I have Autism; it's part of my genetic makeup. I can't help what I am, but I can certainly help who I am. I haven't always been the most socially adept guy in the room; in fact, it's rare that I am. I have trouble relating to people. People used to beat me senseless because I was different. In high school, I climbed into my mom's car and told her I had been ordered and forced by upper classmen to act like a monkey for their amusement. It's a brutal, simple fact that I've come to accept after years of alienation. However, my inspiration to do and be better came from a Daredevil comic from the '80's, a comic that would forever change the way I perceived the world. It's called 'Born Again,' and it resulted in my rebirth.
'Born Again' is not what inspired me to write this article. This story arc merely pulled me into Daredevil's universe and kept me there; what happened next has been subjected to my own interpretation.
Before I continue, I must say this: The existence of the modern superhero depends upon and exists off the subjective perception of said superhero and the lessons/values he/she presents. You have the initial reason for creating the superhero, the force that galvanizes its creator into taking action and unleashing its creation of the hero upon a world of people who need to heed the lessons presented in this character's stories. On the other hand, though, superheroes rely upon their audience's myriad interpretations and what they mean for the future/well-being of that character. The characters we love most are the characters that echo some part of our being as humans, the characters that make us appreciate and value our mortality.
Daredevil is such a character. Blind at a young age, oblivious to the pain and concerns of his closest friends (Foggy Nelson), Matt Murdock is a man whose very existence is defined by the hopeless, hapless nature of who he really is. He constantly finds himself coming to grips with the fearsome Wilson Fisk, but more importantly, he frequently has to confront himself. This challenge, this crucible, is showcased in 'Born Again.' After Karen Page sells him out to Fisk, Murdock must rely on himself and himself alone. He's beaten senseless by the brute, but he rises again and triumphs with the grace we've come to expect from the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. It's a solitary journey, one that echoes my own journey as someone who will always grapple with Autism.
You know what, though? I find strength in that. I find strength in the ability to press on, to keep going despite the many reasons to stop. Daredevil does the same. He continues, even though he shouldn't, and, by all accounts, probably couldn't if he didn't have that unwavering commitment to what's good and just in our world. And yet, he's so vulnerable, so unabashedly exposed in the face of adversity that it's impossible for me not to relate to him. Sure, blindness isn't really relevant to Autism at all. They're two very different “conditions” that affect people in vastly different ways. But when you boil it all down to what they pick up on and what they miss, it's all fair game. It's all the same. Daredevil's heightened sensitivities make him incredibly aware of the world around him; the same goes for people with Autism, when applied wisely and correctly.
I cried when I wrote this article. It wasn't easy for me to admit that Matt Murdock represents the best and worst aspects of myself, but I feel a special kind of freedom in embracing that. People with Autism make the most with what they have, and I believe Daredevil operates from that same place of misconstrued goodness. People don't always get him. They don't always like him. Hell, some hate him. But he accepts and encourages himself and his mission, and by God, that's something.
'Born Again' opened my eyes to the grit and gravitas of Daredevil's character. It's the perfect allegory for people with Autism for one reason: it bleeds. People with Autism bleed every day, and yet most people see their suffering as cruelty or ineptitude. They are so misunderstood, so undervalued, that it pains me to watch Murdock go through the motions that almost destroyed me both as an individual and a piece of this universe.
Matt Murdock is me. I accept that knowing all that comes with it. And you know what? I couldn't be more proud.