CharactersBlind Old Man
The origin issue opens in the attic of Fogwell's Gym, where four thugs, operatives of The Fixer (an elusive figure who no doubt is already familiar to fans of this book), play poker and talk shop. Their reverie is interrupted by a muscular man, clad in red and yellow tights, a large letter "D" prominent on his chest. Confusing him for a costumed wrestler seeking work, they are naturally quite surprised when this costumed stranger beats the daylights out of them. Soon thereafter, the stranger's name is revealed: "As for who I am, you can just call me...Daredevil!"
Flashback to 1950. An 8-year-old Matthew Murdock is in heated debate with his father, former prizefighter Battling Murdock. Matthew wants to go outside and play ball with the other kids; his dad wants him to study. We learn of a promise made to Matthew's long-dead mother. We learn that for, all practical purposes, his dad is a wash-up, a has-been. We also hear Matthew promise never to be like his dad, to solve problems through logic and reasoning and not ever resort to fisticuffs.
Time passes and we see young Matthew lamenting his lot, gazing through fences, out windows at his classmates as they partake in all things athletic.The other kids mock him (with a nickname he won't soon forget) for being such a bookworm and a recluse. Swearing that these teens will one day eat their words, Matthew embarks on a secret training regiment.
Meanwhile, its becoming all too clear to Battling Murdock that his days as a boxer are numbered. He signs on to be managed by The Fixer in order to guarantee fights which guarantee money toward his son's college education. he knows its a mistake but he has to do it, nothing is more important than either a promise made or the education of his son.
While Murdock is in contract negotiations, his son is making a noble decision that will change everything. Seeing a truck hurling toward a blind man attempting to cross the street, young Matthew rushes in to save him. He pushes the handicapped man away just in the nick of time. However, the truck veers and part of its cargo--radioactive materials--falls out, striking the heroic young man in the face, blinding him.
I will point out here that it only takes a matter of days for our blinded hero to learn braille, but this is a comic book, so we'll make every attempt to ignore this implausibility, because the now-handicapped Matthew begins throwing himself even harder into his training and studies with an unparallelled zeal. This seems strange to all around him, but it is explained to us that Matthew is now gifted with unexplained powers and his overwork is to test the limits of what these powers can do. The powers: senses heightened to a superhuman level. From the book:
"My hearing is so acute, that I can tell if someone is in a room with me just by hearing their heartbeat!
"And I never forget an odor once I smell it! I could recognize any girl by her perfume...or any man by his hair tonic...
"Even my fingers have become incredibly sensitive! I can tell how many bullets are in a gun just by the weight of the barrel...
"While my sense of taste has become so highly developed that I can tell exactly how many grains of salt are on a piece of pretzel...
"But my most important new ability is in the form of a built-in radar that I seem to have developed! It enables me to walk anywhere safely, without bumping into anything."
Indeed, it would seem that Matt Murdock has every one of his five senses involuntarily working at peak capacity.
Meanwhile, Battling Jack Murdock's career is at an all-time high. But we know what he does not: all his fights were set-up and his opponents were paid by The Fixer to take a dive.
Time passes, Matt is now in college, pretending to be the average blind man. We meet his roommate, a certain Foggy Nelson, who desperately wants to see Matt's father in action. Plans are made to attend the fights the next night. At the fight, Murdock sees his son and, though told by The Fixer to go down in the first round, decides that now would be the night to make his son proud. He wins the battle through sheer determination. The Fixer's men wait for him outside the gym that night and have him killed.
The next few panels provide more exposition. Matthew graduates college as the class valedictorian. Foggy and Matthew agree to go into partnership in a law office set up by Foggy's dad. It's here that we meet Karen Page, hired on as their secretary. Both men instantly fall for her. The segment closes with our knowledge that Battling Murdock's death still haunts young Matthew. He vows revenge on his killer but knows that he would be breaking a promise made to his father. It is decided that he could use his powers as an attorney to bring the killer to justice if he only had a way to bring The Fixer in. If he uses his fists to fight for good, is he breaking a promise? Apparently not, because Matthew sews himself a costume from old t-shirts and converts his cane into a billy club-like weapon (there's even an amusing diagram that shows how the cane works, labels show "a hinge" and a "flexible handle"). He picks the name Daredevil, from the taunts he received as a child.
We then cut back to present day where the thugs from earlier are, by demand of their assailant, bringing in The Fixer. A few panels of Daredevil moving into action, flipping, kicking, punching. Every mark landed sparks a snappy comeback. However, one thug (named Slade) gets behind him and pushes him out the window. A couple amusing panels of Daredevil using his billy club to snare a flagpole and then swing back into the window, taking the room of goons by surprise.
The action is momentarily interrupted to show Foggy trying to track down Matthew, who he worries about wandering, blind and alone, through New York. At the office, we learn that Karen has the same feelings for Matthew that Foggy has for her. Foggy sulks, wishing he was as good as Matthew, and Karen shows a vapid side, by revelaing that she feels sorry for her poor blind boss.
We then cut back to The Fixer's office where Daredevil has managed to scare all but Slade and The Fixer out of the room. He wrangles a confession out of them. But they pull the carpet out from under him (literally) and manage to escape. Daredevil falls and hurts his arm. Upon recovery, he changes back into his street clothes and, as Matt Murdock, follows the scent of The Fixer's cigar through the crowded streets into the subway. Slowly, of course, to not give up the secret that he isn't really blind. He changes back into Daredevil garb and finally, through a sneak attack, corners both The Fixer and Slade. There is a laughable bit here where Daredevil catches up to The Fixer by riding along on a rolling trashcan but he finally subdues them and turns them over to the Transit Police. They naturally wonder who he is and he retorts: "The name's Daredevil...Remember it! You'll be hearing it again...I promise!"
The issue finally closes on Matthew coming back to his office where he learns from Karen and Foggy that a convicted murderer named Slade just called to know if Nelson & Murdock could defend him. Matthew laughs secretly to himself.
All in all, a good origin, though not as comprehensive as later origins (namely Miller and Romita a few decades later). The issue itself is mostly a showcase of Daredevil's athletic prowess, chockful of fight scenes where Daredevil can flip and swirl and punch, though it also makes a statement, without being too heavy-handed, about loyalty to the promise made. It is a little amusing to see this virginal depiction of Karen Page as my first exposures to her where during the "Born Again" days, which were the height of her drug addicted, porn star years. I also find it interesting that in his origin, they made Daredevil quite fallible. Not only do the villianss overtake him and escape more than once, they also actually hurt him. This is refreshing in the era of indestructible Supermen. Daredevil seems more human than other heroes were depicted back then. This humanity is what attracted me to the character in the first place and its nice to see that this element isn't something later writers "invented." It was there all along.
Daredevil (and other related characters appearing) and the
distinctive likenesses are Trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are
used WITHOUT permission.
Copyright © 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Visit Marvel.com.
ManWithoutFear.com. Created Jan.16, '96.
www.manwithoutfear.com is owned and operated by Kuljit Mithra.
Web site is © Kuljit Mithra 1996-2016.