One of the worst kept secrets was the re-appearance of Charlie Cox as Daredevil, reprising his role in the proper Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). What could have been a brief cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home was confirmed as a long-term role, first as an appearance in She-Hulk: Attorney of Law then in his own 18 episode series on Disney+.
Charlie Cox was near universally praised in the Daredevil role on Netflix, so fans are positively giddy to see him reprise the role in the MCU. Speaking for myself, I gasped with excitement when I saw his appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home.
But that re-appearance begged a question. Would this be a “multiversal” Daredevil with a slight different look and feel or would this be a version of the character unique to the MCU. The “same” Daredevil, of course, but slightly askew with a tone that better fits the family friendly nature of Disney+ as opposed to the dark and gritty tone of NudeFlix.
It’s not controversial to say the “default” image of Daredevil that has persisted for the past several decades of Daredevil fandom is the version brought forth by Frank Miller in the 80s. The 80s gave rise to Alan Moore, The Dark Knight, Punisher, Watchmen, and more stories of that ilk. It was the rise of the anti-hero. Cynicism reigned. Stan Lee’s “with great power must also come great responsibility” was edged out in favor of a much grayer morality where compromise was much more common than moral clarity and virtue.
Yet Daredevil was not always such a character. In Stan Lee’s hands, Daredevil had a swashbuckling charm. Sure, there were complications and tragedy in his background and he faced monthly challenges in the form of B-list villains like Frog Man, Stilt-Man, Man-Bull, and the Gladiator, but Matt Murdock wasn’t cynical, nor was he ridden with guilt.
From Comic Book Herald: “Captain America inspires, Spider-Man hopes, Deadpool memes, Daredevil suffers. Suffering has been the emotional core of the Daredevil book ever since Frank Miller rescued him from the ash heap. His catholic guilt tormented him. His body betrayed him. His loved ones were hurt because of him. His whole life was a disaster, at all times. That is until Mark Waid got a hold of him.
Waid took a lot out of those early, pre-Miller books and built a Matt Murdock who could struggle with him demons… and win. Best of all, this is a decision within the comic. Murdock makes the choice to see the light. But is it an act? Is it just him running away from his problems?”
When Daredevil flashed into the She-Hulk trailer and fans saw the glimpse of yellow on his costume, a suit best known from Stan Lee’s and Wally Wood’s Daredevil #1 (1964), fans immediately wondered if the version of Daredevil we’d see on Disney+ might be slightly more light-hearted, maybe dare we say “fun,” if the freak of the week tone of She-Hulk: Attorney at Law plays out like we expect it to.
To be clear, Daredevil’s life was never a walk in the park, even during the Sliver Age and Stan Lee’s time on the title. This was true even when Black Widow came into his life and the title was renamed Daredevil and the Black Widow, Matt Murdock was forced to make impossible choices between crime fighting and love.
Daredevil fans are spoiled in that Daredevil has never had a prolonged poor stretch as a title. Daredevil has held a remarkable quality for 500+ issues and, yes, that definitely includes the Stan Lee era as well as the Rob Thomas Black Widow era and even the Anne Nocenti era after Frank Miller.
And that certainly includes the Mark Waid era, a wonderful stretch of Daredevil comics that never shied away from Matt’s Catholic guilt and wasn’t shy about putting Matt through the wringer, yet never descended into Frank Miller’s pugilistic cynicism.
Might this be the version of Daredevil we see on Disney+? Personally, I really, really hope so. I like my superhero tales to contain a dollop of hope, at least enough to provide an ounce of escapism.
Waid’s run on Daredevil is absolutely worth a read. There is a fantastic Omnibus that collects much of it. It continues in volume 2, available here. But I read it digitally via Marvel Unlimited. Regardless of your preferred reading method, I do highly encourage you to give it a read. Firstly, it might just be a fresh look at Daredevil you didn’t realize existed. And it might be a version of Daredevil that with any luck, we’ll get to see on Disney+.