On April 10th, time will stand still…….okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch. April 10th is a very special day for those of us out there who are Fans Without Fear….and have a Netflix accout. All 13 episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil, the Netflix Original series about blind lawyer/vigilante Matt Murdock will be available for binge watch consumption. While it’s only a few weeks away, it’s hard to wait when you’re this excited. To help tide you over, I will be showcasing some great DD comics and history right up until the week the series premieres, featuring a look at the greatest comic stories, hidden gems and an in depth look into the characters from Hell’s Kitchen! Come join me on this journey and find out why Daredevil may just be the best street level hero that comics (and fandom in general) has ever seen.
This week we take a look at the ones who keep Matt Murdock fearless – the writers. Without them, there would be no harrowing tales of our favourite blind vigilante. A great many writers have worked on Daredevil over the years starting with Stan “The Man” Lee and continuing to present day with the likes of Mark Waid. What follows are my picks for the 5 BEST writers to handle DD.
This one’s a no brainer. Before Miller, Daredevil was a largely forgettable character. The only thing that made him different was the fact that he was blind. Everything else about him was “generic hero” characteristics. Miller took the character to the darker places it needed to go. In his first run on the book, he took Matt Murdock from a somewhat fun loving guy and infused a good dose of Catholic guilt and slight bit of the crazy to make him a tortured soul fighting for the hope that the people of Hell’s Kitchen so greatly needed. Adding the creation of Elektra and beefing up/revamping characters like Kingpin, Bullseye and Gladiator would be more than enough to cement his legacy with the character. But he didn’t stop there.
A few years later, Miller would return to the title and bring us the definitive Daredevil Epic – Born Again. Here he built upon his first run by telling a story that was completely about Matt Murdock. Daredevil takes a backseat as this tale does not focus on superhero adventuring but instead the dissection of a beaten man who refuses to give up. The darkest chapter in the Daredevil canon and also the most inspiring. But once again, he didn’t stop there. He finished things off by returning to the character again in the 90s to tell the origin of Matt Murdock in The Man Without Fear, a 5 part miniseries. His influences on the character can still be seen in comics to this day.
Due to Miller having such an amazing run with the character, it took a while before anyone accepted someone else writing Daredevil. Denny O’Neil had an interesting run but not too many folks cared about it one way or another. It wasn’t until Ann Nocenti took the reins that folks sat up and took notice of Hell’s Kitchen’s protector once again. Already established as a dark book, Nocenti took it to even darker realms with a Matt Murdock that came off as equal parts driven and selfish. Matt was wild with passion when meeting the deadly Typhoid Mary, the latest assassin to get thrown at him by the Kingpin. (What is it with Daredevil and women sent to kill him? Everybody has a type, I guess.)
Aside from the introduction of Mary, Nocenti shook things up in a number of ways having Daredevil go on the road and leave the Kitchen for a period and even had him cross paths with Mephesto, the actual Devil! She ended off her run with the incredibly exciting Fall of the Kingpin Story (also known as Last Rites) storyline that finally gave Matt Murdock a level of revenge for all those “Born Again” shenanigans. It was a fun end to a very satisfying run.
Brian Michael Bendis
When Marvel Knights was in full swing, it felt like the imprint could do no wrong. High atop that mountain of quality lay the crown jewel that was Daredevil. Since it’s relaunch in 1998, the title was a top seller. Things were looking up for the Devil and they only got better with the entrance of Bendis. Running with the idea that a lot of people know Daredevil’s secret identity (The Kingpin, Ben Urich, Spider-Man and just about every girl Matt Murdock ever dated), Bendis did the unthinkable and had his secret revealed to the public. This kicked off a run that was considered innovative for it’s time. Playing with the building blocks of the Miller run, he carved out an epic tale that took the hero to new heights.
Bendis put an emphasis back on street level crime, focusing on the mob elements that were always present in the best Daredevil stories. Using some of great characters from the past (Gladiator, Luke Cage, The Owl, Kingpin, Black Widow….the list goes on) and mixing in some creations of his own (love interest Milla Donovan and private detective Jessica Jones to name a few), he reintroduced the gritty underbelly of Hell’s Kitchen and let a slightly mad Matt Murdock loose on it. The book was noir comics at its finest.
Bendis’ run lead perfectly into Ed Brubaker’s. Using everything that came before, Brubaker was still able to create a unique story all his own. There were criminals, there were ninjas, there were super villains, all co-existing in one title. Brubaker did a great job of beefing up the DD supporting cast. He put a great amount of focus on Foggy Nelson and made him much more than Matt’s doughy best friend. He also brought in Dakota North, the almost forgotten private eye from the eighties. He even used the book as a platform to give attention to Iron Fist, which he would later get to write in his own series, as a fill-in for Daredevil on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen.
Brubaker knew how to make the villains look menacing. Whether is was the Hand, Mr. Fear, Lady Bullseye or even the returning Kingpin, there was always an underlying threat that Matt just might not make it out alive this time. There was also a prevalent threat of Matt sacrificing his soul to protect his city. The deal with the Devil was never more felt than in the shocking conclusion to his run. (It’s a shame that Andy Diggle dropped the ball when he took over.)
So for all those folks out there that think that Daredevil can’t work as a straight up superhero, Mark Waid has spent the past few years proving you wrong. With two series worth of stories, Waid has had DD stopping a variety of bad guys from common hoods to super villains to international criminal organizations. The action has been over the top at times with cliffhanger endings left and right but Matt always finds a way to land on his feet and keep fighting the good fight. Now in San Francisco, Matt’s identity is public and a whole new set of problems have been thrust onto his plate. It feels very much like Daredevil has not been given a chance to breath and neither has the reader.
What’s most amazing about Waid’s run is that while it has returned to the traditional hero antics of DD’s silver age adventures, there’s still reverence for the blind man’s grittier side. As Waid’s run will soon come to an end, it’s nice to know that he left Daredevil in better shape than he found him.
So there you go, that’s my list of the Top 5 scribes to ever pen a Daredevil tale. But writing is only half the battle when it comes to comic books. Check in next week to see my picks for the Best Artists without Fear.
Marvel’s Daredevil debuts on Netflix April 10th.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!