Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why is messing with Daredevil's mind so popular?

Just a thought - as I mentioned in my profile, I got into Daredevil last year after I read Brubaker and Lark's first TPB (featuring Matt Murdock in prison). Since then, in addition to keeping up with the monthlies, I read the last TPB by Bendis and Maleev (which tells how Matt went to prison), and then started reading the classic DD, starting with the three collected volumes of Frank Miller's work plus his "Born Again" and "The Man without Fear" origin story, Loeb and Sale's fantastic "Yellow," then "The Fall of the Kingpin," and "Fall from Grace" (featuring the hideous armored costume), plus assorted loose issues. (If anyone wants to start reading DD, this Amazon list is a great place to start.)

So then I started reading the current run, specifically Kevin Smith's 8-issue arc, which I just finished. I'm a huge Kevin Smith fan, mainly of his movies (snoochy-boochies!), but also his Green Arrow run, which is what pulled me back into comics several years ago. His DD story was just as good, and the art (by current Marvel EIC Joe Quesada) was incredible too - I highly recommend the TPB to any DD fan (warning: some knowledge of past DD lore is recommended as well).

So, after reading all this DD, I have to ask: is there any hero whose mind gets messed with as much as poor Matt Murdock? Never mind all the tragedy is his life - blinded as a youth, most every woman he loves dies (Kyle Rayner has the same problem over at DC, of course), etc. But most of best story arcs involve breaking the guy DOWN. Examples:

SPOILERS AHEAD: In "Born Again," Wilson Fisk (Kingpin) discovers DD's secret identity (through one of DD's lady loves) and then meticulously dismantles his life piece by piece. (DD returns the favor in "Fall of the Kingpin.") In the recent books, Fisk's wife gets him thrown in jail (with the help of a corrupt FBI agent), engineers Foggy's death, teases him with a woman that smells like one of DD's dead lovers, and then offers to make everything right if he gets her husband out of prison, the last thing he wants to do. In numerous stories since Frank Miller introduced her, Elektra dies and comes back, dies and comes back, dies and... you get the idea. (Seems it might happen again in a few months, based on Marvel soliciations.) And in Smith's arc, Mysterio - you know, Spidey's dome-headed foe - makes DD think an infant thrust into his care is of Biblical importance, everyone who doubts him is part of a grand conspiracy, and, to cap things off in true DD fashion, Bullseye, who Mysterio sent to fetch the babe, kills one of Matt's loves. END OF SPOILERS.

My question is: why is DD such an easy mark for these head games? Is he widely known to be that unstable? Is it the fact that he has a life to destroy, or that he actually commits to women? Sure, Batman gets messed with a bit - the whole Knightfall event, the death of Jason Todd, being framed for murder, the resurrection of Jason Todd - but I haven't read a Batman tale where he is completely broken down psychologically like DD routinely is. But Bruce Wayne is widely regarded as a mere ruse, and he rarely commits to a woman for more than one writer's tenure (with the exception of Selina Kyle).

Maybe it's a Marvel thing - their heroes have traditionally been more "damaged" (Daredevil - not simply the blindness, but having been deserted by his mother and then losing his father), misfits and outcasts (X-Men, Spiderman), flawed (Iron Man), or just jerks (the new Ant-Man) - ostensibly to make them more appealing to the all-too-human readers. (This fits in with the death of Captain America, who may have been all too perfect for the Marvel Universe.) But I can't be sure, because I haven't read enough Marvel (though I know Spidey's certainly faced his share of tragedy - the deaths of Uncle Ben of course, Gwen Stacey, and Aunt May several times over).

I'm anxious to see where Brubaker's headed with the next story arc, but please - go easy on Matt, at least for a couple issues. (After all, you got to kill Cap, and you have Iron Fist to mess with now.)

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