'Daredevil' Netflix series will lift from some famous DD stories

By Andrew A. Smith

Tribune Content Agency

Netflix’s new series Daredevil won’t offer the most famous Daredevil story. But it will have elements of some very good Daredevil stories.

Daredevil premieres April 10 on Netflix, which will offer all 13 one-hour episodes at once. That’s to encourage binge-watching, especially since Netflix has referred to the 13 shows as “one long movie” in various places. It will be followed by three more series, A.K.A. Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and The Defenders (which will team up these characters, a la Avengers).

And, yes, this series is based on the same Marvel Comics character as the movie that starred Ben Affleck. That movie told the most famous DD story – the one with star-crossed lover Elektra (Jennifer Garner) – which is probably why the TV show is lifting from other Man Without Fear tales.

And what are those stories? I’m so glad you asked.

Writer/Editor Stan Lee (co-creator of most of the early Marvel Universe) and artist Bill Everett (creator of the Sub-Mariner) thought it would be a cool idea to have a handicapped superhero when they collaborated on Daredevil #1 in 1964. That first issue sketched out a brief origin, in which young Matt Murdock heroically pushes an old man out of the way of a truck carrying radioactive waste, and is struck by a can of the stuff, which blinds him – but heightens his remaining senses to superhuman levels, and gives him a “radar sense” that operates sort of like the echo-location of bats.

Matt grows up with his father, boxer “Battlin’” Jack Murdock, who is murdered by criminals for refusing to throw a fight. Murdock senior pushed Matt to study and become a lawyer, to avoid his own ignominious career, and so he does, despite taunts of “daredevil” at school for his bookish ways. He graduates with best friend Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, opens a law office with him, and hires pretty would-be actress Karen Page as secretary. Oh, and he trains secretly in boxing and martial arts. That gives him the skills necessary to don a garish concoction of red and yellow boxing gear – well, he is blind -- and take down his father’s killers.

Netflix’s Daredevil takes place in the early years described by that first issue, so in addition to Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), we’ll meet Foggy (Eldon Hensen), Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) and Battlin’ Jack (John Patrick Hayden). And if you want to read that debut book for yourself – and why wouldn’t you? -- it’s available in a variety of reprints, including Marvel Masterworks: Daredevil Volume One and Essential Daredevil Volume One. As a bonus, both of those volumes contain Daredevil #7, a story in which DD switched to his more familiar red outfit, and in which he battled the far stronger Sub-Mariner – all drawn by the legendary Wally Wood. It’s still considered a classic.

But that’s not all! Marvel revealed more of Daredevil’s early life in subsequent years, and Netflix will pilfer some of that as well. Here are two books containing the bulk of that information:

* Daredevil: The Man Without Fear collects the miniseries of the same name, written by Frank Miller (300, Sin City) and drawn by John Romita Jr. (Uncanny X-Men, Superman). It is the definitive origin of Daredevil, detailing the forces in his early life and college years that produced a lawyer who follows the law by day and a vigilante who routinely breaks it by night.

* Daredevil: Yellow collects a miniseries written by Jeph Loeb (now a major player in Marvel Films) and drawn by Tim Sale (Superman for All Seasons, Batman: The Long Halloween). It weaves in and out of the story in Daredevil #1, adding depth and detail.

Daredevil will also tell the story of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of Crime (Vincent D’Onofrio). The Kingpin, originally a Spider-Man villain, was brought in as Hornhead’s arch-foe by Frank Miller when he was writing Daredevil in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this run on Daredevil, Miller also beefed up Bullseye as a villain, invented Elektra (and her back story with Murdock), created Daily Bugle crime reporter Ben Urich (who knows DD’s secret ID) and re-invented the Man Without Fear as, essentially, a ninja superhero. He even brought in a sensei, a mysterious blind man named Stick, who was inserted into Murdock’s past to explain where Daredevil got his mad combat skills.

There’s no sign of Bullseye or Elektra, but most of Miller’s characters and themes will find their way into the Netflix series. Whereas Kingpin didn’t appear in Daredevil comics until 1981, this series inserts him at the very beginning of Murdock’s extra-curricular crime-fighting career, when DD is wearing a ninja outfit. The caustic and tough-love Stick appears in three episodes, played by veteran Scott Glenn. Vondie Curtis-Hall will portray Urich, although he won’t be with the Bugle in this series (since Sony Pictures has motion-picture rights to Spider-Man, and therefore the Bugle).

Even some of Miller’s minor additions to the mythos will make an appearance. Daredevil often visited a dockside dive called Josie’s to beat information out of lowlifes. Sure enough, Josie (Susan Veron) is credited for five episodes. Miller often used two thugs named Turk and Grotto as comedy relief, and the credits list Turk (Rob Morgan) for five episodes.

As prep for the series, you could do worse than read Miller’s first run on Daredevil. And Marvel’s made that easy, by publishing the three-volume series Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller. Those three books collect Miller’s star turn on the series, from the early days where he was merely the artist (Roger McKenzie was the writer) to Kingpin’s entrance, Urich’s introduction, the Elektra saga,  and more.

Finally, the trailers, interviews, press releases and such hint at another Daredevil story, perhaps his best. And it, too, was written by Miller, on his second bite at Daredevil in 1986. This one is called “Born Again,” and it’s a doozy.

Remember Karen Page? She was written out of the series sometime in 1970, sent to Hollywood to become an actress in a soap opera. This freed up Matt Murdock to have a more active social life, and honestly, he makes the most of it. But in 1986, in Miller’s second run (this time with artist David Mazzuchelli) we learn that life has taken a bad turn for Karen. We see her as a junkie … selling Matt Murdock’s secret identity for a fix. That information makes it way to The Kingpin, and boy, does he make use of it!

Most bad guys would simply reveal Daredevil’s identity, and ruin Murdock’s life that way. But Fisk didn’t become The Kingpin by being unimaginative. Using that secret knowledge, Kingpin literally dismantles Murdock’s life. He gets Murdock disbarred, blows up his house, alienates him from his friends … within just a few issues Murdock is living on the streets, hungry and hallucinating. Of course, given the title, you know the Man Without Fear will get his revenge. Daredevil: Born Again is well worth reading, whether the Netflix series uses any of it or not.

Netflix will also use a few other Daredevil villains, like Melvin Potter (The Gladiator) and Leland Owsley (The Owl). But it looks like it’s Kingpin’s show most of the way, so you might as well pick up Daredevil: Love and War by Miller and artist Bill Sienkiewicz, which gives you an idea what makes Wilson Fisk tick.

With all that going on, who’s going to even miss Elektra? Besides Jennifer Garner, I mean.

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Great column Cap!  I love the idea that I can binge watch the whole thing if I want, which I probably will!

Great column! I love the Mark Waid run of DD. I bought volume 1 of the Frank Miller Daredevil but haven't read it yet.

 

I'll be at Megacon when Daredevil is released on Netflix. I'll have to binge it when I get back.

I have only the vaguest idea what the heck Netflix is. If there's no other way to watch it I'll just give it a pass.

I will indeed binge this soon enough. Right now, however, there is a Watchathon going on through Xfinity. I've binged on The Newsroom and Parks and Rec (even though I already have on-demand through Xfinity), and now I'm into Shameless, which I won't be able to complete at this point, but I really need to keep up with because I'm addicted! But yes, I am planning on Daredevil being my next addiction.

The wife and I caught up on "Outlander" during the Watchathon. We will binge on DD, too, but I don't know when. I only have a one-day weekend this week. (Sob!)

I'm not a binger; I don't think I've ever watched more than two TV episodes in a row. I watched the first Daredevil episode last night, and it was just as good as I expected. I've never been a fan of the character, but I'm looking forward to watching the rest. Probably a couple of episodes a week, so it will take awhile.

We watched the first Daredevil and enjoyed it. I've never read any of the Frank Miller run so don't know what is "lifted" and what isn't. I'm familiar with the Silver Age stories and have started the Mark Waid trades.

Bingeing entirely depends on time available so it will be easier when most other things are in reruns. We never watch more than two or three at a time.

I was never much of a Daredevil fan in the Silver Age. He seemed like a character with no reason to exist -- his personal life wasn't particularly interesting and anything superhero-y he could do, Spider-Man could do better. Those of you out there who enjoyed the Silver Age DD, feel free to tell me what I'm missing.

When Miller came along, he re-invented the character. I don't know if he meant to, but he did. First, he made Daredevil unique from Spider-Man and others, by re-imagining him as a ninja superhero. Stick even said at one point that the radioactive waste didn't give him radar sense, implying that anyone could develop the sense through training. (Stick himself is blind and "sees" as well as Murdock.) And, of course, he fought lots of ninjas when Miller came up with The Hand.

Secondly, he changed the tone of the series, to one where Murdock's superhero persona wasn't happy-go-lucky any more (which, again, was too much like Spider-Man). It was grim 'n' gritty, which at the time was fairly new.

And he built a new status quo (the Hell's Kitchen protector thing), with new supporting characters, including Kingpin, Bullseye, Elektra (for a while), The Hand, Stick, The Chaste and Ben Urich.

From my perspective, it finally gave Daredevil a reason to exist, and I enjoyed reading it for the first time. Now, since that time the grim 'n' gritty thing has worn out its welcome, so once again the character has been re-invented, this time by Mark Waid, and I am enjoying his run, too. The only run of Daredevil that really stands out as substandard to me is, oddly, the Silver Age. Late Silver Age, mainly, with the likes of Man-Bull and Angar the Screamer. But some of the Thomas/Colan stuff didn't do anything for me, either. I know it's heresy, but I never cared for Colan on superhero titles.

Captain Comics said:

I was never much of a Daredevil fan in the Silver Age. He seemed like a character with no reason to exist -- his personal life wasn't particularly interesting and anything superhero-y he could do, Spider-Man could do better. Those of you out there who enjoyed the Silver Age DD, feel free to tell me what I'm missing.

When Miller came along, he re-invented the character. I don't know if he meant to, but he did. First, he made Daredevil unique from Spider-Man and others, by re-imagining him as a ninja superhero. Stick even said at one point that the radioactive waste didn't give him radar sense, implying that anyone could develop the sense through training. (Stick himself is blind and "sees" as well as Murdock.) And, of course, he fought lots of ninjas when Miller came up with The Hand.

Secondly, he changed the tone of the series, to one where Murdock's superhero persona wasn't happy-go-lucky any more (which, again, was too much like Spider-Man). It was grim 'n' gritty, which at the time was fairly new.

And he built a new status quo (the Hell's Kitchen protector thing), with new supporting characters, including Kingpin, Bullseye, Elektra (for a while), The Hand, Stick, The Chaste and Ben Urich.

Oh, I think Frank Miller fully well intended to re-invent Daredevil. The book had been tottering on cancellation since the '70s, and when he took it on, it wasn't even monthly; it was either bi-monthly or eight times a year, as I recall. Nobody much cared what happened in it, which is why Miller had a free hand to make the changes he made. 

I've been recently re-reading through some Silver Age/Bronze Age Daredevil up until Miller took over. There was some stuff that was fun, some other stuff that was cringe-worthy, and a fair amount of mediocre. I somewhat enjoyed Silver Age Daredevil for the goofiness, and some of the Bronze Age material is okay, but really it didn't take off until Miller started writing it. Unfortunately, over the years, the vast majority of creators on the book have seen fit to just regurgitate everything Miller did, so we get an endless cycle of Bullseye/Kingpin/The Hand until there's really nothing left to say about any of them. It's why Waid's run is such a breath of fresh air.

He's never been a first tier character. One reason Bullseye and Kingpin keep showing up is his poor rogues gallery. What other hero fought two different guys dressed like frogs about a year apart?

Randy Jackson said:

I've been recently re-reading through some Silver Age/Bronze Age Daredevil up until Miller took over. There was some stuff that was fun, some other stuff that was cringe-worthy, and a fair amount of mediocre. I somewhat enjoyed Silver Age Daredevil for the goofiness, and some of the Bronze Age material is okay, but really it didn't take off until Miller started writing it. Unfortunately, over the years, the vast majority of creators on the book have seen fit to just regurgitate everything Miller did, so we get an endless cycle of Bullseye/Kingpin/The Hand until there's really nothing left to say about any of them. It's why Waid's run is such a breath of fresh air.



Ron M. said:

He's never been a first tier character. One reason Bullseye and Kingpin keep showing up is his poor rogues gallery. What other hero fought two different guys dressed like frogs about a year apart?

That is entirely the fault of the writers. 

Sure, Daredevil has a poor rogue's gallery, but that says to me the writer isn't writing either the hero or the villain to their potential. Like the Purple Man, who wasn't skin-crawlingly evil until Brian Michael Bendis made him so. 

One thing I like about Mark Waid is that when he takes on a title, as he did for Captain America (twice), the Fantastic Four and now Daredevil, he begins by telling a story that we haven't seen a thousand times over. With Captain America, he had the President of the United States send him into exile. With the Fantastic Four, we learn Reed Richards' deepest secret -- he feels guilty that his arrogance transformed his family, and he tries to make it up to them by turning them into celebrities so they won't be regarded as freaks.

And with Daredevil? The cycle of Bullseye/Kingpin/The Hand is broken. I greatly appreciate that.

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