The nastier side of Matt: Tyrone’s story

Mar 13, 2011

The nastier side of Matt: Tyrone’s story

Mar 13, 2011

Before there was the – yet to be named – “blind kid” in Daredevil: Reborn, there was Tyrone. What the two have in common, besides crossing paths with Matt Murdock, is having been blinded as children through the wrongdoing of others. In the case of Tyrone, he was blinded by toxic water from a pond, due to the illegal dumping of chemicals by a company called Kelco. The way all of this happens is a little far-fetched, but it brings him into contact with Matt Murdock who decides to represent him in a civil suit against the company. In a strange twist, opposing counsel in this case is none other than Foggy Nelson.

Tyrone is a regular guest throughout several issues in the mid-200s of volume 1, during Nocenti’s run, and is, in fact, the key link in introducing Matt to Typhoid Mary (all orchestrated by the Kingpin, of course), which happens in issue #254, the same issue we’ll be looking at below.

On a more personal note, Tyrone’s story is also one of the reasons I’ve had such a hard time enjoying Ann Nocenti’s run. I’m aware that this is a major faux pas in whatever circles hardcore Daredevil fans move in, and that most people feel differently than I do when it comes to that particular chapter in Daredevil history. However, Matt’s treatment of Tyrone paints a picture of a highly unsympathetic person in my mind. This story takes place fairly early in the Nocenti run and served to taint my impression of her particular take on my favorite character in ways that I found difficult to ignore.

Now, let’s look at the issue in question – Daredevil #254, by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr – which features an unusually high panel count from a single issue. I hope Marvel forgives my liberal interpretation of “fair use” in this case. 😉

Matt cruising the roof tops thinking of Tyrone, from Daredevil #254
Matt thinking of Tyrone, from Daredevil #254

First off, we see Matt obsess about Tyrone and his case on his regular patrol. Matt’s become emotionally invested in Tyrone’s case, not just as a lawyer, but on a more personal level. He’s been trying to train Tyrone to develop the same abilities that he has as he was informed by Stick that anyone can do so with proper training. This idea, of course, goes back to the Miller run.

When we cut back to Matt thinking about Tyrone again a couple of pages later – this time he’s heading for the blind boy’s hospital bed – he offers us the following:

“Stick taught me, forced me to grab at power. Tyrone… he’s resisting! Like he wants to stay helpless! Gotta force him… to save himself! Otherwise he’s just another one of the poor stumbling blinded.”

This is the first really offensive thing coming from Matt this issue, but certainly not the last. Let’s continue and see what happens when Matt reaches his uncooperative protegé:

(Click the image to see it pop to larger scale)

Matt comes into Tyrone's room

It’s rare to see Matt being this filled with rage. One might argue that this is out of desperation to teach the boy what he knows, but this desperation is coming from a strange and not very flattering place. He talks about the sighted mocking the blind, but he’s clearly mocking Tyrone in this scene. He’s not introducing himself when he comes in the room (which is a big no-no around blind people), and even waves his hand in his face to test him.

On the next page, we’re presented with a flashback as Matt remembers his training with Stick. In this scene they are standing near a cliff (don’t ask me where you might find one of those on Manhattan), and their conversation goes as follows:

“Do it, boy — take a step! Your choice, little one. Step one way — you’re dead.”

“I don’t know Stick!! Which way?!”

“Little fool, a blind man dares not trust any way another man tells him to step! You’ve got to know the way! Know which path to walk Matt Murdock! Otherwise you remain a blind fool, and someone will walk you to the edge of a cliff and tell you to take a step and you will be at their mercy!”

This takes us straight back to the here and now in Tyrone’s hospital room.

Matt in Tyrone's room, Daredevil #254

Okay, so we have Matt apologizing to Tyrone before once again telling him absolutely awful things like:

“The alternative is the dull stupid empty dead world of helpless darkness! You’ll be all alone there! You’ll die!”

Go ahead, Matt. Be an emotionally abusive asshole. Of course, it doesn’t end there. Next we have him simulate the falling from a cliff situation he experienced with Stick.

Matt practicing with Tyrone

Finally, it’s Tyrone who sets Matt straight:

“I’m trying to be strong, Matt, making the best of the darkness. But you — you just keep reminding me of what I’m missing! Maybe someone thought you were tough enough to learn how to walk and stuff… but… I’m not so tough.”

Matt’s relationship with Tyrone is really unsettling to me for a few different reasons. First of all, rather than offering understanding and empathy, Tyrone is met with anger and humiliation. Secondly, is this really how Matt views other blind people who don’t have his heightened senses? Really? If so, that’s just… awful! I mean, we learn from both his thoughts, words and actions that he considers the blind to be helpless fools doomed to a meaningless and pitiful existence.

I also don’t buy that Matt can’t relate to unpowered blind people. His powers certainly make him less than totally blind (from a functional standpoint), but it’s not as if he doesn’t have a pretty obvious vision problem. It’s this side of himself he should be tapping into when offering support to someone like Tyrone, not some tyrant who’s only interested in saying “I’m better than you.”

This streak of arrogance – on this and other matters – seemed to me to be one of Matt’s more dominant personality traits during the Nocenti run, and while she’s clearly a very gifted writer I could never get invested in her take on Matt Murdock as a character. When it comes to his views on the unpowered blind, this wasn’t even the only time he expressed these kinds of feelings. Then again, maybe her actual intention was to highlight some kind of deeply seated self-loathing or unresolved issues with Stick (who, for the record, seems to be a bit of a bastard too).

Either way, I know many of you guys are big Nocenti fans and I certainly don’t blame you. And maybe I’m alone in my strong reaction to this particular issue (though I bumped into at least one more online somewhere a few years back), but I’ve been wanting to vent on the Tyrone issue for quite some time, and with Matt now mentoring another blind kid (with much more sensitivity this time around), I thought now was as good a time as any.

Agree or disagree with me? Have your say in the comment section!


  1. Bill

    Matt does come off like a butt hole, but I think this is more a matter of Nocenti using Tyrone to explore Matt’s own fears, failures, and the self loathing instilled in him at a young age by Stick and a cruel world. I think the thing I took from this story is that Matt’s journey was unique, and though Nocenti’s run wasn’t my favorite she sure could turn a phrase and paint a picture.

  2. Nicole

    So it wasn’t just me that had problems with that issue. I’ve been working my way through Volume 1, and when I read #254 a few weeks back, I had many of the same reactions you did. To be fair, I’m not a huge Nocenti fan, never really cared for some of her characterizations, but this issue… If this was someone’s first DD comic, I doubt they’d view Matt as a particularly enduring character.

  3. AP

    You’re definitely not alone. I’ve never cared for Nocenti’s run. Matt never felt like Matt. A lot of the time, I felt like the characters personalities were inconsequential to her. All that mattered was airing her view of the world. For me, her stories and dialogue are often just a cringe worthy as anything from the Stan Lee era, not to mention preachy. Just not what I want from a Daredevil story.

  4. JP Nguyen

    Due to the lack of Nocenti defenders in the comments section, I’d like to add my two cents. Those scenes are text heavy and like most Nocenti stuff, they can feel quite heavy-handed. However, I do find redeeming qualities to her writing.
    First, Matt not able to relate to others pain or difficulties is in line with characterization from previous writers (remember when he learned Becky was assaulted and she did not call the police, or when Foggy’s wife was cheating on him).
    Secund,the inner tension Matt feels is much more interesting than most standard superhero stuff. It’s not “I have to kill Bullseye to get revenge but I should’nt because I’m a pure hero”. It’s “I really wanna help but in the end I know I suck as a teacher”. And at the same time, Matt also wants Tyrone to cope with his blindness while getting the money from Kelco, a bit like having its cake and eat it too. An alternate take on the lawyer/vigilante thing. Matt does come as an ass in these scenes, but he’s very “human” (in its failure) and it’s much more original than other treatments we’ve seen since (“my wife is mad so I have to go in the streets and beat people”).
    Third, the Tyrone story spreads further than what you’ve shown and he will get better (but more thanks to Mary than thanks to Matt) yet he’ll realize the limits of his new condition. His story will provide some nice scenes like the ghost lawyering session of Matt and also a short confrontation between Matt and the Kingpin in the courtyard.
    Fourth, you’ve mentioned the kid of Reborn two times but I don’t feel it can quite compare. For now, I feel he’s just a plot device (doesn’t even have a name) used for Matt looking cool or for making life in the town miserable.
    So Nocenti brought new stuff to the table, not always in the best manner but certainly with an original approach. These days, I’d like to get more of that in my Daredevil stories.

    • Christine

      @JP: A Nocenti defender! I thought there would be more of you! 😉 Seriously, I’m so used to being in the minority in my opinions on her run (and I’m sure you remember the infamous discussion thread on the exact same topic from the MWOF message board), that I was quite surprise to not see more people come to her defense.

      Here’s where I will agree with you: She was very daring when it came to introducing new concepts and in making the stories be about more than fights. As anyone who knows me, from this site or elsewhere will know, I’d like to see more depth in my stories and not just have them be about the villain of the week. I appreciate her effort. I also really liked the new stories she wrote for DD #500 and DD: Black and White.

      Having said that, the only way I can even make sense of the scene with Tyrone in a way that doesn’t make Matt seem awful is to conclude that what he’s really experiencing is self-loathing or that he hasn’t fully worked through having the same thing happen to him.

      I know Tyrone’s story continues in other issues and that things do work out for him, but this doesn’t happen in a way where Matt comes off very much better than he does here, and I remember a later issue where he meets a homeless man who’s blind and still has thoughts of contempt and superiority along the same lines that we see here. Since I’m pretty sure Ann Nocenti herself doesn’t hold these kinds of opinons, I wonder why she would assign them to Matt.

      Either way, if other people read this scene differently than I did then all I can say is “good for you,” because I really wish I could. I wish I could read it and not reach the conclusion that Matt harbors these kinds of opinons.

      On a side note, I didn’t bring up the kid from Reborn to make any kind of direct comparison with Tyrone, it was just that I was reminded of him when I read it.

  5. Bee Clayton

    I’ve only read certain parts of Nocenti’s run. She gets high marks from me for the inclusion of social themes, subject matter that may not seem all that relevant to a superhero book.

    That being said, I haven’t read this particular issue but I find this exchange disturbing in a number of ways.

    One is the underlying presumption that any blind person in the MU with the right training can acquire the same abilities that Matt has. Maybe I’m reading more into this than needed, but if that is so, doesn’t that lessen Matt as a unique character? Anyone can develop a radar sense??

    Then of course, there is the underlying contempt for Tyrone’s situation. If he doesn’t want to be trained, then he is ‘doomed’ to a sad life of a ‘regular’ blind person. It would also seem to highlight a subtle arrogance on Matt’s part that because of his special abilities, he’s never considered himself really handicapped in a normal sense. Using those abilities to help others would hopefully engender gratitude yet it’s bred arrogance?

    Then, the other arrogant presumption that Matt is as good a teacher as Stick. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. But I can’t help thinking of Obi-Wan and Anakin in this scenario. (Yeah, a stretch but I think it relates) Shouldn’t you want to teach someone in order to help them grow, not because of some base pity or contempt?

  6. Aaron K

    @Bee – The notion that everyone has Daredevil-like powers that are simply untapped isn’t Nocenti; it’s Miller. It might show up earlier, but I know it shows up in DAREDEVIL #188 when Matt thinks he has lost his powers. Stick claims, “All that happened to you back then was that you got opened up to senses that everybody’s got, but don’t use. It ain’t the radiation. Never was.” I’ve never been a fan of this idea at all, even though it allows for Stick and Master Izo, both of whom I’ve enjoyed as characters.

  7. James

    I wonder if Ann was building this seed of hardness growing in Matt to parallel that he was becoming like Stick! Stick was more than just your typical mentor. As Frank showed, not only was he an ornery old cuss, he was extremely punishing and arrogant with his young charges to the extent of committing what would be classified as child abuse. Did Ann intend to take this side of him a step further? Recall during Daredevil #254 she has Mary reveal to Matt that her father was blind. Did Ann originally have these two characters intersecting to make Matt confront his likewise becoming punishing and arrogant, by revealing that Stick was not only Mary’s father and that he’d abused her fracturing her personality into Typhoid? I’ve sometimes wondered – that Ann intended Mary as a reflection of Matt’s own fracturing into his Daredevil persona.

    • Christine

      It may be any of those things (and yes, Stick was a mean bastard in many ways), but I still can’t find the silver lining to these scenes which upset me so badly the first time I read them, and continue to do to this day. I agree that Nocenti may have had some deeper purpose to this story, but if so the point is either hidden so deeply that it would escape most readers or it lacks the appropriate closure to show Matt the error of his ways. The fact that this wasn’t the only instance of Matt showing these kinds of attitudes toward blind people with normal human senses during the Nocenti run also bothers me. You know, one of these days I’d like to contact her and (very nicely) ask her about what her thoughts were behind all of it. It’s my understanding that she’s a very nice woman, but I do feel she was mistaken in this.

  8. James

    You’re right of course; an interview with Ann would clear this up since at the moment it looks as though she has some underlying prejudice toward blind males who have successfully overcome their disability.

    Mind you, she could be portraying that adage, too, of people having successfully overcome thinking that if they have done it it shouldn’t be a problem for others. Some of us blinkies can fall into this trap and become arrogant in this way, but you’re right it came across that regularly in Ann’s run it seems like there’s some axe to grind there somewhere. Did she, I wonder, in her runs on other titles, show superheroes similarly arrogant to non-powered beings as it might be more a case of this?

  9. mike

    I don’t usually go deep on the intentions of the writers themselves when reading a comic. And although I did cringe at some parts of nocenti’s run after reading this i figured she might’ve chosen this approach (from Matt) to get some sort of social discussion going. The way matt sees Tyrone is how a lot of people see blind people, as helpless and surrounded by darkness. Bc Matt views blindness this way we also got Tyrone’s (beautiful) reply to that vision, bc of how nocenti made matt react we got to see diversity within the comic of how blind people coped and viewed their handicap. And as much as it made me cringe that Matt was such an enormous asshat, I’m not against the way that story was told at all bc it’s so much more than just matt being an asshat to a blind kid, I truly feel like after he meets Mary he realises people have different needs when it comes to their handicap. Might’ve made some readers reflect on their views as well which is always a nice thing.

  10. Roger

    I will defend Ann Nocenti, too!
    During the Frank Miller years, Stick once said to Matt that everybody has super-senses. It’s only that Matt has learned to use them. Radiation had nothing to do with it. So, he is trying to do the same for Tyrone. He empathizes with him, becouse they had both horrible accidents involving poluted chemicals, and he can understand what he lived. But also the only way Matt knows how to help involves real tough discipline, bordering abuse (every time I read this story, I wonder where is Tyrone’s father). In that way, I find the story compelling. Matt has never been a pure hero. Despite his fierce idealism, he is border line crazy most of the time.
    Also, it must be noted Matt admitted later his way was wrong, and found a special teacher to help Tyrone (that was Typhoid Mary in his kind persona, but I digress). The last time they meet, Matt was real kind to him and Tyrone was adapting to his new condition.
    Then Nocenti complety forget about Tyrone, which one of her problem as writer. But I really enjoyed her run.

    • Christine Hanefalk

      Hello Roger, and welcome to this blog! I know a lot of people enjoyed Nocenti’s run immensely, and that’s absolutely fine by me. But the Tyrone story will always rub me the wrong way. And, it’s not just that he’s hard on Tyrone. It’s they way he’s hard on Tyrone, and the way he talks about blindness. I almost read it as a refusal to accept his own accident, which is weird for someone who should have come to terms with it many years ago.

  11. Roger

    Hello Christine,! Nice to be there. I agree Matt was terrible with the kid (especialy considering he had lost his sight just a few days ago). But Matt mistakes are part of his charm. He is deeply human.
    To some degree, I think Matt doesn’t completly understand how frightening is being blind. After all, having super-senses mitigates some of the worst part of his problem.

  12. Roger

    Hello Christine,! Nice to be there.


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