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Daredevil - Comic Book Hero

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In the world of comics, New York City has more than its fair share of heroes. The Fantastic Four and Spider-Man call it home, and during the day the city is watched over well. But come the night when all is dark, even too dark to see, a lone figure stands atop a building - a silhouette cast against the night sky. Sirens wailing, dogs barking, howling wind, arguments in the street, soft whisperings in bedrooms - he can hear them all. He listens for the things that make his job worthwhile. Hurried steps or a gunshot - and he is away, leaping from the roof. A man without fear. A man looking for justice. He is Daredevil.

Here Comes Daredevil!

Matt Murdock, son of Battlin' Jack Murdock, a boxer who made his living in New York's Hell's Kitchen, was a quiet child. He was raised by his father, who took it upon himself to provide a better life for his son by working as a 'tough' for a boxing manager named Sweeney (aka the Fixer), but Matt is unaware of his father's double life. Jack Murdock however, does teach his son that fighting is not the future and tries to guide him into academic studies and law or medicine. Matt becomes an 'A' student but is repeatedly mocked by other children in the neighbourhood. They tease him by calling him 'daredevil' and push him about, bruising the skinny boy and roughing him up. Matt doesn't want to get his father mad at him, so he secretly trains himself in various fighting styles and acrobatics, so that he can stand up to the bullies at school.

Walking down a street one day, Matt notices a blind man about to get hit by a truck. He pushes the man out of the way, but in the process the truck swerves and its load of radioactive waste topples and spills, hitting Matt and blinding him. After the accident, however, Matt's remaining senses become heightened and he is able to 'see' using a radar sense that gives him a mental image of the outlines and shapes of things in his surroundings. His hearing is so acute that he can tune in to heartbeats. He can smell the faintest odour in a room. He can touch the inky print-type on a newspaper to 'read' it.

During this time, Jack Murdock enjoys success in the boxing ring. However, he discovers all his matches have been fixed and he is now required to take a dive in his next fight as requested by the Fixer. Jack refuses to lose the match with his son in the audience, and KO's his opponent to win. He is murdered that night by the Fixer's men1.

After a few years, Matt goes on to study law at Columbia University, becoming valedictorian and gaining admiration for his abilities - both in the court room and out, despite his blindness. He adopts the identity of the superhero Daredevil to seek revenge against his father's killers and thus begins his longstanding crusade against all wrong-doings and bribery in the courtroom, bringing the criminals that slip through the net to justice.

A Devil in Red

When Daredevil first appeared, his costume was a canary yellow and red affair made from the remnants of Battlin' Jack Murdock's boxing robe. Yellow fabric sleeves and legs were matched with a yellow hood that covered eyes and nose. On top of the hood were two small billygoat-sized horns, while red leather encased the torso and groin (for protection from opponents' kicks and punches). Non-slip boots and gloves provided Daredevil purchase on his haunts around Hell's Kitchen. To finish, a billy-club holster was strapped to the left thigh and a single red 'D' was emblazoned upon his chest.

However, with some influence from his friends, Daredevil soon changed his outfit to something a little less garish. Remaining structurally the same, it was now completely made up of deep red-coloured leather and instead of a single 'D' upon the chest, the now familiar double-'D' insignia was present. Occasionally Daredevil sported a devil's tail, pitchfork and cape, but not often.

The Man without Fear

Other than remarkable athletic and gymnastic abilities, Daredevil has no superpowers. Apart from his heightened hearing, smell and touch, his only other weapon is the billy-club he wields. When Matt Murdock walks around the city he uses his cane, which when split in half forms two parts of a billy-club. One with an in-built grappling line and hook used for swinging from rooftop to rooftop and the other which can be used in a variety of ways as a weapon. Daredevil has an amazing sense of courage and is quite literally the man without fear.

Law-abiding Citizens All

Matt Murdock/Daredevil has many friends and allies, but those who know him best are:

  • Franklin Foggy Nelson - Matt's best friend at Columbia University. The pair set up Nelson and Murdock: Attorneys at Law soon after graduating. Foggy is Matt's closest and dearest friend. Sometimes they have their moments of feuding, particularly over Karen Page who Foggy fell madly in love with on first meeting, but are otherwise an inseparable team.

  • Karen Page - Hired by Foggy as secretary to the new attorneys, blonde girl-next-door Karen Page swiftly became infatuated both with Matt Murdock and Daredevil. Unaware of Foggy's love for her, she soon became Matt's confidante and it wasn't long until she knew of his dual identity. However, the peril of being so close to Daredevil was destined to make things difficult and tragic.

  • Stick - The blind man that Matt Murdock saved in his youth, Stick, is a consummate martial artist and leader of a fighting ninja clan called 'The Chaste'. He assists in training Matt to the peak of his abilities and is a welcome friend and ear on the street for Daredevil.

  • Ben Urich - Newspaper reporter Ben Urich was the first to discover the vigilante Daredevil and painted him as a hero in his articles. Unlike Spider-Man, Daredevil is a media darling and his adventures are headline news. Ben is one of the first to discover Daredevil's true identity, but honours the secret.

  • Black Widow - Natalia Alianovna Romanova, aka the Black Widow, was in addition to being one of the best spies in the world, a member of the Bolshoi ballet and had made the Soviet Olympic gymnastics team before defecting to America. She is a specialist in unarmed combat and lover of adventure, often accompanied by her chauffeur and father figure Ivan Petrovich. Operating in San Francisco, she has often teamed up with Daredevil, and the pair were even lovers at one time. Now they work apart for the sake of professionalism.

  • Elektra - Elektra Natchios, daughter of a rich Greek ambassador, was a political science major at Columbia University where she met Matt Murdock and they quickly became friends, then lovers. After her father was killed in a hostage situation she sought revenge for this and joined 'The Chaste', receiving martial arts training from Stick. Elektra then went on to prove herself as an assassin and bounty hunter with almost supernatural ninja abilities. She crossed paths with Daredevil while working for the Kingpin and their on-off relationship has Matt Murdock/Daredevil constantly looking over his shoulder.

  • Spider-Man - Fellow superhero, Spider-Man originally came to blows with Daredevil only to become one of his closest friends. They trust each other implicitly and know each other's true indentities. Having frequently worked as a team, the pair have succeeded in bringing to justice many of New York City's major criminals.

  • The Punisher - The Punisher, Frank Castle, is a direct dichotomy of Daredevil. His remorseless brand of justice is frowned upon by Daredevil; however the two are not as different as they may think. They have worked together and against each other on separate occasions, often with the same goal in mind.

Justice is Blind

Daredevil has come across many villains in his career, but some of the most intriguing and terrible are:

  • The Kingpin - The Kingpin, Wilson Fisk, is head of New York City's crime syndicate. Daredevil's nemesis (and for that matter, lawyer Matt Murdock's), he sees the whole world as a system to be manipulated and individuals as mere game pieces to be toyed with or destroyed. Daredevil has fought to bring down this crime boss and has become a real fly in his ointment. In fact the Kingpin is obsessed with Daredevil, who is one of the only people to upset his otherwise cool, calm and collected persona.

  • Bullseye - An elite assassin, Bullseye has unnaturally superb aim, being able to throw anything with unerring accuracy. He is skilled at unarmed combat and has been employed by the Kingpin and other ne'er-do-wells. He has never beaten Daredevil in combat before, developing a personal crusade to bring down the 'man without fear'.

  • The Hand - A group of ninja assassins, originally from Japan, these dark-magic assassins are mercenaries for hire. Daredevil and Elektra have a long and torrid history with the clan, both nearly becoming victims of the clan-masters and even the 'The Hand' ninjas. At odds with 'The Chaste' in New York City, street battles between the two gangs often end in bloodshed, Daredevil narrowly escaping death at the mercy of 'The Hand' on more than one occasion.

  • The Purple Man - Former spy Zebediah Killgrave has, after a chemical accident, changed into a shade of purple and obtained the ability to control people's minds. Daredevil is unaffected by the Purple Man's hypnotic ability as he is blind, and is therefore unable to see the purple haze that the criminal exudes when he wishes to use people for his own ends. The Purple Man has turned many of Daredevil's best friends against him, but the man without fear has always managed to thwart the villain and his nefarious plans.

  • The Owl - Entrepreneur Leland Owlsley is a wily character. A criminal mastermind underneath his guise of 'legitimate' businessman, he has fought Matt Murdock in the courtroom and Daredevil on the streets of Hell's Kitchen. Able to pack a punch with razor-sharp talons and fly just like his namesake, the Owl has a habit of disappearing and suddenly reappearing in Daredevil's life.

  • Mr Fear - Zoltan Drago, is a failed businessman who runs a waxworks that nobody wants to see. At a loss, he needs money somehow, and in a flash of inspiration develops a special gas that causes anyone to become terrified and run away, cowering in fear. Mr Fear wants to make a name for himself so he decides the best course of action is to use his new gas against the perfect hero - the man without fear, Daredevil. He's one of Daredevil's most unpredictable enemies and the superhero has only managed to defeat this villain with the help of his friends and allies and by looking into himself. Cunningly, whenever Mr Fear seems defeated, he arises in a new guise, to terrify the people of New York City.

  • Electro - Former line-worker for an electrical company, Max Dillon was repairing a downed power line in a thunderstorm when he was struck by lightning. The surge should have killed him, but he gained amazing new powers, enabling him to control electricity in any way; electromagnetically, electrostatically, electronically and even to tap into other people's bioelectricity. With his new-found power he decided a life of crime was on the agenda, to become the richest man on earth. He enjoys his powerful villain status and it's perhaps this overconfidence that has allowed Daredevil and Spider-Man to defeat him time and time again.

  • Typhoid Mary - Mary Walker, volunteer for the blind, is in fact a clinically schizophrenic huntress with the ability to destroy a person from the inside out merely by touching them. She is hired by the Kingpin to destroy Daredevil/Matt Murdock, which she almost succeeds in doing, leaving him for dead. However, Daredevil survives and he proceeds to hunt her down in order to get her the psychiatric help she desperately needs.

He's Called 'Daredevil'

First appearing in Marvel Comics Daredevil #1 (April 1964), Daredevil was created by writer Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett. Other contributors over the years include Wally Wood, Frank Miller, Kevin Smith, Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb, Warren Ellis and much of the Marvel writing and art team over the years.

Daredevil's popularity, like that of many Marvel characters, can be attributed to his vulnerability. Physically, he is just a normal man, he has no extra-special powers. He can't run faster than a speeding train, he can't climb smooth walls or lift ten times his own weight. He can't see through buildings or fly. He could be anybody else on the street, but he is also blind. As a superhero, many thought he would be doomed to fail, but his successes both in comics and out of them have grown and grown. He gave blind people a hero they could really empathise with. Unfortunately, as yet, Daredevil comic storylines have not been reproduced in braille or audio collections, but Daredevil's concept still stirs passions with the philosophy that Battlin' Jack Murdock drummed into his son;

'You can do ANYTHING. As long as you're not afraid.'

Daredevil adventures entered a new age under the influence of Frank Miller, who also wrote for Spider-Man and DC Comics' Batman. The character became relentless in his fight for justice and edged close to the Punisher's style of revenge with the 'new' Daredevil often leaving his enemies to die and turning away from justice and his original philosphies entirely. Horrible tragedies and extremely adult concepts in the series gave Daredevil the title of 'the thinking man's comic book'. His adventures were 'Batman-esque', leading him into a more gothic underworld and making the character much darker than first envisioned. However, the stories and art were a hit and the man without fear continues to attract fans.

Be a Hero

You can play as Daredevil on GameBoy Advance systems or as a HeroClix character. There are many T-shirts, books, posters and figurines (often film-related) available also for Daredevil fans.

Lights, Camera, Action!

Daredevil has had some minor screen parts in the past as a supporting character in the television series The Incredible Hulk but not until (ironically) legal matters were complete could Hollywood take up the man without fear. Daredevil (2003) made it onto the big screen on his own with Ben Affleck in the leading role.

Further information

For more about Daredevil try:

1In the 2003 Daredevil film it was the Kingpin.

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