Brian Bendis has ruined Matt Murdock's life, but in doing so he's given readers some of the most compelling and entertaining "Daredevil" stories in recent years. This week, Bendis's five-year stint as writer of "Daredevil" finally comes to a close. CBR News caught up with Bendis for his thoughts on his highly acclaimed run chronicling the adventures of Marvel's hornhead.
One of the defining moments of Bendis's run on "Daredevil" came in issue #32 when Matt Murdock's secret identity as Daredevil was outed to the world. "I wanted the book to be about outing him," Bendis told CBR News. "I thought that would be interesting. I thought it won't be the usual, 'Oh he's been outed and two weeks later we have some easy out. In this modern era, with the way we treat our celebrities, it would be interesting if a Marvel icon was outed. That's what the book was about. The ongoing struggle was the cat is out of the bag, how do you deal with it?
"Out of all the Marvel heroes, Matt Murdock has been the most careless with his secret identity," Bendis continued. "Any woman who's made goo-goo eyes at him ends up knowing about it. Also, because of the lawyer stuff, Mike Murdock and the different costumes, there's a long history where you could really take it to the wall."
Bendis was thrilled that Marvel editorial and "Daredevil" fans were so supportive of Matt Murdock's outing. "The 'Daredevil' movie came out like three days after I got the book and usually when stuff like that goes down there's a tendency to get a little more conservative with the product that they're putting out. I was thrilled that they went along with it," Bendis explained. "I did say of any book at Marvel, this is the book where the audience is built into expecting something unique. Every run on 'Daredevil' has been a unique statement from that person and a lot of chances were taken. So I just went for broke."
In addition to the outing of Murdock's secret identity, Bendis wanted to tell stories that involved Matt Murdock's day job. "A lot of people just glaze over that he's a lawyer. They don't put him on a case," Bendis said. "The lawyer-by-day/vigilante-by-night dichotomy is really worth exploring. It's one of those things that people kind of take for granted."
One storyline where Bendis thoroughly explored the superhero lawyer dichotomy was titled "Trial of the Century," which ran through issues #38 - 40 and saw Matt Murdock defending the superhero known as the White Tiger in a criminal case. "I worked so hard on that," Bendis stated. "I read law books. You wouldn't believe the effort I put forth to actually creating an argument. I researched and wrote that argument as if I was a lawyer defending the case. I sent what I wrote to every lawyer I knew, even to those who didn't know anything about comics."
Bendis was proud of the story in "Trial of the Century," but he just had a small regret about the way the art turned out. "The one time in my whole career that I had a fill in artist was on 'Daredevil,'" Bendis said. "Alex needed a break and this one artist was supposed to do the trial of the White Tiger story. I really worked my butt off on that story only to have that artist disappear after the second issue. Terry Dodson, who is an amazing artist, I love Terry Dodson, he came in cleaned it up and finished the run for us. I would love to do something lengthy with Terry and have that story only be Terry."
In revealing Matt Murdock's secret identity to the world, Bendis made sure that every "Daredevil" story he told contained a very important element. "It should be about Matt Murdock as much as it is about Daredevil," he explained. "There are certain superheroes where it's more about the hero than it is about the man underneath. Most Marvel characters it's about the man or woman underneath the costume. I think that's why I'm having such a good time at Marvel. That's what I like to write."
Bendis showed readers that the man underneath the Daredevil costume might be a heroic man, but he's not always a pleasant one. "Matt's an asshole," Bendis said. "He's not a nice guy. That's the one thing people pretend not to see because technically in the Frank Miller run, Matt was a raging asshole. He was so mean to Heather Glenn it was shocking and he's not very nice to Foggy and he truly loves Foggy, but Foggy is just put into this unbelievable situation, where either you're his friend and this is what you deal with or you leave. There is no being half of Matt's friend. So, Matt looks at this and goes 'Poor Foggy.'"
Matt Murdock's long string of painful and complicated romances continued in Bendis's run, which saw him marry a woman named Mila Donovan. "Matt's got this huge capacity for love and is quite the horn dog," Bendis stated. "It's nary impossible to seem to have a relationship and do this. It may have been a little arrogant on his part to think he could have such a thing while all this was going on, but at the same time if you're in love you're in love. In my head I was thinking here's a guy trying to fill a hole. His life is utter chaos, but he thinks maybe if I just marry this woman I'd have some stability, something to hold on to."
Under his run, Bendis feels that because of the chaos he's brought to Matt's life, our hero might be forced to reevaluate his relationships with friends and loved ones. "I think him having to face the music like this, it sets up for the next writer-- Ed or whoever if Ed doesn't want to go-- an arc of redemption that Matt has to go through," Bendis stated. "You got to look at it one way and go 'Maybe I am an asshole.'"
Bendis promised that his final issue won't have cheap ending. "We're not backing out," he said.
Bendis is happy that his and artist Alex Maleev's run will be followed up by the team of writer Ed Brubaker and artist Michael Lark. "If not for Ed, I wouldn't get to do this ending," Bendis explained. "This is the ending that I had originally hoped to do, but I realized it was the most obnoxious thing you could do to the new writer and I wasn't sure who the new writer would be when we announced we were wrapping it up.
"I've known Ed for years," Bendis continued. "We were talking about 'Daredevil' and I was telling him where it's going to go and Ed said, 'You should just end it there.' And I said, 'That's where I want to end it.' So he goes, 'Go ahead and do it.' And I go, 'You'll pick it up from there?' and he said, 'Absolutely.' I was thrilled to bits because this is something I would not normally do to someone."
Readers shouldn't expect Brubaker and Lark's approach to "Daredevil" to differ greatly from Bendis and Maleev's handling of the character. "Both Ed and Michael are old peers of mine. We were at Caliber together. They're definitely following through with it being a pulp hero book as opposed to a superhero book."
Readopting a pulp hero approach to "Daredevil" is one of the things about his run that Bendis is most proud of. "We literally went back to that first issue of 'Daredevil' that Stan Lee wrote and that was a pulp comic not a superhero comic," Bendis explained. "He was a pulp hero like the Shadow."
Bendis's departure from "Daredevil" is somewhat bitter sweet. "I just wrote this little good bye essay in the back of #81. It said it feels like you're breaking up with a girlfriend that you don't have any problems with and you're still fond of her. You're a better person for being around this person yet you're leaving," Bendis said. "I'm a better writer for having done this, yet I'm leaving. What we had to say was said. It's time to go. I guess it's good to go with a feeling that you still miss it, having left instead of feeling 'Ugh! I'm still doing this thing?'
"If you see Ultimate Daredevil popping up a lot in 'Ultimate Spider-Man,' you'll know how much I miss writing the book. Right now I'm very focused on the titles I'm currently writing. A few months from now I wouldn't be surprised if I came up with some giant urban epic Marvel thing to do just so I could write 'Daredevil' again," Bendis joked. "Honestly, though, just out of respect for Ed and Michael, I wouldn't even propose to come near it. I'm also not one for sequels."
Bendis may be done with Matt Murdock, but he does have plans for some of the other reoccurring character that appeared in his run. Black Widow will be part of the "Spider-Woman" ongoing series that Bendis and Maleev are following up their "Daredevil" run with. Bendis also has plans for the new female White Tiger. "I think someone else picks her up, too, but I will be using her down the line, absolutely," he said. "I like her a great deal."
One Daredevil related character that Bendis doesn't have plans for is Elektra. "I've written Elektra as a lead character and I've written her in Daredevil and I think what I figured out is she is remarkable in relation to how Matt Murdock perceives her and that makes her much more interesting than she might be on her own," Bendis said. "That's just my opinion. Other people might have a take on her that's brilliant, but it seems that's what I've learned writing her. It's Matt's perception of her that's most magnificent."
Frank Miller's acclaimed "Daredevil" run made Bendis want to make comics and he's pleased and appreciative that he got to make his own mark on the character. "A lot of the best things that ever happened to me in comics happened to me on this book," Bendis said. "It's more than I ever hoped for and I just want to thank everyone for letting us tell our whole story. I know some people have been there from day one and if I could come over to your house and kiss you on the forehead I would. I'm very, very grateful for the opportunity on more levels than I could say."
Tip of the hat to ManWithoutFear.com, a very helpful resource in researching this story.