Daredevil

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For people who perform risky stunts as a profession, see stunt performer.

Daredevil (Matt Murdock) is a Marvel Comics superhero. Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, he first appeared in Daredevil #1 (April 1964).

As a child, Murdock was doused in radioactive material, which caused him to become blind but raised his other four senses to superhuman levels and gave him a sixth one, a sonar-like "radar sense". He fights crime using his enhanced senses, his training in acrobatics and martial arts, and his trademark billy club, which splits into two segments connected by a sturdy line, forming a snare and grappling hook.

During the day, Murdock is an attorney who attempts to defend the innocent and punish the guilty through the American legal system.

Daredevil was not an overly popular or influential Marvel hero until the late 1970s when writer/illustrator Frank Miller made him a much darker character. Miller’s Daredevil was a fierce guardian of inner city New York who danced along the edge of sanity as he attempted to uproot deep corruption and urban decay.

Miller's noir-like style has been imitated by most subsequent writers to author Daredevil’s comic book series and the makers of the 2003 film adaptation of the character.

Contents

Origin

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DD066_COV.jpg
Cover to Daredevil v2 #66. Art by Alex Maleev. Daredevil's first costume.

Matt Murdock was a boy who grew up in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, the son of Battling Jack Murdock, a fading boxer and occasional hired muscleman. Jack was insistent that his son be well-schooled so he would not follow in his father's footsteps. Matt followed his father's wishes, but worked out in secret in order to defend himself from bullies. His schoolmates taunted the apparent bookworm with the nickname "Daredevil".

Matt's life dramatically changed when he saved an old blind man who was crossing the street and was about to be hit by an oncoming truck by pushing him out of way. The truck swerved and crashed, and its cargo of a radioactive waste container was released and opened with a portion of the content striking Matt in the face, permanently blinding him.

After a difficult recovery, the blinded youth soon learned to cope with his disability, only to secretly learn of the boons the radioactive exposure granted him. Namely, his remaining senses had been raised to superhuman sharpness. He can hear any sound regardless of volume or pitch, his sense of smell is more sensitive than a bloodhound, his sense of taste allows him to identify individual ingredients of prepared foods, his sense of touch is so acute he can read regular print as if it is braille. The improvements to his ear also granted him a radar sense which allows him to detect physical objects' positions and their general shape (similar to echolocation), giving him a valuable advantage, especially in the dark where the odds are in his favour.

Although Matt excelled in his classes in law school, his father was still struggling to help support him. To that end, he approached the one fight promoter willing to book him, a small time crook nicknamed the Fixer. The Fixer agreed, and arranged a series of matches with opponents instructed to lose on purpose in order to create the image of the aging boxer being a real contender. This all was to lead to one big fight in which the Fixer instructed Murdock to take a dive. At the fight, Jack realized too late that his son was watching. He did not have the heart to disappoint his son, and so he fought with all his heart and won by a knockout. After the fight, he was murdered by the Fixer's men for breaking their deal.

Distraught, Matt Murdock investigated the crime and learned of the Fixer's involvement. Hungry to bring the criminal to justice, but still mindful of his childhood promise not to resort to violence, Matt decided to don another identity as a loophole in his oath. Fashioning a yellow and black suit, he decided to use to the old school taunt name, Daredevil, and adjusted the cowl to have two small hornlike points and put a large double letter D on the chest. Armed only with a billy club, he confronted the Fixer and his gang. With his superb physical skill, he sent them reeling. Panicked, the Fixer flew the scene with Daredevil in close pursuit until he keeled over from a fatal heart attack.

Matt Murdock continued his war of crime while he ran his law firm with his partner, Franklin "Foggy" Nelson and their secretary, Karen Page. Along the way, he racked up his own eclectic rogue's gallery like the Owl, the Stiltman, and the Gladiator.

Frank Miller

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Daredevil168.png
Cover to Daredevil #168. Art by Frank Miller.

This character was an undistinguished second stringer character that came off as a Spider-Man knock-off with a similar flair for acrobatics and swinging among the towers of New York City. The title did benefit from noteworthy artists such as comics legend Wally Wood whose short run left the mark of not only among the best written early stories but also changing Daredevil's costume to the distinctive all red uniform. In addition, the series enjoyed a long run by artist Gene Colan whose talented artwork helped keep the title vital through much of the 1960s and '70s. However, the title's sales were rarely strong, and at one point in the early 1970's, with the standard format/price in flux, Marvel even announced Daredevil and Iron Man were to be folded into a single title -- but reversed its decision without ever combining the books.

That all changed when a new artist came on to the title, Frank Miller. His art brought a new dynamism to the comic; his writing even more so. What he did was change the whole tone of the title to a dark noir setting where evil seems all present, corruption is rife throughout the seats of power. The comic's hero became a tortured man dancing on the edge of sanity and his principles while dealing with the inner rage that proved to be the real reason he chose to become Daredevil.

In Miller's first issue as a writer an old flame was revealed from Daredevil's past, Elektra Natchios. A college girlfriend at Columbia University and a daughter of a Greek diplomat, she had an amorally wild violent streak that led her to become a deadly ninja assassin, eventually even entering the employ of the Kingpin.

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Dd181.png
Cover to Daredevil #181. Art by Frank Miller.

Many of the regular antagonists were dropped as Miller set up the principals who have become definitive with the modern Daredevil. The Kingpin, originally a run of the mill Spider-Man villain, became the truly king-like master of New York's organized crime. He would share a complex relationship with the hero who would become his greatest enemy. Bullseye, formerly just a hit man with unerring aim and the ability to use any object that he can shoot or throw as a weapon, became a cold-blooded pathological murderer who is Daredevil's physical nemesis on the street level. Daredevil also gained a mentor, the mysterious Stick, a sensei who trained the young Matt to control his senses and taught him the acrobatic martial arts that would make him so formidable.

Taken together, Frank Miller created a sensation that established a new take on superheroes with a dark tone that would influence the whole genre. Daredevil became a popular title and Frank Miller's influence would be felt ever since; his 1986 Born Again storyline in particular gathered critical acclaim and popularity. Other notable writers would include Kevin Smith and Brian Michael Bendis who would make superb stories, but they would use the essential world that was Miller's creation.

Other Daredevils

Other comic book Daredevils include:

  • The Golden Age Daredevil, a character published by Lev Gleason Publications who wore a red and blue suit and fought crime with boomerangs. (Alternate universe versions of Matt Murdock have occasionally been shown wearing this character's outfit, as an homage/in-joke).
  • Daredevil 2099, who made one appearance in 2099 Apocalypse. Although not given an origin, a proposed DD2099 title would have revealed he was a descendent of Foggy Nelson.
  • Ultimate Daredevil, essentially unchanged from the Marvel Universe version.
  • Matthew Murdoch, the blind balladeer, an alternate version of Matt Murdock in 1602.
  • Marvel Knights Daredevil 2099, a descendent of Wilson Fisk.
  • The Devil Hunter, a version of Daredevil from the Marvel Mangaverse. His costume is patterned after an oni or Japanese demon.
Daredevil movie poster, featuring Ben Affleck as Daredevil, with Jennifer Garner as Elektra, Colin Farrell as Bullseye, and Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin.
Enlarge
Daredevil movie poster, featuring Ben Affleck as Daredevil, with Jennifer Garner as Elektra, Colin Farrell as Bullseye, and Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin.

Other media adaptations

As for other media, Daredevil was the original late bloomer for Marvel with no major appearances until the 1980s. There was Trial of the Incredible Hulk, a TV movie that was essentially a pilot for Daredevil, played by Rex Smith. (Daredevil's only notable fight was with an old woman in this tv movie.) The character would also appear as a guest in the various Marvel superhero animated series from that time. He also had a small appearance in the Spider-Man video game released for Sony PlayStation, Nintendo N64, Sega Dreamcast and PC.

Finally, in 2003, a big budget feature film starring Ben Affleck in the title role was released and proved to be a moderate success. As expected by the character's fans, it is Frank Miller's take on the character that was the guide for the filmmakers.

Bibliography of Daredevil titles

External links

fr:Daredevil ja:デアデビル pt:Demolidor sv:Daredevil

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