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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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.

Recommended stand-alone issues of Daredevil

For my first proper countdown post – as we await the release of all thirteen episodes of Daredevil on April 10 – I wanted to take a look at some of my favorite stand-alone issues of Daredevil. Not all of these are perfectly self-contained, of course, but they stand well enough on their own that you don’t need to know much going in, and you get a full story with each issue. The issues I chose for this list also meet the criteria of being reasonably friendly to new readers and at least minimally relevant to the Netflix series.

That last bit would really only exclude stand-alone issues like Daredevil #92 (vol 2) which is told from the perspective of Milla Donovan and deals with her and Matt’s relationship. It wouldn’t make my list anyway, but since Milla isn’t going to be in the Netflix series, I wouldn’t even consider it.

Having said that, I should also mention that while technical quality is certainly an important consideration, I’ve put greater emphasis on whether these issues have important things to say about Daredevil and/or other characters or can serve as a good introduction to Matt Murdock and his world. Let’s get started! All issues are listed in chronological order, not by individual merit.

Exposé (Daredevil #164, vol 1)

This issue, written by Roger McKenzie, and penciled by a very young Frank Miller does require some background information going in, namely that Ben Urich is a journalist who, over several issues, has begun to piece together that Matt Murdock and Daredevil may be one and the same. Daredevil is in the hospital after a recent bout with the Hulk, but that’s not really relevant to what happens next, which is that Urich confronts Daredevil with his findings. After Daredevil fails to identify a photograph of his father, he confesses and begins to tell the journalist about his life.

Ben Urich confronts Daredevil in Daredevil #164 by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller

This issue marks the beginning of the close relationship between Matt and Ben, and is important to the continued stories of both characters. Ben Urich gradually uncovering Daredevil’s true identity was an important plot element in the 2003 Daredevil movie, and we can likely expect elements of the same in the coming Netflix series where Ben Urich – played by Vondie Curtis-Hall – is a central character. If you want to know how it all began, and get a bonus recap of Daredevil’s origin, this is a good place to start. I’ve also written extensively about this issue and the ones leading up to it in the post “Meet Ben Urich” from 2008.

Where can I find it? This issue is included in the first volume of the Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller trade paperback, as well as other collections that cover the same era. It is also available on the Marvel Unlimited digital platform.

Roulette (Daredevil #191, vol 1)

Daredevil #191, written and penciled by Frank Miller (with inks by Terry Austin) may be my very favorite single issue of Daredevil. It is the perfect stand-alone story in that, while it certainly helps to know who Daredevil and his nemesis Bullseye are, it’s not crucial to appreciating the story. The artwork, with generous amount of negative space, interesting panel layouts and elegant simplicity, is the perfect match for a story that does a perfect job of nailing down, defining and explaining Matt Murdock.

Daredevil and Bullseye, as seen in Daredevil #191 by Frank Miller

This issue showcases his fears and weaknesses through the torment he suffers, not just in the wake of Elektra’s death, but in the way he feels complicit in the shooting of a young boy by being, not just a hero, but a role model for violence. I have nothing negative to say about this issue, it’s as close to perfection as they come, and it’s truly innovative in its approach. See also my previous post on this very issue.

Where can I find it? This issue is also easy to find in the many collection that cover this era. Of course, it’s also available on the Marvel Unlimited digital platform.

Promises (Daredevil #192, vol 1)

Another great one-shot is writer Alan Brennert’s sole contribution to the Daredevil archives, with art provided by Klaus Janson. It’s just a nice little slice-of-life story focusing on Ben Urich (more so than Exposé above, which is really more about Daredevil’s own story), but also featuring plenty of insight into Daredevil, as well as the Kingpin who also makes an appearance. You also get a great sense of Daredevil’s world and the corruption that runs rampant in it. The story revolves around good people doing good, good people doing bad, and the many shades of gray in between. It also reminds us never to presume to know what anyone else is going through, and doing the best with what we have. It is a tale which is both tragic and optimistic, and surprisingly moving.

Daredevil and Ben Urich talking, from Daredevil #192 by Alan Brennert and Klaus Janson

Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

The Price (Daredevil #223, vol 1)

On the surface, The Price, by Denny O’Neil and David Mazzucchelli, may appear a little campy. The Beyonder appears in Matt and Foggy’s office and asks them to argue his case, a case that is pretty much based on the alien visitor’s wish to own the entire world. It’s certainly a little out there. As is what happens to Daredevil during the course of the issue when the powerful Beyonder restores his sight.

Matt has his sight back in Daredevil #223 by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

The outlandish aspects of the story aside, this issue is surprisingly moving. It’s really the first time that Matt has had his sight back and actually been able to enjoy it for any length of time. The experience is also pretty heartbreaking for out main character who has to deal with some delayed grief when he realizes exactly what it is he’s been missing all these years. In the end though, he decides that he cares about his principles even more than this new gift. It’s pretty powerful stuff and says a lot about the character. I’ve written about this issue before as well.

Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

34 Hours (Daredevil #304, vol 1)

On the title page, 34 Hours is introduced as “A story about New York.” This sums up the issue well, and also explains why I love it so much. I like this issue almost as much as Roulette, as they both do a fantastic job of stripping away the fuss and focusing on what makes Daredevil such a great character. Aside from that, the two issues really don’t have much in common though. Where Roulette is tragic, 34 Hours is brimming with optimism. The latter issue, by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney, is also much more traditional in its format.

Panel from Daredevil #304, by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney

I’ve written about this issue before as well so I recommend giving that post a read for more information on this tale of a day in the life of New York and the title character!

Where can I find it? Sadly, this issue hasn’t been collected either and also isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

Honorable mentions

Other issues that meet the above criteria, and can be found in collected editions and digitally through Marvel, are the following:

  • Daredevil #1, vol 1

    The very first issue of Daredevil, by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, is actually pretty good. It does a good job of introducing this brand new character, uses quite sophisticated storytelling techniques, and obviously managed to capture enough interest to make up for the very inconsistent quality of the first couple of years of the title.

  • Guts (Daredevil #185, vol 1)

    This is a clever Frank Miller issue (inks by Klaus Janson), that focuses almost entirely on Foggy Nelson, as he sets about doing his own crime fighting. While I like this issue, it has to be said that most modern readers have gotten used to seeing Foggy as a more serious character compared to how he appears here, but it’s still a good read. For another, more recent take on Foggy, see The Secret Life of Foggy Nelson (Daredevil #88, vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and David Aja

  • Return of the King: Prologue (Daredevil #116, vol 2)

    Also by Ed Brubaker and David Aja, this issue is all about the Kingpin, and his new life in Spain where he finds love again after the death of his wife Vanessa. It all comes to a tragic end, of course, but the story really highlights the complex nature of the Kingpin, something which appears to be a big part of the Netflix series.

  • Daredevil #7, vol 3

    This stand-alone Christmas issue by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera is another favorite of mine. Waid and Rivera skillfully take Matt out of his element as he goes on a school trip with a class of blind school children and they’re stranded in the woods after a bad bus accident. I like the idea of Matt doing volunteer work. It goes well with a character who’s always cared about his community, regardless of what costume he’s wearing.

Well, that’s it! What did you guys think of my choices and what are some other issues you’d like to add to the list? Let the rest of us know in the comment section!

Daredevil #32 – A sensory revisit

Okay, let’s take that second look at Daredevil #32, shall we? Specifically, at the “sensory aspects” I mentioned in my review. You see, I found the scene of Matt entering the Jester’s house and finding the fake Foggy to be so well done from a senses perspective that I wanted to revisit the scene and tell you what I found so impressive about it.

Let’s start off with this first couple of panels that shows Matt face to face with fake Foggy. His reaction is clearly not what the Jester expects…

Matt in the Jester's house, as seen in Daredevil #32 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

“The Jester’s lured me into a trap. That’s obvious. I’m not stupid. But no whirring machinery, no sniper’s heartbeat, no whiff go knockout gas… what does he expect me to find? Wait…”

Now, what is interesting about this scene is that not only that Matt doesn’t quite recognize what it is he’s “looking” at, he doesn’t even fully register that he’s looking at anything at all, or at least not anything interesting or attention-grabbing. Not at first.

I can see some readers potentially reacting to this, wondering what Daredevil’s senses are good for if he can’t “see” something that’s right in front of him. I will get back to why and how this makes sense (at least to me) in my treatment of the following panels, but for now I will say this: The “delayed reaction” interpretation of the radar sense has actually been quite common throughout Daredevil history. The list of scenes in which Matt assesses a situation by sort of peeling back the layers, and finally commenting to himself that “now, my radar sense is picking it up!” is definitely a long one, and it spans every decade of Daredevil publication.

One of the more recent cases of this phenomenon that come to mind is a scene that is somewhat similar to this one, from Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark’s run. In Daredevil #104 (vol. 2), Matt comes home to find that his wife Milla (driven insane by Mister Fear) has left her nurse beaten on the stairs in front of him.. When Matt enters, he at first doesn’t notice the unconscious woman. It is only after he smells the blood and focuses his attention in that direction that all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

This example is relatively recent, but as mentioned, it has been common for Matt to pay more (and more immediate) attention to information gained from his other senses. This is evident in these panels from Daredevil #32 as well. Matt is clearly listening and smelling for threats before doing anything else.

Matt walks into the Jester's trap, Daredevil #32 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

“And what is this? A Jaycees haunted house? Who are you supposed to represent? Real dead bodies have a distinct odor, Jester. This smells like foam rubber and latex.”

Only after Matt has dismissed any immediate threats coming through his heightened senses of hearing and smell, does he appear to pay much attention to the dangling body shape in front of him. This may seem odd, but it need not be. The fact is that all of us generally “sense” more than we “perceive” and are able to consciously pay attention to even less. More and more research supports the idea that our own sense of feeling as if we see, hear and take in almost everything around us is largely an illusion. Just google “inattentional blindness” and “change blindness,” or better yet, look them up on YouTube, and you’ll be amazed at how much all of us actually miss without even knowing it.

When you look at Matt Murdock’s senses (and lack thereof), there is the further complication that many of the things that usually grab our visual attention, such as colors, details, the distinctive features of things we recognize, are not available to him. More than likely, his idea of Foggy probably includes an expectation of a certain “Foggyesque” shape, but far more distinctive are things like scent, his voice and other bodily sounds (heartbeat, breath sounds, the intestines moving around), footsteps, a general movement pattern. All of those characteristics that scream Foggy to him, as opposed to someone who may just be of the same general body type, have been removed from this lifeless dummy who, to Matt, could be anybody.

Of course, even just any body hanging from the ceiling, might be expected to grab someone’s attention, but again, that’s if we assume the same hierarchical ordering of the senses that exist in people with the usual five. The radar sense (regardless of what it is, for these purposes just thinking of it as an ability will suffice), is absolutely necessary in order to explain how Daredevil can do the things he does as a superhero, no doubt about it. However, in the larger scheme of things, the radar sense, when seen as a vision analogue, isn’t really a very good source of high-resolution information for him the way his other senses are.

The radar sense lets him navigate safely through the world, and makes it possible for him to recognize objects with distinctive enough shapes, but I find it highly doubtful that Matt expects to “visually” be able to make sense of everything he encounters, especially right away. A stationary scene like the one in Daredevil #32 likely requires some active sampling of it before the pieces that make it up can be properly categorized and understood. He also reaches out to touch the dummy, which is obviously another way to gather more information about objects in the absence of 20/20 color vision. In this kind of context, a body (or other object) hanging from the ceiling might seem to gradually reveal itself. Matt recognizes what it is, to an extent, but not in the immediate way that the Jester expected.

Daredevil versus the common cold

Daredevil swings and misses, punching a wall, as seen in the 2007 Daredevil annual

I’m just getting back on my feet after being knocked down by a nasty bug that had me do nothing but lie in bed for four days. It may be the case that I’m ill in more ways than one though, because at the height of my fever, I was thinking: “Hey, I should write a post on Matt Murdock battling a cold!” While I assure you that I do have interests other than Daredevil (quite a few of them too), I clearly spend way too much time thinking about the Man Without Fear.

While the timing was the result of the circumstances described above, the original idea for this post is not new. Because, according to the one instance I can think of that depicts Matt having a cold in the comics, it really messes up his senses, and that alone makes it worthy a brief mention. Below are some panels from the 2007 Daredevil Annual, by Ed Brubaker, Ande Parks and Leandro Fernandez, in which Matt being sick with the flu is a major plot point. Have a look at these, and let’s reconvene at end. 😉

Daredevil has the flu, Daredevil Annual (2007)
Daredevil complains about radar congestion, Daredevil Annual (2007)
Daredevil swings and misses, punching a wall, as seen in the 2007 Daredevil annual
Daredevil complains about his hearing, as seen in the 2007 Daredevil annual
Panel from the Daredevil Annual (2007), by Ed Brubaker, Ande Parks and Leandro Fernandez
Daredevil's radar fails him, as seen in the 2007 Daredevil annual

So, Daredevil complains of radar congestion (!) and diminshed hearing because of the flu. Anyone who has ever had a cold (and that would be everyone) can empathize with Daredevil in this situation. Being sick doesn’t just drain us of energy – the kind you need to successfully survive a fist fight – but gives rise to that distinctive stuffy feeling.

The reason we can’t smell normally when we have a cold is that the increased build-up of mucus in the nasal cavity prevents odor molecules from reaching the odor receptors and signaling their presence to the brain. This would affect someone like Matt Murdock the same as anyone else. He would likely still be more sensitive to scents than someone without a heightened sense of smell that also has the flu (my thinking being that he either has more sensitive receptors or more of them), but the effects of a cold can be pretty dramatic, as we all know.

What about hearing? Well, a bad cold or flu causes swelling around the eustachian tubes which connect the middle ear to the nasal cavity. This disturbs the air pressure in the ear and dampens the movements of the tympanic membrane and the ossicles which relay sound to the inner ear. Simply put, when you notice your hearing worsening during a cold, you’re experiencing the equivalent of a temporary conductive hearing loss. Faint sounds become harder to hear.

Given the ways real life colds affects the senses (I almost didn’t eat for four days because my sense of smell was so bad everything tasted like sawdust), it makes senses that Daredevil – who probably needs that extra edge more than the rest of us – would be wise to stay off the streets. Exactly how a cold would affect the radar sense, however, depends on our understanding of what the radar sense is. If it is indeed a separate sense, anything goes. Nothing in the real world has anything to offer when it comes to understanding how a completely novel sense is affected by the common cold. If the radar sense is based on hearing and/or a more advanced combination of senses then it’s easy to imagine why a cold would constitute a minor disaster.

The cold scenario also reminds us that throughout Daredevil history, Daredevil’s power set has been written as relatively fragile. Matt’s senses – or his ability to use them to their full extent – have been shown to be affected by everything from excessive noise and strong odors to fatigue and blood loss. An infection clearly fits this overall picture, with the added bonus of making sense in terms of the specific symptoms.

Je parle français? Mais oui!

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

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

Daredevil versus voodoo practitioners

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

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

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

Daredevil goes deep undercover in Paris

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

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

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

Torture by American accent

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

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

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

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

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

Some thoughts on Daredevil and travel

Hey all! I just came back from me second trip in as many weeks after spending five days in Matt Murdock’s home town New York with my family. I’ll get back to that, and some general thoughts on traveling – from a Daredevil perspective – below, but first, here’s a gentle reminder of some previews: Daredevil: End of Days #3 goes on sale on December 5, as does the second half of the Domino-Daredevil team-up featured in X-Men #39!

My trip to New York

Times Square, my photo

New York is one of my very favorite places in the world to visit. It’s crazy big – big enough to be home to what feels like several smaller towns, each with its own vibe – and feels truly international.

What really struck me on this visit was also how incredibly loud the city is. Maybe my head was in more of a Daredevil mode on this trip than it usually is, but I couldn’t help thinking back to Mark Waid’s comment from last year (couldn’t find the specific interview though) where he marveled at Matt’s decision to live in New York, as opposed to out in the middle of nowhere. It’s certainly something that makes you wonder. On the flip side though, as exhausting as living in New York would be to a person with heightened senses of hearing and smell (every corner in mid-town smells of whatever is being cooked by a diverse range of street vendors…), it would also make navigating that big maze that much easier.

Thoughts on travel

Matt leaves for Europe, from Daredevil #87 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

If New York seems overwhelming yet “information dense” to our favorite blind lawyer in tights, actual traveling to and from that city must be overwhelming for very different reasons. This is something I’ve thought about quite often when traveling. Daredevil’s physiology seems uniquely adapted to the kind of late night crime fighting he regularly engages in, especially when operating in an environment with which he is intimately familiar. Not all environments are as kind. In his video interview with Blastoff Comics from earlier this year, Mark Waid had the following to say:

“Unlike most comics characters, Daredevil is a character who actually gets less powerful over time, in a sense. Not physically, he still has the same powers, but think about how much of our lives we live onscreen now, how much of our lives we live virtually. […] It’s a constant thing of people reading things on screens.”

Photo of Airport signage. Original source: Jaunted.com

I personally can’t think of a single activity of modern living that is more screen-dependent than travel, air travel in particular. My trip to Thought Bubble in Leeds two weeks ago consisted of checking in by using a touch screen, then getting myself to the right gate, getting from my arrival gate to the London Underground station at Heathrow, going to King’s Cross train station where another touch screen fed me my train tickets for Leeds. To figure out which platform to go to, I had to stare at a big light screen and wait for the right information to appear. There were few, if any, audio announcements throughout this trip, and getting from point A to point B, without asking for directions or assistance, would have been impossible if not for my ability to read screens and signage.

In the panels seen above, from Daredevil #87 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark, there is little hint of any problems on Matt’s part in getting out of the country (though he did end up hitching a ride on Danny Rand’s jet), but I do remember thinking that it all looked a little too easy. I realize that the mechanics of travel may not be something a storyteller wants to get stuck on while trying to tell a bigger story in a limited number of panels, but I have to say that of all situations for Matt to fake complete sightedness, anything involving airports must be the absolute worst. 😉

That’s it for now! Check back with me over the weekend for some of my favorite Chris Samnee moments of his tenure as Daredevil artist so far. The interview I did with him for the podcast gave me plenty of reason to take another, closer look at his work, so I figured, why not do a post on it?

Daredevil guest-stars everywhere

Daredevil has become an in-demand guest star lately. Not only is he a regular in New Avengers (at least for the time being, the series ends in two issues), he also appeared in Winter Soldier #12 last week and in this week’s X-Men #38. Daredevil: End of Days #2 also came out this week, but I’ll have to get back to that in a separate post. For now, let’s take a brief look at these other issues.

Winter Soldier #12

by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice

This one would have totally passed me by if it weren’t for regular TOMP commenter Rebekah. I haven’t read any of the previous issues of Winter Soldier but this issue is straight-forward enough. Especially with the background Rebekah provided: “The storyline in WS recently has involved the Black Widow being brainwashed into thinking she was a deep-cover Soviet agent pretending to be a good guy. Bucky’s recently had his brain rewritten too, and in this issue it turned out the mission implanted in his head was to kill Daredevil.”

Daredevil, now a target of the brain-washed Bucky, appears in the final few pages doing some pretty classic Daredevil stuff, that is working out in his basement. As one would expect, his senses cue him into his intruder’s presences before he barges in, but we’ll have to wait until next issue for the real show-down.

Page from Winter Soldier #12, by Ed Brubaker and Butch Guice

About a week ago, I complained on Twitter that the English language lacks a proper translation for the Swedish term “buksvåger” (= abdomen + brother-in-law), or “bukis” for short. It jokingly describes the relationship (whether they’re aware of it or not) between two men who share a past or current lover. The Marvel universe is full of “buksvågrar” (plural). Let’s face it, the heroes of the Marvel U hump each other more than the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, and situations like this one reminds us of that fact in a way that is quite funny, albeit not deliberately so. While Daredevil will likely survive his current predicament, it’s an interesting twist seeing the characters’ past relationships become quite so central to the story.

X-Men #38

by Seth Peck and Paul Azaceta

X-Men #38, the first issue of a two-part story, is a fun little team-up between Daredevil and the mutant Domino. The tone is well in line with the lighter take on Daredevil we’ve seen in Mark Waid’s handling of Matt Murdock. In fact, it may even be one shade lighter. Nothing really substantial happens in this issue, it’s more like the answer to “what else did Daredevil do this week?” (though it’s clearly set before the events of Daredevil #18 and #19), but it’s an enjoyable issue that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I wasn’t a big fan of Paul Azaceta’s previous solo artwork on Daredevil (i.e. Daredevil #106, vol 2), but it’s much better here and a good fit for the story.

Panels from X-Men #38, by Seth Peck and Paul Azaceta

New Avengers #32

by Brian Michael Bendis and Carlos Pacheco

With only two issues to go of the current series, New Avengers is on the home stretch, ending with a Doctor Strange-centric arc. While I liked the way Doctor Strange was used on Daredevil #16 (in which his services were more of the medical than the magical kind), I will readily admit to not being a big fan of stories that revolve around demons and astral planes. This may be more up other people’s alleys, but I’m probably not the best judge of the qualities of this story. But, what about Daredevil? Is he up to anything fun this issue? Well, he has more lines here than he’s had in most of the previous issues that have come and gone since his first appearance, but his role is a fairly minor one. When Daredevil does speak up, it’s to say:

My senses. My senses create a radar. And it feels like there’s something here that doesn’t belong… but–“

Panels from New Avengers #32, by Brian Michael Bendis and Carlos Pacheco

I really like the concept underlying Bendis’s take on Daredevil’s senses, but I have always been critical of the actual execution. What does “something that doesn’t belong” feel like? Don’t get me wrong, we all have experiences that stand out for reasons we can’t pin-point, but suffice it to say that I’m once again reminded of that South Park scene with the underwear gnomes and their flawed business model. Step one, Daredevil has hyper-senses; step three, he magically knows stuff.

Oh well, I’ll try to go a little easier on Bendis & Co. for my upcoming review of Daredevil: End of Days #2 (despite one scene that almost took me out of the book!). 😉 I will see you again shortly!

The bespectacled Matt Murdock

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wally Wood

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

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

Gene Colan

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

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

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

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

Bob Brown

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

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

Frank Miller

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

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

David Mazzucchelli

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

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

John Romita Jr

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

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

Lee Weeks

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

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

Cary Nord

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

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

Alex Maleev

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

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

Michael Lark

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

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

Present day

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

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

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

Daredevil and the big cats who attack him

Daredevil is rescued by Ka-Zar, panel from Daredevil #12

Before I get to anything else, I want to tell you about an interview that the law blog Abnormal Use did with Mark Waid earlier today, with a particular focus on Matt’s job as a lawyer. The interview also contains spoilers for Daredevil #4 which is due out in stores tomorrow, though these are clearly marked and easy to avoid.

And, speaking of Daredevil #4, anyone who’s seen the preview will know that Matt is going up against some cats. Big ones. One might think that this would be a rare occurrence in Matt Murdock’s life, but as we’re about to see, it certainly isn’t the first time he’ll be battling – or in other ways engaging with – a larger member of the Felidae family. And, before we get to some flashbacks, I’d like to thank fellow fan Francesco for the comment on TOMP’s Facebook page which inspired this post. 🙂

Daredevil #12 by Stan Lee and John Romita

The issue in which Daredevil meets Ka-Zar and is carried off on the back of his kitty. This is going to sound weird, but I think early Daredevil has a real knack for looking like an adorable little rag doll while unconscious.

Daredevil is rescued by Ka-Zar, panel from Daredevil #12

Daredevil #23 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

The issue which sees Daredevil battle the Gladiator and the Masked Marauder (also known as the world’s creepiest landlord) while beating up a lion with what looks like a lawn chair.

Daredevil beats up a lion with a lawn chair, Daredevil #23

Daredevil #72 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

The really strange issue in which Matt first battles, then befriends, the blind Tagak, who telepathically uses the eyes of his jaguar to see. Unrelated, but this issue also sees Matt smash a mirror, thus strengthening the otherwise superstitious notion that doing so causes a bad and prolonged case of bad luck.

Daredevil battles a jaguar in Daredevil #72

Daredevil #111 by Steve Gerber and Bob Brown

The issue which sees Daredevil fight alongside Shanna the She-Devil and her large furry companions. Curiously, Shanna spends the entire issue wearing a barely there lace night gown. By her standards, this means she’s covering up much more than usual.

Daredevil and Shanna the She-Devil, from Daredevil #111

Daredevil #143 by Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown

The issue in which Daredevil learns about the existence of a jungle atop an eighty-story skyscraper which has apparently escaped the attention of city officials. It is, in the words of the man responsible for its construction:

“A jungle paradise eighty stories above Manhattan […] This place is a compromise between reality and my fantasies. A place for survival where a man can really be a man.”

Daredevil battles a lion in Daredevil #143 by Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown

Daredevil #89 (volume 2), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

The issue which sees Matt Murdock marvel at Ed Brubaker’s decision to make The Matador a legacy villain (and one who is made only marginally cooler by also being able to fight lions).

Daredevil watches the new Matador in Daredevil #89 (volume 2)

Okay! I hope you all had fun making this little journey through the archives with me. I will see you when it’s time to post my Daredevil #4 review.