How about a nice trailer, huh?
Now, to answer the most pressing questions ...
Daredevil is a big deal for a lot of reasons, including the unusual level of artistic experimentation that's gone into his stories over the years and his status as one of the first mainstream superheroes to have a serious disability. In the new series, he's played in and out of the courtroom by the usually suave Charlie Cox.
The early stories written by Stan Lee were standard colorful superhero goofery with a side order of soap opera. The early to mid-1970s saw more outré villains and kind of a disco feel. Then, in the late '70s and early '80s, a hot young writer named Frank Miller came along and began deconstructing the B-list hero piece by piece. Miller's stories delved into Daredevil's origins, adding the mysterious blind ninja master Stick as Matt's teacher. He also explored Matt's relationship with his father, his ambivalence toward the law, and his complicated lifelong dance with Catholicism. Miller retconned in Elektra, an assassin who was Matt's first love and in some ways the defining archetype of his love life. As the stories went on, Miller's run delved into psychodrama and some insanely gritty crime fiction.
|Also some kung-fu movie cliches like the staff to the head.|
|It looked like this.|
So really, a Daredevil series could occupy any genre. The best material has been crime-infused, noirish, occasionally mystical and deeply psychological, and that's where the Netflix series looks to be headed, but there have also been stories where Daredevil fought circus clowns and made psychic connections with Old West vigilantes like the Two-Gun Kid. And a few stories involving actual courtrooms. So the field is wide open.
The Netflix series appears to have gone for the grimmest, grittiest Kitchen imaginable. Watch where you step.
We haven't seen much of the Netflix Foggy, played by Elden Henson, but he is there and the fans have high hopes for him.
Yeah, that's right. As big a deal as Daredevil is to visually impaired comics fans—and as a reader who dealt with her secret childhood terror of deteriorating eyesight by reading Daredevil comics, I can tell you he is a big flippin' deal—he also engaged in some pretty spectacular ableism. He routinely assumed he couldn't be accepted or loved simply because his eyes didn't work. Handsome, well-educated, wealthy, successful, superpowered—none of that was enough for Matt Murdock. He couldn't pursue Karen because he just wasn't "man" (read: sighted) enough.
Karen was killed off by one of Matt's recurring foes, Bullseye, in the late 1990s. The Netflix version, played by Deborah Ann Woll, looks to be a cross between the original sweet Karen and her tougher, more streetwise later self. It's also worth noting that Woll has a more personal stake in the project than a lot of performers—her boyfriend, EJ Scott, is legally blind and apparently something of a Daredevil fan.
|Night Nurse being awesome and showing Dr. Strange a few things.|
I would say that by now, the antagonism is a personal one, except that it basically started being personal five minutes after these two met. Short version? Matt Murdock sees himself as the protector of Hell's Kitchen, Wilson Fisk sees himself as its king ... and each man thinks he owns it. This will get messy.
But it gets much more sinister. At least twice, Killgrave has kidnapped people and subjected them to long-term enslavement, usually with a sexual component. (In fact, he has about half a dozen kids with different mothers, all fathered under the influence of his mojo.) Imagine all the awful things that can happen when the bad guy can make just about anyone do just about anything ... and he's getting increasingly frustrated by a random blind guy in a devil suit beating him up two or three times a year. One of Killgrave's best-known long-term victims was a minor superheroine named Jessica Jones, a.k.a. Jewel, who's getting her own Netflix series soon. Jess probably suffered more torment at Killgrave's hands than anybody else before he sent her to kill Daredevil, and her inclusion in the Netflix corner of the MCU suggests that her terrifying version of the Purple Man is the one we'll be seeing.
Now imagine David Tennant in that role. And if you don't know why that should creep you out, do a quick Google search on the phrase "Time Lord victorious" and see what comes up. Enjoy the nightmares.
Which seems as good a segue as any into ...
There are a lot of reasons for this. First and foremost is the way the stories have to be told. Although comics are a visual medium, the stories' narrator literally can't see what he's doing. He perceives the world through sound, touch, smell, taste, and radar. If the visuals overwhelm the narrative, it doesn't feel like a story about a blind superhero anymore. That means the fight scenes have to be narrated non-visually—think of things like the crunch of breaking teeth, the coppery scent of blood, the buzz and spin of a concussion. That's the only way Daredevil can perceive a fight, so his fights must include those visceral elements. The fights have to get dirty if you want your hero in danger. Either Daredevil is dancing around his foes because he's so much better at this than they are, or somebody's on the ground bleeding. Usually the latter.
|This is me saying "I told you so".|
And he goes out there and does his thing anyway. A regular undercurrent in the Daredevil stories is the idea that this guy should not be a superhero. Ideally, he should be in a white room somewhere. But he does the job, even though it hurts him more than anybody else, because it needs doing and he believes it's right. He pays a ridiculously high price to fight the good fight—friends and family murdered, body broken, sanity in tatters—but he keeps paying, keeps fighting. So don't expect that fight to be pretty.
Speaking of not pretty ...
11. So what do I read?! You've got lots of options after fifty years of comics! I recommend:
Comic Book You Should Be Reading!
So what's the takeaway from all this? Don't expect Netflix's Daredevil to be much like the cinematic Marvel universe, but do expect it to be a solid companion piece, focusing on the street-level world and the heroes who get the job done while Spider-Man and the Avengers get all the headlines. Expect lots of blood and broken teeth, and probably a bit of romance and psychodrama. And expect a hero who perceives the world in a way you've never quite thought about.
If all that appeals, you're welcome to join me and a bazillion other people as we start streaming the series on Friday, April 10. I'll be the one kvetching from the peanut gallery and wearing this bracelet (quick plug for the fabulous Alice of brailletshirts.com) which says, in braille, the two words every Daredevil fan has taken to heart: