The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen
Hell’s Kitchen in the Marvel universe is a place best not thought of. It’s a city ran by organized crime who’ve long corrupted it from the inside. The cops and judges are bribed or worse to maintain the status quo and it’s citizen are the one’s to pay. It needs someone, something to save it from itself. If there’s any character that echoes the caped crusader and their mission to rid a city of it’s evil, to become a symbol it needs but does not deserve, it’s Daredevil. For nearly 60 years the stories of Matt’s mission to protect the citizens from their city have shown at times how far one can go, how much one could sacrifice or compromise, in order to achieve a goal. In the end will it all have been worth it? If you got a second, come find out in this weeks post with our next “Top Heroes” entry featuring Daredevil, the Man Without Fear. Watch your back, walk where it’s lit and avoid furthering the corruption or else judgment will befall you by the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.
A brief History
When Matt was just a boy all he had was his father, Jack Murdock. Jack was a boxer, it’s what he did to put food on the table for his son. He wanted Matt to do better, to be better than him. He pushed him to focus on his studies and to value the strength of non-violent approaches to conflict. He was to not become like him. That all began to change after a fateful day when Matt pushed a blind man out of the way of a truck barreling through the street carrying toxic chemicals. They spilled out into the street and onto his face and eyes, leading to permanent visual blindness. Although Matt wasn’t as blind as he thought, the chemicals may have taken his vision, but it heightened to super human levels his remaining senses and added what’s been known for decades as his signature Radar Sense. Honing his skills with the help of a blind man named Stick, Matt eventually adjusted, keeping up the blindness as a cover.
Over the following years he would commit to his studies, eventually attending Columbia University to study law, where he would meet his best friend and law partner Franklin “Foggy” Nelson. His father continued doing what he could to provide for his blind son, even working as an enforcer for the local mob. Jack started to hit a winning streak with his boxing matches too, making his son proud as he listened to the coverage of his fights. “Battlin” Jack Murdock eventually landed a fight with huge prize money on the line. What he didn’t know was that his past matches were rigged for him to win and this major one coming up he needed to lose in order to not upset the bids placed on the match or else be killed. What was a man to do? His son looked up to him, championed his father’s victories, and was even going to be there to watch. Well he did what he thought was right for his boy. Jack didn’t throw the match and instead had a hard fought win via a knock out. Afterwards, he was killed in the alley outside of the venue, as he was told would happen. Matt was now orphaned and would learn what had happened to his father, a fateful reminder of what the city was and has always been. He and Foggy would graduate from Columbia and start their own law firm, Nelson & Murdock, right away. Behind the scenes though, Matt devised a plan to avenge his father’s death. He would make his first iteration of the Daredevil costume, and brought the mob boss and his second-in-command to justice.
The story continues through the works of Stan Lee and Bill Everett, his originators, through swashbuckling adventures and would be expanded up and reimagined by the likes of Frank Miller, who added in mystical ninja elements that have been closely tied to the character since. Much of Miller’s tenure with DD has shaped many of the modern approaches to the character. Much like Spider-Man and Cyclops, Daredevil is a tortured character, which has made for gritty stories with commentary on morality, revenge, and the lengths gone to achieve ones goal. Since there’s decades of continuity, I’ll do you a solid and link a playlist of YouTube videos by a creator named Matt Draper, who has created numerous entertaining and thought provoking analyses of the character and its stories:
If there’s anyone that knows Daredevil and sees him other than the blind guy that can fight real good in red spandex, it’s Matt Draper. What’s important to take away from the stories over the years is the lengths Matt Murdock is tested both physically, mentally, and spiritually. Catholicism is large part of his identity. It shapes his morals and creates an internal conflict: is one man really to place judgment upon others and what is that judgment to look like? Is Daredevil a vessel to carryout a seemingly holy mission or an excuse to let loose?
Powers, Abilities, Skillsets
Alright, now that we’ve covered a bit of who Daredevil is, let’s talk about what he can do. Matt is a highly trained master acrobat, surpassing Olympic-level athletes thanks to his enhanced senses which includes his inner ear, which for those who don’t know helps maintain equilibrium and motions of the body. There’s only a few other heroes in the Marvel universe who can rival him such as Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Captain America.
His other heightened senses allow him to detect changes in heart beat and breathing, making lying to him near impossible. His enhanced hearing allows him to hear the most minute things and can focus through the hustle and bustle of the city on whatever source needed. One of the best uses of his improved hearing comes in the form of his signature Radar Sense. It functions similar to echolocation where he’s able to map his environment based on how the sound returns back to him. This sense is almost at odds with Spider-Man’s famous spider sense in most scenarios. On top of all of this, DD is easily one of the greatest and most skilled martial artists and hand-to-hand combatants on the planet. He mixes his knowledge of various styles of fighting into a very balanced and near harmonious style of his own. Add in his signature Billy Clubs, that is disguised as his civilian support cane, and you have a symbol worth fearing.
His combat prowess is actually why many argue that Nightwing of DC Comics would be one of his best adversaries. Ya know, both highly trained acrobatic combatants that use two sticks to lay the beat down without a cape on their back. On top of all of this, he’s also a high knowledgeable and practicing lawyer, allowing him to tackle injustice on two fronts. Needless to say, DD is not just a blind dude lawyer by day and blind dude in red spandex by night.
The Kingpin and the Devil
What I find really interesting about Daredevil is how inseparable he is nowadays from Wilson Fisk, the King Pin. Fisk was introduced in the pages of Spider-Man and through various team up between him and DD, the Kingpin became a shared adversary. Both heroes stand as thorns in his side, but his relationship to the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen runs so much deeper. What Fisk stands for in the eyes of Matt is a living embodiment of the corruption of Hell’s Kitchen. Someone to place blame onto. What Matt and by association Daredevil represents in Wilson’s eyes is the tenacity of a city that needs to be controlled.
Both characters essentially want the same thing: for Hell’s Kitchen to be better. Unfortunately both have way differing approaches to getting there. Fisk has many a time dismantled Matt’s life and pushed him into extremes that would break and honestly should break him in order to remove him from the picture. Each time though, he proves himself to be something else entirely. One of my favorite stories that focuses on DD and Kingpin is Frank Miller’s and David Mazzucchelli’s Daredevil: Born Again graphic novel. The story is about what Wilson Fisk does to the life of Matt Murdock once he learns that he is Daredevil via a tip from one of his past lovers. What he does essentially is systemically strip him of everything he loved and cared about. It’s an incredible story highlighting how well each know each other and the levels of unease that knowledge can create. I highly recommend it as a stand alone! Both characters are of the same coin at this point and any great Daredevil story will highlight that, assuming mystic ninja stuff isn’t involved.
Speaking of, I don’t really care too much for the ninja stuff in DD’s mythos. I think The Hand, which is the mystic ninja clan usually associated with the character, is ok. The best thing to come of it is Electra, an assassin who becomes one of Daredevil’s famous romances, and Stick, who I mentioned earlier trained a young Matt to hone his senses. I digress. Let’s just wrap this up, shall we?
Another Post Wrapped Up!
We’re at the end of the post! Wowee that was fun, huh? I hope you learned something and enjoyed it. Daredevil has been an interesting case study for me over the years as I’ve grown older. He went from this dude in a cool red suit that could do acrobatics to someone I’ve been able to appreciate and even understand at their core. The themes and ideas present within some of the greatest DD stories ever created I feel are best returned to when you’re older. The Daredevil omnibus I was gifted in 2020 really helped reinforce that (thanks mom!). Anyway, next week we’ll be talking about the only non-American created hero on the list, Izuku Midoriya, better known as Deku of the manga series My Hero Academia by Kohei Horikoshi. Until then, be well and be safe, and stay out of Hell’s Kitchen!