Daredevil’s demons

Oct 12, 2012

Daredevil’s demons

Oct 12, 2012

A couple of weeks ago, I saw the movie Bully, a documentary by Lee Hirsh. It presents a heartbreaking look at bullying and got me thinking about all kinds of things, including my own childhood. I get why people want children (I do too), and even why people want to work with children, but I don’t understand the romanticized view of children and childhood that many people seem to have. Of all the people in my life who have treated me badly, the vast majority where other children, while I was a child myself. I’ve never had to deal with anything nearly as bad as that depicted in Bully, but I honestly would never want to relive my childhood. I learned early on that being “me” was, for some reason, not okay. The joy of adulthood has been to realize that the very same personal traits that were deemed uncool when I was younger, are now the same traits people like about me. Life has a way of working out in the end, I suppose.

So, what does this have to do with Daredevil? Well, it got me thinking about him too. I would argue that there are three obvious traumas behind Matt’s becoming Daredevil, and they are central to the Daredevil mythos. The one that is referenced most often is probably the loss of his father. Jack Murdock’s murder, and the legal injustice that followed it, was the final trigger (no pun intended) which caused Matt to start working on both sides of the law. Another key components is, of course, the accident that blinded him. It not only gave him his heightened senses, but strengthened his resolve to do something important with his life. And then, there’s the bullying. While it’s not a facet that’s touched on quite as often as Matt’s relationship with his father or the consequences – good and bad – of his altered physiology, it is an important part of the character and what makes him tick. It even inspired the name Daredevil, first given to him as a sarcastic label to describe everything young Matt wasn’t. Making that name his own is an act of defiance, a big and loud “up yours” directed at everyone who thought less of him. Matt’s status as an adult survivor of childhood bullying is one of the many things that make him relatable and I suspect that it appeals to a lot of fans.

People from Matt’s younger years have shown upp every now and then over the years, but one of the best examples of him coming face to face with a former tormentor is Daredevil #203, by Steve Grant and Geof Isherwood. The villain of the issue is Carlton Sanders, aka Trumps, a magician and “kidshow host” (Sideshow Bob anyone?), but the more interesting part of the story revolves around Matt and his meeting with Stewart “Stymie” Schmidt. Stymie is a crook, and has been arrested for driving the getaway car at the break-in Daredevil tried to interrupt the previous evening. Matt is shocked to realize who he’s dealing with, but surprises Foggy by agreeing to take the case. (Click the pages below to zoom in.)

Matt recognizes Stymie, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof IsherwoodMatt remembers bullying, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood

As it turns out, this is only the beginning of Matt’s odd behavior and Foggy soon becomes suspicious of Matt’s way of handling the case.

Foggy criticizes Matt's judgment, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood

So, which are the facts Foggy is rushing to verify? Well, the issue is a little weak on the details, but next time we see Foggy, he has ended up in Matt’s old neighborhood, talking to the owner of a local shop about the kids that used to come by. He shows him a picture of Matt and one of Stymie (see the page below on the left), and soon, Foggy has the answer to Matt’s irresponsible lawyering. To confront his friend, he calls Matt and asks him to come.

Foggy goes to Matt's neighborhood, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof IsherwoodMatt arrives at Max's, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof IsherwoodMatt breaks down, from Daredevil #209, by Steven Grant and Geof Isherwood

Coming back to the old neighborhood, has a profound impact on Matt (see pages above) who suddenly realizes that his recent behavior has been inspired by nothing more than petty vengeance. We also see him fully express, in a way that’s rare, just how much the torment that he had to endure as a child still haunts him. This scene may be lacking in subtlety, and it’s hard to accept the extent of Matt’s denial, but it’s still an interesting take on a favorite character.


  1. R.M. Hendershot

    Wonderful post, Christine! Daredevil’s relationship with bullies could easily be a series unto itself …

    When I was a kid, Daredevil’s blindness was the main draw for me–my own eyesight was getting rapidly worse–but I’d be lying if I said his experiences with bullying didn’t play a big part too. As a bookish kid in a culture that prized ignorance, as a lower-middle-class kid in a pricey private school, and as a tomboy girl in a class full of would-be debutantes, I identified strongly with young Matt Murdock getting taunted and smacked around for being different, and still turning himself into not just a hero, but the embodiment of everything his tormentors said he couldn’t be. And doing all this while blindfolded? Take THAT, yard apes!

    One of the first Daredevil stories I read was Frank Miller’s “Man Without Fear” series, and I still remember Miller’s striking introduction that began, “It’s a wonder he isn’t a villain.” With Matt’s background–including the abuse he took from the neighborhood kids–it’s really surprising that he’s still on the side of the angels. But while I’m not the world’s biggest Miller fan, I do agree with how that introduction ended: “[H]e’ll do the best he can, this hero. He’ll fight the bullies till the day he dies.”

    Damn straight.

    More bloggery about this, please! It seems like a rich subject …

  2. George

    Good article, Christine. I’ve loved that story in DD #203 for years; along with Alan Brennert’s story in #192, probably the best DD story between the Miller and Nocenti runs. What makes them special is that they focus on characterization and psychology, instead of punching out super-villains. Glad to see Steven Grant’s story finally getting some attention.


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