he’s about to dole out, that scene sets up his humanity in a way that helps us root for him, even while worrying about the moral consequences of his decisions.

Charlie Cox also handles the many different physical challenges placed on him really well. This includes his scenes as the would-be Daredevil – though he did, of course, have a stunt double for many of the more advanced moves – as well as when he’s Matt Murdock, blind lawyer. Well done, sir. Well done.

Foggy finding out about Matt

The relationship between Matt and Foggy is genuine and spot-on from the very beginning of this show. However, when you as the viewer – or the reader, as the case may be with the comics – know about Matt’s secret and Foggy doesn’t, that also puts things in a different and rather uncomfortable light.

I felt it was a shame that it took Foggy three decades to learn Matt’s secret in the comics (it finally happened in in Daredevil #347, by J.M. DeMatteis and Ron Wagner, which came out in 1995). Foggy took this quite hard, just as he does in Marvel’s Daredevil. In the comics, it is not until Daredevil #353, the first issue of Karl Kesel’s run, that Matt and Foggy return to practicing law together and even have a conversation about Matt’s heightened senses.

In this show, Foggy learns about Matt’s secret nine episodes in, and as one would imagine, Foggy feels utterly betrayed by his best friend. Letting Foggy in on the secret did wonders for their relationship in the comics, so it’s no wonder that the creators want to move on to that chapter going into what will probably be a second season. As pleased as I am with this hurdle being crossed relatively early – and it’s appropriate that it’s Foggy, not Karen, who is the first of the two to learn the truth – this episode (#10) was one I felt could have been executed better.

Matt mixes in a little too much magic in his explanation of the senses, and says absolutely none of the things that would have been on the top of my list if I were Matt trying to defend myself, such as also make sure to list all the things I couldn’t do, despite the heightened senses, to really emphasize that “blind Matt” is a (necessary) half-truth more than an outright lie. I suppose we have to assume that entered into the conversation while we weren’t listening, because that also strikes me as something Foggy would have needed to hear. Still, that this revelation happened at all was important enough to put it on my list.

The diversity

There may be more languages spoken (or attempted, as in the case of Punjabi) in this series than in most anything I’ve seen on television, ever. It has always bothered me when, say, German is represented by people speaking English with a poor imitation of a German accent. Here, we have a multi-cultural cast of characters who speak their respective languages.

Even more impressively, even the characters with an English-speaking background also speak a second language. As someone who uses two languages daily (English being my second), I love to see this kind of diversity, and to see multilingualism presented almost as the norm, the way it is in most parts of the world.

Matt and Vanessa at the art gallery

My goodness, this was a fun scene with lots of tension. Even though he’s there on very serious business, Matt happily launches into full flirt mode while Vanessa seems to relish the “intimate” opportunity to describe her favorite paintings to a blind man. The painting she suggests is also one that would have been perfect for Matt to buy, which makes it all the more interesting and entertaining. This scene also marks the first meeting between Matt and Wilson Fisk and that also makes it stand out.

The origin story of Wilson Fisk

All of episode eight is outstanding, in my opinion. It’s visually stunning throughout, and very well-paced. What really stood out to me, though, were the scenes from Wilson Fisk’s childhood. My goodness, the actor who portrays young Wilson is amazing, as is the story leading up to his defining moment.

The flashback story also provides a really interesting reference back to the painting Fisk purchased from Vanessa in episode three. This is just one of those little details that make this show spectacular.

Decapitation by car door

This show is extremely violent and I can totally understand if people feel that it goes too far. Personally, I don’t particularly mind, and feel that some of the most violent scenes, while very uncomfortable to watch, fill a purpose in conveying to the viewers just how raw and unrestrained rage and pure evil can be.

In the fourth episode, Wilson Fisk kills a man by cracking his head open with the door to his car. As disgusted as I was by this scene, it was a great character moment for Vincent D’Onofrio’s Fisk. The fact that he’s doing all of it because he’d been embarrased in front of his date just makes the whole thing even more extreme.

Toby Leonard Moore as Wesley

Speaking of the bad guys, Toby Leonard Moore is hands down amazing as Fisk’s right-hand man, from his chilling first scene (in which he threatens a certain Mr Farnum, and thus serving up a perfectly cooked Easter egg for all of us hardcore Daredevil fans), down to his last. He has that perfect balance of charm and chill that you find in any civilized psychopath, and delivers some of the most memorable lines of the whole show.

It’s a shame he won’t be seen in potential future seasons of Daredevil, but his spectacular death is almost worth that loss, and it also gives Deborah Ann Woll one of her best scenes as Karen Page. Moore is one actor whose further career I’ll be interested to follow.

All that Braille

I mentioned in an earlier post leading up to this show that I suspected they would finally do away with Matt’s ability to read print by touch, and I’m delighted that this appears to be the case. While there is one scene in episode nine showing Matt run his fingers over some constructions plans, I’m not going to read too much into that; depending on the printing process, even a perfectly normal person in the real world can determine whether a piece of paper is a written document, a map or a drawing; it doesn’t mean he can actually read the fine print, so to speak (nor do we learn definitively whether he can actually make sense of what he’s touching in this scene).

When Daredevil’s print-reading ability was introduced in the very first first issue of Daredevil, way back in 1964, the most common printing processes were different than today. In the modern days of offset printing, the textural basis for this ability makes less sense. More importantly, the original decision behind making this one of Daredevil’s powers likely also had a great deal to do with an excessive need to make Matt Murdock’s blindness as inconsequential as possible. We were supposed to buy into the fact that he could not only read print, but he could do so faster than any sighted person! And, that he preferred it to braille.

Given that this is now 2015, I’m happy to see that the MCU version of Matt appears to be a braille reader exclusively, and that this is a skill he seems to take some pride in. I really hope that the writers of any potential future seasons will stick with this decision. While it may be inconvenient, that’s just the kind of inconvenience that you’re going to have to deal with when the main character is blind and, despite his extraordinary senses, still has to live with at least some of the consequences of that fact. Given the current braille literacy crisis (google it!), and the positive correlation between good braille reading skills and academic success among the blind, increasing the public awareness of braille is a good thing in itself.

Jack Murdock

The flashback sequences in episodes one and two are perfect, and the decision to kick things off with Matt’s accident works much better than one might have guessed. The way things unfold, Jack (played by John Patrick Hayden) is actually the first person we see, which seems appropriate given his central role in the Daredevil mythos. So what if he died in the very first issue of the comic? Matt’s not altogether uncomplicated relationship with his father is of vital importance to everything from his career choice to his conflicted feelings about his own violent nature.

The depiction of the relationship between father and son was one of the strong points of the Daredevil (2003) movie, and it’s handled even better here. While serving alcohol to your nine-year-old son will not win you any father of the year awards, there is real love and devotion on display in these flashback scenes. And, despite the absolutely harrowing first scene, Jack appears to handle his son’s accident with a healthy no-nonsense dose of encouragement and continued high expectations for his future.

I also appreciate the restoration of Jack’s albeit imperfect nobility in this series, as compared to some of the takes on the character that have portrayed him as an enforcer for the mob. There is no indication of anything like that in Marvel’s Daredevil, and I’m grateful for that. The way Matt weeps at the memory of his father in that early confessional scene just makes me love these scenes even more. This is great stuff.

As mentioned, I will be back shortly with even more of the characters, moments and themes I particularly enjoyed, so stay tuned!

Countdown to Marvel’s Daredevil: Blindness and heightened senses

Well, if you’ve been coming around these parts for a while, you’re probably not surprised to see me put up a “Daredevil science” post, looking specifically at what we can expect from the Netflix series. If you’re new to this site, as many of you are these days (welcome!), look under the “science” label in the menu if any of this whets your appetite for more.

Before we go on, though, I should point out that I’m basing much of my speculation on things we’ve seen in the trailers, and other clips, as well as what I’ve been able to glean from some of the reviews I gathered up the courage to actually look at. So, if you’re avoiding all spoilers, wait to read this until after you’ve watched the show

In terms of exposure, the upcoming Netflix series is the biggest thing to happen to Daredevil since his first live action outing in 2003. And while I will gladly defend that movie’s redeeming qualities – there were some – I think we’re all collectively hoping for this new opportunity to translate into the best thing to happen to Daredevil since his creation, more than fifty years ago.

One thing I wonder about, though, is what a wider viewing audience with little prior knowledge of Daredevil will make of this character. I’m referring specifically to some of the core characteristics that have always confounded non-fans. The concept of a blind superhero is not easy to wrap one’s head around.

For this post, I will adress both parts of the equation, i.e. the blindness and the heightened senses. To figure out how Daredevil works as both a superhero and a – yes, legitimately – blind person, you need to look at the totality of it all. To start with, I’ll share my thoughts on what I expect from this series in terms of the handling of Matt’s blindness. After that, I’ll move on to what we can probably expect when it comes to the more fantastical elements of Daredevil.

Legitimately blind

The notion that Matt Murdock’s blindness is somehow not “real” is very common among fans and non-fans alike. There have even been writers who clearly subscribe to some version of this idea (this panel, by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr, from Daredevil #250, is a clear example of what I mean). I have stubbornly and vocally opposed this (mis)understanding of Matt Murdock’s unique physiology since I first came into contact with the character, and longtime readers of The Other Murdock Papers may be excused for being tired of my rants at this point. For the benefit of people new to this site and/or Daredevil, I will rehash some of my arguments here:

  • Visual impairment is not an all or nothing phenomenon

    Matt Murdock is a totally blind person who, thanks to his heightened senses, is able to function – to a great degree – as if he were not totally blind. This is absolutely, and undeniably true. From this follows that he, in order to hide his heightened senses, has to put on a bit of a show. He rarely, if ever, has any need for a white cane (the exceptions to the rule might be if his other senses are temporarily impaired for some reason). So, he has to actively pretend to need a white cane. There’s no denying that there’s a certain amount of pretense that goes into protecting the Daredevil identity.

    Where people tend to go astray, is in assuming that Daredevil’s ability to fight bad guys – and avoid out of place furniture – makes him into a close enough approximation of someone who is sighted, that his blindness is little more than a technicality. This is probably due in part to the way people associate blindness with certain blindness-related paraphernalia (such as white canes, guide dogs, braille etc) that if the need for such paraphernalia is lifted, one goes on to place Daredevil, in this case, into the sighted category.

    In reality, most people with visual impairments, spanning from milder cases of low vision and well into the legal blindness category, can see. They just don’t see very well, their visual function existing on a continuum from nearly normal vision to very little vision at all. There are clearly people who see nothing at all, or can only distinguish light from dark, but this is actually less common than I think most people assume. There are plenty of legally blind people who don’t need to use a white cane, particularly in well-lit areas, and most (legally) blind people don’t know braille, relying instead on other tools for reading print.

    In essence, not really needing a white cane, and – at least in the comics – being able to read print if needed does not make Matt Murdock fully sighted. Rather than thinking of him as a functionally sighted person who is pretending to be totally blind, it would be more accurate to think of him as someone with perhaps roughly 20/400 visual acuity, no sense of color – but hey, a 360 degree “visual” field and probably really good depth perception! – pretending to be totally blind.

  • People are generally not very good at understanding their own sensory experience

    Tying into the points I made above about people not considering the vast territory between totally blind and fully sighted, is another thing people tend to be partially unaware of: their own sensory experience. This is not only evident in the research that, over the last fifteen years or so, has shown how easy it can be to fool human attention (remember that experiment where people miss someone crossing a basketball court in a gorilla costume?), but in understanding how it is we do the things we do.

    When it comes to thinking about Daredevil, I think that many people tend to underestimate what their sense of sight really does for them, and how it provides a wide array of different kinds of information. It’s common to hear people remark that “Oh, Daredevil can “see” everything except screens and pictures,” and then conclude that this is somehow a minor point. The only problem is that this logic disregards the fact that a huge amount of the information we process through our sense of sight is, in fact, “pictorial” in nature.

    Matt Murdock’s inability to see, in any kind of traditional fashion, wouldn’t just trip him up if someone shows him a photograph or if he sits down in front of a television or computer screen, it completely cancels out any and all surface information that most of us take for granted to the point where we don’t even realize it’s a thing. What advantage over any other “regular” totally blind person would young Matt have in front of a school black board? How would he, at a glance, go into a store and know as easily as the rest of us who is a member of the sales staff, as opposed to a fellow customer? How would he know exactly where to go in a visually complex and unfamiliar environment? True, he wouldn’t run the risk of bumping into anything, but that’s not the same as having access to all the same information as the average person.

  • The consequences of even real-life disabilities depend on situation and context

    This brings me to my last point on this particular topic, which is that Matt Murdock, just like any real life person with a disability (or, for that matter, any person with particular strengths or weaknesses, which includes all of us) would be much more affected by his blindness in some situations than in others. There are tasks that he can perform better than most anyone, whether blind or sighted, thanks to his heightened senses and training. There are other tasks that could be performed at the same level as a sighted person, and yet others that are made more difficult by not having “full” vision. Then there are those situations which his heightened senses can’t cover at all. Using a white cane is part of “the act,” using a braille watch, assistive computer technology, or various special gadgets isn’t. This is all part of the complexity of the character and shouldn’t be something to shy away from.

As for what we can expect from the Netflix series, I’m actually not that concerned. I think that the show’s creators and actor Charlie Cox have probably found a good balance between Daredevil’s extraordinary powers, and his “blind spot,” so to speak.

For one, you get the distinct impression that everyone involved in this project has thought about absolutely everything. Secondly, it’s a show that is specifically aiming to make things as grounded and “realistic” as possible (more on that in the next section of this post), and having Matt appear inexplicably capable in ways that are not supported by his particular combination of blindness and heightened senses, is not going to be helpful in achieving that end result.

It also appears, from watching the trailers, that even the Daredevil fight scenes are choreographed in such a way that it quickly becomes clear that Daredevil operates a little differently. This is not to the character’s disadvantage, of course. Out in the field, he really is in his perfect element. This is where having a good general sense of awareness of your surroundings and being nearly immune to sneak attacks outweighs not being able to “see” things in color or great detail. It also looks like Daredevil will make at least occasional use of the classic comic book tactic of killing the lights and fighting his enemies in the dark, where he, unlike his foes, will remain unaffected.

There are also scenes like the one between Matt and Claire Temple, where he wakes up in her apartment. Their dialogue goes as follows:

“Where am I?”
“You’re in my apartment.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the lucky girl who pulled you out of the garbage.”
[At this point, Matt desperately feels for his mask]
“Have you seen my face?”
“Yeah.”
“Great.”
“Your outfit kind of sucks by the way.”
“Yeah, it’s a work in progress.”

This scene, to me, clearly – yet subtly – communicates a difference between how Matt behaves in this situation and what one would expect from a sighted vigilante. Under the circumstances, it would make more sense to start by asking Claire who she is, rather than where he is. If Daredevil could see, he would be able to size up the room in great detail within a fraction of a second. He would also realize the futility of asking his rescuer whether she’s seen his face. Granted, Matt is probably pretty out of it in this scene, but his sensory make-up is obviously intended to affect his behavior in this unfamiliar setting.

It is also clear that placing the character of Daredevil in a live action setting, running for twelve hours or more, puts a higher demand on these creators’ ability to think about the minutiae of Matt’s entire range of everyday activities, than what is usually the case in the comics. A comic book is 22 pages of story, made up of static images, with very little time to spend on things besides advancing the plot and throwing the superhero into action. The time that passes in between panels, and issues, is part of the “yada yada” that the reader simply has to infer. With the page constraints, there is precious little space to devote to scenes of Matt Murdock simply going about his day. The “cost” of including such moments drops dramatically when you move the story to a live action format, but at the same time, this forces the actor, writers, and directors etc to actually think about what that would look like, making it much harder to simply use the character’s powers as some mystery deus ex machina.

While the use of assistive and adaptive technology in the Daredevil comic has increased in frequency over the years, and in this regard I can’t praise current writer Mark Waid enough, it’s still a rare sight. I expect to see more of this in this show for the simple reason that it would be a natural component of building a more realistic world around Matt Murdock.

Legitimately “super”

What about that important other part of the equation, the sensory enhancements that make it possible for Matt Murdock, blind lawyer by day, to also be Daredevil, vigilante by night? Well, I expect to see a different take on this than what we’re used to. I get the sense, and there are indications of this from reading some of the reviews, that Daredevil will not possess a separate radar sense in this show. This may be a controversial move to some, but this too is an area where there is plenty of reason to update the original understanding of Daredevil’s senses.

It is also not a completely novel move. The 2003 movie strongly suggested that we view Matt’s hearing as the primary source of his pseudo-visual perceptions. The two runs of the comic that has greatly influenced this show – Frank Miller’s The Man Without Fear, and Brian Bendis’ run – also downplay the existence of anything outside of the ordinary set of human senses. No mystery waves emanating from Matt’s brain, just dramatically heightened senses of hearing, smell touch and taste. In reality, this would mean that the “radar sense” is essentially a highly refined ability to echolocate, honed through practice and experience, and elevated by Matt’s sense of hearing being both more sensitive and covering a greater range of sound frequencies.

Over the years, I’ve gradually come to favor this understanding of the “radar” sense. First of all, I find I more natural, and consequently more elegant. I look at it as applying the thinking behind Occam’s razor to the notion of superpowers, in that a character’s powers should never be more complicated or less “realistic” than what are strictly needed to explain the effects of those powers. If “echolocation on steroids” is sufficient to explain Daredevil’s knack for fighting crime, then it’s unnecessary to complicate things further.

So the question is: Would echolocation be sufficient? First of all, some suspension of disbelief is always going to be necessary. Even characters with no powers at all do things in the comics and in the Marvel movies that defy all logic. The very idea of a blind man developing heightened senses and fighting crime is a bit silly. At the same time, the last few years have seen quite a bit of research on the existence of echolocation in real-life blind humans. People who are expert echolocators really do display some pretty jaw-dropping abilities, and are able to discern relatively small objects. While these people tend to use active echolocation, i.e. making a sound and listening for the echoes, there is also evidence to suggest that blind people passively make use of inter-aural differences in the ambient sound field to gauge their distance relative to nearby walls.

The point is that the sense of hearing can be used to derive spatial information from the environment, and the mechanism behind this is, in my mind, enough to base a superpower on. Add to this Matt Murdock’s ability to literally hear the locations of people around him, even when they are not moving, from the sounds their bodies make naturally, and it’s easy to see why he’s impossible to hide from.

What of Matt’s other senses? Well, the sense of taste was always more of a parlor trick than a useful skill – and our actual sense of taste is closely tied to our sense of smell anyway – so I think we can safely ignore that. That leaves smell and touch.

I’ll be interested to see what they make of Daredevil’s famous nose. Smell was underutilized for decades until Frank Miller came along, and it tends to be one of those senses that are often ignored. A heightened sense of smell could be incredibly useful to a blind character, so I’d be very surprised if we don’t see this put to good use, the main challenge being communicating what Matt is smelling in a way that doesn’t require too much exposition.

When it comes to his sense of touch, I expect this to be referenced as well. It wouldn’t surprise me though, to see Matt’s long-established ability to read print done away with. First of all, it has the disadvantage of being based on printing techniques that are less common today than they were in 1964. Secondly, to people who are new to the character, and aren’t used to this somewhat flaky idea, it risks being one of those things that take away from the (relative) realism of the show. A heightened sense of touch can be imagined in ways that have a direct impact on Matt’s fighting ability, in the form of proprioception – i.e. the “inner” sense of touch that informs body awareness – but I find it hard to believe that the creators of this show find Matt’s ability to read print important enough to hang on to. There’s no shame in using braille, and this shouldn’t be an issue in 2015

Well, if you’ve made it to the end of this post, feel free to comment, if only to let me know that you made it to the very end. Thoughts – and questions! – are always welcome.

Daredevil in Superior Iron Man – Should we worry?

A couple of weeks ago, when Bleeding Cool reported a rumor about the consequences of Daredevil’s involvement in the first arc of Superior Iron Man, my initial reaction was to throw a minor temper tantrum on Twitter, along the lines of “What the #%!? Marvel!” (Though I probably don’t have to delete the expletive since I’m usually pretty polite even when pissed, and don’t remember using any actual swear words.)

Then it quickly dawned on me that what Bleeding Cool was reporting, at least the part of it that wasn’t conjecture more than anything solid (because Bleeding Cool), was something I had already kind of assumed anyway, just from reading the solicitations for Superior Iron Man #1 and #2. And, my guess is that anyone who had done the same would have likely drawn the same conclusion.

The news also didn’t blow up the Internet and as far as I can tell (though Bleeding Cool seemed to think it would at the time), and no other news outlet has paid much attention it. Maybe because pairing the publicly available information in a solicitation of an upcoming issue with someone from Marvel confirming this information and then suggesting a big “forever” change that honestly makes no sense doesn’t quite count as news.

Don’t read further if you’re avoiding all spoilers for Superior Iron Man.

What Bleeding Cool was talking about, now that we’re safely on this side of the spoiler warning, was the possibility that Daredevil would regain his sight, “possible forever!”, as a consequence of his involvement in Superior Iron Man. While I never for a moment suspected this would somehow last forever (because removing a character’s number one gimmick just in time for his big Netflix series sounds completely insane), my reaction to Marvel toying with this aspect of the character at all was not exactly one of excitement.

The reason for this is that while I’m not against these kind of stories in principle (Daredevil has had his sight back temporarily a number of times), I do worry about the execution. Also, as time goes by – we’re not in the 1960s anymore – finding ways to reverse these things in ways that can get past my own personal bullshit radar, becomes something of a challenge. That doesn’t mean this story might not be a great one though.

Before I go on, let’s look at what all available solicitations for the Superior Iron Man series actually have to say on the topic. Since, Superior Iron Man #3 comes out on Wednesday, there’s also a preview available.

Cover to Superior Iron Man #4

SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1
TOM TAYLOR (W) • YILDIRAY ÇINAR (A)
Cover by MIKE CHOI
VARIANT Cover by YILDIRAY ÇINAR
VARIANT COVER BY SARA PICHELLI
VARIANT COVER BY SKOTTIE YOUNG
75th ANNIVERSARY VARIANT BY ALEX ROSS
75th ANNIVERSARY SKETCH VARIANT BY ALEX ROSS
ROCKET RACCOON & GROOT VARIANT BY TBA
Blank VARIANT ALSO AVAILABLE

Be Superior! How much would you pay for perfection? Beauty? Immortality? Tony Stark knows, and he’s ready to give it to you in SUPERIOR IRON MAN #1! But at a terrible price. Spinning out of Avengers & X-Men: AXIS, the old Tony Stark is back, only this time he’s SUPERIOR! More stylish, more confident, and more cunning than ever before. And he’s ready to lead you into the future! San Francisco is about to become the prototype for his new world concept. The first step? Release Extremis upon the entire city! Only Daredevil isn’t down with Stark’s new vision of the future. Does the Man Without Fear have a place in the city of tomorrow? A bold new direction for the Armored Avenger begins this November from the all-new creative team of Tom Taylor (Injustice: Gods Among Us, Earth 2) and Yildray Cinar (Supergirl)!
BE SUPERIOR!

NEW CREATIVE TEAM TOM (INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US/EARTH 2) Taylor AND YILDIRAY (SUPERGIRL) ÇINAR START AN ALL-NEW SERIES SPINNING OUT OF AXIS!

  • How much would you pay for perfection, beauty…immortality? TONY STARK is going to find out.
  • The AXIS EFFECT has changed IRON MAN
  • Now HE’S going to change the WORLD…at a terrible cost.

32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Cover to Superior Iron Man #2

SUPERIOR IRON MAN #2
TOM TAYLOR (W) • YILDIRAY ÇINAR (A)
Cover by MIKE CHOI
VARIANT COVER BY PHIL NOTO

THE SUPERIORITY COMPLEX!

  • TONY STARK has transformed SAN FRANCISCO…into the prototype for his NEW WORLD concept
  • But MATT MURDOCK isn’t down with Tony’s new vision
  • Can DAREDEVIL lead the rebellion against THE SUPERIOR IRON MAN?

32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Cover to Superior Iron Man #3

SUPERIOR IRON MAN #3
TOM TAYLOR (W) • YILDIRAY ÇINAR (A/C)
Cover by MIKE CHOI
Variant Cover by YILDIRAY ÇINAR

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF MATT MURDOCK

  • After the life-changing events of issue #2, MATT MURDOCK is faced with an impossible choice.
  • Will DAREDEVIL rebel or will he buy into TONY STARK’S vision?
  • Can nothing stop the SUPERIOR IRON MAN’S non-stop party? You’ll be surprised at who wants to crash it!

32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99


Cover to Superior Iron Man #4

SUPERIOR IRON MAN #4
TOM TAYLOR (W) • YILDIRAY ÇINAR (A)
Cover by MIKE CHOI
WELCOME HOME VARIANT COVER BY TBA

DAREDEVIL ON THE ROCKS!

  • DAREDEVIL discovers the secret to TONY’S success!
  • How far will Tony go to stop MATT MURDOCK from revealing this shocking secret to the world?
  • As Tony’s actions become even more questionable, who will conspire to take him down, leading up to the battle you thought you’d never see?

32 PGS./Rated T+ …$3.99

So, just by reading the solicits, you get a pretty good sense of the gist of the story, as far as it’s being revealed to us in advance. And it’s not at all strange that Marvel would choose for Daredevil to be part of it. Tony Stark comes along with a grand, if questionable, vision that includes being able to cure physical deficits. Daredevil is by far the best-known hero who, along with his superpowers, has a physical disability that could presumably be cured by Extremis. Obviously, Matt will be subjected to some kind of “cure” against his will.

The timing of this story also makes it more than just science fiction. Sensory “prostheses” are becoming a real thing these days. Cochlear implants (which partially restore hearing) have been around for more than two decades now, and their vision counterparts are on the cusp of leaving the experimental stage. Extremis obviously belongs in the Marvel Universe, but some of the ethical considerations and psychological ramifications that Matt might face during this story aren’t that far-fetched.

But that depends on where this story is going, and how Matt is written in it. What will his concerns be, aside from the grand scale experiment of it all? Will his feelings about what this means for him personally be nuanced and conflicted?

One thing that concerns me is that we’ll se a repeat of the many times in the past that Daredevil has had his sight back. There’s been a tendency to gloss over the notion that Matt might occasionally miss his sight or that his being Daredevil (which always paradoxically appears to require his remaining blind) is important enough to him to make him dismiss any short-lived joy he may experience. The one notable exception from this rule is The Price, a wonderful story. It has its own shortcomings though, in the irrational way Matt declines his “gift.” He has to, of course, or he wouldn’t be Daredevil, but that highlights the difficulty that a reversal of the sighted state usually brings. It’s a challenge for any creative team to handle, and I hope this one is up to that challenge.

As for whether this is permanent as Bleeding Cool suggests, I think that’s a very solid no. The suggestion is outlandish. From the looks of it, Matt Murdock will be walking around as his usual blind self in his own book while all this is happening, even though there are no guarantees that we’re not dealing with separate timelines that don’t perfectly line up. Then there’s the Netflix series coming up. And that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that permanently “unblinding” Daredevil would make no sense.

In closing, I will definitely be reading Superior Iron Man, albeit it with some trepidation. How do you guys feel about this?

A world of touch and motion

Matt asks to have a large robot described to him, in Daredevil #5

I’m going to state right off the bat that, as I’m sitting down to write this, I don’t have a proper title yet for this post. Which is rare for me, since I usually have an idea for the main theme of every post (even when it’s not just as straight-forward as “Review of…”) and always type in the title before I do anything else. If you’re reading this, I obviously must have settled on something eventually, but suffice it to say that things might get a little philosophical – more so than scientific, thought there is a little of that too – and I’m just hoping I can string this line of reasoning together. And then give my thinking-out-loud-in-writing an appropriate name. Randomness ahead; you’ve been warned!

Let’s start at the top. Or rather, the starting point of this particular line of though: Matt’s new public life. One thing I wanted to return to after my Daredevil #4 review (before I found myself drowning in work) were some of the consequences of Matt’s recent decision to come out of the superhero closet, once and for all. In Daredevil #4, we saw Matt and Kirsten draw stares from curious onlookers on their date, and Matt was even asked by two teenage girls if they could take a picture with him. On the next page, he has his picture taken by a paparazzo. Instant fame is an obvious consequence of the new status quo (even though Matt Murdock would have been a reasonably well-known local celebrity in his own right for years, back in New York), and in the scene below, you can almost hear the gears turning in his head as he wraps his brain around the demands of the Instagram era while trying to be a good sport.

Matt poses for a wefie, in Daredevil #4 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

There are things that are more threatening than teenage girls and ending up in the gossip columns, however, and we get a riveting taste of that in Daredevil #5. And of course, the threat to the hero himself and the people in his life (because supervillains are generally insane and incredibly vindictive by design) is the most obvious consequence at the top of everyone’s list when a superhero exposes himself. It’s the main reason these characters bother to keep a secret identity in the first place.

With Matt Murdock/Daredevil there are other interesting things that are exposed, which I touched on in this recent post, namely: With the final decisive outing, his peculiar physiology also becomes common knowledge. At least to a certain extent. While his medical history may be floating around (though not likely as a matter of public record), I doubt he’s ever had an audiogram made describing the extent of his super-hearing, and – apologies to Brian Michael Bendis – the notion that someone, unbeknownst to Matt, has measured the extent of his radar sense seems a little flaky. What is known, however, is that the famous protector of Hell’s Kitchen is indeed blind, and that he has a set of other abilities that allows him to be a superhero.

This makes Daredevil more vulnerable (see Daredevil #6!), but it also raises potential questions about Matt Murdock. One thing I was curious about was whether Matt would continue to use a white cane, even after people know that he clearly has other means of sensing his surroundings. Six issues into volume four, and a move across the country, and it’s clear that he has no intention of giving it up. I have no way of knowing if this was ever even a consideration, and thus not something anyone on the creative team actively made a decision on, but in my book, keeping things the way they are makes perfect sense. Both in terms of pure character recognizability and for in-story reasons. Here’s why:

  1. Matt and his cane go together like Daredevil and his billy club

    Okay, so the cane is his billy club (I’ll return to that below), but that’s not really what I mean. The cane – along with the dark glasses, the head of red hair and a nice-looking business suit – is what makes Matt Murdock recognizable as Matt Murdock to someone who might pull a random issue of a Marvel comic off the rack and flip through it. It also reminds potential new readers who may know very little about the character, or even the Marvel Universe in general, that this is a blind character. While the heightened remaining senses complicate matters, this is no less true than it was before Matt’s courtroom confession. And, since people in general seem to have a hard time making sense of even real life people who fall in between categories (i.e. are hard of hearing or have low vision, as opposed to being totally deaf or blind), keeping the cane in the comic may be necessary to get the whole “blind superhero” point across.

  2. The cane is a billy club in disguise

    The most obvious in-story reason for Matt being so attached to his cane is that it’s obviously also his billy club in disguise. And since he could be called upon to perform his Daredevil duties at any time (and in fact appears to always wear his costume underneath his civilian clothes), the billy club needs to come along for the ride. On the other hand, he could easily keep it concealed and strapped to his body the way he does in costume. One has to wonder what the police might think of his carrying a bludgeoning tool around (though I suppose there are no laws against it), but it’s hard to argue with his right to carry a white cane. In many states, it is illegal for someone who doesn’t have a visual impairment to carry a white cane (though if you own one for the sole reason of cosplaying as Matt Murdock, you don’t have to worry), but Matt certainly has every right to it.

  3. Matt complains about having his cane taken from him at the Owl's mansion, as seen in Daredevil #3
    From Daredevil #3, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

  4. A white cane has uses besides mobility

    A person obviously doesn’t have to be totally blind to use a white cane, and there are points to using a cane aside from making sure the user doesn’t step into a manhole or get himself in serious trouble. Canes used by blind people have a particular look to them for a reason, and that is to signal to other people that the person carrying them has limited (or no) vision. White cane users have the right of way in traffic situations, for instance. And, in the case of someone like Matt, it probably takes a lot of explaining out of situations like asking the person next to him at a bus stop which particular bus is approaching, or stopping someone on the street to double-check an unfamiliar address (to name just a couple of situations that his heightened senses don’t really cover). Even with Matt’s recent fame, far from everyone would know who he is. You will always find plenty of people who can’t identify a photo of the president. Or Lindsey Lohan.

    Another thing that would actually be useful to the normally crowd-averse Daredevil is that people tend to step to the side if they spot someone with a a white cane. Being able to clear a path to give himself some space during rush hour is something I’d imagine would make it easier for him to concentrate on other things happening around him, and not feel like he’s drowning in heartbeats or offensive body odors. And who really wants to drown in offensive body odors?

  5. For when the radar gets a little sketchy

    There has been no dearth of situations that have been known to mess with Matt’s senses, the radar sense in particular, over the last fifty years. I already mentioned crowds, and another well-known complications writers like to throw at Daredevil is excessive noise. Then there’s pain, the common cold, and a long list of other major and minor threats to Matt’s ability to use his senses fully.

    Interestingly, except for big battle scenes like the one we saw Daredevil engage in – and complain about – in Daredevil #6, it almost seems easier for Matt to avoid general commotion in his Daredevil guise. After all, he prefers to operate at night, away from the streets and when he’s up against a dozen goons, he at least knows they’re all bad guys, and doesn’t have to make an extra effort distinguishing one from the other. Allowing for the highly probable scenario that occasional disorientation or general radar crap-out is as much a part of civilian Matt Murdock’s life, the cane might actually be legitimately useful every now and then.

    I’m not suggesting he can’t safely walk past an active construction site in pouring rain, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that doing so might require an extra dose of concentration that he would rather spend elsewhere. In fact, one nice thing about the cane generally is that it might allow a more sensible allocation of attention. Maybe he’s concentrating very closely on someone suspicious behind him, and not having to “look” where he’s going actually makes that easier.

    Just because the radar is 360 degrees doesn’t mean that he can actively and fully attend to every location in space at the same time, because that’s not how the human brain works (something Waid & Co. actually touch on in the scene below). Imagine that you’re walking while checking your phone a little too closely at the same time. In this case the cane would be Matt’s equivalent of having a little signal that goes off when you’re about to step off a curb that you missed because you were paying too much attention to your Twitter feed. Or something like that. 😉

  6. From Daredevil #3, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

  7. As a poking device

    This will bring me back to a more fundamental point about Matt Murdock’s sensory world that I wanted to make (this list is by no means the main feature of this post, I warned you it would be a meandering mess). Anyway, in Daredevil #5, when the upgraded Leap-Frog suddenly pops out of the water, Matt calls out to Foggy to “Be my eyes!” This might strike some readers as weird. After all, Matt “saw” this one coming before Foggy did, before the big robot had even surfaced, and we would expect him to have a pretty good sense of the massive thing in front of him. Or would he?

    Matt asks to have a large robot described to him, in Daredevil #5
    From Daredevil #5, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

    One thing that the creators manage to capture here is that Matt may not be spectacular at actually recognizing what he’s “seeing” when that something is either completely novel or has an ambiguous shape. I’ll get back to the details when I’m done with this list; for now, let’s just agree that the world is full of ambiguous shapes. Matt doesn’t have access to any real color or texture information and the radar sense does not have the same ability to discern fine detail as vision does, even when controlling for the absence of color vision. This would logically drive Matt to rely on touch more than the average person in order to learn more about an object. In this kind of scenario, the white cane can be an extension of the hand. Not necessary to avoid random object on the street, but possibly helpful in learning at least something more about it.

    He could even pair it with his sense of hearing. A light tap against a big garbage can, and he might learn whether it’s empty or not. The pavement changing texture (though this can also to some extent be felt underfoot), might be an interesting piece of sensory information to associate with a particular location. It would be like just another device for gathering information that might otherwise, literally, be out of reach. Is this information strictly necessary then? Probably not. But for a character who is all about attention to detail, and being in tune with his surroundings, one can at least see the psychological satisfaction this might bring to someone so naturally meticulous.

What this sort of brings me to are some related general thoughts on the key differences between how Daredevil experiences the world and how (most of) the rest of us do. This is something I’ve tackled in a myriad ways since I started this blog, and I’ll try not to cover too much ground that’s already been covered. It’s just that I obviously spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about Daredevil’s senses and, hey, where else would I share these thoughts? 😉

As evidenced by that scene from Daredevil #5 I’ve already mentioned, one thing Matt is likely to fail miserably at is to size things up with a “glance,” they way sighted people do. Note, I didn’t say size up situations. That’s something our hero is obviously quite adept at, often noticing things beyond the realm of the average senses (although this too would depend on the circumstances). When I say things, I mean just that: static objects.

The way we humans have built the world around us caters perfectly to the way our senses work. We, along with our closest primate relatives, have better color vision than most other mammals (we are “trichromatic” rather than “dichromatic”), and we see in fine detail. Our visual acuity doesn’t rival that of birds of prey, but is far better than that of a cat or a dog. We also have a massive amount of neural real estate devoted to vision, which the visual areas of the brain accounting for around 30 percent of the cortex. And this is where it all happens. To quote a 1993 Discovery article on visual perception (emphasis mine):

“Vision, of course, is more than recording what meets the eye: it’s the ability to understand, almost instantaneously, what we see. And that happens in the brain. The brain, explains neurobiologist Semir Zeki of the University of London, has to actively construct or invent our visual world. Confronted with an overwhelming barrage of visual information, it must sort out relevant features and make snap judgments about what they mean. It has to guess at the true nature of reality by interpreting a series of clues written in visual shorthand; these clues help distinguish near from far, objects from background, motion in the outside world from motion created by the turn of the head.”

It naturally follows that removing a number of features of all the objects around us, leaving only shape (and possibly some sense of differences in density), would greatly interfere with this ability to make snap judgements about unfamiliar objects, or objects that cannot be discerned based on shape alone. Daredevil obviously has access to sound and scent information (and touch, if he’s in a position to touch the object), but not all objects can easily be identified by sound and scent alone. And, to make a sound, an object has to be in motion.

Before you start thinking that I’m suggesting that Daredevil makes for a pretty crappy superhero, I can assure you that’s not the case. Quite the contrary. As is so very typical of this unique character, what he lacks in one domain, may exist in abundance in another. The way I see it, it makes sense that Matt would be highly sensitive to the motion of objects. Vibrating objects make sound, but objects moving across a scene may also stand out more clearly to him. Research on visual processing has arrived at fairly well-established hypothesis that the brain deals with “what” and “where” information separately, along different processing streams (this logic may apply to other senses as well).

Since the radar sense, whatever it is, functions in ways that are analogous, at least in some respects, to vision, it makes sense that the Matt’s brain would handle this information as “vision-like” (and hey, he’s a fictional character, so we’re free to speculate), and process much of it in visual areas of the brain. While the “what” areas of Matt’s brain have relatively less to work with than in the average person, the areas which handle “where” information might be able to become more prominent. It’s easy to see why quick reflexes combined with being especially attuned to even slightly movement anywhere in an over-sized “visual” field would be extremely useful for someone whose hobby is fighting supervillains.

The very fact that Daredevil notices signals that few other people are quite so attuned to is really a huge strength when you think about it. It’s a little like being a southpaw boxer (and hey, he’s that too) except no one he fights has ever fought someone quite like him. He might be missing the obvious, the things that are right in front of him – and that might come at a high prize – but when no one knows to take care to eliminate the signals he is most attuned to, that’s a huge ace up his sleeve. Or at least it was, until he gave it away by coming clean…

That’s it for this long train of thought. Thanks for riding along! I’m just surprised I ended up reasonably close to where I started. 😉