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Friday, 10 April 2015

Comics Explained: Daredevil

Today marks the first episode of the new Netflix series based on Marvel's Daredevil. Daredevil remains one of Marvel's main heroes along with Wolverine, Spider-Man and Captain America and in the early 2000s even had his own movie staring Ben Affleck as the titular hero, (quite a few years before Iron Man got his own film). This week I'll be talking about 'The Man Without Fear'.

In Daredevil #1 Matt Murdock, (Daredevil's secret identity), grew up in Hell's Kitchen in New York City with his father Jonathan 'Battling Jack' Murdock who was a wrestler. Jon Murdock wanted his son to be a success and move out of Hell's Kitchen so instead of encouraging him to play sports he encouraged him to read books and study with hopes that he would be a lawyer or a doctor. This however made the other kids make fun of Matt calling him 'Daredevil' as an insult so Matt secretly took his anger out by training in his dad's gym. One day Matt saw a blind man going to cross the street just as a truck was coming. He pulled the man out the way but the truck swerved and spilled radioactive isotope onto Matt's eyes which blinded him. While recovering in hospital Matt finds out that although he has been blinded the isotope amplified his taste, smell, touch and hearing abilities to superhuman levels as well as him developing a 'radar sense' which created a mental picture for him. Despite his loss of sight, (although not hindered by his heightened other senses), Matt managed to get a good education and go to law school. However Jon struggling to look after his son ends up working for a crooked fight performer called 'The Fixer' to earn some extra money. He refuses to take a dive though and fairly wins his fight which enrages The Fixer who has Jon murdered. Distraught Matt vows to bring his father's murderers to justice. He gets a law degree and sets up a business with his friend Foggy Nelson. However he decides to avenge his father by donning a yellow and red costume, (he wouldn't get his trademark red costume until #7), he tracks down the Fixer's men and eventually the Fixer who dies of a heart attack. Matt decides to continue on as being the masked vigilante. This was all explained in #1 but in the 1980s under Frank Miller more of his backstory is explained such as how he met future lover Elektra Natchios in law school until her parents were murdered and how he had trained prior to his father's murder with a sensei called Stick to handle his new abilities.

First Adventures
Some of Daredevil's early enemies were laughable at best such as Matador and Stilt-Man he did not face not face major enemies until around #7 where for the first time in his red suit he battled the anti-hero Namor the Sub-Mariner. Eventually he would go against the likes of Electro although one of his main foes, the Owl from #3, would menace him throughout his career. Daredevil's popularity grew so much that in #16 he even teamed up with Spider-Man. During this stint it got slightly confusing with Matt adopting a second secret identity of a twin brother called Mike. Mike was to be louder, extroverted and extravagant to match the swashbuckler attitude of Daredevil so people would think that Mike and not Matt was the actual Daredevil. Stan Lee hoped it would show a sort of quasi-multiple personality disorder for the character but eventually it was deemed too confusing an in #41 'Mike' died with Matt creating a fake death for the second alter ego. During this time Daredevil kept on with his job as a lawyer and #47 was largely centered around Matt defending a blind Vietnam veteran he was framed and today Stan Lee cites it as one of his most proudest moments in his career. Simultaneously to him fighting crime and teaming up with the likes of the Fantastic Four and Spider-Man Matt started a romance with his secretary Karen Page who has been one of his most enduring love interests, (imagine her being the Lois Lane for Daredevil). In #57 Matt confessed his secret identity to Karen and the relationship continued although it came under heavy strain with the amount of pressure put on it thanks to Matt's second life as Daredevil. Eventually the relationship broke up.

Daredevil and Black Widow
At the start of the 1970s the new writer for #72, Gerry Conway, moved Daredevil to San Francisco where he teamed up with Natasha Romanov a.k.a the Black Widow. For the duration of Daredevil's stay in San Francisco he would form a relationship with Natasha and for the first time in comic history portrayed the first cohabitation of a non-married couple. They broke up but continued on as friends, continuing to team up later on. Matt eventually became dissatisfied with his legal firm in San Francisco with his bosses being more concerned about their careers than with their clients so he moved back to New York forming the Storefront Legal Clinic with Foggy to give legal aid to poorer people in Hell's Kitchen. The return of Daredevil though did bring him into conflict with his two greatest enemies: Bullseye and Kingpin. In #131 Bullseye was hired to assassinate Matt and Foggy. Bullseye is an expert marksman who can hit anything and anyone with pinpoint accuracy to kill them with anything. Daredevil however gets in the way and barely escapes with his life leading to Bullseye wanting revenge on Daredevil. Kingpin however wouldn't be introduced until the 1980s...

Frank Miller's Daredevil
During the 1960s and 1970s Daredevil had been a swashbuckling hero like Robin Hood until Frank Miller took over in the early 1980s with #184 which narrowly got passed by the Comics Code Authoirty, (a regulatory body that censors comics which only Bongo comics adheres to now). Daredevil was turned from a swashbuckler into an angry, dark anti-hero. Here the Kingpin enters the scene. The Kingpin was originally a Spider-Man villain introduced in The Amazing Spider-Man #50 who was to be Marvel's equivalent of Lex Luthor with him creating extravagant schemes to control the world only to be narrowly defeated by Spider-Man.
In #170 Kingpin challenged Daredevil and quickly became his number one enemy. His schemes became more realistic with him trying to rule New York's underworld. This is definitely shown with #181 where Kingpin throws an opponent off a roof and when he narrowly survives he mentally breaks him by breaking into the hospital room and playing Russian roulette with him with an unloaded gun. The 1980s also saw Matt's law school love interest return although she was different from the Elektra that Matt knew. Taking an alternate route to avenge her parents she joined the clan of ninja assassins called The Hand and became a merciless assassin. Matt convinced her to leave the Hand and they briefly started a relationship but from her time as an assassin she remained cold and violent. Eventually she had a battle with Bullseye who was angry that Kingpin wanted her to possibly be one of his assassins in #181 in one of the most iconic issues in Daredevil's history. It did not end well for Elektra who was stabbed by Bullseye with her own sai.

After Miller
In #190 Elektra was resurrected and her soul cleansed where she joined the heroic counterpart to the Hand called the Chaste. During the 1990s Spider-Man villain caused Daredevil to have a mental breakdown which would even cause his brief marriage to a blind woman called Milla Donavan to end. She was distraught thinking that his marriage to her was to do with his mental breakdown. After the Avengers disbanded he helped recapture some escapee criminals when they broke from the Raft prison facility but turned down the opportunity to join the New Avengers with Luke Cage, Spider-Man, Spider-Woman and Wolverine along side the two original Avengers members Captain America and Iron Man. This didn't stop Nick Fury enlisting the help of Matt Murdock to help him overthrow the regime of Lucia von Bardas, the Prime Minister of Latveria who had been selling high-tech equipment to villains like Scorpion. Daredevil went against the government during the Civil War story line and during Norman Osborn's, (the Green Goblin), time as the head of HAMMER, (Osborn's distorted version of SHIELD), he spent time in Japan where he became the head of the Hand. However doing this with his fragile mental state put him at risk and his soul was bonded to the demon known as Beast. He returned to Hell's Kitchen where he formed a regime in what was named the Shadowland in his new demonic costume.
The Avengers, the Punisher and Ghost Rider went to take down Daredevil where he had already murdered Bullseye, (although this could be thanks to the Beast possessing him). He easily defeated all of them but he was in turn defeated after Iron Fist used his chi-fist which cleansed his soul of the Beast. Right now he has returned to his normal Daredevil moniker.

Thanks for reading and I hoped you enjoyed.

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