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. 😉
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)
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.
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.
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!