Make Mine Marvel, Malapropist: How to Read Daredevil – pt. 2

I asked my friend (and EPA-co-writer) Nathan to join me for some back-and-forth about the status quo of Marvel’s maybe-most-put-upon hero, Daredevil.

PART ONE

Greg: Maybe it’s pointless to protest too much about one Daredevil story arc closely resembling another (too late!), because you’re bound to find variations on a theme if you followed the continued adventures of most other Marvel characters for long enough. Iron Man seems to be forever clashing with the evil dudes who piggy-back on his technological advances; the X-Men are always fighting superpowered radicals who either want to wipe out mutants for humankind’s sake, or wipe out humanity for mutantkind’s sake. (I’m not sure this trend is limited to Marvel, but then again, there isn’t one Batman or Superman story you’ll see repeated in the same way.) With Daredevil, we have the systematic ruining of Matt Murdock’s life, usually by a malevolent force with some help from Murdock himself, and/or Murdock questioning where his boundaries are as a vigilante (often overstepping them entirely).

If Daredevil’s unique among Marvel characters, it’s largely because most of the precedent-setting Daredevil stories, the DD ur-texts, were printed years after Lee/Everett/Kirby created the character. (And, I suppose, because they have so little to do with Daredevil’s origin/power set.) Frank Miller set the tone, with no small contributions from David Mazzuchelli, Klaus Janson and others. And Brian Michael Bendis, who we’ve already discussed, has done what I think is the best job to date of putting a story in motion that feels resolutely new while still riffing heavily on Miller’s work.

Regarding Andy Diggle’s current Hand story–at best, we’re seeing a break from the variation-on-a-theme tradition, with Diggle and De La Torre pushing things to their logical extreme; at worst, we’re seeing a broader variation of an already-written story, one that will invite a narrower idea of what a Daredevil story looks like. So, already knowing that you think better of Diggle’s Hand arc than I do, let me close by asking: where do you think the series can go from here?

Nathan: I’m not entirely sure Daredevil is unique among Marvel franchises in being more of a creature of the 80s than a Lee-Kirby concoction. In the case of the X-Men, for instance, Lee and Kirby’s original yellow-leotard book was probably the worst project they had done up to that time (in both a writing and art sense–boy, was Kirby drawing off-model in those first few issues), and writers today seem to take more of their cues from Chris Claremont‘s 19-year run, or more specifically, the Claremont and Byrne years.

One could also make the same case for Peter David on the Hulk, John Byrne on Fantastic Four, Walt Simonson on Thor, and Michelinie and Layton on Iron Man as the definite representations of those characters. It might be interesting to chart the anxiety of influence Marvel writers feel today constantly referencing the high points of those particular runs (even Grant Morrison’s New X-Men is as much about Claremont and Byrne as it is about new and crazy Morrison ideas). But you may be right that Miller was the first one to make Daredevil into a significant A-player (I believe that title was on the verge of cancellation when he started writing it).

‘Shadowland’ will probably conclude at the end of 2010/beginning of 2011, so what do I see happening after that? Assuming Diggle stays on (and he might not–Antony Johnston is pulling co-writing duties, often a sign that a writer is ready to move on), I feel as if it might be about time to integrate Daredevil more into the Marvel Universe proper. This may seem like a bad idea, as one of the more consistent elements of the Marvel Knights relaunch to begin with was that Daredevil concerned himself entirely with street-level threats. And maybe that’s where Daredevil should always stay. But I don’t see why, for instance, Daredevil couldn’t interact with (and maybe join) the New Avengers in his own book. Daredevil’s the kind of character who has a great rapport with his fellow superheroes, particularly Spider-Man in the days when he was one of the few who knew Spidey’s secret identity (Mephisto took care of that). I personally can’t wait to see Daredevil interact with Ghost Rider in ‘Shadowland,’ and in fact, if Diggle does leave the book, the only conceivable writer I could think of to replace him would be Jason Aaron. By the way, I’m pretty sure you haven’t read his Ghost Rider run, and you probably have never been interested in the character, but I really suggest you check it out–there’s at least one crazy moment per page spread out over his 21-issue run, and ranks up there with Brubaker’s Cap, Bendis’ Daredevil, and Fraction’s Iron Man (who knows what overwhelming “anxiety of influence” writers might battle with in 2030?).

I say, now that we’ve had a good 150 issues of Daredevil doing what we expect him to do, is there anything implicitly wrong with, for instance, sending him into space? Or battling Dr. Doom? I think Shadowland provides an opportunity for Matt Murdock to get out of Hell’s Kitchen for a while.

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