As many of you may already know, 2014 is the 50th anniversary of Daredevil comics. So this week I wanted to discuss why I think Matt Murdock is the best character in comics. I’m going to focus mostly on the personality and character traits of Matt/Daredevil for this argument, instead of powers/abilities, because that is less interesting to me and has been done plenty. I want to open up a dialogue as well, for us all to discuss what makes a character great. I’m sure they’ll be different opinions, but discussion and debate is what this site is all about, and I’m interested to hear what you guys/gals all think. This article is obviously just my opinion, but I’m also going to do my best to support that opinion with observations and evidence; much like my favorite fictional lawyer would need to do to convince a jury of his peers. I encourage those of you who comment to try the same approach, I think it ‘ll be a lot of fun. So without further adieu, NBC! court is in session, CLACK!CLACK!CLACK!
Opening Statement: Ladies and gentlemen, I’m here today to prove beyond reasonable doubt, That Mr. Matthew Michael Murdock is the best character in comics. This brings up a significant question, what makes a good character? I believe a good character has charisma, strong morals, noble intentions, and an ability to generate sympathy and admiration from its audience. A good character should exhibit qualities we strive to imitate, and keep our attention engaged. I think there is a level of relatablity needed to be a truly great character, because after all, if we can’t empathize with a person we have no stake in the outcome of their stories. All the qualities I have just mentioned are possessed by Mr. Murdock. He is as much a hero in his everyday life, as he is in his super one. He always puts the safety of others before his own, the well-being of the community is his number one goal. He fights for those who cannot do it alone, and he never gives into fear or intimidation. He comes from a modest background, so he understands the value of hard work, and he is a true friend to all those who seek his help or companionship. Through evidence gathered from his chronicled adventures, I will show how he has exemplified a good character, and why his story is compelling enough to be considered the best; thank you.
The Evidence: From his beginnings as a poor kid in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, Matt was the type of person who believed in doing what was right. His origin story is the perfect example, sacrificing himself to protect an innocent old man from being hit by a truck. The result was that he was left blind, Matt did this with no regard for his own safety, it was instinctual, he innately felt the need to help others. Most of the time characters become heroes due to outside interference like gamma radiation, or government experiments; other times it’s just unlucky twists of fate, such as radioactive spiders, or the loss of a loved one. I don’t know of any other heroes who became what they are because something went wrong while they were actively doing something heroic. I think that sets Matt apart from a lot of other characters. His desire to do right continued in his personal life after the accident, despite his disability Matt fought on, and worked hard to become an attorney. In his everyday life he is doing whatever he can to help protect and uphold people’s legal rights.
Another thing that separates Matt is his strong personal and professional relationships. Foggy Nelson, his best friend, is an integral character in the Daredevil stories. Matt trusts him and listens to his opinions. He is often the voice of reason when Daredevil’s adventures start to threaten Matt’s personal or professional stability, and he can be a sounding board for when Matt screws up and needs someone to talk to. Ben Urich, a reporter and trusted confidant, has played a prominent role–especially in the Bendis/Maleev run–supporting Matt’s fight against corruption and crime in the city. More than any other hero out there Matt has friends who reciprocate his commitment and friendship. He never quarrels with other heroes like Batman, Iron Man, or Hulk have; it’s just the opposite, he is a person many other heroes want to team up with or consult. He’s worked with Black Widow, Spider-Man, Luke Cage and Iron fist, and many others throughout the years. He’s even teamed with people like Frank Castle, whom he doesn’t get along with due to philosophical differences, when circumstances require it. No one could ever say that Matt Murdock is not a team player, which only enhances his likability as a character.
Being relatable is hard for many characters, they are often incredibly wealthy, or genius level intellectuals who can seem distant to us as readers. Matt Murdock does the opposite; his fallibility when it comes to women, or other decisions is completely relatable. We’ve all screwed up in romance, or wished we could change some behaviors and choices in hindsight. It’s human nature, and even though Matt Murdock has radioactively heightened senses that allow him to assume the mantle of Daredevil; he is also VERY human. When a character is always perfect, like Superman, or Captain America–both of whom I enjoy reading about–it can sometimes grow mundane after a while. When a character is never outsmarted or always has a perfect backup plan, like Batman, there is less suspense when danger is afoot. Matt has lost loved ones; his parents, Karen Page, Elektra, and Milla due to a number of reasons, but most prominent is his vigilante career getting in the way, sometimes to the tune of direct murder by his enemies. While I thankfully cannot relate to this specific way of losing a girlfriend, I think we can all lament along with him when one of his ladies is no longer apart of his life.
The final reason I think Matt Murdock is the best, is his versatility as a hero. There’s a reason Daredevil stories have a murderer’s row of creators who’ve all spent time in Hell’s Kitchen, many of whom have done some of their best work with the crimson crusader. With a lot of other characters, there isn’t a lot of room to rework the status quo, writers have to maneuver the established framework of a character, and too much deviation from what has come in the past will not work. The opposite seems to be the case with Matt/Daredevil. Stan Lee, Roger Mackenzie, Frank Miller, Ann Nocenti, Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis, Ed Brubaker, and currently Mark Waid have all spent time chronicling Matt’s life, and they each put their own personal spin on his adventures. He’s been a swashbuckler, a pulp hero, a ninja, crime solver, a convicted criminal, and now basically a hybrid of them all. He’s had the benefit of artists such as Bill Everett, Gene Colan, Wally Wood, David Mazzucchelli, John Romita Jr., Alex Maleev, Michael Lark, Paolo Rivera, Chris Samnee, and a host of other amazing pencillers. His personality gives writer’s the room to put him through many different situations. After Miller was done with him, it seemed that he was never going to catch a break again, as the inner-turmoil just fit the dark setting of Hell’s kitchen so well, and his life was rife for material with which to put him through the ringer. Recently however it seems Mark Waid has found a way to use his tumultuous past, and turn it into a reason for Matt to accept his lot and instead approach it with optimism. It’s gotten a lot of attention for it’s lighter tone, but that’s not the case entirely, Waid has just kept the brooding to a minimum. He’s decided to have Matt fight the pain away; using the boxer’s spirit passed down from his father, to keep getting up after each blow.
Closing: I realize this article comes from a bias, I just happen to really connect with Matt/Daredevil as a character, and I’m sure we all have our reasons for which character speaks to us the most. I hope that I at least got my point across using examples from the book, I didn’t cite specific instances because I thought that would read pretty boring, so instead chose to go with generalities. I hope it did Matt justice, and if you haven’t checked out his stories before, maybe this will motivate you to do so. Let me know in the comments whether you agree, disagree, or just think I’m playing favorites. If you want you can make an argument for your favorite hero. Thanks for reading!