When Netflix debuts The Defenders on August 18th, the show will draw upon the successes of the series that preceded it, including the show that started Marvel’s streaming success, Daredevil. Daredevil debuted on the streaming service in 2015 to positive reviews, paving the way for a second season the following year, as well as the series starring the other Defenders. Set in the MCU, the interconnected shows feature street-level characters with street-level problems, attacking evil with their wits and fists rather than their powered armor or enchanted hammers.
In Daredevil’s two seasons, the show’s creators have begun to explore the character’s history within the Marvel Universe. They’ve populated Daredevil with a bounty of easter eggs and references to comic book history to create a scavenger hunt for die-hard fans to wade through as they watched. Picking out the call-outs to comic history is almost as fun as watching Matt Murdock crack evildoers. Plenty of websites have posted extensive lists detailing all the tiny references that appear in both seasons, so we aren’t purporting to present a comprehensive list here. Instead, this is our list of the most clever, most grin-inducing easter eggs to appear in the first two seasons of the show as we get ready to binge-watch The Defenders.
Warning: Spoilers for the first two seasons of Daredevil ahead.
15 “BATTLE OF NEW YORK”
The characters of Daredevil live in a world where aliens invaded New York City. That kind of event becomes baked-into people’s minds, their language, and their shared context. But realistically, these characters wouldn’t know the details of what happens in The Avengers the same way us moviegoers would and do.
So without going into specifics, the characters of Daredevil acknowledge the Chitauri invasion by referring to it in very simplified euphemisms. There are many instances in which it's mentioned, but the best example of this effect comes in reporter Ben Urich’s office. Over his shoulder, we see a framed copy of the New York Bulletin’s “Battle of NY” headline. This is a neat little trick to link all the MCU stories that we’ll see again later in our list.
14 STILT-MAN'S SUIT
Wilbur Day is one of Daredevil’s oldest foes. Though he’s found very little professional success since his debut in Daredevil #8, Stilt-Man has had a lasting presence in Daredevil’s life for decades. With his power armor and telescoping legs, Stilt-Man was a founding member of the original Emissaries of Evil along with such luminaries as Electro, Matador, and Gladiator (more on him later).
Though Stilt-Man doesn’t appear in the series in the flesh, if you’re paying close attention, you can see the early stages on his armor in Melvin Potter’s workshop. Is Stilt-Man on his way to making an appearance in Daredevil? It seems unlikely, given the money it would take to animate the special effects of his suit, but it was a fun reference, regardless.
13 BLURRY STAN LEE CAMEO
If you add up the box office hauls for every film that Stan Lee has appeared in, Stan has the record for largest-grossing actor in history. Stan’s appeared in some way in every MCU film (because he’s a Watcher, according to Kevin Feige and James Gunn, and we’re ok with that), and he makes his very brief, very blurry presence known in Daredevil, as well.
In another example of the over-the-shoulder-framed-image technique, Stan makes his cameo in episode 13 of Daredevil’s first season, “Daredevil.” He appears as a photograph in the police station. It’s brief, and blurry, so fans weren’t sure at first if the photograph was actually Stan or if we were seeing things. Showrunner Steven DeKnight acknowledged in a tweet, however, that it’s Stan in the image.
12 WILSON FISK BECOMES "KINGPIN"
Superhero codenames are a tricky thing in media depictions of their stories. It’s a challenge for writers to work in the name we recognize from the comics without sounding hokey or forced. It’s especially difficult for characters who are presented as more realistic, or who aren’t actively working to keep their identities a secret. Case in point: Wilson Fisk, who comic book fans know as the Kingpin. Though the Kingpin first appeared in an issue of Spider-Man, Fisk is now most associated with being the archenemy of Daredevil.
Even in comics, Fisk prefers to avoid being called by his nickname, part of a larger campaign to create a public face of legitimacy. In the Netflix series, Fisk, delightfully played by Vincent D’Onofrio, Fisk finally uses the term “kingpin” after wrestling control of the prison he’s in from another criminal who’d called himself the term before.
11 PUNISHER'S PAL MICROCHIP
Fans of Frank Castle, also known as the Punisher, understand that it’s tough to wage a one-man war on crime by yourself. In the comic books, Frank gets an assist from David Linus "Microchip" Lieberman, a hacker who, for a little while, shares Frank’s passion for justice. Micro serves as the Punisher’s IT guy, launders Franks money, and in a pinch, handles some of his own fighting duties.
In the comics, Micro and Frank have a falling out which brings them into direct conflict with each other, and Frank has to kill Micro. Comics being comics, Micro is brought back to life, and then dies again. Daredevil references this partnership in the second season, in the episode titled "A Cold Day in Hell's Kitchen.” Frank is shown holding a CD with “Micro” written on it. He'll be played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach in the upcoming Punisher series on Netflix.
10 "MAN WITHOUT FEAR" COSTUME
The show draws heavily upon the Daredevil: The Man Without Fear miniseries from the '90s. The Man Without Fear would serve as the defining story of Matt Murdock’s past for all the years to follow. The series details Matt’s accident that left him blinded and super-powered, his father’s death, his training from Stick, the growing friendship with Foggy, and his first encounter with Elektra. Miller has probably done more to define Daredevil than even his original creators, and his influence is keenly felt in subsequent Daredevil stories.
The Netflix series make one of its closest references to The Man Without Fear when Matt first goes adventuring. Before adopting a formal costume, Daredevil hides his identity with a simple mask -- minus eye holes, of course -- and black workout clothes. The ensemble is realistic, functional, and a fantastic callback to one of Daredevil’s greatest comic book stories.
9 THE OWL
Pre-dating even the fearsome Stilt-Man, the Owl is the first supervillain to make his debut in the original Daredevil comic series. (Daredevil fights Electro in issue two, but he was already a known villain. The Owl arrives in issue three.) With such a deep connection to the character’s foundations, it’s little wonder that the Daredevil creators wanted to have the Owl appear on their show.
Though the Owl doesn’t partake in any supervillany, or bird-based puns, the Overlord of Crime’s alter ego, Leland Owlsley, appears in the employ of Wilson Fisk. Played by Shawshank-warden Bob Gunton, Owlsley assists the Kingpin’s efforts to extend his reach throughout the city. The partnership ends badly, though, when Fisk drops Owlsley down an elevator shaft. In the comics, the Owl could have just floated down to safety.
8 SHOUTOUT TO BILL EVERETT IN THE CREDITS
The road to acknowledging the founding mothers and fathers of comicS has been bumpy and litigious. Lawsuits eventually gave acknowledgements and financial compensation to some of comic history’s greatest creators, however, and it seems as though everyone is doing a generally better job of appreciating the people who drew the first lines and wrote the first words for characters that have gone on to be worth billions of dollars.
Though more can always be done to support comic book creators whose work hasn’t received the recognition it deserves, it’s always nice to see when there are steps in the right direction. That’s why comic book fans were happy to see Daredevil co-creator Bill Everett’s name getting billing along with the far more well-known Stan Lee in Daredevil’s opening credits. Stan has been quick to credit the artists who contributed to characters’ creations.
7 TAURUS FROM ZODIAC
Tidbits like this make it fun to be a comic book fan from way back. Late in season one, Fisk, Vanessa, and Owlsley attend a fancy fundraising ball, full of rich and influential businessmen who rub elbows with politicians. In the midst of a conversation about elections, Owlsley mentions that a senator attributes his victory to “the advice he got from van Lunt and his crackpot astrologer.” It’s such an oddly specific throwaway line, and if you aren’t paying attention, you completely miss the easter egg.
In Marvel’s comic books, Cornelius van Lunt is a successful billionaire criminal mastermind with an obsession with astrology. This leads him to found the Zodiac, a cartel of criminals thematically linked to horoscope vocabulary. Multiple versions of the Zodiac have appeared through comic history, but van Lunt, as the original Taurus, was at the root of them all.
6 PUNISHER'S FORESHADOWING SKULL X-RAY
The Punisher’s costume is simple, evocative, and instantly recognizable. Frank Castle maDE his debut in Amazing Spider-Man #129, and once it was announced the Punisher was going to be joining Daredevil for season two, comic fans kept their eyes peeled for Castle’s famous skull shirt. If we’re honest with ourselves, though, wearing a big white skull on your chest is a little silly.
True, you can layer bulletproof material under the skull and hope that it serves as a target to draw aim away from your head, but it still looks a little ridiculous. That’s why viewers get treated to a skull of a different sort. As Karen flips through Frank’s files, she inspects an X-ray that’s part of his medical records. The camera lingers on the image just long enough to let us know the series creators know what they’re up to, and we appreciate it.
Not all MCU products appear on Netflix or the movie screen. There’s an actual television show, too. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has its supporters and its detractors, but regardless of your attitude toward the show, the folks in charge of the MCU want you to remember that S.H.I.E.L.D. lives in the same world. Daredevil reminds us just how small a world the MCU is with another over-the-shoulder framed image.
It’s a really quick, really blurry, super deep cut that you’ll only notice if you are a major MCU geek. In the New York Bulletin offices again, we see the framed headline “Cybertek Settles.” Who or what is Cybertek? Cybertek is the company behind Project Deathlok. The cyborg Deathlock, played by J. August Richards, appears in the eleventh episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
4 DOGS OF HELL
There’s another connection between Daredevil and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in the form of the biker gang Dogs of Hell. The gang first appears when its Nevada Chapter take on the Agents thanks to the Asgardian Lorelei. With the biker gang in her thrall, Lorelei uses them as her personal army to battle S.H.I.E.L.D. and their ally Sif.
The Hell’s Kitchen chapter appears in Daredevil as one of the faction vying for control of illegal activities in the area. They are also connected to the murder of the Punisher’s family. That connection, of course, doesn’t bode well for the Dogs when Frank starts doing what the Punisher does. Though it’s not a big deal for the biker gang to reappear this way, it’s a nice touch that reminds us that these characters live in the same world.
3 A NUN TENDS TO MATT
Daredevil has explored religious themes since at least Frank Miller’s run. Matt’s mom, Maggie, was introduced in Daredevil #229, and we learn that she abandoned her husband and son to take vows as a Catholic nun. She weaves her way in and out of Matt’s life throughout the rest of the series and the series that follow.
The Netflix series acknowledges Matt’s mother twice. First, on the eve of his fateful final fight, “Battlin’” Jack Murdock calls someone named Maggie and asks her to take care of Matt. Later, in the episode titled “Stick,” Stick walks down the hallway with a nun and asks her about Matt’s mom. The series doesn’t explicitly make the connection between Maggie, Matt’s mom, and Catholic sisterhood, but the references are a nice call-back to Daredevil’s ongoing consideration of religion and belief.
2 GLADIATOR'S RAZOR SAWS
We promised we’d come back to the Gladiator. Comic fans know that Melvin Potter, costumer and tailor extraordinaire, goes on the become the Gladiator, another one of Daredevil’s classic villains. Gladiator’s first comic book appearance comes in issue #18, with a story by Stan Lee and art by John Romita, Sr. (billed in the book as “Jazzy Johnny Romita”).
The Daredevil Netflix series blends early Gladiator stories with later stories. Potter isn’t a bad guy, per se, but finds himself in unfortunate situations. On Netflix, he’s stuck between the Kingpin and Daredevil, ultimately working for both of them. The show’s creators hint at Potter’s Gladiator identity a few times, most notably by having costume sketches laying about, and Gladiator’s signature circular saws on hand as weapons.
1 "CRUSHER" CREEL, THE ABSORBING MAN
We end our list with another connection to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The story of Matt Murdock’s father’s death has changed in its details over the years, but some points remain constant: Battlin’ Jack Murdock is pressured to throw a boxing match by a loan shark, but he wants to be a good role model for his son and changes his mind at the last minute, an act of defiance which gets him killed.
The Netflix series accurately depicts this backstory, with an added easter egg. The name of the fighter Jack is scheduled to fight, according to the poster on the wall, is “Crusher” Creel. Creel, known as the Absorbing Man in the comics, has made an appearance on television in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. program, showing off his Absorbing Man abilities. Another reminder that the MCU is a small world, after all.
What were some of your favorite Daredevil easter eggs? Let us know in the comments!