Today’s post is about Frank Miller and John Romita, Jr.’s Daredevil: The Man Without Fear! There’s typical super hero blood and violence, but that’s about it. If you’ve watched/are planning to watch the Netflix series or like origin stories or psuedo-noir crime fighting with a super hero twist, then you’ll enjoy this five-issue limited release.
Plot: Matt Murdock transforms from a target of bullying to Hell’s Kitchen’s avenger in this Daredevil origin story.
Initial thoughts: I’ll be Frank. (Ha ha, see what I did there?) I wanted to read this story before I started on the Netflix show, but naturally impatience got to me and I caved into watching the first two episodes. I’ve Having read onlg the Marvel Now run, which has Matt practicing law in San Francisco, the shift back to Hell’s Kitchen and Matt’s origins were tough for me to stomach. I figured reading this series would give me the background I need to follow the show, and indeed it has. Reading the five issues of Man Without Fear gives the solid understanding of Daredevil basics, like where Matt got the Daredevil title, the inspiration for his costume, the black atrocity he wears before donning the iconic red Daredevil uniform, and his relationships with Elektra, Foggy, Kingpin, and his dad.
I read a reprinted version of the collection with updated colors, which Marvel does occasionally to get new readers interested in iconic classic stories. If you can, try to get the original instead of this updated version. The color is anachronistic compared to the lines and story, making it distracting and clunky rather than familiar and modern.
Itty Bitty Research: The one thing that has always bothered me about Matt Murdock is that he is a man disabled with blindness, yet his super senses erase many of the hardships about disability. This is in spite of despite blind people having done amazing things like earning martial arts mastery, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, driving the Daytona, and winning Masterchef. In Man Without Fear, we see Matt reading through his sensitive touch of ink and paper, somersaulting on rooftops by telling his surroundings with his sense of hearing, and identifying people with his sense of smell (and seemingly perfect memory). This isn’t to say that it is as if Matt is not disabled; he can’t see colors, doesn’t notice his surroundings unless they come in contact with him (like Mickey’s hat), and his initial bullying is the direct result of his disability. In a way, Matt’s ability to “see” and operate in a world that relies on vision shows how blind people can live successful lives just like anybody else, thus being a symbol of empowerment.
However, in face of this “empowerment,” we have to acknowledge that Matt Murdock was not created by or for blind people. The Other Murdock Papers is a great site on Daredevil-related information, like assistive technology and Braille history, that points out how the writing often overlooks aspects of blind life or exploits his blindness in negative ways. In one issue, Matt says he doesn’t use a computer, but this overlooks assistive technology created for visually impaired people to access the internet and computing technology. A person with no or limited sight would know this, but a writer with visual privilege might not even think of this. Matt’s blindness is also used at the expense of humor, like when he is positioned facing backwards while the rest of the Marvel cast is positioned facing forwards. The “joke” is that because Matt cannot see, he doesn’t know which way to face the camera for a photo. Not only is this a cruel joke at the expense of people who cannot see, it overlooks Matt’s super senses, which would make it obvious which way to face. These moments in the comic reduce Matt as a super hero and as a blind person, making it hard to celebrate him as one of the only – and the major – representation of blindness in super hero comics.
As a society, we need to be more aware of making all aspects of life accessible to all people. In the case of blindness, as a visual society, we need to be more aware of how to make our super hero media more accessible to people who cannot see or have limited vision. For example, Netflix initially forgot to include an audio track in its Daredevil series, which is a huge detriment to the enjoyment of the show by people who cannot see. Ironically, Matt Murdock was initially the creation of a visual medium, comic books, which historically and traditionally have not been produced in Braille. Even if the books were produced in Braille, this only serves to supplement the speech and narrative, leaving the matter of visuals questionable. Since you’re reading this post, I’m sure you’re a fan of graphic novels and well aware of how art plays an important role in telling the story. Also, it wasn’t until the launch of the Marvel Now run of Daredevil #1 that an audio track was released for audiences needing an alternative to visuals. I don’t know if they continued to create tracks for subsequent issues, though that seems like the obvious thing to do.
Now that we are more conscious about accessibility, I’d like to end this post with some neat things going on. First, there’s a comic created specifically for people who read Braille. This is exciting because people who read visually are not the target audience. This is not a “translation” of a visual medium into a tactile one; rather, it is a creation that considers the needs of tactile readers from its inception. Also, here’s a sampling of heroes with disabilities in comics. Knowing that there are other blind characters than Matt Murdock – and other characters with different kinds of abilities – is an important step in making sure there is a range of representations rather than focusing on a single character as being representative of a number of people, like Matt Murdock and blindness.
Works cited: Miller, Frank, writer. Daredevil: the Man Without Fear. Art by John Romita, Jr. New York: Marvel, 2013. Print.