Daredevil: Man Without Fear

74 min read

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Hell’s Kitchen in New York City was a pretty rough place

Like many areas of the city in the 1950s and 1960s, poverty gave way to hardship which in turn created crime. The New York of that time period would be unimaginable to people only familiar with today’s Disneyland–inspired Times Square. But back then things were tough.

Daredevil Yellow
by mbreitweiser

When Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko created the Marvel Universe, they strove for a level of reality that hadn’t been seen before as a backdrop for their new line of superheroes. Gone were that supremely powerful being from another planet, and the test pilots, police scientists, Amazonian princesses and millionaires who were the typical superhero alter egos to base characters on. Over at DC Comics their superhero universe had been reinvigorated in the 1950s by Julius “Julie” Schwartz into what had become the Silver Age of comics. He’d taken the characters out of the war zone and had them take fantastical journeys, much like the Greek and Norse myths, to other times and planets.

Marvel launched with a science–based mythology. Its heroes were created from accidents or bizarre experiments featuring radiation. (Nuclear accidents or even WWIII were on the minds of Americans in the 50s–60s.) The Fantastic Four gain powers through exposure to cosmic radiation on an attempted flight to the moon (this was 1961). The Hulk gains his strength when mild–mannered scientist Bruce Banner saves a young teenager who wanders into a Gamma bomb testing range and is exposed to the bomb’s blast. When the awkward and gangly teenager Peter Parker is bitten by a radioactive spider he gains all the abilities of the insect and becomes Spider–Man. What next for this powerhouse of ideas?

by MeghanHetrick

Enter Daredevil

Almost as their answer to Batman, Jack Kirby and Bill Everett used their diverse backgrounds as resource material for creating young Matt Murdock and his father, “Battling” Jack Murdock, a professional boxer from Hell’s Kitchen.

Kirby was raised in New York’s tough lower East side and Everett was a recovering alcoholic teenager at 16. Both men served on the European front during World War II. Their pasts had left their marks on the two men, but now they would put it to good use. Bill Everett had created the underwater superhero The Submariner in 1939, the first real comics ‘anti–hero,’ so what better than to create a conflicted hero who was a lawyer by day and vigilante by night?

Jack Murdock knew only one way to pay the rent. Beat another guy senseless in a boxing ring. Raising his young son Matt on his own, he wanted more options for his son, so he made the boy study hard at school. His wasn’t the path he wanted young Matthew to follow.

But fate had other plans

Coming home from school one day Matt saw a truck about to run an elderly man over. He managed to push him out the way in time. The truck swerved, loosening the bindings on some of its dangerous radioactive cargo. A vial flew from the truck, smashing across Matt’s face, blinding him forever.

This didn’t stop Jack from pushing his son on. He doubled his efforts to have Matt learn to read braille and continue studying. Matt took to reading braille surprising well. Since the accident he had found his sense of touch had increased so remarkably that he could count the grains of salt on his palm. In fact, all his other four senses had developed exponentially. He could ‘see’ like a bat, sense things coming before those with sight saw them, identify people by their odor or perfume, and could tell if someone was lying by listening to their heart beat, a great power if you’re a lawyer.

Matt’s motivation for becoming Daredevil came when one night he went with his friend Foggy Nelson to watch his father fight a championship bout. As Jack was putting on his gloves, he thought of nothing more than making his son proud by winning that night. He knew he could take down his opponent and that the championship belt would soon be his. Only fate had other plans.

As Jack was ready to leave his dressing room, his manager entered and told him tonight he had to take a dive. There was a lot of money on this fight and they had orchestrated the hype of his easily winning, making him the long–odds favorite. Now was the time to cash in by putting their money against him on the “underdog.”

Jack knew the seamier side of the boxing world that revolved around him and hoped he would never be part of it. The truth is he was part of it all along. That night Jack Murdock went into the ring for the last time and beat his opponent. He won for himself and his son. But at too great a cost.

It was Jack’s last night on Earth

While Jack made sure Matt was feeding his mind, Matt never forgot being beaten up and teased at school and kept up a secret daily workout regimen to build his body. The kids called him “Daredevil” as a mark of shame. Now Matt would wear that title with pride as he took off into the night to get revenge for his father.

Over the last fifty years a who’s who of comic greats have added to the work of Bill Everett, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee on the title, most notably Wally Wood, John Romita, Gene Colan and Frank Miller. The title is currently back in the spotlight under the scripting of Mark Waid who has taken the character back to his roots, reminding us that even a blind man can still have fun while being attacked by ninjas or men on robot stilts.

The upcoming series coming to Netflix seems to focus more on the very early days of Daredevil’s past, using material from the Frank Miller and John Romita Jr five–issue Daredevil: The Man Without Fear (1993) mini–series and will incorporate the character “Stick,” created by Miller to be Matt’s mentor after his father dies.

Daredevil is one of those shows that we’ve desperately hoped would be good. This trailer has gone a long way to putting our minds at ease.

Your Thoughts

  1. How important is it to you that you can identify with the characters in comics you are reading about?
  2. Most people cite eye–sight as the sense they would least want to lose. Is a blind character too alien to your concept of a superhero to be an enjoyable entertainment?
  3. At what point does the heroic Nietzschean adage, “That which does not kill us makes us stronger,” become simply untenable?

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chbedok's avatar
1) Quite important. Its what makes Deadpool such a great comic character today. People relate to the idea that life does throw curveballs constantly at them, but it is okay to have fun. In fact, why not have fun. Furthermore, deadpool shows that being a hero is a day to day, minute to minute endeavour. You may fail every day, but it is that one second of success that counts the most;

2) Why would it?

3) When you get killed.