If you haven’t figured it out by now, Daredevil is probably my favorite Marvel hero. As a kid it was initially for the shallow reason that he had the same first name as me. And although I’m not blind like Matt Murdock, I also did grow up with a physical disability which was another way I felt connected to his character. Beyond that though, I think Daredevil is the most consistently well-written character in Marvel’s catalogue. With storylines by his co-creator Stan Lee to Frank Miller to Brian Michael Bendis and Chip Zdarsky, he’s had some of the best creative teams work on his books over the years.
One name that will probably stick out to you in that list is Frank Miller. While Miller didn’t create Daredevil, but he is the person responsible for how most people view him today. Before he got involved with the character, Daredevil wasn’t considered one of Marvel’s A-list characters. After being brought onboard to draw the character for Marvel, Miller convinced the company to let him write stories for him too. Funny enough, Marvel originally agreed because they assumed the book would be canceled soon -plus no one else really wanted the job.
According to Miller, when he first came aboard the comic, the character was widely considered to be a “poor man’s Spider-Man.” He basically rebooted by making him less of a swashbuckling character and turning him into more of a ninja. He turned the book into more of a crime story. One of the most important things he did was repurpose a the criminal Kingpin character from Spider-Man’s rogues’ gallery and made him into Daredevil’s main antagonist.
Miller’s changes were so influential on the character that when he ultimately left most writers maintained this tone. And for this reason a lot of people view Daredevil as only ever being a dark and gritty character. Except that’s not really true…
Like I said before, Miller didn’t create Daredevil. He was created like many Marvel characters by Stan Lee along with artist Bill Everett. Originally, he wore a yellow and black suit that was more reminiscent of an acrobat or an actual “daredevil” so to speak. In the beginning, the stories also weren’t very dark, and Matt was seen smiling a lot more and just overall more lighthearted and carefree.
If you only know Daredevil from the MCU and this sounds familiar at all it’s because this is the version of the character that was used when he showed up earlier this year in She Hulk: Attorney at Law – right down to the yellow suit. He ended up being one of the best parts of the series. And not just because he was being played by Charlie Cox again (reprising his role from the Netflix series).
Now, as the saying goes you can’t please everyone. And not everyone welcomed some of the changes made to the character. When the first images and clips of Daredevil in She-Hulk came out, there was a minority of people who were very vocal about how lighthearted the character seemed now. People complained about the suit.
They were annoyed that Matt Murdock was smiling, joked, and was even the butt of a few jokes himself. They didn’t like how much more acrobatic he was now. These are the fans who only ever want to see the version of Daredevil where his life constantly sucks, and Matt Murdock is in a constant state of depression.
Daredevil is a character that has existed since 1964. Like almost every other comic book character, he has gone through many changes over the years. In the early 2010s he went through another change in the comics when writer Mark Waid took over the book. Waid went back to the character’s original portrayal making the book more fun again. But what made Waid’s run on the book really great was that he wasn’t erasing all the dark and gritty stories that came before. Instead, he built off of them with a lighter tone.
Fans of the character already know that Matt Murdock has had a terrible life for a superhero. He lost his father at a young age. Almost every relationship he’s been in ends in tragedy, with some of the women he falls in love with either dying or leaving him. He’s lost a few jobs, his home and even friends. His life basically sucks and he clearly suffers from depression as a result. But when Mark Waid started writing the book, he said his inspiration behind it was that instead of Matt “waking up in the morning and being a victim to all of that, he woke up one morning and made the decision that all people who suffer from darkness and depression have to make at some point, which is that you have to go ‘you know what I’m tired of my life being like this.” It didn’t ignore all the horrible things the character has lived through. It was simply having him mature and say “I need to make changes with my life.”
And that’s clearly the direction that was taken with the character in the MCU. The Netflix series was heavily inspired by Miller’s writing where Matt was constantly suffering, culminating in him losing everything in the third season and have to build himself back up. It was actually a perfect setup to now do a more fun and lighthearted version of the character that we saw when he came back in She-Hulk.
That’s another thing that makes Matt Murdock a great and relatable character. Personally, I have struggled with depression in my life. I’ve had some very dark moments. And I’m not afraid to admit that once you’ve reached your lowest you do say to yourself “You know what? I’m tired of this.” You don’t repress your bad memories, but you do start to work on how you can improve yourself and work towards being happy again. Now, to see that portrayed in a superhero story of all things is both relatable and inspiring.
So yes, there’s nothing wrong with having Daredevil portrayed in a lighthearted way. And that’s not to say that Miller never had humor in his runs of the character. Even when Frank Miller wrote him, there were still moments of humor and lightheartedness. In fact, there was one issue where Daredevil fought Stilt-Man (yes that’s a real villain) and it literally ended with that character just falling over.
Superheroes can be inherently silly and goofy, and there’s nothing wrong with embracing that silliness sometimes. As much as people criticize Marvel for their use of humor, sometimes that’s what helps general audiences connect to the world more.
When Daredevil: Born Again comes out in 2024 there’s a very strong chance it’ll be more in line with the more serious version of the character. But if it’s not, and it does continue with the sillier route, I’ll have no problem with that. Especially if it means we’re one step closer to getting a scene like this in live action.