PSA: I know many of you might see a fight to get Daredevil back (in some form, under some kind of deal with some network) to be a lost cause. However, those of us who started the #RenewDaredevil effort are still at it. This week is cast appreciation week, and you can read about it (and other things going on) on the website.
Regardless of how you feel about the cancellation and any campaign efforts tied to it, I do want to tell you about the fundraising effort to benefit the Foundation Fighting Blindness that was set up to celebrate Charlie Cox’s birthday on Saturday. He even donated to it himself!
Dealing with the damn cancellation
When the news first came that Netflix (pretty much single-handedly, it appears) had canceled Daredevil after three seasons, I took the news relatively well. I remember thinking that “at least we had a good ending that left everyone we care about alive and back together in the end.” Still, having been relatively optimistic about the prospects for at least a fourth season, I had an “aw, damn” moment, before going about my day.
After that though, during the second day post-cancellation, a big void gradually started up inside. Two weeks on, I’m still grappling with it even though life obviously moves on, and there are obviously real-life issues that do overshadow the Daredevil cancellation.
Still, it’s rough. I think it started with just the thought that we would never see Matt moving back into his apartment. It sounds like a silly little thing, but from that grew a sense of grief over the lost opportunities of having Matt, Foggy, and Karen get at least one season of actually working together.
I don’t think any of us are deluded enough to think that Daredevil would be devoid of conflict (something needed for any compelling story), but Matt would at least be operating from a new sense of self-awareness and self-acceptance. I would have loved to see that.
As some of you know, I’ve been struggling with my commitment to both the show and the comics before, which lead to a long hiatus. The end of season two left me pretty broken, to be honest, but the miracle that was season three seemed to not only deliver the redemption story I had been longing for, but in so doing, actually shed much needed light on Matt’s previous willingness to walk away from his civilian life and the friends in it. Everything was put right, and elevated the entire show, from beginning to its apparent end. And, showrunner Erik Oleson became someone I fully trusted to do this cast of characters right.
Allowing myself to get excited about season three, ahead of its release, got me back into blogging again. Now, though, I’m unsure of where to go next. You see, there’s a reason that this site has come to be solely focused on the Netflix show(s), to the extent that I’ve been posting much at all since Daredevil season two. I simply haven’t enjoyed the most recent run of the comics.
Why I can’t get with the comics right now…
I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around the current mindwipe status quo that, for much of the first couple of years of the Soule run, left Matt Murdock taking a back seat to the Daredevil identity, which is never something I’ve enjoyed. Sure, Matt was there, but surrounded by people we’ve never seen before and seemingly without a personal life.
That turned around over the last year or so when Foggy came back into Matt’s life and Matt entered into a semi-interesting career of his own, as deputy mayor under Wilson Fisk. But it’s constantly been grating me to see heroes he’s known for years not know that Matt and Daredevil are one of the same. A big part of who someone is, even a fictional character, boils down to his or her relationships. For me, it was not something I could get over.
Besides, while it seemed plausible forty years ago that Daredevil could hide his blindness consistently, even around people who were more than casual acquaintances, I simply don’t buy that for a modern take on the character. Look to episodes three and four of the third season of the Netflix show for an indication of the stakes involved. (No, he didn’t blow his cover, but he might have over something banal.) So, seeing Matt train Blindspot (for presumably many days and hours) without admitting to his blindness, or having it be discovered, fails to work for me for reasons of both logic and narrative “authenticity.”
And don’t even get me started on the senses writing over the last three years. Having the radar drawn as an Instagram filter on acid, and Matt (easily) “seeing” through walls (into a building across the street), just doesn’t work for me. At all. The latter is something I associate with Silver and Bronze age comics. Even though there may be some logic to this (you’ll have to read my science book eventually), this is a skill that I believe should be used very sparingly with at least some awareness its inherent limitations. They are considerable. Listening for a silent spot in the city to find Muse? Does that remind anyone else of the universally laughed-at scene of Daredevil landing a rocket in the second issue from 1964? If I actually sound a little pissed about this, it’s because I am.
I don’t mind high-powered heroes as such. I’ve seen every movie coming out of the MCU, many of them more than once. I’ve enjoyed comics about Matt’s fellow heroes with much more spectacular powers. I have a suprising level of attachment to much of Peter David’s work on Jamie Madrox (the “Multiple Man,” whose powers are as weird as they come). I grew up on Superman comics. I just think Daredevil is a hero who is at his best and most relatable when his powers are more modest and he’s treated as less of an omniscient demi-god.
This is especially true because of his blindness which is something writers need to show at least a modest interest in engaging with. It’s there. It’s real. It’s as real as his heightened senses are. Not doing this aspect of the character justice in 1964, or 1974, was fine. We can laugh at that now. Forty of fifty years later, it’s not funny to me. The Netflix show did it right. Is it too much to hope that writers can take inspiration from this? The fact that Matt’s powers don’t actually fully compensate for his blindness (even when his powers are depicted as more extreme than I might prefer) should, in my opinion, be treated more as a feature of the character than as an unfortunate design bug to be spoken of as rarely as possible.
Still, though, this is actually a minor quibble compared to the fact that Daredevil hasn’t felt like himself (to me) since around the time Mark Waid and Chris Samnee had him show up to court in a red Daredevil business suit. Which is a real shame since their entire run (initially with Paolo Rivera and Marcos Martín as pencillers) up until that point still ranks among my favorite runs ever. (And yes, their respect for Matt’s blindness was better than I’ve ever seen before or since, and for that they will have my eternal gratitude.)
As you might imagine, hearing new writer Chip Zdarsky say this, is sweet music to my ears:
“I’ve always loved the various tonal takes on DAREDEVIL, but for this run I’ve decided to really go deep on the realities of being a vigilante in this world. Out of all the main Super Heroes, Daredevil has felt like the one you could do that with. I don’t care to see a “reality-based” Fantastic Four (though as I type that I remember how much I loved UNSTABLE MOLECULES. The exception to prove the rule!), but I love the idea of a reality-based DAREDEVIL.”Interview with Zdarsky and new (returning) artist Marco Checchetto at Marvel.com
Of course, I have no idea whether the (relative) realism he speaks of will apply to Matt’s senses, but it wouldn’t surprise me, and I’m hopeful that it might.
Our inner Daredevils
As for Checchetto coming back to draw Daredevil, I couldn’t be happier. His take on Matt is probably the one that comes closest to my own idea of what this character actually looks like. Because I, like probably most long-time readers of the comics, already had an idea in our heads of what Matt “should” look like, long before the Netflix show happened.
Elden Henson’s Foggy, especially with his haircut from season three, and Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen have supplanted whatever picture was in my head. But “my” Matt does not look like Charlie Cox. This isn’t actually a problem for me, in terms of enjoying the show, any more than seeing an actor portraying a real life person is a problem. For the purposes of enjoying the show, it doesn’t really matter that Charlie doesn’t look like “my” Matt.
But who is this “my Matt” person? I talked a bit about this in my post about “Being a Daredevil fan, 600 issues later” (also linked to above), and it’s what the title of this post is really in reference to. (I know, I sure took a while getting to the point.)
Forever Matt Murdock is the idea I have in my head of who Daredevil is, and he transcends each individual interpretation of the character. I assume everyone has this kind of timeless “forever” idea of who their favorite characters are. After all, what allows us to determine that someone is acting “out of character,” is some kind of idea of what the character in our heads would have done or said instead.
We all have slightly different takes on these characters, and that’s fine and perfectly normal, but I’m finding that my future dedication to Daredevil and this site, hinges on my ability to rediscover and reconnect with my inner Matt Murdock. I need to care about comic book Matt again, whether through his old stories or the new ones. This is the downside to getting a bit too invested in the television version of Matt that, in his third season especially, almost grew to supplant the one that was in my head to begin with.
So, this was a long, rambling text that I wrote in part do deal with my own frustrations about the current state of “Daredevil-dom.” So, I hope you’ll forgive some of the snark. And the complete lack of structure.
What are your own thoughts on all of this? Feel free to rant, rave, or otherwise voice your opinions in the comments!