Daredevil: The man without fear.
Also the man that suddenly justified this month’s Netflix subscription. Yeah, that guy. Some of you now might have heard that Marvel’s scarlet swashbuckler landed his own show with Netflix, tied directly into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Blinded by radioactive chemicals as a child, Matt Murdock soon realized his remaining senses had been amped up to astonishing levels. Attorney at law by day, masked vigilante by night. – That’s the short version.
But here are a few of his stand-out comic book appearances to fill in the gaps. Some recommended reading if you will.
First Appearance – Daredevil #1
Created by none other than Stan ‘the man‘ Lee and Bill Everitt, it all kicks off here. Written by Lee and with Everitt on pencils, Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko on inks and a cover from Jack ‘the king’ Kirby, we meet our hero Matt Murdock. Blinded by some manky toxic waste but given heightened senses, he resolves to kick butt in a yellow suit. Also, in this issue we meet the gorgeous Karen Page and fun-lovin’ Foggy Nelson. Read it for free on the Marvel Comics app.
New Duds – Daredevil #7
That’s right, the man without fear did manage to go an entire 6 issues before realizing that yellow didn’t really convey the whole ‘without fear’ thing. Cowardly custard, anyone? Written again by Stan Lee, with the cover and interior artwork this time coming from Wally Wood (who designed DD’s red suit) with lettering from Artie Simek, this issue sees the first appearance of Daredevil’s trademark red suit and another quality Daredevil smack down, this time with Namor: The Sub-Mariner (notorious Fantastic Four villain/dick). In a decent condition, this issue sells for in and around €330* too if you can find a copy.
It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a… lamppost? No. Wait. It’s two lampposts? That’s right, Daredevil #8 debuts the villainous might of the Stilt-Man, aka Wilbur Day. Wilbur didn’t even design the Stilt-Man suit, he just stole the designs and decided that go-go gadget legs were all he’d ever need. An ambitious man, believe it or not, the nefarious Stilt-Man was a classic Daredevil villain long before we had Wilson Fisk to fawn over. Sadly, however, Wilbur is no longer with us as Stilt-Man bravely registered with S.H.I.E.L.D as a law enforcer during the super hero Civil War. The Punisher, however, did not get the memo and shot poor Wilbur in the crotch with an M72 LAW (anti-tank rocket launcher) and then shot him again in the head at point blank range with a pistol. The Punisher then also poisoned and burned down the bar where Stilty’s friends threw his wake. Stilt-Man is survived by numerous copycats and fakes.
Kingpin – Amazing Spider-Man #50
Wilson Fisk, the man known as The Kingpin, is easily Daredevil‘s best known villain. Portrayed by Michael Clarke Duncan in the 2003 Daredevil movie, and by Vincent D’Onofrio in the new Daredevil Netflix show, he became one of the key enemies of Daredevil and is also a recurring adversary of the Punisher’s. IGN’s list of the Top 100 Comic Book Villains Of All Time ranked The Kingpin as number 10. But did you know he got his start in a Spider-Man comic? Now you do. Amazing Spider-Man #50 introduces Wilson Fisk into the Marvel Universe as the notorious crime lord. Also, a cracking good Spidey issue.
Meet Some Gentle People There – Daredevil #81
Daredevil #81 marks the character’s big move to San Francisco, and simultaneously brought the Black Widow on as a co-star. Having spent some time in San Francisco, Daredevil writer Gerry Conway fell in love with the city and decided that, as a hero who spent so much time leaping and diving from rooftop to rooftop, doing this in such a hilly city could make for spectacular visuals of the scarlet swashbuckler. Plus, with almost every Marvel character ever living in New York, Daredevil had the place more or less to himself. I say more or less because he now had a ‘thing’ going on with the Black Widow. However, due to the Comics Code Authority’s restrictions on the depiction of cohabitation, the stories made it explicitly clear that, although Daredevil and the Black Widow were living in the same apartment, they were sleeping on separate floors, and that Natasha’s guardian Ivan Petrovich was always close at hand. Just in case.
“… my plans are based on my infallible aim–and my unique ability to turn anything into a most potent weapon.” -Bullseye.
This issue sees the first appearance of everyone’s second favourite marksman (because Hawkeye) in the world of Marvel. Ol’ Horn Head is called upon to check out a slumlord, who turns out to be linked to his girlfriend’s father (awkward…) He gets sidetracked, naturally, when Bullseye kills a man for publicity’s sake before drawing Daredevil into a very public fight. Again, a must have.
Electra – Daredevil #168
This issue introduces Electra Nachios. No, not a Mexican appetiser, she’s Greek. But, more importantly, she’s Matt’s old college girlfriend turned ninja-assassin/ femme fatale. This issue comes to us written and pencilled by Frank Miller with inks from Klaus Janson, while the colourist for this issue is credited as D. R. Martin, an unknown pseudonym for at least two colourists. The story reveals Matt and Electra’s love before his accident and her path to joining deadly ninja clan, the Hand.
Bullseye VS Electra – Daredevil #181
“You’re good gerlie, I’ll give ye dah. Burr I’m bleedin magic is whah.” –Colin Farrell as Bullseye in the 2003 Daredevil movie.
Fresh out the joint with a score to settle, Bullseye decides the best way to bring the hurt to Murdock is to bring it to Elektra. That’s right; the death of Elektra seals Bullseye as one of Daredevil‘s most hated enemies.
Word Is Out – Daredevil #227
When The Kingpin finally puts two and two together and realises that Daredevil is none other than our boy Matt Murdock, he does exactly what we’d expect of him and makes Matt’s life… miserable. Like, really miserable. This issue kicks off the fascinating chess board dynamic with Wilson and some of Frank Miller’s and David Mazzucchelli’s best work on their Daredevil run, and that’s saying a lot with these two guys.
Back To Basics – Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1
Frank Miller teams with John Romita Jr this time, kicking off one of the most influential runs in Daredevil history way back in 1993. Not bad for a five issue series, right? For anyone enjoying the Netflix Daredevil (who isn’t?), this is a must read. You’ll find the new show pulls a lot of its influence right from these pages. Most notably Matt’s black makeshift suit.
Year One – Daredevil: Yellow #1
Daredevil: Yellow kicked off the miniseries that brought another fresh take on Daredevil’s humble beginnings. In an interesting spin on the narrative, it uses letters written to Karen Page after her death. The series also picks up on the friendly rivalry between Matt and Foggy Nelson for Karen’s affection, and shoehorns in plenty of original events from classic issues of Daredevil. A beautiful read from writer Jeph Loeb and artist Tim Sale who’ve worked together on similar colour projects such as Spider-Man Blue and Hulk: Gray, all worth the read. Trust me.
Bendis/Maleev – Daredevil #26
It all kicked off with a story called Underboss. Brian Michael Bendis starts his character-defining run with Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin, attacked and left for dead in a bloody coup d’Etat. Oh… and Matt gets into a fight with an exploding man named Nitro. If you’re looking for a jumping-on-point, this is where I’m sending you. Bendis’s run of Daredevil is up there with Stan Lee’s. With an equal measure of the credit deservedly going to interior illustrator Alex Maleev, this fan favourite run sees Daredevil facing off against new foes and sets the stage for Matt Murdock being publicly outed as Daredevil. Bendis pulls no punches with this plot.
Brubaker/Lark – Daredevil #82
Brian Michael Bendis outed Daredevil to the public and had him arrested, in costume and imprisoned. Who could follow a run like that? Maybe the man who killed Captain America and gave us The Winter Soldier. Ed Brubaker starts his Daredevil run right where Bendis left off; Matt Murdock in Ryker’s Island prison, denying the Daredevil charges. Everyone knows who he is, but they can’t prove it. Joined by Michael Lark, Brubaker sets out on an illustrious run, taking Daredevil from the depths of Cell-Block D, to Europe and back to Hell’s Kitchen. Interesting new villains are introduced, such as Mr Fear and the deadly Lady Bullseye. I’m not kidding, if you thought Bendis put Matt through the ringer, you won’t believe what Brubaker does to him.
Waid/Rivera – Daredevil #1 (2011)
One of the genuine treats of my trip to the comic store and definitely one of the more refreshing takes on the character in recent years, this run was never afraid to show Daredevil’s more carefree swashbuckling nature while, at the same time, almost crushing poor Matt in the process. Featuring old enemies, former school bullies, separatist groups and even the Silver Surfer, this run is action-packed, but it’s got a lot of heart too. Matt and Foggy’s friendship is put to the test in a way we’ve honestly never seen before. Already on rocky ground, the bromance blossoms as Foggy is diagnosed with cancer. Now, that’s a pretty huge step for a comic book series to make, in my opinion, as it’s not something a creator can just sweep back under the rug when he’s done with it. The portrayal is brutally honest and emotionally charged. It is honestly heart breaking to suddenly see the Man Without Fear absolutely terrified, realising he’s essentially powerless to do anything. Powerless except to support Foggy as best he can while keeping up a brave front. Something I’m sure each of us are familiar with to some degree. Humanising the superhero; an absolute must.
So, now you’re aware of some of Daredevil’s crucial points throughout his comic book legacy. I can only hope I’ve given you reason to go read more and more of the guardian devil’s issues, or at least commit to another Netflix binge in his honour. Either way, let me know what you think in the comments below, with a history as broad as Daredevil’s, I know I haven’t covered it all, so let me know what your stand out issues are.