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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Will these elements from the Daredevil comic make it into Netflix’s third season?

I don’t necessarily go looking for every last potential spoiler or piece of set footage, especially the more obscure stuff. I will, however, discuss information that been covered by the major comic book news sites. If even this is too much information for you, you may want to stay away from this post. If, on the other hand, you are someone who does go looking for every last nugget of information available, please think twice about sharing that in the comments. Everything that’s been covered by at least 2-3 news site is fair game, as far as I’m concerned, but please err on the side of caution.

It was really hard to come up with a snappy title for this post that wasn’t a total mouthful. And, as you can tell, I pretty much failed at it. Either way, it’s high time we got to this item on the agenda, especially as the filming of the third season wrapped last week, incidentally while I happened to be in New York myself. I wish I could say that these two events were connected. Alas, they were not. 😉

With this post, I’d like to discuss some of what we know already, and also toss some ideas around for which elements from the comic might make their way into the third season. People seem to be clamoring for two things in particular: Bullseye and Born Again. The inclusion of Bullseye has all but been confirmed, so that ticks one box, and plenty of seeds have been planted for at least some elements of Frank Miller’s most famous storyline, beautifully illustrated by David Mazzucchelli, to make it into the show.

Not quite Born Again

What seems obvious to me, though, is that we won’t see the same exact story we know from the comics adapted for the Netflix show. First of all, the previous two seasons have taken plenty of liberties with the source material, drawing inspiration from events and well-known themes rather than copying them outright. We have no reason to expect anything else – or should I say less? – from this season.

Secondly, some of the things that have already happened thus far in Daredevil, and the Defenders, precludes an exact retelling of the Born Again arc from the comics in season three. The Defenders ended with Matt beginning to regain consciousness while being nursed back to health in a convent. There is mention of Sister Maggie, whom we know to be Matt’s mother, and the entire scene is staged to look very much like a panel from the comics. But, it’s taken from a scene that happens over two issues into the the Born Again arc (in Daredevil #230, as seen below next to the corresponding scene from the final episode of The Defenders), after Matt has already had his life destroyed by the Kingpin. In the Netflix take on this scene, the events leading up to his meeting with his mother has already been altered completely compared to the comic.

Matt seen injured on a bad in a convent. Scene comparison between the final episode of The Defenders and a simliar panel from Daredevil #230, by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

It is also highly unlikely that we will be dealing with any kind of scenario in which Karen becomes a drug addict and betrays Matt. It certainly looks as if we’re finally getting some insight into Karen’s background, and her dark secrets, and there’s no reason to make her character even darker by having her develop an addiction to hard drugs in the current timeline. Especially since there’s no need for her to turn Matt over to the Kingpin, when the latter has already declared that he’s going to destroy him. As you might recall, this happened in the second season of Daredevil after Matt went to visit Fisk in jail, and ended up threatening Vanessa, for which he also took a severe beating.

I actually think it’s a very interesting twist that Fisk’s initial motivation to go after Matt in his civilian identity has nothing to do with Daredevil. Somewhere along the line, he’s going to have to connect Matt and Daredevil, but this can just as easily come about as a result of careful research. The fact that Matt and Daredevil both vanish from the scene at the same time is another obvious clue. I’ve seen some people suggest that Matt making any attempt to fight back during his encounter with Fisk would get the latter thinking that Matt may not be blind in the “traditional” sense, but that makes little sense to me unless you set your expectations for real life blind people at the level of Mr. Magoo. Whatever the case may be, we don’t actually need Karen to spark Fisk’s interest in going after Matt Murdock. He’s already looking to do just that.

How long will Matt have been away?

Let us now turn to the things we can’t really know much about. It seems reasonable that the entire first season of The Punisher takes place after the events of The Defenders, if only because of the publishing schedule. The second season of Jessica Jones definitely does. We’ll get more to go on when the second season of Luke Cage comes out in June since Matt’s “death” very neatly coincides with Misty getting her arm cut off. At the very least, we’re probably looking at something like several months of absence on Matt’s part. I’m guessing that as many as six to eight weeks can realistically be spent on his recovery (not that we’ll necessarily be privy to that information), but my guess is that we’re still going to be left with a rather big gap for the writers to try to address in terms of why he’s not announcing to even his closest allies that he’s alive. I honestly wouldn’t put it past the creators to throw some amnesia into the mix.

Matt has suffered amnesia on more than one occasion in the comic, and the may draw some kind of inspiration from this. There’s the storyline which begins in Daredevil #284, by Ann Nocenti and Lee Weeks, when Daredevil returns to New York after traveling around upstate – and literally going to hell – where he suffers a gradual mental breakdown that causes him to forget about Daredevil, and most of his previous life. He believes his name is Jack Murdock, takes up boxing, and forms a relationship with a woman named Nyla. He also does an interesting role reversal with Bullseye who steals his Daredevil costume early in the story, which goes on for several issues. Matt also has something that looks like some kind of psychosis in the Inferno storyline (Daredevil #345-347, by J.M. DeMatteis, and Ron Wagner), following a long period of living under the name Jack Batlin after having faked his own death. This breakdown, which is partially brought about by the death of his former girlfriend Glorianna O’Breen, also includes elements of amnesia, and famously ends with Foggy finding out about Matt being Daredevil. Amnesia storylines are quite difficult to pull off, but there’s obviously some less extreme takes on the topic that might make more sense.

Foggy discovers Matt's secret, as seen in Daredevil #347, by J.M. DeMatteis and Ron Wagner

Even if Matt fully remembers his past and has a smooth(ish) recovery, there might be other reasons why he’d be hesitant to declare to the world that he’s back. We all know that he can get really self-destructive and might actually believe that his friends are better off with him dead. He may also want to try to engineer his return – in and out of costume – so that Daredevil (now apparently back in the old black costume) and Matt Murdock don’t reappear at the same time. There’s some genuine concern that it may take a long time for the gang to get back together, and that Matt may stay “hidden” for several episodes, and I think those concerns may be valid. I wouldn’t give it more than, say, the first third of the season though, since Wilson Fisk is not going to be spending much time on destroying the life of someone he believes to be dead. And, considering that there has to be some kind of quality life for Wilson Fisk to destroy, you’d have to assume that Matt will at least be lulled into some sense of getting his life back on track, before things start unraveling again.

Much of the point of Born Again, if you want get down to the essence of the story, is that it’s Matt’s life that’s being attacked, more so than Daredevil’s. I can see them taking their time with this, but spending too much time on the big return seems counterproductive. For instance, what point is there to Karen getting to tell her story, and Matt not even being there to find out? But maybe I’m overly optimistic.

Will there be a subway scene?

Daredevil strains and fails to find Bullseye in the subway in Daredevil #169, by Frank Miller

I would be willing to put some serious money on there being a subway scene in this season. Specifically one that involves Bullseye, because that battle is one of the most iconic in the history of these two characters. One thing that might affect how it plays out though is that the Netflix version of the character doesn’t appear to be very sensitive to noise, the way he is in the comics, and that’s kind of an important element of the scene. Any other famous Bullseye moments you’re counting on seeing in the show?

Though, while we’re on the topic of Bullseye, I’m not at all counting on anyone very close to Matt (i.e. Karen or Foggy) being killed off this season. Not because I think that the creators don’t have it in them to break people’s hearts, but because I suspect there will be additional seasons of the show and Daredevil’s supportive cast is already small enough to fit in a utility closet. I know people are saying that Bullseye has to do something to make it really personal for Matt, but we’re also talking about a character who literally feels he’s responsible for everyone. Hurt people in Hell’s Kitchen and you’ll be hurting Matt. Though if you want to make it really painful, maybe have Bullseye kill off Sister Maggie? Yup, I went there.

Will Vanessa be kidnapped?

Okay, this may sound like an odd one, but as soon as we got confirmation, sort of, that Vanessa was returning, my thoughts went immediately to her really creepy disappearance during the Frank Miller run where she’s kidnapped by “mole people” who live underground. I’m not expecting anything of the sort, but with Vanessa back in the picture, I do expect some kind of threatening situation for her to be in. I realize that the whole damsel in distress thing is old and tired, but there has to be some kind of pressure applied to Wilson Fisk as well, for maximum tension, and I’m sure the writers can come up with something. I really like Ayelet Zurer as an actor, so I’m happy to see her back, whatever her story brings.

What exactly is Karen hiding?

As mentioned, I don’t think that Karen will develop a drug addiction during the course of this season, but she will most definitely deal with some pretty dark stuff. I’m actually very excited to find out what she’s been hiding all this time. And I can’t wait to go to Fagan Corners, Vermont! Of course, the last time we visited that place in the comics was decades ago, and involved a rather convoluted storyline in which Karen’s father was the inventor of something called the “cobalt bomb,” and also the villain Death’s Head.

I don’t expect there to be a literal Death’s Head, but would squeal with joy if there were at least a background shot of a pub by that name or something similar. If there isn’t, you’ve dropped the ball Netflix people! If you want a refresher on this crazy story, go to this post, where I mention it among my “seeing goofs.” It also comes up in this Wacky Powers post. Below are panels from Daredevil #56, by Roy Thomas, and Gene Colan.

Karen gets off the train in her home town of Fagan Corner.

Everything else

I really meant to cover a lot more stuff in this post, but it’s getting late, and I really want to get it out there so we can cover the rest in the comment section. And I know I haven’t been great at contributing in the comment sections lately, but I promise to catch up. 😉

However, before clicking on the “publish” button, let me mention some of these things briefly:

  • Foggy’s career – It appears as if Foggy may find reason to reassess his career goals in light of Jeri Hogarth getting the boot from her own firm. I doubt he’d be anxious to go with her, but staying behind with the mean partners may not be such a sweet deal either. And, if there’s ever going to be a Nelson & Murdock to go back to, things need to change. I would love the chance to see Hogarth getting involved in legally raising Matt from the “dead” though, as she has some experience in that field (see Iron Fist).
  • Sister Maggie – What kind of liberties will they take with her? Are they going for something more traditional or the kick-ass nun version from the Daredevil, volume four? What will her reasons be for walking out on Jack and Matt?
  • Marci Stahl – I like Marci. She’s irreverent, and this kind of show needs that. I’m guessing we might see more of her, especially if, they’re looking for way to “pad” the story (not necessarily in a bad way) before getting everyone reunited. Also, the cast needs to grow, and giving a bigger role to characters that have already been introduced is a way to to do that.
  • Will Claire make an appearance? – My guess is no.
  • Other characters – Will anyone interesting emerge as a new Wesley type character? Will we see Josie? What about Blake Towers? (My guess is yes). Will there be a police officer (I can’t imagine it would be Brett), who will sell out in some way when it comes to Matt/Daredevil, along the lines of what happens in Born Again in the comic?

Well, the list could obviously go on, but I think I’ll hand the reins over to you, my esteemed readership. Take it away!

Female features and muddy shoes

Hey gang! Don’t worry, I’ll let you in on what’s hiding behind that mysterious title in a little bit, but first I just wanted to let you know that I made another (two!) guest appearances on the Fantasticast podcast with Steve and Andy. The Fantasticast is all about the Fantastic Four, as you might imagine, but since the Marvel Universe is all kinds of connected, I’ve had the great honor of being invited whenever the FF and Daredevil collide.

In the first of the two episodes I was in, we devote the entire 90 minutes to four issues of Daredevil (#36-39) that lead feature the FF and leads into Fantastic Four #73. The second episode is devoted to that very issue, which also features Daredevil. So check those out!

Let’s get back on schedule. Today I’m looking at two scenes from Daredevil #93 (vol 1), by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, for no other reason than that they are different kinds of hilarious. For some background information, this issue takes place when Daredevil and the Black Widow were sharing both the title and a rented house in San Francisco. At the start of the issue, Natasha attacks Daredevil after having been hypnotized (along with old associate Danny French with whom she cooperated on the mysterious Project Four) by madman Damon Dran.

In a rather startling case of Daredevil being jumped from behind and not immediately recognizing Natasha – for some reason, he doesn’t use her heartbeat, and it would be another few years before Frank Miller came along and started actually using Matt’s nose – he attempts to figure out his attacker’s identity. This includes feeling the features of her face to make sure he’s really dealing with a woman. I don’t know about you, but I could think of others for him gather that kind of information. 😉 Either way, there’s something rather amusing about these two pages.

Daredevil is attacked by the Black Widow, as seen in Daredevil #93 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan
Daredevil feels the Black Widow's face, as seen in Daredevil #93 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Later in the same issue, Daredevil has managed to subdue his girlfriend and carry her back to their house. This is when he goes into full C.S.I. mode. You see, there’s mud underneath Natasha’s shoes. Mud! And it hasn’t rained in San Francisco in a really long time. And it’s not as if there are any sprinklers, lakes, fountains or any other sources of water within the city limits that might translate into local deposits of wet dirt. Obviously, she must have been in Oakland. Where it rains, apparently.

Next, Matt calls fellow attorney Sloan to check if he knows any creepy, and possible deranged, rich people who live in Oakland. And of course he does! Ah, don’t you wish all crimes were this easy to solve? 😉

Daredevil does some quick detective work, as seen in Daredevil #93 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Well, that’s it for now! See you later in the week for a review of Daredevil #4. Now, you didn’t miss the preview, did you?

How Daredevil became Matt Murdock

It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to write a longer “essay” type of post, but there have been a couple of ideas brewing in the back of my mind for a while. One struck me while I was going through older – Silver and Bronze Age – issues of Daredevil and has to do with the gradual process of Daredevil and Matt Murdock becoming “one,” and the maturation of the Matt Murdock identity from highly stereotypical to a complex character.

These days, Daredevil is all about Matt Murdock, whether he is in costume or not. Not only is the civilian side of Matt’s life featured fairly prominently in the Daredevil comic, he’s also a character whose emotions and personal struggles are so clearly present even while he’s in costume, that “Daredevil” is always simply Matt Murdock wearing his Daredevil costume and performing his Daredevil “duties.” When Matt is Daredevil, he assumes a particular persona, but he does not in any way become a different person.

Matt, changes on a window ledge while deciding who to propose as, from Daredevil #29
In Daredevil #29, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, Matt was actually considering marrying Karen as his “twin brother” Mike.

I would argue that Matt and his alter ego Daredevil have merged so completely in the minds of most fans at this point, that it’s difficult to imagine things being any other way. Still, when you look at the early issues of Daredevil, you realize that there was a time when things were very different. In the beginning was Daredevil, and on the sixth day Stan Lee created Matt Murdock. Then he created Mike Murdock because he wasn’t sure who Matt Murdock really was.

Joking aside (that probably wasn’t exactly how it happened), it is difficult to look at the Mike Murdock era today and not get the sense that the identity crisis which played out on the page was also a reflection of the creators’ inability to fully make sense of their own creation. Who was the pretender? Was Daredevil role-playing as Matt, or was Matt playing dress-up as Daredevil? Even before “Mike” Murdock came on the scene to provide some contrast, Matt in his civilian guise always came across as extremely restrained, and careful not to step outside the box he’d built for himself. As such, he was a fairly dull person.

Recent events in Daredevil have raised other questions which also tie in to issues of identity or, more specifically, which aspects of himself Matt has been willing to show the world. Even before his outing in Daredevil #36 earlier this year, I know I wasn’t the only one to be slightly concerned about his lack of caution: Should he really be hanging from a rock climbing wall in the open like that? While history had lead us to a point where Matt Murdock would always be evident underneath the costume, were we finally looking at Matt Murdock getting ready to “come out” as Daredevil?

Matt and Kirsten rock-climbing, from Daredevil #24 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee
Matt is showing off in public while rock-climbing with Kirsten, as seen in Daredevil #24 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee.

This was something I intended to get back to, in a separate post, before Mark Waid & Co. beat me to it with a definitive outing, but now I’m starting to think that maybe this was just the logical next step in finishing the process of Matt and Daredevil merging, in every respect. The current creative team have decided to kick things up a notch, and give Matt-as-Daredevil a much bigger stage. It is a real game changer for the character, and in many ways it’s a much bigger deal for Matt Murdock to be a public superhero than it is for Iron Man, the Fantastic Four and many others. I’ll get get back to that, but first let’s start at the very beginning.

“Daredevil is the real me!”

As mentioned already, early Matt Murdock was dull. Okay, so the things that happened when he was off the clock – or mysteriously disappearing from the office – were not so dull, but the Matt Murdock identity he deliberately crafted for himself certainly was. He was a young man who seemed to live the life of someone much older. A big part of the reason he would pass up social outings with Karen and Foggy was that he was busy being Daredevil, but there was more to it than that, which I suspect had a great deal to do with the era in which he was created.

Daredevil43ID

The Matt Murdock of the 1960s, much more so than his modern incarnation, seemed to have internalized much of the stigma that came with blindness. When I look at old issues today, I tend to chuckle at Matt’s worries that Karen would reject him because he was blind, but mixed in with all the Silver Age drama is a hint of something more serious. In Daredevil #8, while working out in his private gym, he considers Karen’s suggestion that he undergo eye surgery:

”Suppose I do consent to the operation that Karen thinks I should have? What if I do regain my sight…? …But lose my extra-sensory powers in the process?!! It would mean the end of Daredevil as a force for justice! But it would be the only way I could dare try to make Karen my wife! For, I could never ask her to marry a sightless man!”

While the actual physical limitations of Matt’s blindness were downplayed in early Daredevil, the consequences of the stigma attached to blindness would affect Matt Murdock a great deal. Looking back at these early stories through fifty years of social progress, it is clear that the prevailing stereotypes surrounding blindness at the time – and to a lesser extent still today – were a major influence on the creation of both Daredevil as a concept, and on Matt Murdock’s early personality.

While those of us who love Daredevil can list a number of things which are unique about the character, things that have kept us coming back for years, it also has to be said that from a literary standpoint, Daredevil offered little that hadn’t been done before. The notion that blindness would allow someone do develop keener senses is old, and the cliché has been associated with a long list of literary characters.

Their senses had become marvellously acute; they could hear and judge the slightest gesture of a man a dozen paces away — could hear the very beating of his heart. Intonation had long replaced expression with them, and touches gesture, and their work with hoe and spade and fork was as free and confident as garden work can be. Their sense of smell was extraordinarily fine; they could distinguish individual differences as readily as a dog can, and they went about the tending of the llamas, who lived among the rocks above and came to the wall for food and shelter, with ease and confidence.

The Country of the Blind, by H. G. Wells (1904)

Alongside the “positive” stereotypes of blindness, there are negative stereotypes. Unlike Daredevil who is based entirely on the positive, the public persona of Matt Murdock received more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, he is presented as disciplined and studious, on the other there is something almost apologetic about him. An air of “Oh, don’t mind little old me!” He’s careful, something of a recluse and, despite Karen’s longing, appears to be virtually asexual.

We all know the real Matt isn’t like that. Matt himself knows he’s not like that, and in the first few years of publication, there is often resentment about having to “be” (the public) Matt Murdock. In the panel below, from Daredevil #25, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, Matt seems almost angry:

“Meanwhile, I felt like I was suffocating in that business suit of mine! I’d have jumped out of my skin if I had to wait any longer to get into my working clothes! I never realized Daredevil was so much a part of me! It’s like DD is my real identity — and I’m just play-acting as Matt Murdock!”

Matt changing into his Daredevil costume while complaining about life, from Daredevil #25 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

While trying to figure out creators’ intentions nearly five decades after the fact is somewhat risky business, it seems to me that it was probably a conscious choice to distance the private (known to readers) Matt Murdock from the public persona. It was important to point out the fact that he was “no ordinary blind man,” not only by highlighting the Daredevil identity, but also by rejecting the public Matt Murdock. If I may be provocative for a moment, my guess it that it was important to emphasize that he was not one of “those people.” He was not truly one of the afflicted, but one of the gifted.

Creators have continued to actively try to distance Matt Murdock from “ordinary blind people” at regular intervals over the years, and I would argue that this is a practice that didn’t stop completely until the last fifteen years or so. I should maybe clarify that I’m not talking simply about reminding people that Matt Murdock has abilities that makes blindness less problematic for him than for others who are (totally) blind – and makes it possible for him to be Daredevil – or that hiding these abilities requires its fair share of pretense. What I’m talking about goes beyond that and boils down to a form of complex that Matt Murdock seemed to have.

You notice it in cases where Matt, in his private thoughts, boasts about how he can read faster with his fingertips than any sighted man every could (because being better than sighted people at everything is apparently important, whether it makes sense or not) or when he simply lets the readers know what simpletons the people around him are to not even realize his spectacular potential. “If only they knew that a blind man could do X, Y, and Z more capably than any sighted man!” It’s the kind of thing you roll your eyes at.

And yet, along with pitching Daredevil as a respectable superhero to potential newcomers, it also serves the purpose of reminding them that (public) Matt is nothing like (private) Matt. In essence, the pretense itself becomes the character’s biggest burden. It is his perceived limitations that bother him, because the real ones are virtually non-existent in early Daredevil. Being forced by circumstance into play-acting as Matt Murdock was his true handicap.

The emergence of Matt Murdock

As mentioned, this rather annoying habit of overcompensating didn’t fade away overnight, though it was much more common in the first few years of publication, but at least Matt Murdock’s personality seemed to stabilize over time. While he couldn’t stop pretending not to have his powers, he at least allowed himself to stop pretending to be a more boring version of himself. It is hard to pinpoint exactly when this happened, but I do think the Mike Murdock era was oddly therapeutic in this sense. Stan Lee and Gene Colan had broadened the personality palette, if you will, and Matt was a more interesting character in his own right after the Mike Murdock era than he had been previously.

Another key moment came when Matt started “coming out” to people around him. Foggy was kept in the dark for over three decades of real time, but Karen learned about Daredevil fairly early, in Daredevil #57. This naturally released him from his enforced duality, at least around the people who knew. This translated into Matt getting more screen time as his genuine self out of costume, and in conversations with others besides the readers.

During the San Francisco years with the Black Widow, the lines between Matt and Daredevil start to blur even more. Natasha, “roommate” and partner in crime, obviously knows who he is, and the dynamics between them seem unrelated to whether either one of them is wearing a costume. In fact, they take their bickering and relationship woes with them out on the streets, just as they “talk shop” around the house.

Perhaps the most pivotal story arc in the merging of Matt and Daredevil, in my mind, is Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Born Again. This story is remarkable for many reasons, and not only because of its many literary and artistic qualities. First of all, Matt spends very little time in costume. Secondly, the story revolves around the destruction of Matt Murdock’s personal life by a villain who has learned his secret. Think about that for a moment. Arguably the most definitive Daredevil story of all time, isn’t actually about “Daredevil.” It’s about Matt Murdock. And I think many readers would agree with me that the very fact that so much of the focus rests on Matt Murdock is what makes it such a strong Daredevil story.

In the years following Born Again, Matt spends a lot of time in a sort of limbo. It takes a long time for him to return to practicing law, and for much of the beginning of Ann Nocenti’s run, he lives with Karen and works as a short-order cook (while passing for sighted, incidentally). “Public” Matt Murdock, the lawyer, goes on a long hiatus. Things get even more extreme when he fakes his own death during D.G. Chichester’s run and lives under the alias Jack Batlin.

When “Matt Murdock, blind lawyer” finally returns, it is after Foggy Nelson has learned the truth, and the sphere in which Matt is free to be himself, and feel equally at home in all of his different guises, has expanded considerably. It makes sense that this sphere would continue to expand over time, and during Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev’s run, Matt is pushed in a direction where his secrets are exposed and the lines are blurred even further.

Before philosophizing about what being a public superhero might entail for Matt – and Daredevil – going forward, I want to point out one scene which speaks to the brilliance of the current run in being able to create a more complete modern incarnation of Matt Murdock by subtly addressing past events. This has been done in many different ways, but the most relevant for my purpose here is the exchange between Matt and Foggy, as seen in Daredevil #23.

Scene from Daredevil #22, by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

What is so clever about Matt commenting on his past secrecy is that it is relevant and interesting to new readers while also providing a perspective on Matt’s past behaviors in a way that people who are familiar with all or most of Daredevil’s history can appreciate.

Through modern eyes, it is easy to interpret Matt’s early boasting as a defence mechanism against feelings of inferiority, and do a sort of mental retcon when reading the early issues. Waid et al help us do just that by addressing Matt’s relationship with secrecy. In the case of Daredevil, there’s an additional layer of deceit at play in that Matt actively has to hide his powers in a way that Peter Parker doesn’t (something I’ve addressed before). The kind of exploration – or is that explanation? – of the character that we’re treated to here helps put all of this in context. Without defending Matt’s history of keeping important secrets from his loved ones, Waid introduces a different way of looking at it, by recasting it as a coping mechanism.

The public superhero

Having helped us make more sense than before of Matt’s early double life, the current creative team is perfectly suited for the task of completing the path Matt Murdock has been on for the last fifty years. While definitively outing Matt Murdock is a risky move, it has so far – three issues into volume 4 – worked out quite well. We have already seen the storytelling potential that comes from allowing Matt Murdock to do detective work as himself, rather than just in the guise of Daredevil.

However, given Daredevil’s unique nature as a character, there are certain issues that are raised by his outing that are less of a concern for other heroes. The first that comes to mind is that he is a low-powered hero, with no special armor to protect him, and no team to back him up. At best, he can reach the Avengers in an emergency, but the utility of that lifeline is limited. This means that known enemies are a more serious threat than in the past. The only mitigating circumstance here is that his identity was already known to some (such as the Kingpin), or at least strongly suspected. That makes the step of going public a smaller one, but the situation it creates is still riskier than being able to hide behind the wall of plausible deniability. There is also the added complication of having specific weaknesses you may not want your enemies knowing about, such as being a sense short and being overly sensitive to non-visual sensory input.

The second thing that sets Matt apart from other superheroes is the thing that explains why “coming out” would be desirable, even to the point of off-setting the risks in wall. In fact, looking at Matt dangling from that rock climbing wall earlier in this post, and his increasingly reckless behavior over the course of Waid’s run, you’d think a big part of him wanted to be found out.

The way I see it, this brings us back to where Daredevil started and his resentment at having to play the role of “non-powered blind person”. This kind of play-acting goes both ways though, as Matt himself noted in his conversation with Bullseye in Daredevil #191 (by Frank Miller): “The secret identity can be a relief, Bullseye. When I’m Murdock, I don’t have to use my amplified senses to pretend I’m not blind.” Outside of his circle of close confidantes who knew his secret, Matt has always had to deny some aspect of his physiology; either his powers as Matt Murdock, or his blindness as Daredevil. Swinging between the extremes of restraint on the one hand or strain on the other, there has never been much room for him to physically be at his most comfortable, in a place where he doesn’t have to pretend to sense less or see more than he does.

The term “passing” was first used to describe the phenomenon of people with mixed (generally African/European) ancestry being able to “pass for” white. It has since been expanded to include a long list of other group identities where someone might try to pass as belonging to a different group, and I think it is a pretty good description of Matt’s predicament throughout Daredevil history. Passing is usually done in an effort to conceal some aspect of yourself, and it’s easy to see why it might be psychologically and emotionally demanding.

Given the current creative team’s track record of spot-on characterization, I’m looking forward to seeing them explore the personal ramifications of the new status quo, in addition to the changes in Daredevil’s external universe and the new kinds of physical threats that it brings. Matt Murdock and Daredevil are now fully one single entity. Let’s find out who that makes him.

This time, it’s a cop!

As previously demonstrated, early Daredevil made a habit of assaulting innocent people. One reader even joked that this behavior is clearly still an issue after he gave a similar treatment to the little girl he had just rescued in Daredevil #1. In his defense, there are situations where the ends not only justify the means but are even in the best interest of the “victim” in question. On the other hand, the scenes where he stole a man’s coat and left his law partner unconscious in an alley in a fictional country in South America are just jerk moves. Necessary? Maybe. I still say Matt got a little slap happy there for a while. 😉

In the panels below, a page and a half of Daredevil #90 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, is another case of Daredevil doing exactly what he pleases. What’s odd about this scene is that his “victim” in this case is A) a cop, and B) someone who clearly doesn’t mind getting punched in the face. I’m sure people could write entire essays about the view of masculinity that’s on display in this scene. I’m more confused by how a case of property damage (which Daredevil has clearly confessed to and seems more like a civil matter in this particular instance) would lead to his arrest. And why does he have to hit friendly Paul with such a heavy punch? You’d think a simple shove would and some turned-over furniture would do the trick in facitlitating his escape.

And for those who are curious about how Matt ended up screaming at the “sight” of an old lady, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Mister Fear!

Daredevil having coffee with his cop friend Paul, from Daredevil #90 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan
Daredevil hits his cop friend Paul, as seen in Daredevil #90 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

While Lieutenant Paul Carson seems just a little too happy to have a superhero punch him in the face, I wouldn’t mind a little cameo appearance from this guy in the near future, now that Matt is back in San Francisco where this story takes place. Make it happen, team Daredevil! 😉

Wacky Power #24 – Another case of flight radar

Welcome back to another installment in the Wacky Powers series in which we look at Daredevil doing truly strange things. Once again, we’ll be looking at a case of Daredevil using his radar sense as bona fide flight radar. Thankfully, we haven’t seen much of this strange power for the last forty years, but it kept rearing its strange and ugly head from time to time, during the first ten.

What makes the scene below, from Daredevil #85, particularly hilarious is that it’s clear that the actual pilots of the Boeing 747 that provides the stage for this issue, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, are clearly within visual range of where they decide to land. Daredevil asks them to take the plane lower so that his radar sense can do its magic, but that would also allow for them to get the plane down safely just by looking at the terrain. In essence, they should be looking out the window, not at Daredevil while acting completely helpless. Also, what the hell is Daredevil doing trying to tamper with the equipment?

Daredevil assists in landing a Boeing 747, in Daredevil #85 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

For me, there are two major problems with the suggestion that Daredevil’s radar sense could act as flight radar. The biggest one has to do with the science of it (or lack thereof), which I’ll return to below. But, just as importantly, every time Daredevil is called on to do something this extreme, it also introduces some major inconsistencies into how the character normally behaves.

Even in early Daredevil, the radar sense is very rarely used to detect anything that is very far away, say farther away than a city block. On the contrary, there is a strong sense that it has a limited range, and the Marvel Universe Handbook states explicitly:

“Its resolution is not very fine, probably on the order of several feet at a distance of one hundred feet. By repositioning his head and adding input from his other senses, Daredevil is able to resolve the image of an average flagpole (three inch cylinder) at a distance of over 80 feet.”

While there is good reason to take most of what’s written in the MUH with a grain of salt (I have no idea whether creators are in any way required to abide by it – I suspect not – and it also contains highly questionable information pertaining to how the senses work in real life), it at least gives us some idea of what Marvel considers reasonable.

The biggest problem is that, provided that we assume Daredevil has an actual radar sense (rather than a metaphorical one), he has to generate his own signal. Regardless of whether this is some kind of high-pitched sound (i.e. sonar) or radiowaves, the intensity of the signal fades pretty quickly, in accordance with the inverse square law. This means that, in order to reach very far, the signal has to be strong. This in turn requires a lot of energy. Even if we imagined that the radar sense had the output equivalent to a 40 W light bulb, that would require almost 1000 kcal per day of just to fuel the radar. Which doesn’t sound too unreasonable. It’s probably a great way to lose weight, but it’s just not something that you could use to land a jet. 😉

You might argue that it’s superhero comics, so anything goes. But I don’t think even comic book publishers and creators agree with that, or else they wouldn’t feel compelled to try to explain how it is that certain characters can fly (such as by suggesting a mystical external power source). The explanations are always bogus of course, but there always needs to be at least an attempt at addressing the issue to allow readers to suspend their disbelief.

And, characters need to abide by the rules that have been laid out for them, or else the illusion that these stories make sense start to break down. If Matt Murdock started sticking to walls for no reason, and Peter Parker woke up on morning and started hearing heartbeats, readers would like to know why. And, given the usual parameters of Daredevil’s power set, we really shouldn’t expect him to be able to land airplanes. That’s just wacky.

Ivan the Terrible

Hey gang! I haven’t been as lazy as it seems, I swear. I’ve been working on a massive essay-type post that isn’t quite ready to post yet, so here’s a little something to entertain you (hopefully) in the mean time.

I went to see the new Captain America movie yesterday (I really liked it!), so at first I thought I’d post something Natasha-related. Then I realized that there are some delightful absurdities involving Matt’s first meeting with her chauffeur Ivan that needed to be ridiculed.

So, let’s go back to Daredevil #82 and #83, both written by Gerry Conway with art by Gene Colan and Alan Weiss, respectively. It starts something like this, on a page that follows the one discussed in another post, incidentally:

Matt finds a man in his home, from Daredevil #82, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

The scene begins with just some minor absurdities, such as the fact that blind people don’t generally use a cane in their own homes and aren’t expected to (a common head-scratcher in early Daredevil), as well as the weird notion that Matt wouldn’t notice if there was someone in the room watching him. He can easily hear heartbeats, not to mention relatively louder breath sounds, and it’s unlikely that someone would have had the time to mount some kind of elaborate camera equipment for remote viewing.

I also have to wonder why Matt would study the man’s features just to fool somebody else if it actually takes touching his face to determine that he doesn’t know him. Hm, I probably think too much… I love the brillo pad description though! And there’s also the colorful and semi-offensive mention of ”harsh peasant features” (seen below). 😉

Matt finds a note about the Black Widow being kidnapped, from Daredevil #82, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Matt now rushes off to save the Black Widow who has been kidnapped by the Scorpion. The trio end up fighting on the top of a tall building and just as the villain falls to his death while Natasha is trying to save him, the most annoying crime scene witness ever shows up in time to misunderstand the whole thing and accuse her of murder.

Which brings us to Daredevil #83 and Daredevil returning home to realize he forgot about Ivan lying unconscious on his floor. No Matt, you didn’t “almost forget,” you pretty much just left the guy there. But we understand, Natasha was more important. Anyway, this is where things start to get weirder…

Daredevil comes home to Ivan whom he left on the floor, from Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss

Somewhere along the line – I forget where – Ivan entered the conversation between Matt and Natasha which means that Matt has put two and two together and figured out that the man in his home is Ivan. But, the two haven’t been formally introduced so it’s perfectly reasonable that Matt would ask Ivan who he is.

Oddly enough, this seems to confuse Ivan who concludes that the only reason Matt would ask who is is because he’s blind. Unless Ivan is a very well-known public figure, this makes absolutely no sense at all. Things go from weird to violent, however, when Ivan learns that Natasha has been arrested…

Ivan goes nuts in Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss

Really, I don’t care how distraught Ivan is, this is not normal behavior. Ivan needs a psychiatric diagnosis or at the very least some serious anger management therapy.

At the realization that he’s hit a blind man, which I think is presumably more frowned upon that beating up a kid with glasses, he comes to his senses. Matt meanwhile, is amazingly forgiving.

Matt relates to crazy Ivan, as seen in Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss

The scene ends with some odd ideas about manhood, and Matt going all wordy and overly dramatic on us, which was something he did quite a lot during Gerry Conway’s run. In his defense, I think Conway was still a teenager when he started writing Daredevil, so we’ll forgive him the lack of subtlety. 😉

That’s it for now! I will return shortly with something quite a bit more profound.

Oops, he did it again!

Today was one of those days I could have used some sweet Daredevil: Road Warrior #3 happening on my iPad. Sadly, it looks like Marvel has pushed up the publication until tomorrow. Oh well, what are you going to do? How about another look at Matt Murdock being an absolute jerk!

You may recall my post from a couple of months ago, “He did what, now?!” which revolved around a scene from Daredevil #45, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, in which Matt beats an innocent man unconscious and steals his coat. It was all very heroic.

This time around, we’re going to watch him do the same thing to his very best friend. Yes, Matt is that much of an asshole. And it wasn’t even an emergency. He just needed to “get away.” Below, I give you this scene from Daredevil #75, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, in which Matt hits Foggy over the head while they’re on a fact-finding mission in the made up South American country of Delvadia.

Matt beats Foggy unconscious with a blow to the head, from Daredevil #75 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Foggy eventually comes to, and is helped by a young local boy whose lines are written in the kind of deliberately broken English that you just can’t get away with these days. Matt, meanwhile, goes on to berate himself over this little incident in the following issue (by the same creators). Not because of the brain damage his friend may or may not have sustained, but because he actually feels guilty about it. Oh Matt, you should count yourself lucky that I still like you and will continue to chronicle your adventures…

”You’re even sorry that you had to knock out Foggy… Sorry, regardless of the need for you to get away from him and change to Daredevil.”

Daredevil berates himself for feeling guilty about hitting Foggy, from Daredevil #76 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Speaking of liking Matt Murdock, despite his shortcomings, I suggest you read new Daredevil editor (former assistant editor) Ellie Pyle’s recent tweet, seen below, and write to Marvel to tell them what Daredevil has meant to you! I intend to myself.

I will see you back here shortly, as soon as Daredevil: Road Warrior #3 finally comes out!

The magically growing watch

So, Daredevil: Road Warrior #2 comes out tomorrow! I could really get used to this getting Daredevil once a week deal. For now, though, let’s make a very quick stop to look at a panel from Daredevil #71, by Roy Thomas (his last) and Gene Colan. Gene Colan was a freaking genius, as we all know, but apparently, even geniuses can have an off day.

Before suggesting something outrageous like that though, I want to remind readers of that one time I suggested that Gene Colan had given Karen an extra finger. That turned out to just be a case of me looking at it all wrong (see the comment section of that post). This may be yet another case of the very same thing, though I think I’m actually right this time. The third panel on the right, when compared to the middle one, just looks wrong.

Matt checking his watch in Daredevil #71, by  Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

So what’s going on here? Matt, worried they’ll be late for court, checks his watch (which, despite lacking a few dots here and there, looks like a pretty accurate braille watch). In the middle panel, the tip of his finger covers almost the entire face of the watch. In the panel on the right, however, the watch looks like it’s grown to about three times its orginal size. And move up to Matt’s elbow. And don’t his fingers look like they are at a very odd angle relative each other? Or is he feeling the hands of the watch with his ring and index fingers and the middle finger is somehow missing? I can’t make sense of it. Am I looking at this all wrong or did Gene Colan really have a case of the mondays? You tell me!

Never stop for an Orange Julius

I have to admit, I love it when the bad guys start bickering like an old married couple. The two fellows below have planned to rob the box office of a major movie theater right after an evening screening of a successful movie. Why only one of them would have the information about a sensitive deadline is beyond me. Why the one who does have that information would decide to put the entire operation at risk by stopping for an Orange Julius is even more perplexing. The only way it makes any sense is if Marvel had some kind of endorsement deal with Orange Julius at the time and this was literally the only way they could work that into the story.

We shouldn't have stopped for an Orange Julius, from Daredevil #62 by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

The scene above is from Daredevil #62, published in 1970, and is far from the only one that’s a little odd. The issue as a whole is not particularly good. There are pacing problems where some aspects of the story are left running too long while others are dealt with “yada yada” style, in a panel or two. The plot, by writer Roy Thomas, doesn’t hold up to closer inspection of the seams which just barely hold it together. Even the artwork looks a little rushed, which is unusual for the always excellent Gene Colan. Luckily for us, this translates into scenes and pieces of dialogue that are nothing less than mockworthy. Aside from the delighful Orange Julius reference, there is also…

Daredevil hogs a phone booth

After Daredevil deals with the Orange Julius guys (who incidentally also ran into parking trouble before they made it to the scene of the crime), he has a run-in with Nighthawk, who had just been introduced in the pages of The Avengers #69. Nighthawk initially comes across as a hero, but it turns out that he only wants fame for himself. Daredevil, suspicious of Nighthawk’s intentions, decides to dig up as much information as he can on this new character. It ends up costing him a lot of pocket change. Daredevil apparently makes so many phone calls that he has to get more change. Ah, the days before there were cell phones. And for those who, like me, are curious about how far you’d have to go back to make a phone call for just one dime in New York, the answer is apparently 1984. 😉

Daredevil makes phone calls, as seen in Daredevil #62 by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

Daredevil wears the creepiest mask ever

After he gets to the bottom of Nighthawk’s shady operation, Daredevil decides to set a trap for him by disguising himself as a really shady-looking dude. Love the moustache! (Another thing: What the heck is a sensitized microphone?)

Daredevil in disguise, from Daredevil #62 by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

Daredevil must have a secret lab we don’t know about

When I mentioned that the plot this issue was a little shaky, this is the kind of thing I was thinking of. There is nothing more deus ex machina than the handy antidote against whatever chemicals and potions your adversaries are using on you. During their first encounter, Nighthawk gives Daredevil a small dose of something that makes him dizzy. Based on this, we are supposed to believe that Daredevil was somehow able to draw his own blood, analyze it for traces of foreign substances, purify the substance, figure out its chemical properties and cook up an antidote for it based on his presumably extensive knowledge of chemistry. I’d say that’s a pretty tall order for a blind lawyer. 😉 (That doesn’t prevent him from doing it again in Daredevil #91.)

Antidote62

Well, that’s enough with the nutty stuff for today. Later, gang!