For the past year,I have been enjoying reading whatever Daredevil graphic novels I can get my hands on. Now, I haven’t been able to read anything in order and have had to make do with alternating between reading assorted paperbacks of Brian Bendis’ dark, noir run and Mark Waid’s current, swashbuckling take on The Man Without Fear ( who is not to be confused with Hal Jordan, who apparently takes the same bravery pills). Needless to say, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the character, even though the two versions I am used to are as different as chalk and cheese.
Bendis’ Matt Murdock is tragic and lonely and doesn’t actually win very often (compared to his luckier compatriots) and Waid’s is a daring, wisecracking rogue with a keen sense of sarcasm and a retro rogues gallery containing the likes of Stilt Man and The Spot.
I probably should point out that, despite my ‘chalk and cheese’ comment, Mark Waid’s Daredevil is actually still the same character that Bendis wrote. You see, before Waid took the reins, The Man Without Fear had suffered tragedy after at the hands of writers such as Kevin Smith, Bendis and Ed Brubaker. The character had run a dark, emotional gauntlet for years, and so Waid set about “tweaking the adventure-to-depression ratio a bit and letting Matt win again” when he took over in 2011.
As most comic fans will tell you, the recently-abandoned trend of putting Matt Murdock through the wringer began with one man: Frank Miller. Miller began as a penciler for the series in the mid-’70s before taking over writing duties in the ’80s. He quickly set about changing the character from a somewhat gimmicky Spider-Man surrogate to a flawed, determined anti-hero. He also fought a different kind of villain; urban, street-level crime that was personified by Spider-Man alum Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin of Crime. During his seminal run, Miller raised Daredevil from second tier superheroism to a Marvel mainstay.
After leaving the title, Miller returned to Hell’s Kitchen in 1986 to pen what I consider his best superhero story: Daredevil: Born Again (beautifully brought to life with David Mazzuchelli’s art). I really believe that Marvel Studios should take note of this intense, grungy tale of revenge, reinvention , and redemption. The story is as follows; Daredevil’s ex-girlfriend, Karen Page, sells his secret identity to a drug pusher. This vital piece of information makes it’s way up to the Kingpin himself, who, rather than simply going to Matt Murdock’s house to beat the snot out of him, takes great pleasure in dismantling Matt’s personal, professional and costumed life. Down, out and extremely paranoid, Matt Murdock wanders the streets of New York, desperately trying to piece his life back together. Oh, and there’s also a creepy guy with an American flag tattooed on his face.
Apparently, before the rights to Daredevil reverted back to Marvel Studios, Joe Carnahan pitched a Daredevil film based on this storyline. It’s a shame it won’t be made. However, I do hope that this story is used to bring Daredevil to the screen (whether in film or in the promised Netflix series) for a couple of reasons. Firstly, this story would make a compelling introduction to the character. Rather than a straight forward origin story, a story like Born Again would immediately involve the audience in a different way: we would see the character at his lowest point, rather than his starting point and, as he rediscovers who he is, we would learn along with him. I’m not sure about you, but I think origin stories are wearing a bit thin. Starting Daredevil’s story at a point like this would give the audience an interesting view of a lesser known character, without covering the same ground as other superhero films.
Secondly, this story (and Miller Daredevil-dom as a whole) has a very different tone to what Marvel has put on the screen so far. Now, don’t get me wrong, the Marvel movies are a lot of fun, but the inclusion of Matt Murdock and his neighborhood could add another level to the MCU. We’ve seen Stark’s labs, we’ve seen SHIELD’s Hellicarrier and we’ve seen Asgard, now it’s time to see the streets. There can still be superpowers (I mean, DD has them himself, so it’s a given), references to the wider MCU and cameos (Iron Man, Captain America and Thor all briefly appear in the graphic novel) but a character like Daredevil gives filmmakers the opportunity to see these things from a different perspective, and as the Marvel Cinematic Universe marches on, a new take on things is always welcome. The gritty vibe of Daredevil’s character and corner of the world would also appeal to those who prefer the recent Batman movies to the Avenger’s lighter shenanigans. As a side note, it would be interesting to see Chris Evans play Nuke (the aforementioned tattooed man) because it would show the character for what he is; a grotesque reflection of Captain America.
So, what do you think? What could Matt Murdock bring to the MCU? Should they go down the Frank Miller route, or take a leaf from Mark Waid’s book? I’d love to hear some different ideas….
“I have shown him…that a Man without Hope….is a Man without Fear”