Welcome to the five hundred and nineteenth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the first five hundred (I actually haven’t been able to update it in a while). This week, did Daredevil: Man Without Fear really originate as a script for a Daredevil movie? Learn the secret origin for Wonder Man’s ugliest costume! Plus, what is the bizarre story of the Ghost Rider vs. Hulk comic book cover that didn’t have Hulk inside the comic?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Frank Miller’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear was originally a screenplay for a Daredevil film.
STATUS: Technically False but Roughly True
COMIC LEGEND: Daredevil’s look in Man Without Fear was inspired by Daredevil’s look in 1989’s The Trial of the Incredible Hulk
STATUS: I’m Going With False
Frank Miller, John Romita Jr and Al Williamson’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear mini-series was already an acclaimed part of Daredevil history (it finished third on our recent countdown of The 50 Greatest Daredevil Stories Ever Told), but it has taken on a new prominence as the new smash hit Daredevil Netflix TV series was greatly influenced by Man Without Fear, especially Matt Murdock’s initial costume…
Like some of his other acclaimed works like Born Again and Year One, Man Without Fear is so tightly plotted by Frank Miller that it really DOES read like it is practically meant to be a screenplay. That is not surprising, as the series actually began life when Miller was working on a Daredevil TV movie years ago!
However, that truth has been extrapolated into stories about how Miller wrote a screenplay for a Daredevil film and that is what Man Without Fear became.
That’s not technically true.
First off, it was only for a TV movie, but more importantly, the project never even got past pre-production. Miller never actually wrote a screenplay for the project. What he DID write was a plot synopsis. So is a plot synopsis for a TV movie the same thing as a screenplay for a film? Not technically, but honestly, it’s probably close enough to count.
What happened was that Miller was contacted by John Romita Jr. in 1987. Romita wanted to work with Miller on a project. He pitched Miller on the two doing a Wolverine graphic novel. Miller didn’t like the idea. However, as Romita recalled to Anya Martin in Marvel Age #127, “He said everybody’s doing Wolverne, but I do have this idea, let me send it to you.”
The idea was Miller’s plot synopsis for the failed TV movie. Originally it was just an expanded re-telling of the Daredevil origin story from 1964’s Daredevil #1. So the whole thing was going to be a 64-page graphic novel.
You can see this original idea in the first two issues of Man Without Fear…
Now inspired, though, Miller started adding more ideas to the book. Romita recalled, “Frank had mentioned a couple of times that he wanted to add some stuff to it. He felt there were so many things that had gone by the wayside with Daredevil when he worked on it, he didn’t want to leave anything out. ‘Let’s make this the Daredevil bible,’ he said.”
The project was now ballooning to nearly 150 pages long.
Then a bit of a problem showed up. Miller’s then-recent successes with Dark Knight Returns, Year One and Born Again made Hollywood take notice, and Miller was hired to write the screenplay for the sequel to Robocop. So he just flat out dropped out on Romita.
In the meantime, the 1989 TV movie, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk introduced the first live action TV appearance of Daredevil…
Miller and Romita had already started doing some design work on their series, so the similarities between the two visual looks is simply a coincidence.
Anyhow, eventually editor Ralph Macchio got back into contact with Miller and Miller re-committed to the project, only now with the series re-envisioned as a mini-series.
It came out in 1993 and was a major success and has been widely accepted as “the” origin story for Daredevil ever since.
It’s worth noting that since it began life as an adaptation of the comics, that COULD explain why the continuity is a bit off on the comic (Matt is young when his father dies in Man Without Fear but was already college age when his father died in Daredevil #1), but I don’t know if that’s necessarily why. I don’t think Miller was particularly worried about continuity, ya know?
But anyhow, imagine that we could nearly have had a Miller Daredevil on TV practically thirty years ago! I think we re almost certainly better off with what we got instead (the Netflix show) than what we could have gotten in 1985!
Check out my latest TV Legends Revealed at Spinoff Online: Did CBS really make Cagney and Lacey switch Cagneys after Season 1 because they thought that the show seemed like it was about two lesbians?
On the next page, what is the secret origin for Wonder Man’s ugliest costume?
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