Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1-5
Issue(s): Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #2, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #3, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #4, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #5
Review/plot: This fantastic series is an elaboration of Daredevil #1. In an embellishment of this sort, there are bound to be some contradictions, but i do not see anything preventing this from being included in Marvel's continuity. Certainly the various origins of Spider-Woman that have been presented are much more contradictory and every effort has been made to ensure that they are all incorporated into the universe.
The controversy around this series being in continuity stems from the fact that the plot from which this story was developed was originally a movie script that Frank Miller had created. Since it was originally a movie, it did not necessarily strictly adhere to established Marvel history. However, when that project never went through, Miller re-wrote it as a comic book plot for John Romita Jr, and Ralph Macchio sent it through additional revisions to ensure that it was true to the comics.
The areas that remain the most inconsistent are around the chronology of Matt's father's death and the characterization of Elektra. See Midnighter's comment below regarding Matt's father; i actually don't yet own Daredevil #1 so in my project i haven't come across this contradiction (but of course that doesn't mean DD #1 isn't canon). Regarding Elektra, in this series she is violent and seriously unhinged. In other books, including Miller's own work in the main DD series, at this point she was depicted as innocent and not necessarily a master martial artist. For Elektra, the solution to this dilemma is included in this very series. In this story Elektra is plagued by voices in her head. Her father has brought in psychologists to help her, but it is implied that she is fighting off mental domination from The Hand. She would later succumb to this control in Elektra: Assassin. At this point, the shifts in her personality and abilities can easily be explained due to the mental war that is raging in her head. For Matt's father, we have to assume that the events here are jumbled incorrectly for some reason; DD #1 has to be the correct version. But we still know that something like the events in this series must have occurred in the regular Marvel Universe because this series is referenced by later books (especially as relates to Typhoid Mary).
Here is the basic plot summary. Just know that this entire series is extremely well written and beautifully illustrated. The question of people's sanity or perception of reality comes up several times in different ways, and the theme of keeping emotions under control (too much or too little) is also explored. This was originally intended to be in a graphic novel format, which means that individual issues do not start with a splash page or recaps, which makes for seamless reading.
A young rambunctious Matt Murdock...
...growing up the bored son of a boxer ("Battlin' Jack Murdock), in Hell's Kitchen, is forbidden by fighting back against the bullies who pick on him at school by his father, who wants him to get a good education and get out of poverty. Because he doesn't fight back, the other kids taunt him and mockingly call him 'Daredevil'. His father is forced to become a mob enforcer.
Matt rescues a blind man from being hit by a truck, but gets blinded by the radioactive gunk that the truck was carrying.
The radioactivity also enhances his other senses, to the point where it almost drives him crazy until he learns to suppress it with help from his mother, who has left the family, most likely due to his father's abusive tendencies, and become a nun. Matt is trained to become a ninja by Stick, who is part of a mystical order that will later be called the Chaste.
Matt's father refuses to throw the fight for his mob bosses, and is killed.
Matt hunts down the people who killed his father and violently beats them all, killing some, and also accidentally killing a prostitute.
Because of this, Stick abandons him. He and Stone also refer to another potential initiate, Elektra, who they had to reject due to the fact that she is already infected with the dark ways.
Matt goes to Columbia University law school and befriends Franklin "Foggy" Nelson. He has been trying to keep his emotions under control, but he also meets Elektra who wakes up his wild side.
Elektra is hearing voices urging her to kill. She fights the urges, but when she can't give in she goes to the city and attracts criminals, killing them.
She is truly psychopathic, but when she tries to explain that to Matt, he doesn't understand or believe her. Elektra's father is killed (this scene is not shown) and at the funeral afterward, she leaves Matt, saying that she will go to Hell alone.
Meanwhile, the head of the NY mob, who has been refusing to get involved in child pornography and crack cocaine (a little bit of a rip-off of the Godfather?), is killed and replaced by Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin.
Matt graduates law school and gets a job at a large law firm in Boston. He is well on his way to becoming their youngest junior partner. He is sent to New York City on a case. In NYC he wanders the streets and winds up back in Hell's Kitchen where he is attacked by some thugs. Matt has delusions that he is back on the playground, fighting bullies. He does not seem quite right in the head. He starts going back to his father's gym where he meets a runaway girl named Mickey. He trains her in the gym. He also runs into Foggy and helps him with a case representing tenants against a slum lord. Mickey is kidnapped to be used in child pornography. Matt, dressed in black with a mask covering most of his face, hunts down the kidnappers and discovers the pornography ring, which is heavily guarded by the Kingpin's goons.
Matt defeats the goons and rescues the children. Very violently, it's worth noting.
In the fight against the Kingpin's main henchman, a cold killer called Larks, Matt embraces the name Daredevil. After the fight he starts wearing an outfit based on a costume his father wore during a brief period of time when he was a professional wrestler. Matt also quits his job and goes into business in NYC with Foggy.
Quality Rating: A+
Chronological Placement Considerations: See above for the argument that this belongs in continuity at all. Placing this slightly before where DD #1 would be published.
Continuity Insert? Y
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showDaredevil, Elektra, Foggy Nelson, Jack Murdock, Kingpin, Larks, Sister Maggie Murdock, Stick, Stone (Chaste), Typhoid Mary
Yes, this was an excellent story, a prime example of successfully updating for an adult audience. Some of Romita, Jr.'s best work, helped greatly by Williamson. It does contradict the Lee/Everett origin mostly in having him confront the fixer prior to getting the yellow costume, but that's fine... comics should have some latitude in making revisions.
Posted by: Richard Meyer | May 8, 2012 10:44 PM
The prostitute that Matt seemingly kills is later retconned into Typhoid Mary. That's something you might want to keep in mind as you're almost up to Typhoid Mary's early appearances.
Posted by: Michael | April 8, 2014 7:59 PM
This story can't fit in continuity because of the death of Jack Murdock: in every other telling of the origin of Daredevil and the childhood of Matt, it'always shown that his father is killer after Matt started the college, and he knows Foggy Nelson. In Daredevil -1 Jack goes along Matt in the first day of the college, in Daredevil: Yellow and in every rapresentation of the last fight of Battlin' Jack, Matt is in the crowd along with Foggy.
Otherwise, it's an excellent story (even if I don't know if it would worked as a movie...)
Posted by: Midnighter | August 28, 2014 3:04 AM
Agreed, Midnighter. I've updated the description a bit to reference your comment regarding Matt's father. But since this series is referenced in later books in relation to Typhoid Mary, i'm still keeping it in the project with the idea that if the events here didn't occur exactly as depicted, something like them must have.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 28, 2014 9:03 AM
My only real complaint is that the girl who supposedly became Typhoid Mary is a blonde here...and she's supposed to be a redhead. Heh, even in the 90s, there is little consistancy with hair color for female characters.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 28, 2014 12:52 PM
I feel like I am the only person in the world who doesn't like this series.
And I am not saying I dislike it in a hipster way, "Frank Miller's Daredevil is too popular so I dislike it". Nope, I absolutely love Miller's two runs, and his Elektra books (to a certain extent). But this book, to me, feels like Miller is retreading old grounds, and telling exactly the same story he told already in his two runs - only this time, he tells it worse and more boring.
I swallowed his two runs in one evening, but I had to force myself to finish reading this book. It just doesn't connect to me.
But everyone else apparently loves it, so I am probably a minority.
Posted by: Karel | January 10, 2016 6:19 PM
Karel, I wouldn't go as far as you but I think the scene where Matt killed the hooker was poorly done. Firstly, a crazy man breaks in trying to kill the hookers' client and all the hookers attack him? That almost sounds like a bad parody of Frank Miller's later years. One commenter on Comics Should Be Good described that scene as "When Bloodthirsty Hookers Attack"!
Posted by: Michael | January 10, 2016 6:55 PM
I wouldn't say I dislike it, but it's certainly overlong: too much padding and James Ellroy-wannabe narration.
Posted by: Oliver_C | January 10, 2016 7:02 PM
You're far from alone, I really really disliked it.
Miller takes such liberties to retrofit Daredevil's origin to make it a Miller origin. And his approach is frustrating in it's outright refusal to acknowledge any continuity but his own (and even his own sometimes) and I find his new ideas are tantamount to desperate and unnecessarily rubbish.
Posted by: AF | January 11, 2016 4:19 AM
What is it that makes one "adept"? From Miller's DD run, as deadly as sumone as say Electra is, there's a clear hierarchy that's established and never wavered from. Electra is beaten by Bullseye, who's beaten by DD, who's beaten by Fisk.
So why aren't say Bullseye or Fisk subject to being recruited here. Especially as we'll see during Brubaker's run that the Hand does indeed wish to recruit Fisk. Which makes sense as he's both on top of that totem pole and the one most ruthless enuff to see things thru.
Posted by: JC | January 11, 2016 8:49 AM
I didn't like this series either. Casual sexism, over-the-top "hard boiled" monologues, violence porn... All the worst indulgencies Miller's work had accumulated at this point (the process had already begun with Dark Knight Returns, but it didn't kick into high gear until Sin City) are inserted into a story that doesn't need them, and didn't have them when he first told it. JR Jr.'s art is great, but Miller really should've stopped writing comics after the first Sin City. That was the apotheosis of his quirks and pet peeve tropes, and after that he's been nothing but an increasingly sad parody of his former self.
Posted by: Tuomas | January 12, 2016 7:51 AM
Shouldn't Jack Murdock and Sister Maggie be listed?
Posted by: Robert | February 3, 2016 6:24 AM
I've added them. Thanks.
(I was going to say that Jack probably didn't need to be tagged but it turns out he does have a couple of continuity insert appearances, including a 2007 Battling Jack Murdock mini-series!)
Posted by: fnord12 | February 3, 2016 8:05 AM
I think Daredevil is the only Marvel character who first appeared in his own book and has stayed in it basically uninterrupted until the present day (not counting Heroes Reborn). All the other characters either started in team books or anthologies (Spider-Man, Thor), or had started in their own books but dropped back into anthologies (Hulk, Captain America), or first appeared as guest stars in someone else's book (Punisher, Wolverine).
Posted by: Andrew | March 27, 2016 8:36 AM
Well, Daredevil will eventually be replaced by Black Panther after Shadowland and instead Matt will appear in the Daredevil: Reborn mini-series during that.
Posted by: AF | March 27, 2016 9:00 AM
"Fantastic Four" and "Avengers" are the only other two titles that kept going uninterrupted. The Avengers was made up of characters that (generally) had their own titles, and both series revamped their membership on multiple occasions. I think "X-Men" comes in a distant third, since they were interrupted, and "Spider-Man" comes in a close fourth since he went right from his first appearance to a solo book.
Although I guess I'm surprised to learn that "Daredevil" has never been cancelled in the last twenty years. Looking it up, I guess he basically has been cancelled and/or rebooted, although your mileage may vary. But yeah, he's the clear winner.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 28, 2016 12:09 AM
Interesting to come back to this entry now that the first couple of seasons of Daredevil have come out and realize that this series was clearly hugely influential on the television show.
Posted by: Erik Beck | June 7, 2016 11:55 AM
I liked this series overall except for the continuity glitches concerning Battlin' Jack.
Posted by: Bobby Sisemore | October 28, 2016 6:05 PM
It's weird to think that one of the longest running single-hero books is basically due to a technicality but...as said, most of the early heroes either started off with teams or in split books...or books that became split to basically boost them up (Hulk, Captain America); heck even Spider-Man was a tryout in Amazing Fantasy. And considering how bizarre and infamous many Daredevil books became (particularly pre-Frank Miller), it's just shocking that he was able to last so long until someone finally defined him other than "the blind lawyer superhero". I guess what's called "going the distance" in boxing terms. (so that makes Matt Murdock...Rocky?)
Posted by: Ataru320 | March 16, 2017 11:51 AM
Battling Jack Murdock.
Posted by: ChrisW | March 16, 2017 7:38 PM
Ataru320, I have the feeling DD's solo title survival is a result of him being a creation of Stan early in the Marvel Universe. Marvel's early cancellations (Human Torch solo, Ant-Man) tended to be in anthology titles (not named for the character) and mostly written by someone other than Stan. They also survived in continued publication because they belonged to team books (Torch of course was published every month in FF, and Hank & Jan became mainstays of the Avengers after they lost their book). Who was going to cancel Stan's own character? In contrast look at Captain Marvel which was really a Roy Thomas book, not Stan's, which was cancelled multiple times.
Still, I know at one point sales on DD and Iron Man were so low that there was thought to combine them in a book much like how Power Man and Iron Fist were combined in one title. It never happened, but there are a few weird stories in the seventies with DD being in Iron Man's book.
Posted by: Chris | March 16, 2017 9:59 PM
They did turn Daredevil's book into a team book for a bit, by teaming him up with the Black Widow. She was added to the title in #81. At first she only rarely appeared on the covers (#81, #83, #90). But from #92 to #107 she shared cover-billing, and usually appeared in the main image, albeit often in a lesser role. The exceptions, not counting her cameo image, are #100, #105. Her cameo image usually appeared right of the logo from #92 up to #124, when she left the cast. The exceptions are #103 (where her figure in the main image replaces it), #107 (where the logo was run larger and squeezed her cameo image out; the next issue's new logo made room for it for while keeping Daredevil's name larger), #109 (where Nekra holding her helpless replaces it) and #111 (which used a Shanna cameo instead).
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | March 17, 2017 12:37 AM
I didn't see an entry for Daredevil # 1 (1964); did I miss it?
I'm a pretty big fan of Miller's Daredevil work generally (particularly DD # 181-182 and Born Again), but wasn't a fan of this particular story. To me, it contradicts too many aspects of existing stories to be workable. I believe the MCP has also deemed it non-canon. I don't always agree with the MCP on every single point but I do on this one. I believe the only reference to the story in later issues is in the Daredevil/Deadpool annual around 1997 and I construed that as a mistake by the writer/editor.
I also agree with Tuomas' comments about the 'dark and gritty' aspects being indulged somewhat clumsily and gratuitously here. After Dark Knight Returns (a brilliant work) Miller steadily declined imo. I view this story as part of that decline, which culminated spectacularly in the atrocity that is Dark Knight Strikes Again.
The one bit I did like was that Stone wanted to give Matt another chance, but Stick shot him down. Stone later became a personal favorite.
Posted by: intp | September 21, 2017 11:56 PM
As fnord notes in the beginning, he doesn't own Daredevil #1 in any form and uses this series to "represent" its account of Daredevil's origin. Do you see any inconsistencies beyond what's already been brought up, Elektra's characterization and the chronology of Jack Murdock's death? Because as fnord notes, while not necessarily explicitly referenced this story is established as depicting (at least) Typhoid Mary's backstory.
Posted by: Morgan Wick | September 22, 2017 12:45 AM
It's been a pretty long time since I last read this, as I got rid of my trade years ago. But IIRC, it went beyond just minor inconsistencies in plot details (although there were many of those as well); I also found the whole thing off "tonally"-- like Miller was trying to re-make early Daredevil from his own (far darker) point of view. And as much as I like Miller's two runs on the main Daredevil book, I don't think his 'take' can be imported into the origin without fundamentally changing it.
For example, there's no indication in the original story that Matt's father is anything other than a well-meaning but second-rate boxer who makes one dumb deal with the 'Fixer', whereas he's paid muscle for the mob in Miller's version. A small point, but one where Miller took a minor detail in the origin and made it far darker, and quite needlessly so I thought.
The whole idea that he was secretly trained by Stick when he was just a boy or that he was already a deadly fighter who routinely thrashed thugs severely long, long before he ever put on the costume (or had even gone to college) also contradicts the origin, where he holds to his promise to his dad not to get into fights and only breaks that promise when wearing the costume. The whole death of the prostitute thing struck me as really over the top-- he was at the very least guilty of negligent homicide there-- but was portrayed consistently in the early stories as being a pretty upstanding guy who went out of his way to
Posted by: intp | September 22, 2017 1:15 AM
Hmm, looks like there's a character limit. Well, I'll try to keep the rest of this concise.
... went out of his way to protect innocents. And there was no indication that the Kingpin was actively involved at such an early stage of DD's career, and long before his first appearance in Asm # 50. I also found the whole business about Kingpin's supposed willingness to transact in child pornography and snuff films as not only personally distasteful, but inherently implausible-- not that Kingpin is in any way 'above' such things-- but rather, I don't see him being dumb enough to get involved with the sort of crimes that would literally bring holy hell on him down from the federal government. Just not 'good business'.
Ugh, didn't mean to make this post so long. The summary is that I didn't like this as a story; and didn't find it consistent with the origin in either letter or 'spirit'; but I understand that it's a fairly well-liked story by others. Aesthetics are absolutely subjective.
Posted by: intp | September 22, 2017 1:20 AM
Anyway, not really looking to start a big debate about whether this story is canon or not. I prefer to ignore it (as does the MCP) but others may feel the opposite. I might have been inclined to try to 'stretch' it to fit if I had liked it as an actual story, but I really didn't.
I prefer to treat the reference to Typhoid Mary as the prostitute in the Daredevil/Deadpool Annual as a mistake by the writer. Sometimes that's kind of the only way to deal with some of Marvel's many mistakes imo.
I find it interesting that this story was apparently based on an unproduced screenplay. That actually explains a lot. In contrast, Miller's take on the origin in # 164 (as artist) was quite close to the actual origin in # 1.
Posted by: intp | September 22, 2017 1:47 AM
People who enjoyed Daredevil #1 and/or this retcon story might also enjoy the 1962 movie Requiem for a Heavyweight starring Anthony Quinn as an over-the-hill boxer with several marked similarities to the Battling Murdock character. Jackie Gleason also stars in one of his best roles, and his character shows some similarities to the Fixer, although he is portrayed more sympathetically. Without making a study of it, I've often wondered if that movie might have had some influence on the story as told in Daredevil #1.
Posted by: James Holt | September 22, 2017 11:16 AM
@intp- Matt killing the hooker was the reason for Matt's crisis of faith in Daredevil 346-350, written by J.M. DeMatteis. It was DeMatteis, not Kelly (who wrote the Daredevil/ Deadpool Annual), who brought the hooker's death into continuity- Kelly was just trying to "fix" it.
Posted by: Michael | September 22, 2017 7:12 PM
Hmm, okay, I haven't read Daredevil # 346-350.
Posted by: intp | September 22, 2017 8:34 PM
Kelly was the one who established the hooker was Typhoid Mary - which I think is a far greater crime. It takes one of the most sexually liberated characters and gives her a lame origin/backstory which makes her a hooker.
Two more continuity issues with this series, that stuck out to me, are Matt's motivation for becoming a lawyer as well as when he met Foggy Nelson.
Posted by: AF | September 23, 2017 5:53 AM
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