It's often said that comic books are the new myths. But if this is true, and superheroes have become famous enough to be equated to the legendary myths of old, then we should give credit to the equally legendary imaginations of the ones who made them.
Our favorite superheroes wouldn't be here if not for the creators who worked for months, sometimes years on end to bring them to life. Just as there were ancient philosophers who told the stories of the Greek gods, there were writers who first told the stories of our favorite heroes, including Daredevil. Each contributed their own flair and developed certain aspects of the character, and we can thank each for adding to Daredevil's mythology in a unique way.
Join me as we journey through Daredevil's history and acknowledge his incredible creators and their contributions to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen!
Daredevil was first created in 1964 by Marvel giants Stan Lee and Bill Everett, with input from Jack Kirby. From the very beginning, Daredevil wasn't the same as any other superhero Marvel had created. Why? Because, along with his character design and original costume, Lee and Everett added an element that would define and be a staple of his character forever: they made him blind.
The decision to make him blind also gave him the nickname "The Man Without Fear" - Daredevil would regularly jump into dangerous situations without having any clue what he was getting into because of his inability to see. Yet he always run into dangerous situations to help people without fail, utterly fearless in his desire to do good, a character trait that his creators gave Matt Murdock even before he went blind. This trait would change his life forever.
As he walked down the street one ordinary day, the young Matt spied a runaway vehicle speeding toward a blind old man, and without thinking, he sprung into action. He ran toward the man and pushed him out of the way and the truck hit him, instead. But the truck was carrying barrels of radioactive material (because this was comics in the '60s, after all), which splashed over his face, rendering him blind. But the radioactive material also gave him enhanced senses, allowing him to fight crime while blind, and transforming him into the courageous superhero Daredevil.
And thus, a new Marvel legend was born, and a very risky one at that. When speaking about Daredevil's creation in documentary film, The Men Without Fear, Lee mentioned his concern that Daredevil would be too flawed a character, and that him being blind would offend people, mainly the blind community.
On the contrary, Daredevil became a hit. Tons of readers sent in fan mail and letters, many of which included money for charities for the blind. Others were happy just to see a blind superhero exist in comics.
But superheroes are known as much for their iconic looks as their personalities, and stories, and Daredevil is no different. After Everett's departure, the illustration for the series was taken over by Wally Wood, and he created the look that defines the character today. Two issues after changing the symbol to the double "D" logo, in Daredevil #7, Wood would update the costume yet again. When Daredevil fought Namor the Sub-Mariner in one of his most famous battles, for the first time ever Matt Murdock was wearing the costume we know and love today — the simple red suit.
That costume is the one that most Daredevil fans associate with the character, and for good reason. The dark red suit, with the horns and the red eyes, were visually striking and loaded with symbolism.
There were several writers and artists after Wally Wood that contributed to the Daredevil story, like comic legends Jack Kirby and John Romita, Sr. In 1971, writer Gerry Conway took over the Daredevil series, and, for a short time, took the character out of Hell's Kitchen and into the city of San Francisco.
Murdock's stint in San Francisco didn't last long, and it wasn't until 1975 that we got yet another major contribution to the Daredevil we know today. With Conway gone and a new writer, Marv Wolfman, taking over the series, Daredevil was introduced to his most prominent and psychotic enemy: Bullseye.
A dangerous killer with the skill to use practically anything as a deadly projectile weapon, Bullseye prides himself in his ability to never miss his target - except for Daredevil. Pitting a blind hero against a villain with precise aim obviously proved an interesting combination, and Bullseye was there to stay.
But Daredevil fans who know Bullseye are likely also familiar with another main player in the Daredevil story.
Enter Elektra Natchios, Daredevil's main love interest and a fellow superhero. Elektra was introduced to the Daredevil mythos by one of its most prolific writers, Frank Miller. Miller originally joined the team in 1979, as a penciller for then writer Roger McKenzie.
After McKenzie was fired, Frank Miller took over as Daredevil's lead writer and penciller. Miller would go on to contribute more than any writer to the story of Daredevil, introducing characters such as Elektra and The Kingpin (who was previously a Spider-Man villain), along with the concept of Eastern culture and mythology as a large part of Matt Murdock's story.
If you look at any aspect of Daredevil's story today, you'll notice that it's heavily influenced by things such as ninjas and martial arts. This largely because of Miller and his introduction of the evil ninja organization known as The Hand. It may not seem like such a big deal to fans today as those elements have been Daredevil staples for several decades, but back when Miller first started writing Daredevil, it was a very big deal to see all of these changes being made to a character who once had the nickname "The Sightless Swashbuckler."
This was made clear when Miller went back in the past and updated Matt Murdock's origin story to include a new character, Stick. Blind and a master of "radar sense," Stick taught Matt martial arts and how to use his advanced senses to fight crime. It was with this that Miller cemented his contributions to Daredevil, by changing the very origin story of the character in the Marvel universe.
During his time writing the series, Miller really made the character his own. His run on Daredevil drastically changed not only the character, but several aspects of his story. Miller's take on Daredevil was incredibly dark and gritty, and Matt Murdock went from an average crime-fighter to a brutal vigliante, even an antihero.
Daredevil started dealing with darker themes, such as the death of loved ones and his own wavering morality as he took the law into his hands. This take on the character was eventually toned down, with the Daredevil of today being more of a hard-hitting vigilante than an antihero willing to kill if he has to. But even so, Miller's take on the character transformed him forever, and Matt Murdock was never the same after.
But Miller wasn't the last to leave a lasting mark on the character. After Frank Miller came Ann Nocenti, who was actually the series' longest-running regular writer.
During the late 1980s, Nocenti brought the focus of the story back to Matt Murdock's civilian life, emphasizing his life as a lawyer. Murdock's law practice was there from practically the beginning, but it was Nocenti who really dug into it, having Matt deal with issues like drug abuse and animal rights, and moving outside his usual social sphere.
Tackling the seemingly impossible task of following in Miller's towering footsteps, Nocenti shaped the Daredevil story in a fresh way, regularly putting the character outside his comfort zone with team-ups and grounding him in unfamiliar territory. Her greatest influence upon Daredevil's character is that she emphasized and brought out the fearless aspect of the character, turning him into exactly what his namesake implied: a daredevil who was not afraid to take risks and was always throwing himself into uncomfortable situations if it challenged him or was the right thing to do. In many ways, Nocenti's time on Daredevil was the definitive portrayal of the "Man Without Fear" aspect to Matt Murdock's persona, and it's an aspect that has been considerably more pronounced in his comics since.
The next major contributor is a name comic fans are very familiar with: Brian Michael Bendis. Joining the Daredevil team as lead writer in 2001, Bendis arguably contributed as much as Frank Miller to the mythos, with IGN calling his four-year run "one of the greatest creative tenures in Marvel history," with some even going so far as to say that Bendis' work rivals that of Miller's.
Not only did Bendis introduce Matt's future wife, Milla Donovan, but he also wrote one of the most pivotal stories in the character's history with the outing of Daredevil's secret identity and his subsequent surrender to the FBI. Everyone now knowing he was Daredevil meant a whole new world of complications for Matt Murdock, including having to protect himself and his loved ones from his countless enemies. Under Bendis' run, the character of Daredevil was never the same.
While he never went as dark as Miller, Bendis reverted back to the crime noir elements that were so prevalent during Miller's run. He wrote perhaps the most gritty and grounded version of Daredevil that we've seen, the one that still influences his comic today, along with the Netflix series. With Bendis, Matt Murdock, the man, was explored just as much as Daredevil himself was, with the story being as much about diving into the character as it was about the villains or the crimefighting itself, a character study upon which current writers continue to draw. Rather than it being a superhero story where Matt Murdock's real life and persona were secondary, Bendis flipped that on its head. His influence on Daredevil was to turn it into a gritty, realistic story that just happened to have Daredevil running around.
As you can see, there have been many people who have contributed to the character of Matt Murdock. It's because of these people that Daredevil is one of the greatest modern myths ever made, and without them, we wouldn't have the Daredevil we know and love today.
Header image credit: Chris Williams