Daredevil is what I think of as a B-list super hero – he doesn’t have the instant public recognition of Superman, Batman or Spider-Man; but he’s popular enough to have sustained his own comic for almost 50 years and been the star of a proper Hollywood film.
But his lack of A-list status does seem to mean that comic creators feel that they can use him as some kind of punch bag – he’s possibly the unluckiest super-hero around.
His USP is that when he was blinded by radioactive waste as a boy, the same accident gave him superhuman senses that compensated for his blindness, including “radar-sense”. (The same radioactive waste also created the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. No, really.)
He was then trained by an itinerant ninja master called Stick and became a lawyer who secretly fought crime by hitting wrongdoers with sticks.
This all went well for about 20 years, with DD being refered to as the “Scarlet Swashbuckler” and his comics being filled with gorgeous art by Gene Colan.
But then came the 80’s and comics got grim and gritty. And Daredevil got grimmer and grittier than most. His girlfriend became a heroin addict and sold his secret identity to his arch-nemesis. Another ex-girlfriend turned out to be a ninja assassin, and was killed by his other arch-nemesis.
Things calmed down a bit in the 90’s, but come the noughties, they got even worse. In a story written by Kevin “Clerks” Smith, his girlfriend was killed in a church. Tabloid newspapers printed his secret identity, he was sent to prison *and* another foe drove his wife insane.
Then, to cap it all, he was possessed by a ninja demon who tried to take over New York.
Like I said, comicdom’s punching bag.
But now he’s back in a new comic series.
This is lots of fun – the writer, Mark Waid, has taken the approach that DD has put up with more than anyone else, so nothing’s going to faze him – he’s even smiling on the cover! (I don’t subscribe to the belief that he’s in fact grimacing because he’s just hit himself in the face with his stick.)
The story is definitely swashbuckling and without ridiculous level of angst, but it does acknowledge what has gone on before.
The art is also nice, representing well how someone is blind but with superhuman senses would perceive the word – not an easy thing to do in a purely visual medium.
Hopefully they’ll stick for this approach for a while before it all goes horribly wrong – again.