Broken Hand: Brubaker talks Daredevil

Spider-Man is often thought of as the Marvel Universe’s premier hard luck hero, but it seems like his misfortune has been rubbing off on his friend and fellow crime fighter Daredevil. In recent years, his secret identity as attorney Matt Murdock was outed, opening the door for numerous attacks upon himself and those he cares about. Daredevil was even sent to prison, and his wife was driven insane. The hero known as the Man Without Fear has managed to endure this string of back luck and weather all foes, but next week in “Daredevil” #111, a new danger enters Matt Murdock’s life. Her name? Lady Bullseye.

CBR News spoke with writer Ed Brubaker about the new character and story arc, “Lady Bullseye,” as well as his future plans for ”Daredevil.”

Having been outed as Daredevil, Matt Murdock’s had to fight a lot battles and overcome enormous personal threats, but in the recently wrapped “Cruel and Unusual” arc, Daredevil got to use both his legal and crime fighting skills to fight for someone else; a fight which proved succesful. “The thing we’ll learn in issue #111 is just how much winning one for somebody else reminds him to some degree of why he started to do this in the first place,” Brubaker told CBR News. “It’s about taking on the system and taking on injustice, and for a long time Matt Murdock’s life has only been about Matt and not what being both Daredevil and a lawyer is all about. That’s a lot of what ‘Cruel and Unusual’ was about. It was designed to take Matt from this deep dark place he’d gotten into and remind him of who he is. I don’t think one thing gets you back there, but in that last moment, when he was at Dakota’s bedside and walks away smiling, that’s like the first time we’ve seen him smile in a long time.”

Debuting in “Daredevil” #111, Lady Bullseye is an opponent that will complicate Matt Murdock’s costumed life in the coming months. “She’s insane, but in a completely different way than Bullseye. She’s a killer and a complete psycho and sociopath, but she has a really tragic history that you’ll learn about,” Brubaker explained. “She was a bit inspired by ‘Lady Snowblood,’ which is where her name came from. [Lady Bullseye is] kind of cold and calculating, and you shouldn’t trust everything that comes out of her mouth. She pretends to be one thing to one person and pretends to be something else to another. She's not out to kill Daredevil, at least not in the first issue. It's not that someone hired her to seduce or kill Daredevil. She's a really complicated character, she's even got a secret identity, which we'll see her in.”

Lady Bullseye's costumed identity was chosen after some careful consideration. “We were talking about various ways for this new character to know of Matt Murdock's world to some degree, and we didn't want her to be just be a ninja or something,” Brubaker said. “Her history just appeared in my head. It was like, here she is and she's got to be called something like Lady Bullseye. That was the name we ended up sticking with. We went through a bunch of different ideas and Lady Bullseye was the one that always sounded the best. There's a line in the second part of the arc where she's meeting one of the people she works for and they ask her, 'Is that really the name you chose?' We knew we were going to get some flak from having her be called that, but we came up with a really cool character with a really great costume design by Marko Djurdjevic. I think people are going to be really blown away by this arc.”

Joining Lady Bullseye in her debut are Daredevil's old enemies the Hand, the ninja clan in league with Lady Bullseye, and a major part of the story. “We're going to finally get a clear idea of what it is the Hand actually does and where they came from without ruining the mystery that surrounds them,” Brubaker explained. “It's the same thing Matt Fraction and I did with the city of K'un-Lun in 'Iron Fist.' We tried to look at what was cool about K'un-Lun and highlight those elements. We explained enough bits and pieces so that what we set up what worked, but we wanted to make sure we left K'un-Lun a mysterious place.”

Another goal Brubaker’s set for the Hand is to reconcile the two distinctly different ways they've been portrayed; as a criminal enterprise and as a cult. “That's the thing. They're both,” the writer said. “You'll learn more about how the Hand actually works. They're a global organization. They have branches all over the world. They're something that's been around for hundreds of years so as an entity they have to have a business aspect about them. They're paid assassins. That's what ninja are. At one point they probably had somebody they worked for and had a purpose but that's long gone.”

Sinister magic and dark resurrection rites have almost become an everyday occurrence with the Hand, and Brubaker hopes to bring back a sense of the unknown to the ninja clan's mysticism. “In the past, what we've seen a lot from the Hand is them taking someone, killing them, and brining them back to life and making them evil,” Brubaker said. “You see that a lot more than Frank Miller probably ever intended. That was a really big thing when they did that with Elektra and they failed, it was Daredevil who succeeded. So that’s not something they do left and right. Also, not all of the ninjas in the Hand are zombified or under mental control. There are members where it's like, this is their lives. They were born into and raised in this organization. They are ninjas.”

Exploring aspects of the Hand also means looking at their adversaries. “Where did Stick, Daredevil's mentor, and his clan of white clad ninjas that stand against the Hand come from?” Brubaker teased. “There's history to all of that which is still left to be uncovered.”

In the landmark “New Avengers” #31, which revealed the Skrulls’ Secret Invasion, the Hand's most recent leader, Elektra, was revealed to be one of the alien shape-shifters. “This story follows directly from that,” Brubaker stated. “That scene is in even in part two of the story. A lot of what's happening is fallout from the Hand finding out that their leader was not who she was supposed to be.”

With opponents like the Hand and Lady Bullseye, it may seem like the odds are stacked against Daredevil in the “Lady Bullseye” arc, but the Man Without Fear will have some allies to even things up, like the star of the recent “Daredevil Annual” and “Blood of the Tarantula” special, the Black Tarantula. “He's a great character and he's a big part of this storyline. He's a full supporting cast member,” Brubaker said. “He's got a really bad ass scene and a couple of funny moments in part two of the arc.

Interestingly, the Black Tarantula was originally marked for death. “He was going to die in my first arc, the prison story, but I liked writing him too much,” Brubaker confessed. “I liked writing his banter with Matt. So when Ande Parks and I were talking about doing that annual, my first suggestion was lets focus on the Black Tarantula. Let's have him get paroled and try to go straight in the post 'Civil War' Marvel Universe, but he doesn't want to be a superhero and he doesn't want to join a group like the Thunderbolts. So what does he do? And now that he's been in jail all this time how does he view the world? I think that's what makes him an interesting character.”

Black Tarantula's involvement comes about because like Daredevil, he too has ties to the Hand. “In his past, through his South American gang lord mythology, there are connections to ninja clans,” Brubaker explained. “It has to do with how he got his healing abilities and other powers.”

The Black Tarantula isn't the only important supporting player in the arc; another Brubaker favorite makes an appearance in “Lady Bullseye.” “Iron Fist is in it, as well as somebody we haven't seen since Bendis's 'Daredevil' run,” Brubaker revealed. “There's also another new character who knows a lot of stuff about Matt Murdock. This character is referred two in the first part and we meet them in the second.”

Daredevil's role as defender of Hell's Kitchen and defense attorney means many of his adventures are crime stories — and indeed, Ed Brubaker is famous for his street-level outlaw books like “Criminal” and “Scene of the Crime” -- but “Lady Bullseye” is a different type of Daredevil story altogether. “I don't think it's a crime story at all. I think it's a martial arts epic that has a lot of character drama going on at the same time,” Brubaker said. “There are like three or four plots happening all at once. It's really an epic storyline. I think it's going to drag in a lot of different sections of Matt Murdock's life and take 'Daredevil' into some territory that I don't think it's ever been.”

“Lady Bullseye” continues the proactive stance Daredevil adopted in “Cruel and Unusual.” “We're trying to find a balance. A lot of this story is about Matt but it's not 'another mastermind comes after him' story. We've all done that story and I think I've done it twice,” Brubaker laughed. “There's a certain insanity that can be in the book that doesn't always have to be directed like a red hot poker at Matt Murdock. This is more of Matt having to deal with a variety of other elements, and I think that's what people really dug about 'Cruel and Unusual.' It was Matt going out and doing things that didn't involve, 'Who's after me?' Matt wants answers. He wants justice. He cares about this stuff.”

Brubaker plans for “Lady Bullseye” to be a wild roller coaster ride, and the tone of the story will reflect that. “It's all over the map. That's the thing, 'Daredevil' can handle everything,” Brubaker remarked. “We forget that there are humorous characters in 'Daredevil.' Turk and Grotto were funny every time they appeared and Matt Murdock cracked jokes a lot. He had a sense of humor. I've been adding a little of that back into the book with characters like Dakota, who's got a very sarcastic sense of humor. And we've got Chico and Merv, who are mob tough guys and sort of my stand-ins for Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn. My big joke with them is that one talks like a Frank Miller character and the other talks like a Bendis character and nobody gets the joke! I even had to point it out to Bendis.”

Most of “Lady Bullseye” will be drawn by regular “Daredevil” artist Michael Lark, but the first installment, issue #111, features the artwork of Clay Mann. “Clay is doing the issue that really focuses more on introducing Lady Bullseye, and that's because Michael is great but he's not quite up to doing 12 issues a year,” Brubaker said. “So every five or six issues we usually have a fill-in artist and that keeps us coming out every month. And Clay is fantastic. He's going to be a huge star. I saw his work and I was like, 'Okay! Let's get him!' He's going to be like the next Olivier Copiel. He's got a different feel to the way he draws characters but he's really good. I'd work with him again in a heartbeat.”

“Lady Bullseye” is only a five-part storyline, but it's a crucial arc. “This storyline leads into another, which leads into an even bigger storyline. So each of these arcs are going to be kind of insane,” Brubaker said. “I definitely have the next ten issues pretty well mapped out, and I kind of know what I'm doing for the next six months-to-a-year after that. I usually keep stuff pretty far mapped out.”

Brubaker's tentative plans for “Daredevil” include some characters from other Marvel books. “Expect maybe to see [‘Thunderbolts’ cast member] Bullseye in the book at some point in the next year or so. I imagine he'll probably hear something about a person running around calling herself Lady Bullseye,” the writer remarked. “And I definitely want to do a story with Spider-Man in it, because other than a 'What If?' issue I've never written anything with Spider-Man. I always liked it when Spider-Man would appear in ‘Daredevil’ for a couple of issues.”

Ed Brubaker is happy to make such long term plans for “Daredevil” because even though he's worked on the book for over two years, he's still as fired up about Matt Murdock as he was when he began. “I feel like I'm just getting to the good stuff in some ways,” Brubaker said. “The first year of the book, it looked like the pendulum was swinging back the other way and Matt Murdock was taking back everything that was taken from him. The second year was about how after all he's been through, he can't just hit the reset button. It was kind of a meta-commentary on how there's no such thing as a reset button. It was also about taking a character, Mr. Fear, who I always thought should have been one of Daredevil's arch-nemesis and making him a scary bad ass. I hope to get back to him at some point but right now he's enjoying his life in Ryker's Island.”

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