Interview with Jed MacKay
(January 2019)

The writer of the MAN WITHOUT FEAR mini series talks about getting his break at Marvel, and we delve into the mind of Matt Murdock. Many thanks for the interview!

Kuljit Mithra: Nice to chat with you. I think this MAN WITHOUT FEAR series is the first time I'm reading your comics work. I recently found out that you are Canadian (I live in a suburb of Toronto), so I wanted to get an idea of your background, and how you got into comics?

Jed MacKay: I'm from rural PEI and didn't play hockey, so that meant I read a lot, and a lot of that reading was from the boxes of comics my dad had from the 70s. That love of comics then turned to contemporary stuff in the late 90s and early 2000s, and around then I wanted to make some comics of my own. I spent a lot of time on the internet hanging around message boards frequented by young artists on the come-up, in particular EnterVOID, where I hooked up with my friend Sheldon Vella. We made comics for a few years, me writing, him drawing, just goofing around and having fun. Later on, Sheldon got called up by Marvel to do an 8 pager for X-Men: Serve and Protect, which he brought me on to write, and which was my first Marvel gig. Four years later, that led to another 8 pager in Spider-Verse #2, and then another four years after that we got called up to do Edge of Spider-Geddon #1. Sheldon had to bow out due to scheduling, but I jumped on it, which led to more opportunities with Marvel (Daughters of the Dragon, Ghost Panther, some more Spider-Geddon stuff). I've been lucky to have had some pretty steady work in comics since, for which I have to thank editor Nick Lowe, who really gave me a chance.

Mithra: With this mini series, you're dealing with the end of Charles Soule's run, and leading up to Chip Zdarsky and Marco Checchetto's relaunch in February. Everything is coming out now in January weekly, but this must have been in the works for a while... I remember seeing an announcement in October, but how long has it been for you to write these scripts, because there must have been lots of coordination between all involved. And you had to deal with a lot of secrecy, especially your involvement.

MacKay: The announcement came pretty close on the heels of my getting the job, actually, as I think I signed on at the end of September. I know I spent most of October writing the series, and most of November and December going over the art as it came in. Everything was pretty hush-hush as you'd expect- the whole Death of Daredevil arc had a lot of people on the edge of their seats, and we couldn't really say anything about Man Without Fear until that resolved.

Mithra: Was this series something you pitched, or had Marvel come to you with a general idea of what they needed and you pitched based on that? What was the overall theme of your pitch?

MacKay: I didn't pitch, no. Devin Lewis, Daredevil editor, emailed me about the series, and laid out what they were looking for in Man Without Fear, giving me a start point from the end of the Soule run and an end point at the start of the Zdarsky run, and we worked together to get it going from there.

Mithra: At the time of this interview, issues #1 and #2 have come out. #1 focused a lot on who "Daredevil" is, and #2 on Matt's love interests. There are a lot of things to me that suggest you are a Daredevil fan. Am I right, or are you doing a lot of great research?

MacKay: I am a fan of Daredevil, but I had to do a lot of catching up on his recent history! I really enjoy doing research dives on characters in preparation for working with them- there's always great stuff that you can dig up, especially with a character like Daredevil. #2 was the most research-heavy- digging into the women in Matt's life makes for pretty fascinating reading (if tragic, haha).

Mithra: Originally Danilo Beyruth was solicited to draw all the issues, but now several artists have come onboard (I'm guessing because keeping a weekly deadline is difficult even for the fastest artists). How has it been working with Beyruth, Landini, Coello, and all these great covers by Hotz, and all the amazing variants?

MacKay: I'm not sure if the plan was ever for Danilo to draw the whole series- I think the other artists just hadn't been confirmed yet. It's been a real embarrassment of riches on this series- one of the delights of writing comics is seeing the pages come back, and how the artists almost always make it work even better that I had visualized when I was writing it. And with a weekly, there were new pages to see every day! It was really fascinating to see everything come together, to see everyone's different interpretations of the characters and how they interacted. Each artist brings so much to the table- Danilo's revolting rendering of Fear and Pain in #1 and a banger of a spread in #5 was amazing, Stefano's stark depictions of Matt and Fear in the dark #2, Iban's high-octane super hero action scenes are unstoppable in #3, and Paolo's Kingpin in #4 is, I think, a modern classic. It was a real treat to see how each of them realized the first page "MAN WITHOUT FEAR" motif through the story.

And that's not even touching on the covers- Kyle's covers are instantly iconic, and the wealth of variants is incredible. That Declan Shalvey cover for #4 always sticks out in my mind.

Mithra: Do you agree with these statements: "Matt Murdock is Daredevil" and "Daredevil is Matt Murdock"

MacKay: I agree with the first, and not really with the second. Here's why.

What I find most compelling about Matt is how much he needs Daredevil. Matt, more than a lot of contemporaries, chafes under the limitations of his secret ID. Matt never seems to take comfort in his civilian life, in normality. He needs to be Daredevil, where he can be free. That's why he keeps dragging people into his superhero secret life- even when he made everyone forget he was Daredevil, he told Foggy again after what, 45 minutes? Matt is addicted to Daredevil, and like any addict, he's paying for it.

Daredevil is Matt Murdock? Not necessarily. Danny Rand was Daredevil in Civil War, Black Panther was the Man Without Fear after Shadowland. Even Blindspot brings up the idea of putting on the horns in MWOF #2. Anyone can be Daredevil. What's interesting to me is who needs it.

Mithra: One of the things so far in issues #1 and #2 is Matt's focus on "pain"... his own and the pain he has caused others. As a character, is it fun to write someone who seems to be trying his best to be a "hero" but treats those close to him so poorly? Is he finally realizing this?

MacKay: I think that's kind of the heart of Matt- his addiction to Daredevil isn't healthy. It's ruined his life, over and over again, moreso than any of his fellow masks. That's a lot of the appeal of Daredevil- he's a pain junky that can't quit, even when the people around him, the people he loves, are getting killed for it.

Mithra: The use of Daredevil's different personas in the different costumes talking to Matt was quite good in issue #1. In addition to "pain" you've got Matt confronting his own fears. Is Matt afraid of what will become of those close to him (or himself), or is he afraid what his life will be like without Daredevil? Because it seems he wants to let part of his life go.

MacKay: Matt's afraid of everything at this point. He's afraid that he won't get better. He's afraid to try in case he makes it worse. He's afraid to let people close to him, he's afraid of being alone... he's not the Man Without Fear anymore. The floodgates are open, and over the years, the waters have risen.

Mithra: In issue #2, we have Karen narrating and we see all of Matt's love interests. You touched on this in issue #1 as well... does Matt feel all that has happened is his fault? I liked that Kirsten returned, but once again Matt has to "save" her by treating her poorly. Is Foggy really the only person that can be in Matt's life?

MacKay: I touched on this earlier, with Matt bringing Foggy back into Daredevil's orbit (immediately) after the whole Purple Children thing, but I think that Foggy is the one touchstone that Matt can't go without. He pushes Kirsten away because he's afraid, because he's broken and frightened and can't keep it down anymore. He hurts Kirsten to keep her safe, not because of what might happen but, given his history, what will happen. Look at what happened to Mia, the cruelty of it. Of course Matt thinks it's all his fault.

Mithra: Thank you for the interview. I look forward to seeing what the Defenders have to say in issue #3 and what's ahead for #4 and #5. Any hints you can give, or should we just stick with the solicits with the Kingpin and possibly a new Daredevil? Thanks again.

MacKay: So far we've seen Matt with the people closest to him- his best friend, the woman who loves him. In #3 we see him with his "work friends", but in #4 the Kingpin comes calling. Your friends know you, but who knows you better than the person who hates you? And #5, well...

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(c) 2019 Kuljit Mithra & Jed MacKay
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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