Newspapers and the blind superheroes who read them

Oct 8, 2008

Newspapers and the blind superheroes who read them

Oct 8, 2008

A strange post perhaps, but the idea for this one came about in the aftemath of the debate on why Matt apparently subscribes to the print edition of the morning paper and whether this endangers his extremely fragile secret identity. And, since this blog discusses everything and anything Daredevil-related, no matter how obscure, I decided that this topic would be worthy of its own entry.

I have no idea why people have suddenly noticed this since it’s hardly a new phenomenon. All I can say is that it’s been talked about quite a bit on message boards and in the occasional blog post. Maybe it’s the new and returning readers that decided that Daredevil #111 was the perfect jumping on point who have raised a collective eyebrow. Below we’ll look back briefly at Matt’s relationship with the printed page.

However, let’s first examine the question of whether his picking up a regular newspaper on the steps in front of his house is necessarily that suspicious. Are there natural and valid explanations for why a blind person would read a regular newspaper? Yes, as a matter of fact, there are. What he does with that paper is really nobody else’s business, and shouldn’t lead neighbors to call in the Thunderbolts for an SHRA-related arrest. He could hypothetically have someone read it to him, or he could use any of the modern devices that blind people use to access print.

So, the secret identity is safe for now. As for the Daredevilesque ability to read print by touch, it’s definitely one of those “powers” that go back to the early days. It must have become apparent right from the start that having the hero be unable to read in a somewhat traditional fashion would simply be too inconvenient. Coupled with the stigma of Braille that sadly persists to this day, it’s easy to see why early writers decided to highlight Daredevil’s ability to plow through even large amounts of text at high speed. Regular readers of this blog might recall the Wacky powers installment from a while back in which I poked some gentle fun at Stan Lee having Matt read much faster than people who read by sight.

Early speed-reading instances aside, very little has been said about the extent of this ability or Matt’s preferred reading mode. Modern-day common sense would suggest a strong preference for Braille over print for the same reason the average person would prefer not to read faded 4 point type in dim lighting if given a choice, even though most of us certainly could if we had to. One of very few instances of print-reading being described as something of a chore is from the first issue of Frank Miller’s Born Again arc in which Matt goes through his mail, thinking to himself “The embossed [envelopes] are easy, going by the scant impressions of the ink on the others is a pain, this early in the day.”

While any references to reading Braille are still exceedingly rare, Matt’s print-reading ability seems to have been played down some during vol 2. He still does it, obviously, but not quite as often as in the past it seems (to me anyway). Of course, what he does between panels is up to each reader’s imagination, and I suspect that imagination ran wild for many when reading Daredevil #111, for reasons unrelated to Matt’s ability to read print. But that’s for a later post…

Below are some volume 2 examples of Matt Murdock’s multi-layered and complicated relationship with the news media. Now doesn’t this post prove that you can write a Daredevil blog entry around just about any theme? What will I think of next? Stick around and you might find out. 😉

“Bad press,” from issue #33 (vol 2), by Brian Michael Bendis with art by Alex Maleev

“Good press,” from issue #76 (vol2), also by Bendis/Maleev

Matt reading Vanessa Fisk’s obituary in issue #93 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark.

Quick question: Why does Matt hold the paper up in front of him as if he were sighted, rather than let it rest on the table? Wouldn’t the paper buckle under the strain of the pressure he puts on it? And is this really good for his shoulders? Am I overthinking this?

Matt reading the news in #103 (vol 2), by Brubaker/Lark.

Will he ever notice the box in the top right-hand corner where it says “Brubaker ‘old as dirt’ according to panel of judges”?

The final panel of #111 that indirectly inspired this post, showing Matt not quite having absorbed the content on the page yet. Click HERE to see it, I don’t want to spoiler those who haven’t read the latest issue yet.


  1. dmstarz

    Very interesting post. Reading the very early Daredevils, as I am at the moment, the reading with fingers kinda makes more sense when you think of the (poorer) quality of newsprint back in the 60s and that it genuinely would have been easier to read the imprints of inky type. Nowadays, that’s a lot more difficult. Could Murdock actually ‘read’ a glossy magazine, for example? I’ve noticed in the examples you’ve shown that he’s reading newspapers and that’s acceptable, but anything else, I’m not sure that would fit with the original conception of his powers and therefore, perhaps he would need to know braille too.

  2. Christine

    Thanks! I think you’re right about how the printing process has changed and I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen Matt read anything glossy (aside from his discerning photographs(!) in early issues). Since the ability is specifically said to be based on differences in texture there should definitely have to be something there in order for him to read it. These days, newspapers still have a raised layer of ink, but lots of other printing processes are certainly more sophisticated.

    Based on pure logic, I definitely think that braille should be much easier for him to read. I mean, braille is intended to be read by touch, and print would have a very poor signal to noise ration. These days, it wouldn’t hold the character back much to have this kind of preference since you could easily send anything from a computer to a braille printer with no problems at all. On the other hand, that would mean he’d actually have to get a computer (I’ve complained about his apparent lack of one more than once in the past…). As it is, I think he might be the only blind lawyer in the Western World who can’t check his own email. Well, if the pics of his office are anything to go by. 🙂


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