Thursday, April 8, 2010

Running With the Devil

Magnet # 212:  Diving Daredevil

Material:  Plastic

Purchased By:  Me

Marvel superhero Daredevil debuted this month back in 1964. Like many of the characters back then, he was created by writer and editor Stan Lee, who worked with artist Bill Everett with a little help from Jack Kirby. Daredevil was unusual when he debuted in that his alter ego was handicapped. When Matt Murdock saved a blind man from a truck carrying radioactive waste, some spilled into his eyes and he became blind as well. But the accident also gave him superpowers - all of his other senses were greatly increased, so much so that he could read a newspaper by running his fingers along it, detect the faintest of odors, and even hear other's heartbeats. And thanks to a radar sense he gained, he could "see" outlines and shapes. A mysterious teacher appeared soon after the accident who helped Murdock learn how to use his powers and taught him martial arts. Murdock went to law school at Columbia University and became an attorney, representing the innocent and adopting the role of Daredevil to punish those he knew eluded justice. He also went after those that were responsible for the murder of his father, a boxer and single father who took on work for the mob to earn more money so he could provide a better life for his son. But when he refused to throw a match that his son was watching, they later had him killed. After they were freed by the legal system, Daredevil beat these killers and scared their boss to death. Despite this incident, he remained a sympathetic and likeable character.

For years, the lighthearted, wisecracking Daredevil seemed almost like a knock-off of the more popular Spider-Man. He fought all sorts of super villains and in his life as Matt Murdock, he dealt with cases of mistaken identity and love triangles, all of which was standard superhero lore and didn't really set him apart. But in the late 1970's a new artist and later writer on the book named Frank Miller forever changed the character. Under his guidance, Daredevil became far darker and grittier, and even the book's art transformed to take on a dramatic, edgy tone. Hell's Kitchen, where Daredevil lived and which had often been overlooked in the comic, became almost a character itself - a dark, urban jungle full of crime. And Miller introduced new characters that would play a major role in Murdock's life. Most notable was Elektra, who had dated Murdock when he was younger, only to go on to see her father murdered and later become an assassin. Daredevil fought her when the Kingpen, a major enemy of his, hired her to kill him, but when the Kingpen's former enforcer killed her to prove he was a better fighter, Daredevil also mourned her. But Miller wasn't done with him yet. In another storyline, an old girlfriend of the superhero sold his secret identity for drugs and it ended up in the hands of the Kingpen. Armed with the knowledge that his enemy was really Matt Murdock, he preceded to tear apart Murdock's life, getting the IRS to freeze his assets, blowing up his home, having him disbarred and ruining his career, and even threatening his sanity. But the Kingpen's final plan to kill Murdock failed and he learned that "a man with nothing to loose is a man with no fear." Eventually, with the help of friends and family, Murdock was able to recover, defeat the Kingpen, and expose him for the villain he was. The story ended with Murdock reunited with his old girlfriend, who was very remorseful of her actions, and hopeful of their future together. These two stories are considered the best of Daredevil, and some of the best in all of comics. Miller eventually parted from the character, going on to write comic book series such as Batman, Sin City, and 300, all to rave reviews. Since his departure, Daredevil has stayed a dark character for the most part. He also has ties to the Church and his comic features religion more than most. In fact, it has been revealed that the mother who abandoned Matt Murdock as a child went on to become a nun. With Miller's help, Daredevil is now one of comics most popular characters. He has a personality that sets him apart from other superheroes and a devoted fan following. There was a 2003 feature film based on the character that met with mixed reviews, and since then, it has generated talk of a sequel or complete reboot. Whatever the case, the Daredevil of the comics is sure to continue to fascinate readers as he has for the past 46 years. With the right creators behind him, "The Man Without Fear" is a force to be reckoned with.

2 comments:

  1. Ah, nothing is as satisfying as vigilante justice!

    ReplyDelete