This month for my underrated Hero I decided to take a step back from anti-heroes and their magical kin and focus more on one of the most tortured heroes in Marvel comics, Daredevil.
Daredevil shot to popularity with his introduction in and starting off the Marvel Netflix universe. While the series does a great job of explaining the character’s origins and motivations they really skimp on some of his greatest stories. It still stands at the top of my list for Netflix shows even with the inclusion of the Punisher, which is saying something considering my love of anti-heroes.
Time to dive into the background of the Man Without Fear!!
*There are SEVERAL retcons of Daredevil’s Origin. This will be an amalgamation of all the important aspects*
Daredevil first appeared in Daredevil #1 (April,1964) and was created by Stan Lee, artist Bill Everett with some notable input from Jack Kirby.
Matthew Michael Murdock was born to his father Jack “Battlin” Murdock a washed up boxer living in Hell’s Kitchen, New York. It is not revealed who Matt’s mother is until much later in the comics, all he knew was that she didn’t want him. From a young age Matt’s dad urged him towards schooling and being a good student so that he could make something of himself and not end up like he did. Eventually Jack is forced back into the ring as a way to make money for them to survive, when he returns home Matt stitches up his wound after every fight.
When Matt was 9 years old he saved an elderly man, who had stepped out into the street, from getting run over by a RAND Oil & Chemicals truck; which in turn caused an accident. Some of the chemicals splashed into his eyes and the last thing he ever saw was his father comforting him as his vision blurred until he was blind. When he awoke in the hospital after the accident he was amazed that he could hear everything in the world around him. It became to much and started causing him pain. His father attempted to calm him down by allowing Matt to run his hands over his face letting him know that his dad was there for him. Matt learned to read braille and dove into this studies. He kept his new found senses from everyone including his dad for fear of being outcast even more.
While his father continued to train at Fogwell’s gym, Matt studied ringside. He overheard his father being offered a large sum of money to lose his upcoming fight with Carl Creel. Matt’s father had taken the money given to him to throw the fight and bet it on himself to win. When he emerged victorious he put a plan in place to ensure that Matt would have the money for when he went to school before he was murdered by the mobsters who paid him to throw the fight. Matt found his father beaten to death in the street in front of Fogwell’s gym. Matt was sent to Saint Agnes orphanage where he was found by Stick and trained to become a warrior. Matt quickly mastered his blindness and began using his other senses to aid him in battle.
Enraged by the legal system’s inadequacies in bringing his father’s killers to justice, Matt donned a costume made from his father’s boxing robe and attacked the Fixer (man responsible for his father’s death) and his goons. Matt savagely beat the goons and frightened the Fixer to death under the guise of Daredevil.
Matt then proceeded to open a law firm with his long time friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson whom he had met, studied and roomed with at Columbia Law. It was during his studies at Columbia Law that he met and became enamoured with Elektra Natchios. Elektra encouraged Matt to “break the rules” which almost cost him some credits he needed to graduate.
Nelson & Murdock opened in Hell’s Kitchen and began serving the working class citizens to hopefully get them the justice they deserve. Matt vowed to fight for the people and get the justice they deserve during the day but at night he would fight as Daredevil to take down those beyond the grasp of the law.
One of Daredevil’s biggest stories in the last 20 years was the 9 issue run titled Shadowland. Matt had journeyed to Japan in hopes of learning the secret of the Hand and form them into a force for good. When he gains control of the Hand he returns to New York with his army of undead ninjas and erects a temple/prison in the middle of the demolished Hell’s Kitchen. During the Dark Reign arc Bullseye had leveled much of Hell’s Kitchen in an attempt to kill Daredevil, obviously it didn’t work.
So Daredevil brings the Hand to New York but not before the leaders of the Hand (Snakeroot) infect Daredevil with the essence of the Beast (yes, just go with it). Daredevil and his army begin by policing the kitchen and taking the criminals down to the prison beneath Shadowland. As the beast begins taking Daredevil over more and more, he begins allowing more brutal tactics until his ninjas are straight up murdering people in the streets. Bullseye escaped from his transport to the Raft (prison) and decided to kill Daredevil once and for all. When Bullseye challenges Daredevil we see the new suit that Daredevil is sporting which is all black, with a red “DD” symbol on the chest and blades on his wrists. They fight for some time before Luke Cage and Iron Fist stumble upon them. The Heroes for Hire offer to help but Daredevil asks them ” Are you prepared to swear allegiance to the Hand for all of eternity?”. When they respond with a resounding “No” Daredevil tells them to stay out of his way and then proceeds to break both of Bullseye’s arms before stabbing him through the chest with his own sai (a homage to how Bullseye murdered Elektra).
Several of the street level heroes band together and raid the temple of Shadowland to hopefully bring Daredevil to justice. The raid team consists of: Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider (eventually), Punisher (eventually), Shang Chi, Misty Knight, and Silver Sable. The battle does not go the way the heroes want and when Ghost Rider arrives (after bring summoned by Kingpin and Lady Bullseye to fight the beast) things really go haywire. With the heroes backed against the wall and the Hand closing in Punisher blows an exit and tells everyone to move out while he opens up with a M240 LMG.
The heroes resolve to try again while the Thunderbolts are occupying most of the Hand underneath Shadowland. This time they are accompanied by Elektra and Wolverine. When the heroes are able to subdue Daredevil, Elektra tries to reason with Murdock, but the voice that comes from his mouth isn’t Matt’s and it proclaims “There is no Murdock! Only the Beast!”. He then breaks out of the webbing covering him and lays a serious beat down on the heroes. Foggy arrives and tries to reason with Matt, when the Demon decides to kill Foggy (the power of the Beast having caused Daredevil to take on a more demonic shape), Iron Fist focuses his Chi and hits Daredevil with a massive blast. This allows Matt to temporarily regain control of his body and reflect on everything he has done in his life and everything the beast has caused him to do. Before the Beast regains control, Daredevil kills himself breaking the spell and killing the Beast once again. As the heroes gather themselves they realize that Daredevil’s body is gone and Kingpin uses Typhoid Mary to take over the Hand and become it’s new leader.
A man enters a confessional in a Catholic church claiming that he is lost and Black Panther has claimed Hell’s Kitchen as his turf. Murdock is shown getting off a bus in rural America and begins walking.
Following Shadowland, Murdock has ventured into Mexico and ends up at a diner outside of a small Mexican town where a young boy is being bullied for being blind. Matt takes pity o the boy and helps him to fend off his bullies while offering him some wisdom about coping with his disability. When the local police show up and are hostile towards Matt, his curiosity is piqued.
Matt follows the police to the outskirts of town and discovers a mass grave filled with locals and crates of weapons. Upon further investigation Murdock discovers that the police are working with a drug smuggler name Calavera. Murdock decides to interrupt their operations and dons his classic Man in black outfit.
Calavera is a metahuman with the ability to telepathically draw out and exploit anything that a person feels guilty for or; as they explain in the comic, exploit their sins. With Murdock being forced to relive every sin he has ever committed he becomes resolute that his actions were necessary. He becomes reassured in his beliefs and his responsibilities to the people of the Kitchen and upon defeating Calavera decides to return to New York and rebuild his law practice as well as his life as Daredevil.
POWERS & ABILITIES
Daredevil is blind. He was blinded at the age of 9 when the chemicals from the Rand truck spilled in his eyes.
Due to the chemicals he developed a radar sense (echolocation). In addition to his radar sense his other remaining senses now function at superhuman levels and accuracy. His radar sense is strong enough that fabrics and most walls do not stop him from being able to see through them. He also has omnidirectional vision because of his radar sense.
He is able to use his hearing as a polygraph which helps him to determine if a person is lying, this ability can be fooled and is not 100% accurate.
He is able to detect environmental changes created by teleporters making him able to react to a person’s teleporting ability before they can get the drop on him.
Having been trained by Stick he is a master of most martial arts and close combat techniques. He doesn’t focus on one discipline to fight, instead he uses various disciplines at once including: Ninjitsu, Aiki, Jujutsu, Aikido, Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Silat, Capoeira, wrestling, stick fighting, and American Style boxing.
Daredevil’s main weapon is his billy club. It disguises as his walking stick during the day but it also conceals a grappling hook and can be separated into two pieces for combat. He is an expert marksman and can throw almost anything with 100% accuracy.
REASONS THEY’RE UNDERRATED
Where do I even start… well how about with HE IS A BLIND SUPERHERO! In a world filled with people getting powers from aliens, literal Gods fighting beside you, and Super soldier experiments leading the charge, Daredevil has a disability. He is not able to see like everyone else. Yes, his radar sense actually let’s him see better than some people can normally, but there are not many heroes that were given their powers while losing something that most people take for granted.
When Stan Lee first created him, he was worried that Marvel would receive backlash from how far he had said Daredevil’s other senses were enhanced. He received a great amount of support from people writing him telling him how much they loved Daredevil, and he even received a letter from The Lighthouse For the Blind which stated that the blind people they helped loved having Daredevil read to them. Daredevil helped to show the masses that just because you have a disability doesn’t mean you can’t be whoever you want to be.
Most characters in the Marvel Universe overlook Daredevil because in their eyes he has no real powers, but this is a guy who has fought and beat Iron fist, Shang Chi and Black Widow; all of whom are reputed to be some of the BEST fighters in Marvel Comics.
Mostly though the reason Daredevil is underrated is because he is one of the more human characters. There are obviously human characters in Marvel comics but Daredevil is one of the few who is actually unsure about his place in the world. He is probably the most conflicted and tortured character in Marvel comics, with both his resounding catholic faith and his job as a Lawyer. For someone who is as religious as he is and who constantly goes to confession, wearing a red devil suit and beating on people at night seems pretty contradictory. The Netflix show illustrates this conflict really well especially in the first season. He has quite a few good discussions with the local priest about what he does and whether or not it is God’s work. During season 2 though, is when he has the infamous philosophical debate with Frank Castle. That episode really illustrated how sometimes there is no black or white and there is only a big muddy grey.
I really think Daredevil should get some bigger roles in the events that take place in Marvel comics. He had a small part in the Civil War story wherein he called Tony “Judas” before being incarcerated in 42 (the negative zone prison for super powered beings). Like I said his biggest event was that of Shadowland, and that wasn’t the most well received story arc for him. He really deserves a better chance to sine and show that he is just as capable as any other hero to fight the good fight.
This concludes another week of Underrated Heroes! Let me know what you think! See you all next week.