He’s the Man Without Fear, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, a street-level guardian devil and a two-fisted crusader for the little guy. He’s also…kind of a jerk! He’s a liar, he’s a hypocrite, he’s manipulative, he’s emotionally volatile, and he’s psychological train wreck who leaves a trail of broken-hearted lovers and devastated friends in his wake. It takes brass balls to be a lawyer by day and compulsive law-breaking vigilante by night; but Matt Murdock’s history of duplicity, excessive use of violence, moral hypocrisy and serial womanizing are behavior traits far more becoming of a villain.
Moreover, his violently erratic mood swings and personality shifts over the years have caused him to oscillate between preaching from the moral high ground in court and lashing out vehemently at those closest to him. Say what you will about The Red Skull, at least he’s consistent! In his early years, ol’ Hornhead was, let’s be honest, little more than a bargain basement Spider-Man, but since Frank Miller re-branded him as a street-smart urban vigilante in the mid ’80s he’s spend decades skulking in the dark places both literally and morally. With all of that in mind, let’s look over some of his most egregious offences.
15. WHEN HE BECAME LEADER OF THE HAND
The Hand are a despicable clan of morally bankrupt ninja scumbags whom Matt Murdock dedicated years to battling until he decided… if you can’t beat ’em, lead ’em. In the “Shadowland“ storyline, Daredevil became the leader of the Hand and erected a large pagoda shaped prison / fortress in Hell’s kitchen. As his methods became more extreme, culminating in his murder of Bullseye, his fellow heroes decided that he’d taken things a bit too far.
They banded together to stop Daredevil, even temporarily aligning with some of his nemeses. When such unsavory characters as The Kingpin and Lady Bullseye are teaming up to take you down, it’s probably a sign that you’re making some pretty poor choices. In the end it turned out that Matt was possessed by a demon the whole time… yeah, not a great story.
14. WHEN HE THREW A BABY OFF A BUILDING
In Kevin Smith’s “Guardian Devil” storyline, a teenage Mom shows up at Matt Murdock’s office claiming that her child is an immaculate conception. He’s astonished when his super senses reveal that she’s telling the truth. In the space of a few pages, he’s left literally holding the baby as the young mother disappears. Later, a stranger named Nicholas Macabes (who’s very aware of Matt’s dual identity) warns him that the child in his care in, in fact the Antichrist.
The very next sequence sees Daredevil and Black Widow discussing the baby on a nearby rooftop. Natasha is making some coy jokes about her biological clock ticking and seemingly out of nowhere Daredevil asks if she’s kill baby Hitler given the chance. As she answers, he takes the baby and attempts to throw it from the rooftop, forcing her to leap off the building and save it.
13. WHEN HE BEAT UP A COP AND CREEPILY CALLED HIS EX
Frank Miller claims to love Daredevil, but he has some odd ways of showing it since he’s put through Hornhead through the wringer more times than anyone (except perhaps Brian Michael Bendis). In the celebrated “Born Again“, Miller guides Matt Murdock from nervous breakdown to redemption. As Kingpin learns of Daredevil’s true identity, he develops a master plan to rob Murdock of everything from his legal practice to his sanity.
As Wilson Fisk’s machinations see Matt disbarred and homeless, he becomes increasingly violent and erratic in his nightly activities, dishing out severe beatings indiscriminately. Before you know it he’s choking the landlord of the flop house where he’s staying, beating up cops and making obscene phone calls to his ex, Glorianna, who’s recently shacked up with his best bud Foggy Nelson.
12. WHEN HE BECAME “MIKE MURDOCK”
Ah, the ’60s. When comics could get away with the kind of ludicrous plot machinations and flimsy pseudo-logic in ways that would have fanboys seething with indignation in the digital age. In the context of the time period, the “Mike Murdock” storyline in Daredevil #27 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan is a fun, if somewhat silly and inane romp. If you look at it in terms of what it says about Matt’s character, though, it shows just how monumentally stupid he believes his friends to be.
Following a confrontation between Daredevil and Spider-Man, the wall-crawler tracks Matt to his law office. To conceal his identity, Matt stages the colossal insult to Foggy and Karen’s intelligence that is… his long lost identical twin brother Mike Murdock. Much costume changing ‘hilarity’ ensues, with Matt using ‘Mike’ as a conduit to insult Foggy’s weight and get very sleazy with Karen. Ugh!
11. WHEN HE FOUGHT SPIDEY, THEN YELLED OUT HIS IDENTITY
In Peter’s Spectacular Spider-Man arc known as “The Death of Jean DeWolff” Peter Parker finds himself at odds with both Matt Murdock and Daredevil. First, after interfering in the mugging of his friend and neighbor Ernie Popchik, Peter is none too pleased at how vociferously Matt Murdock is defending the muggers (sure, he’s just doing his job but these kids are real dirt bags), eventually getting them released without bail.
As the story progresses, both Daredevil and Spidey find themselves tracking the serial killer known as the Sin Eater. As the black-suited Spidey gets more driven and aggressive, instead of reasoning with him, Daredevil provokes him into a fight by taunting him, then beating seven bells out of the younger hero. Later, when Daredevil is caught between the police and an angry mob he cries out “Peter” to appeal to Spidey for help. So much for solidarity.
10. WHEN HE IGNORED A CITIZEN IN PERIL SO HE COULD GET LAID
Whether it’s in comics, on TV or in this case the 2003 Daredevil movie, Matt Murdock never lets crime fighting get in the way of an opportunity to get lucky! After having a horrible, poorly choreographed fight in a park, Jennifer Garner’s Elektra is obsessed with Ben Affleck’s Matt Murdock and follows him home from work. As the rain starts to fall we’re treated to a POV shot using the film’s famous ‘blindcam’ of the sound of the raindrops visualizing Ms Garner’s lovely face.
Just as he realizes that he’s cleared for landing, he hears a nearby citizen cry for help. After thinking about if for a moment, he decides he’d rather get with Elektra. This scene and the decidedly saccharine sex scene that follows were thankfully omitted from the Director’s Cut, which begs the question… who the hell approved leaving it in?
9. WHEN HE GOT THE WHITE TIGER KILLED
Brian Michael Bendis made a big splash during his celebrated run on Daredevil when he had Matt Murdock’s secret identity outed by the press. Understandably, the knives came out for Murdock from all angles. Supervillains, cops, the FBI and the Barr Association all wanted a piece of Murdock who’s desperately trying to clear his name (even though he’s totally been breaking the law for years).
At a time when all eyes are on the law offices of Nelson & Murdock, Hector Ayala AKA The White Tiger is wrongly accused of murder. In an act of superhuman stupidity, Matt takes the case. Because there are no other competent lawyers in New York. The prosecution and jury are just itching for an excuse to flip Matt the bird and so convict Ayala out of spite. In a fit of despair, Hector makes a run for it, getting himself shot in the process.
8. WHEN HE BECAME THE NEW KINGPIN
Having his identity publicly outed turned out to be just the beginning of Matt’s problems. In the “Hardcore” storyline that ran through Daredevil #46-50 Matt found himself fending off attacks from Typhoid Mary, Bullseye and a newly returned Wilson Fisk. Each encounter ends more violently than the last until it’s clear that Matt has had just about enough.
After beating The Kingpin to within an inch of his life he unmasks himself and declares himself the new Kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen with the chilling words “I’m am not protecting this city anymore. I am running it”. Thus begins a descent into borderline villainy that will see Matt run afoul of pretty much every superhero in New York and eventually see Matt end up in prison.
7. WHEN HE LET A CRIMINAL GET HIT BY A TRAIN
Much like Batman, Daredevil’s zero-tolerance policy on killing has been kind of staggeringly inconsistent across various media. Nowhere is Daredevil’s ambivalence towards the death of criminals more obvious than in the 2003 movie. After failing to prosecute Jose Quesada on assault and rape charges, Ben Affleck’s Matt Murdock decides it’s time to take the law into his own hands.
After a suiting up montage, which features Daredevil showing off to absolutely nobody with some cane twirling action, he stalks Quesada chasing him to a subway station. After a brief squabble Quesada ends up on the tracks about to be cut in half by an oncoming train. Daredevil apparently relishes this, saying “That light at the end of the tunnel? That’s not Heaven. That’s the C train!” a line which must taste like ash in the mouth of an Oscar-winning screenwriter.
6. WHEN HE DEFENDED FRANK CASTLE IN COURT
As much as we’re lampooning it here, one of the most intriguing elements of the Daredevil mythology is its playful relationship with moral absolutes. The heroes and the villains of this world all operate in compelling shades of gray. But this approach doesn’t wash when it comes to defending serial murderer Frank Castle in Daredevil Season 2.
In their first encounter, The Punisher makes no bones about the remorselessness with which he kills and utterly rejects Daredevil’s insistence that no criminal is beyond redemption. Go back and re-watch episode 3 and tell us what leads Matt to believe that this unabashed sociopath doesn’t belong in prison. It really doesn’t help that Matt repeatedly leaves Foggy high and dry without warning, making his friend look woefully incompetent.
5. WHEN HE GOT INTO A FIGHT AT HIS OWN ARRAIGNMENT
The conclusion of Brian Michael Bendis’ run saw Matt Murdock in handcuffs and answering in court for the many, many, many crimes he had committed as Daredevil. As he stands before a judge at his arraignment in Daredevil #81, a reader might expect him to plead guilty and take his medicine. It’s the least he can do to show his respect for the law that he’s so callously disregarded all these years, right? Wrong.
He bolts out of his chair beating the living snot out of the security staff who are just their to do their jobs. He proceeds to go on the lam in Paris, even endangering his wife Milla Donovan by taking her along with him. In the end it’s all just revealed to be a fanciful daydream but the fact that we’re so willing to believe that he’d do that is incredibly telling.
4. WHEN HE RUINED HIS WIFE’S LIFE
Speaking 0f Milla Donovan, she has to be one of the most saintly, put-upon and long suffering women in the Marvel Universe. Well… second to Mary Jane Watson. Created by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev and modeled on Maleev’s own wife, Milla is a genuinely endearing character. She’s clever, she’s witty, she’s insightful, she’s deeply passionate about fairness and she’s never allowed herself to be handicapped by her blindness…which is why it’s such a shame to see Matt treat her like dirt.
He draws her into the line of fire time and time again, he deceives her, lies to her and even drugs her. She (quite likely) tried to annul the marriage when she realized just how unstable Matt was, but if he’d possessed a shred of sanity he’d have realized just how unfair it would be to expose her to the toxicity of his life.
3. WHEN HE THINKS WITH THE WRONG HEAD FIRST
You’d have to trawl the lengths and breadths of the Marvel Universe to find a character with more notches on his bed post than Matt Murdock. In the pantheon of pop culture heroes, there’s only James Bond who can rival Matt’s casual misogyny. At best he uses women as a distraction from whatever emotional maelstrom du jour he happens to be going through, or at worst he takes his frustrations out on them.
His laissez faire approach to doing the underpants tango with just about anyone who’ll stay still long enough has led him to starting some pretty disastrous relationships. Whether they’re vulnerable (Milla Donovan, Karen Page), misguided (Echo, Heather Glenn) or dangerously unstable (Elektra, Typhoid Mary) Matt Murdock will find a way to complicate their lives by drawing them into the category 5 tornado that is his life.
2. WHEN HE USED HIS OFFICE AS A MAGNET FOR SUPERVILLAINS
Even before he was outed in the press, Murdock’s “Whoops, it’s happened again” policy on revealing his identity placed a target on his office and his associates that’s so massive it’s a wonder the whole street wasn’t wrecked, blown up or transported to Dimension Y years ago.
Their willingness to represent numerous high profile super-folk from The Fantastic Four (see Daredevil: Yellow) to the ill-fated White Tiger might have been well-meaning enough, but it courted undue attention and incurred the ire of more than one super villain over the years. What’s more, after years of struggling to maintain his identity, he went ahead and admitted under oath that he was Daredevil in issue #36 of Mark Waid’s run, rendering everyone who’s ever known him a hostage-in-waiting.
1. WHEN HE RUINED CLAIRE TEMPLE’S LIFE
Poor Claire Temple was just minding her own business when a blood-soaked Matt Murdock landed in her dumpster. A trained nurse and all-round good egg, she did the right thing and stitched him up at great personal risk. And her life has been an unmitigated dumpster fire ever since!
In the years that followed, across various shows she’s been compromised and eventually fired at work, made to perform brain surgery on a comatose Luke Cage, chased by un-dead ninjas, been involved in a desperate chase that totalled her mother’s van and, worst of all, had to spend several minutes in a room with Finn Jones’ obnoxious and self-important Danny Rand. We guess no good deed goes un-punished, especially if you hang out with Matt Murdock.
Have we missed any other time Daredevil acted like a villain? Let us know in the comments!
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