I have been a longtime Daredevil fan. Since the mid-nineties, he has been my favorite character.
Suggested Reading: Daredevil
(Issues #168 – #191, issues #226-#233, Man Without Fear limited series)
Until recently, my fiancé did not share my infatuation, yet she still allows me to show off my collection of comic merchandise in our spare bedroom, so you can see why I am marrying her. Midway through watching the season finale of Daredevil she turns to me and says, “Damn it, honey, you turned me into a Daredevil fangirl. I need to borrow some of your books.” This is a rather daunting endeavor seeing as how the character has been around since 1964, not to mention the string of team ups and crossovers the Man Without Fear has taken part in.
That event is what inspired me to write this column. I realized many people out there are getting their first exposure to these characters through the movies and TV series, but for many it may not be their last. So to help those who may be new to the world of comic books and graphic novels, I’d like to offer some suggested reading for those who want to see more adventures of the characters we have seen on screen, starting with my longtime favorite.
For many years Daredevil was considered a gown up Spider-Man. Both characters used an acrobatic fighting style, spouted quips at their adversaries, and protected New York City, swinging around on rooftops. It was almost enough to lead to the character’s cancellation as the book shifted to bi-monthly publication.
Regardless of your feelings about Frank Miller’s current works and rather controversial remarks about women, there is no denying at one point the man was a visionary in the field of comics. When he took over on Daredevil as writer with issue #168 of volume 1, he reinvented the character in a way that to this day is considered the definitive story for Daredevil. Frank Miller introduced many concepts that were briefly touched upon in the series. The ninja organization The Hand was hinted at with Nobu, the mysterious Chinese assassin who had an unearthly feel to him. He created Stick, Matthew’s harsh trainer, and his organization The Chaste. He also introduced Elektra, a college girlfriend of Matt Murdock’s who later resurfaces as an assassin and is considered by a considerable portion of the fanbase to be his definitive love interest.
The introduction of these new aspects to the character changed him from a standard, spandex-clad superhero type into the gritty street level vigilante we have become so familiar with. Frank Miller turned Matt Murdock into a ninja, an investigator, and a man whose greatest power was no longer his radar or enhanced hearing, but his relentless inability to surrender.
Most importantly though was Miller’s re-appropriation of longtime Spider-Man villains The Kingpin and Bullseye. While Bullseye was absent from the first season of the Netflix series, The Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, was most definitely not.
It is hard to imagine Daredevil without Kingpin as an enemy nowadays, but for a long time he was just another of Spider-Man’s extensive rogues gallery. But when Miller decided to turn Daredevil to more of a film noir inspired style, The Kingpin was a natural choice for antagonist. The Kingpin became the head of New York City’s criminal underworld, a man who employed others to do his killing and shied away from public displays of villainy. He was larger than life, a representation of the plague of criminals walking free by manipulating the system to their advantage and giving orders from an office.
Daredevil and Kingpin’s long standing hatred and personal war came to define both characters. It differentiated them from the other heroes populating the Marvel Universe. Many writers have since touched on the mutually destructive nature of their vendetta.
So, if you enjoyed the Daredevil series I suggest finding some back issues from #168 onto #191 of Daredevil volume 1. You may also want to look into Miller’s later arc, Born Again, issues #226 through #233 to see just how far the two go in their war with each other. If you want to see more of Daredevil’s past, and his training with Stick, I suggest The Man Without Fear limited series. All of these are available in Trade Paperback form with Millers initial run being collected in Omnibus.
(images taken from Man Without Fear trade paperback, Daredevil Frank Miller Omnibus and Daredevil Born Again trade paperback)
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