Mark Waid has had a long history of writing comics and is himself an immensely knowledgeable comic nerd. He wrote Wally West as The Flash for nearly a decade and currently writes the rebooted “Archie” comics. Some of Waid’s most popular work was his “Daredevil” run with multiple artists, but settling in with Chris Samnee. The series was so popular that Waid and his team earned a second “Daredevil” run after the original ended, getting to take the blind vigilante to San Francisco as part of the “Marvel Now!” promotion.
The first run of their “Daredevil” lasted 36 issues over the course of three years and earned itself several Eisner awards in multiple categories. Waid breathed gave new life into Daredevil, mixing in elements both old and new to rejuvenate the character while remaining true to his roots. With that, CBR is going back through the comics to give you 15 Reasons Why the Mark Waid-led “Daredevil” Run Was The G.O.A.T.
15. SWASHBUCKLER DAREDEVIL
In the comics, Daredevil has always been a bit of a dark character, with writers like Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller furthering the character’s dark and antihero tendencies. Mark Waid took a bit of a different direction. Waid’s run picks up just after Daredevil had been possessed by the Beast of the Hand, which led him to murder Bullseye before eventually being healed by Iron First. Following these horrific events, Matt Murdock finds himself trying to get over what he did with unfiltered optimism and positivity, finding fun in everything he does.
This approach can be seen right in the first issue, when Daredevil breaks up a mafia wedding and kisses the bride himself. The only way to really describe this happy Daredevil would be a “swashbuckler.” No, not quite a pirate, but someone who does good, swooping in with a grin on his face as he saves the damsel. Waid made a much brighter Daredevil in spirit, while his artists followed suit visually. At the same time, Daredevil still dealt with the same dark adversaries and problems as the team redefined the character to make him a whole lot of fun.
14. CHRIS SAMNEE’S ART
Yes, this deserves its own entry. As Waid’s Daredevil found its footing, it went through several artists, eventually settling on the artist who would work with Waid through both of his runs, Chris Samnee. Prior to Daredevil, Samnee’s credits include “Thor” and “The Rocketeer,” his early work earning him a nomination for the Russ Manning Most Promising Newcomer Award in 2006. Samnee became the full time artist in Volume 3 and continued until Waid left the series, but the two would later work together on a “Black Widow” series.
Samnee’s art style is, in a word, bright. This doesn’t necessarily mean that its brightly colored — since the colorist was Javier Rodriguiz — but moreso that Samnee’s style is fun-looking, almost cartoony and Darwin-cook inspired, giving an animated feel to the new positive and fun-loving Matt Murdock that the series aimed at creating. Samnee was also brilliant at portraying the focus on Matt’s senses, something that Waid wanted to explore in the series. While Waid’s run presented a Daredevil for a new generation, Samnee’s art helped solidify it with his beautiful, lively style.
13. RADAR SENSE
Though Samnee was the main artist on the series, Artist Paulo Rivera was responsible for creating a new and unique take on Daredevil’s radar sense. The superhuman “ping” power of Daredevil was depicted as all black with purple-pink lines circulating around people as a response to the signal Matt’s brain sends out. Though it takes elements of past interpretations, this version was something new and fresh in Daredevil comics. The radar sense looks incredibly cool thanks to all the artists who worked on the book, and Waid found great ways to make use of it, which are some of the high points of the series.
Everything, from showing how Matt sees the world to how villains like The Spot, are seen when only sensed through feedback. There are moments like Daredevil seeing through a hologram because he didn’t detect anything solid and how he perceived Ulysses Claw, a man made of sound. These moments really solidify the radar sense as Matt’s sixth sense. In some previous iterations, the radar sense was more of a 360 degree vision, but Waid found ways to make unique use of the ability.
12. AVENGERS CAMEOS
Though Daredevil is known more as a “street-level” superhero, he has had his fair share of Avengers team-ups, especially in Waid’s run. The very first book has him meeting with Captain America, while Dr. Strange and Ant-Man make appearances in later volumes. Again, while Daredevil works best as a street-level superhero — meaning he doesn’t deal with world threats but rather day-to-day criminal activity — cameos from other superheroes are always fun.
When Captain America shows up, it starts out as a fight, Cap using what is essentially confetti to throw off Matt’s radar sense before attacking. Cap is out to arrest Daredevil for the crimes he committed when possessed, but the two eventually settle the matter. Iron Man comes to Daredevil’s rescue in Latveria in Volume 3 and directly after in Volume 4, Hank Pym shrinks down to stop Dr. Doom nano-bots from attacking Matt’s brain with the guidance of Dr. Strange. Each of these cameos is brief and doesn’t take too much away from Daredevil’s story; rather, they help to ground him in the larger Marvel universe.
11. SPIDER-MAN TEAM-UP
What starts as an issue of “Amazing Spider-Man” — which Waid wrote and is included in Volume 2 of Daredevil — turns into another Daredevil issue wherein he and Spidey team up to help out / take in the Black Cat. The team-up has some great back-and-forth between the wall-crawler and the man without fear, since Spider-Man is cranky from getting dumped and Matt finds himself flirting with Black Cat. This interaction that eventually leads to the two of them in bed, much to the disgust of Spider-Man.
This hero pairing has a lot of great elements of classic team-ups and pairs the fast-talking, wise-cracking Spider-Man with the newly-formed swashbuckling Daredevil. It’s a crossover that’s a lot of fun and features a lot of little moments on top of the great action visuals and fight scenes. One of these little moments is a simple conversation about which buildings the two vigilantes find are better to swing from as they trade methods and make small talk.
10. NELSON & MURDOCK
One of Daredevil’s more interesting, and somewhat unique, character aspects is that he delivers justice on two fronts, as Daredevil on the streets, and as an attorney in the courtroom. Multiple Daredevil writers have of course showcased these two sides of Daredevil, but Waid’s interpretation is particularly interesting. Since Matt’s identity as Daredevil has become public, his legal career has taken a turn. Whenever he and Foggy attempt to try a case, the courtroom turns into a media circus of “how can we trust a lawyer who lies about being a vigilante,” which is never a good starting point.
Nelson & Murdock are forced to take a different strategy with their clients; people still need help, but the two lawyers cannot step foot in a courtroom, so they become consultants. Matt and Foggy start to coach their clients so they can serve as their own attorneys. This is something we’d never seen in the comics, though it doesn’t last forever. Waid further balances between Daredevil and Matt Murdock continues with strains between Foggy and Matt, which leads Foggy to temporarily kick Matt out of the firm. It’s dramatic and interesting and incredibly well-written.
9. DAREDEVIL’S IDENTITY
As we just mentioned, at this point in Daredevil’s history, his secret identity had been revealed to the public. Waid makes great use of this. There is, of course,, the side effects of how this affects his legal career, but Matt’s personal life also takes a bit of hit, as expected. The way Matt interacts with Kirsten McDuffie has some of the best examples of this, but more on that later. Perhaps what is the most interesting is how Matt handles it all.
When his public identity causes a problem, he picks apart the problem and comes up with a solution, shown in Nelson & Murdock’s consulting tactics. However, when his identity causes a minor inconvenience, Matt approaches this with a confident, snarky stride. Every time someone calls him Daredevil while he is in street clothes, he makes some sort of smart-ass remark and plays it off in a somewhat “could care-less” way — as seen when he wears a sweater that reads “I’m Not Daredevil.” Even in dire situations, Matt’s transformation into Daredevil becomes a method of confidence and strength, like when he changes into his costume while leading kids to shelter in a snow storm.
8. KIRSTEN MCDUFFIE
One of the many characters that Mark Waid introduced to his Daredevil series was Assistant District Attorney Kirsten McDuffie. Kristen is strong and sassy and doesn’t put up with any crap, especially not from Matt Murdock. Kirsten is very interested in fully exposing Matt as Daredevil, something that first starts as a serious endeavor, but soon becomes a playful back-and-forth between the two, leading to flirting and eventually a romantic relationship. But Kirsten is more than a love interest to Matt, as she quickly becomes a pillar of the stories that are told within the pages of Waid’s Daredevil.
When Foggy is incapacitated later in the series, Kirsten steps up to fill in, becoming the partner at Matt’s firm in the later San Francisco run. Though she is in fact a strong character on her own — she really doesn’t give up on the Daredevil thing until she’s proven right — the relationship between Matt and Kirsten is really where the characters strive (and thrive). The two have an amazing rapport that is both funny and makes you genuinely want them to get together, and when they do, it’s still an incredibly fun relationship — a rarity for Daredevil.
Foggy has had just as long a Marvel Comics career as his law partner, appearing in the very first Daredevil comics, depicted as a best friend, a love rival and sometimes as comic relief. Mark Waid really took the time to craft his interpretation of Matt’s partner, doing away with most of the easy comedy and giving the character an actual stake in Matt’s life, both past and present. There’s even this great flashback in the third volume that depicts how Matt and Foggy came to be best friends through their years in law school, Matt rescuing Foggy from a petty and hateful professor wishing to fail his corpulent chum.
Though Foggy has always had a strong role in Daredevil comics, Waid gives him more agenda and agency; more pull as a character. Foggy feels developed beyond the parameters of previous interpretations, especially when he develops cancer. Waid approaches this brilliantly, playing up the fact that Foggy seems to live in Matt’s shadow. As Foggy undergoes physical testing while Matt is out being Daredevil, his declining health comes to be overshadowed by Daredevil’s antics. When it gets worse, the moments between the Matt and Foggy in the hospital are truly touching and tragic, each of which shows just how close the two are, and how much they mean to each other.
On a much lighter note, some of the best and more memorable moments in Waid’s Daredevil come from the humor. Everything from Matt wearing the “I’m not Daredevil” sweater to his newfound swashbuckler ways make for some genuinely hilarious moments. Honestly, there are too many great comedic moments to count; the way Kirsten retaliates to Matt’s claim of not being Daredevil — testing if he’s really blind by flashing her bra that says “you are Daredevil” — the interaction between Spider-Man we previously mentioned, and people’s reactions to Matt’s new overly-sunny take on life are but a few.
Humor is a big part of Waid’s Daredevil, not just because it fits his take on the character, but because it also helps to balance the drama of the story. Between the psychological attacks of Matt’s enemies, his fallout with Foggy, Foggy’s cancer and the return of a thought-dead villain, there are moments that clear the air, show us that Matt is genuinely trying to stay positive and keep his chin up, even when he’s up crap river without a paddle… or even a boat for that matter.
5. THE VILLAINS
Daredevil has kind of a strange rogues gallery; there are, of course, cool bad guys like The Hand and Bullseye, but there’s also the likes of Stiltman and Lady Stilt-Man (that name makes no sense) hanging around Hell’s Kitchen. And while the Kingpin is more of a Daredevil villain nowadays, he started a Spider-Man foe. Regardless, DD’s bad guys are definitely a mixed bag, but Waid gives this a positive spin, having fun with the strange villains and making the more serious ones a lot more intense.
In the first volume alone, Klaw, five different villain organizations and a Waid creation known as Bruiser all show up. Klaw, a being made of sound with “echo” clones at his command, shows up to screw with Daredevil and his super senses. Later, Daredevil’s “street-level” status is up in the air as he gets involved with Hyrda, AIM, Secret Empire, Agency Byzantine and Black Spectre all at the same time. The villainous organizations even send Bruiser, a mercenary villain created by Waid who can shift his center of gravity. Other villains like Mole Man, Stilt-Man and even Dr. Doom make appearances in later volumes, rounding out Daredevil’s rogues gallery into something special indeed.
Speaking of villains, another baddie that makes an appearance, and was also created by Waid, is Coyote, a smuggler who was put through the same process as the villain known as The Spot, which allows him to create teleportation portals. This villain is especially important in Waid’s Daredevil because he helps push Matt to the psychological brink, messing with his life in various ways so as to weaken his defenses, and because he sets up a much larger story arc in the future.
Coyote does things like placing Matt’s father’s boxing gloves — which he was buried with — in a drawer at Nelson & Murdock, thus convincing Foggy that Matt’s newfound take on life is merely a sign of a psychological break. Later, Matt’s ex-wife, who was committed, is found in his home acting like she had never been put in a mental facility, only to reappear there soon after. These strange occurrences continue until Foggy sees Matt unfit to work at the firm and kicks him out, causing a strain between the two that lasts even after Coyote is defeated. Coyote is a frightening villain indeed— screwing with Matt’s life instead of just plain attacking him — just one of the things that makes Waid’s “Daredevil” so intense.
3. MATT’S PSYCHOLOGICAL STATE
Coyotes antics in messing with both Matt Murdock and Daredevil’s lives become the catalyst for the cracking and crumbling of the outwardly positive shell that Matt has been putting on to cover his inner turmoil. The events prior to Waid’s run — demon possession and whatnot — as well as the failing relationship between Matt and Foggy, create a dramatic depiction of Matt’s inner psyche, and Waid explores this in an interesting and incredibly well-written way.
In very much the same way his father was, Matt is put through the ringer. Not just the ringer, actually, he’s put through the gauntlet, the grinder, personal hell… and just about any other metaphor for “bad times” you can think of. Now, depicting Matt as resilient and always getting back up would be great enough on its own, and Waid does this for the first volume or two, but as things get worse — his past coming back, his friends becoming enemies and his best friend dying of cancer — Matt starts to break. He has a hard time dealing with it all and putting on a brave face only makes him break down faster. It’s a very real, very intense interpretation of Daredevil’s psychological state.
Of the many characters that Waid created and introduced in his Daredevil run, perhaps the greatest — or at very least, the coolest — has to be Ikari. His origin alone is an amazing concept; a mysterious plotter (we’ll get to him) has been spending a lot of time and money attempting to recreate the accident that gave Matt his super senses. In doing so, all the failed subjects become raw, sense-driven animals, and the animal test subjects become even more wild. There is but one successful subject, who is dubbed Ikari, which is Japanese for “fury.” This assassin is created for one thing: to kill Matt.
As they fight, Daredevil finds that Ikari either matches him or outclasses him in combat. Then there’s that reveal — Ikari can still see. The assassin was given all of Matt’s senses, including the radar sense, but without the loss of his sight. It’s a twist that you don’t see coming and it hits Daredevil harder than any of Ikari’s punches. Daredevil eventually finds a way to defeat the assassin, taking out his handler in the process. Ikari has to be one of the most badass villains in comics and we can thank Waid for his creation.
While the Kingpin might be Daredevil’s most famous foe, his arch-nemesis is without a doubt Bullseye, the deadly marksman mercenary. Daredevil killed Bullseye while under the possession of the Beast of the Hand, but the mercenary’s connection to the ninja army garnered him a resurrection through dark magic. His resurrection wasn’t perfect, however, as he was left in a vegetative state, paralyzed and only capable of thought and sight. He was given an iron apparatus that helped him to breath, speak and hear. In this state, the former mercenary becomes a mastermind, plotting and planning the long game to take out his old nemesis.
Bullseye is the one behind Coyote and Ikari. He created Ikari to be a match of Daredevil, someone who could kill him, but slowly, in front of him, so he can watch the vigilante suffer slowly like he has since his resurrection. This is such a unique interpretation of Daredevil’s ultimate enemy, as Waid turns the fan-favorite and somewhat gimmicky villain into a frightening master planner. The final confrontation ends with Daredevil outsmarting Ikari and Lady Bullseye by bringing the whole building down on the three villains, drowning his nemesis in radioactive waste.
What was your favorite part of Mark Waid’s Daredevil run? Let us know in the comments!