Marvel's "Daredevil," Girlfriends of Color and the Fighting Spirit of Maya Lopez

I've watched the first half of the Marvel/Netflix "Daredevil" series, and at this point, like everyone else I've heard from and spoken with, I have nothing but respect and admiration for the show because of the high quality it shows in every context -- writing, acting, directing, cinematography, production value, and the list goes on.

One of the show's best surprises for me is the character of Claire, played by actress Rosario Dawson. A character of conviction who (mild spoilers ahead, but not a huge surprise, I imagine) develops an intimate relationship with the show's hero, her presence on the show puts into prominence the growing popularity and acceptance of interracial relationships.

Dawson Says "Marvel's Doing Something Fun" with "Daredevil's" Claire Temple

As a member of an interracial relationship, this interests me, and as a fan of the "Daredevil" comic books, I remembered that the character of Daredevil was also involved with a woman of color for a brief point in his publication history.

Additionally, one of my colleagues, Brian Cronin, wrote an interesting column called "Drawing Crazy Patterns - Daredevil's Dead Girlfriends," which featured this same character.

Maya Lopez.

Introduced in "Daredevil" Vol. 2 #9 and created by graphic novel writer and illustrator David Mack, along with Marvel Entertainment's Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada, Maya Lopez is a Latina/Native American prodigy... who also happens to be deaf.

The daughter of a Native American underworld figure, Maya was born with photographic reflexes, giving her the ability to mimic the moves of any fighter she witnessed, live or through footage, and replicate their combat acumen with amazing precision.

Maya's deafness did not prevent her from being accomplished in a variety of disciplines, and she was never a victim in her mind.

Manipulated by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime in Hell's Kitchen, to attempt an assassination of Daredevil, Maya turned out to be Daredevil's equal in combat and tenacity. She fought to her last breath and never gave up.

At the same time Maya was hunting and trying to kill Daredevil, she was also dating him in his civilian identity of attorney Matt Murdock.

Twisted, I know.

At the time, Maya did not know Matt and Daredevil were the same person, and the eventual revelation led to an upheaval of her world.

Maya Lopez left the world of Daredevil and went through a period of deep soul searching, a "vision quest" or sorts. She came out the other side with a better sense of self-comfort and forgiveness, and a safe level of emotional connection to Daredevil.

Her path after that point gets complicated.

She became a mysterious fighter named Ronin, hiding her identity for some time, and working as an ally to the Avengers.

She was killed by an assassin (an alien disguised as Daredevil's first girlfriend, Elektra), and resurrected by an ancient mystical organization called The Hand.

Maya gave up the identity of Ronin, and relocated again, to the West Coast.

She would become an ally to another vigilante called Moon Knight, and get embroiled in a crime war with more superhumans.

She would also get killed.

Her death was shown in "Moon Knight" Vol. 6 #9.

That amounted to thirteen years in publication, which is basically a child's life in American superhero comic books. Especially when you consider that Daredevil has been in publication for fifty-one years.

Because I abandoned the sixth volume of "Moon Knight" after learning the series was ending at the twelfth issue, I never made it to the issue in which Maya was killed.

Learning this, I visited my neighborhood comic book store and tracked down as many issues that I was missing as I could, and read the storyline for myself...

...and it annoyed me. Well, more than annoyed.

I really liked Maya Lopez, almost everything about the character, and the run of "Daredevil" which introduced her was in publication while I was a member of the Batman editorial group for DC Entertainment.

I remember sending an e-mail to the other editors saying "Parts of a Hole," the storyline introducing Maya, is one of the best things out there, and what we should be trying to match or surpass.

Now, years later, I have become even more concerned about the presence and representation of heroes of color, in life and death.

The death of Maya Lopez took a deaf, Latina/Native American off the playing field, and it was done in a way that was quite ordinary and unremarkable for a character like Maya.

She was shot in the stomach with an eyebeam from a third-rate supervillain.

Maya Lopez was an accomplished physical combatant, and she was taken out in a lackluster way.

For those of you who are also familiar with the Marvel/Netflix "Daredevil" series, you have become informed of the intrinsic character traits and nuances of Matt Murdock, the hero of the story, a son of a boxer, an accomplished martial artist.

If you saw the fight scene at the end of the second episode, you witnessed an extraordinary storytelling experience that revealed the indomitable will of a person and the power of the human spirit.

We all know that action reveals character, but that scene said so much about Matthew Murdock, the Daredevil of Hell's Kitchen, that it was profound.

Our heroes are defined by their actions, their origins, and in some cases, their deaths.

As in real life, so as in fiction.

Daredevil has faced death many times, thousands, but every time the grim reaper tapped him on the shoulder, it was in the flurry of combat.

Because he's a fighter. He never gives up.

So when I think about how Maya Lopez was killed, it does not strike me as tribute to her character, does not resonate to me as a reflection of her legacy of fictional development and, or publication, does not strike me as revelatory.

It just seems like a plot point.

I wish Maya had gone down fighting with her fists up, her legs firmly planted in a fighter's stance. Utilizing her collection of combat disciplines. Punching. Kicking. Blocking. Flipping. Throwing.

I bet fans of Maya would have preferred such a warrior's death, as well.

Death of a female hero.

Death of a deaf hero.

Death of a hero of color.

RIP Maya Lopez


I'm going to go reread "Parts of a Hole" and "Vision Quest," and see you in pure form, as a warrior.

But first, I'll watch the last six episodes of "Daredevil" and hope for the best for Claire.

Joseph Phillip Illidge is a public speaker on the subjects of race, comics, and the corporate politics of diversity. In addition to his coverage by the BBC and Publishers Weekly, Joseph has been a speaker at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Digital Book World's forum, Digitize Your Career: Marketing and Editing 2.0, Skidmore College, Purdue University, on the panel "Diversity in Comics: Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexual Orientation in American Comic Books," and at the Soho Gallery for Digital Art in New York City.

Joseph is the Head Writer for Verge Entertainment www.verge.tv), a production company co-founded with Shawn Martinbrough, artist for the graphic novel series "Thief of Thieves" by "The Walking Dead" creator Robert Kirkman, and video game developer Milo Stone. Verge has developed an extensive library of intellectual properties for live-action and animated television and film, video games, graphic novels, and web-based entertainment.

His graphic novel project, "The Ren," about the romance between a young musician from the South and a Harlem-born dancer in 1925, set against the backdrop of a crime war, will be published by First Second Books, a division of Macmillan.

Joseph's newest comic book project is the upcoming Scout Comics miniseries "Solarman," a revamp of a teenage superhero originally written by Stan Lee.

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