“I love Daredevil.”
Those are three words that I never thought I would be saying on a regular basis, in that order, back when the ’90s turned into the ’00s. Back then my only experience with Daredevil had been through tangential ties to Deadpool, ties put into place by Joe Kelly when he was writing both series. In those early issues of “Deadpool,” the merc got mixed up with Typhoid Mary and stole Daredevil’s Seeing Eye dog. Daredevil was a character on the periphery of Deadpool to me back in the year 2000, and I had no idea that I was destined to become a Daredevil fan.
In 2015 I say the words “I love Daredevil” a lot. I say it because, as you may have heard, he has a Netflix show debuting this Friday. He also has a comic by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee that blows my mind on the reg. I’ve been giving ol’ Hornhead a lot of thought lately, specifically regarding why I’ve developed this attachment to the character. I keep thinking it’s specifically because of the current Waid/Samnee run, but I have to remind myself that I’ve now been a fan of Matt Murdock for the past ten years. A whole decade!
I traveled to Marvel’s Hell’s Kitchen for the first time in early 2004. I don’t know why; maybe I’d heard that Brian Michael Bendis had revealed Daredevil’s secret identity to the tabloids? It was certainly a novel idea at the time and I was interested in seeing it play out. At some point around “The King of Hell’s Kitchen” arc, I jumped on for Bendis and Alex Maleev’s run.
Compared to nowadays, my pull list ten years ago was pretty light. As an X-Men fan that got into comics because of the Fox cartoon, the early ’00s were a dark time for me as a reader. Listen, Grant Morrison and Peter Milligan were not favorites of mine back then. I liked my bomber jackets and pouches and Blue and Gold teams just fine, and the jettisoning of pretty much the entire status quo sent my fandom into crisis. It seems like everyone has a story about The Time They Quit Comics, and this is easily where I could have tapped out. I didn’t because I shifted gears to non-X-books like J. Michael Straczynski and John Romita Jr.’s “Amazing Spider-Man,” Peter David and ChrisCross’ “Captain Marvel” and Bendis and Maleev’s “Daredevil.” These series kept me interested and, for the first time ever, got me interested in comics that didn’t feature people wearing X-belts.
There’s an excitement to discovering Daredevil. It’s not like what I’ve experienced with every other corner of comics. Daredevil’s world — before this Netflix show, at least — was not well known. When I started reading Spider-Man comics, I felt like I already knew everything about it because of the TV shows and movies. There were no surprises. Learning who Foggy Nelson is and who Karen Page was — and how much they matter to the DD mythos — made for fascinating reading. The same can be said for Matt’s bad guys; even after reading and loving a lot of Superman stories, I still don’t have a firm grasp on the Man of Steel’s villains. But Daredevil? The guy has Kingpin, Bullseye, Elektra, the Hand, Typhoid Mary, the Owl — all characters that pose unique threats and have a level of in-canon gravitas usually reserved for the best of the best bad guys. Daredevil has a Rogues Gallery on par with Batman and Spider-Man without the detriment of overexposure.
Speaking of Batman, why do I care so much about Daredevil and not the Dark Knight? Even I can see that they’re cut from the same red and black cloth. They’re both street-level vigilantes that are basically human. Okay, yeah, DD’s got the whole super senses thing going for him, but Batman also has his bat-brain, which, come on, is basically a superpower. The two are so similar that a lot of press for “Daredevil” has called him “Marvel’s Batman.”
But I think the two diverge in a number of interesting ways. For one thing, Daredevil isn’t rich. Yes, dude’s a lawyer and that one fact means that Matt Murdock definitely has more money than I will probably ever see. The guy owned a multiple-story apartment in Hell’s Kitchen. If you’re not familiar with NYC real estate, that means he’s loaded — but he’s not Batman level rich. He doesn’t run a huge company and he doesn’t depend on gadgets or vehicles made up to look like his mask. The most gadget-y gadget he has is a billy club that turns into a grappling hook, which is a multi-purpose tool on the level of most As Seen On TV products.
Daredevil also differs in that he protects Hells Kitchen, not Gotham. While Marvel’s Hell’s Kitchen has become its own unique type of fictional over the past few decades — there are nowhere near enough trendy Thai restaurants, young professionals and gay bars in the pages of “Daredevil” to accurately represent today’s HK — it’s still not as fictional as Gotham, a city that doesn’t exist. I’ve always responded more to Marvel’s New York City than any fictional DC city. It’s arbitrary, sure, but that’s where I’m at. I like the fact that I can actually walk around Daredevil’s district; I ate at a grilled cheese place there last night!
The big difference, though, has to be their personalities. Batman kinda scares me. Not in a grey-aliens-at-the-foot-of-my-bed way (uuugh) but in a “I would never want to hang out with that guy” way. But Matt Murdock — Matt Murdock I get. He’s a guy that actively tries to maintain his deep friendships, makes impulsive decisions about his love life and fights internal battles against guilt and depression… while dealing with Stilt-Man. I hear talk of the “everyman” hero all the time, but “everyman” seems to be code for “unassumingly attractive and sarcastic” in our current era of Star-Lords and Spider-Mans. Sure, Daredevil is hot (whether drawn by Chris Samnee or played by Charlie Cox), but I consider him an everyman because he deals with the real crap adults deal with. If Spider-Man is representative of every teen, then Daredevil fills that role for adults.
This is why I’ve started to connect more with Daredevil the older I get. I relate to his complicated friendship with Foggy Nelson, because I’ve come to learn that adult friendships are an entirely different beast than friendships formed during high school and college. The way Matt and Foggy fight about real things like work, secrecy and self-sabotage, and the way they cope with real threats like cancer, I see that camaraderie in the relationships I’ve forged. And in case you’re new around here, I’ve written a lot of words about the wonder of Foggy Nelson already.
I also see Matt Murdock’s struggle with depression in my own life and in the lives of my loved ones. There’s something inherently mature about the problems Daredevil faces; maybe that’s because he didn’t debut as a teenage hero, so there’s never been an urge to reboot his themes back to puberty. It may be because he’s never been A-List, thus giving writers permission to push Matt Murdock down further than pretty much every other hero has gone. The guy bottoms out a lot — and that’s something I relate to. While I’ve never had a kingpin of crime shove me in a taxi’s trunk and roll me into the river, I’ve definitely felt pretty low. I’ve definitely endured multiple — non-ninja related, mind you — setbacks in a row and felt that the odds were stacked against me. Daredevil fights back. Daredevil builds himself back up every time, only to be torn down again, sure, but he keeps at it. Is there a more bleak-yet-somehow-hopeful metaphor for adulthood out there? What I’m getting at is that I’ve shed tears over more issues of Daredevil than any other comic out there. That’s a true thing.
Over the past decade I’ve grown from a college junior working at a Payless ShoeSource in Tennessee to a working professional adult in New York City who fights back the forces of depression and financial calamity. I’m very much an adult, and I’ve grown into my Daredevil fandom. Every time Daredevil picks himself up and gets eye-level with a bad guy, or Foggy Nelson makes a tough love move to further help his best friend, I feel a bit more empowered. Daredevil occupies a very specific, small space on the superhero spectrum, and I’m glad that more people will get to meet the Man Without Fear. May he inspire you to fight every metaphorical super-skilled assassin that gets in your way.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He makes videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1 and writes for the sketch comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).
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