Monday, March 21, 2016

Real Name: Matt Murdock
First Appearance: Daredevil #1 (April, 1964)
Fight Club Ranking: #9

Featured Fights:
- vs BULLSEYE: Daredevil #132 (Apr 1976)
- vs HULK: Daredevil #163 (Mar 1980)
- vs PUNISHER: Daredevil #257 (Aug 1988)
- vs TURK: Marvel Comics Presents #19 (May 1989)
- vs SCOPE: Marvel Comics Presents #49 (May 1990)
- vs SLADE: Daredevil: Man Without Fear #2 (Nov 1993)
- vs DEADPOOL: Contest of Champions II #4 (Nov 1999)
- vs BULLSEYE: Daredevil #49 (Sep 2003)
- vs PUNISHER: Daredevil #65 (Nov 2004)
- vs WOLVERINE: Wolverine #24 (Mar 2005)
- vs SINISTER TWELVE: Marvel Knights: Spider-man #11 (Apr 2005)
- vs JESTER: Daredevil #75 (Sep 2005)
- vs BULLSEYE: Daredevil #79 (Jan 2006)
- vs IRON FIST: Daredevil #87 (Sep 2006)
- vs TOMBSTONE: Daredevil #90 (Dec 2006)
- vs TOMBSTONE & MATADOR: Daredevil #91 (Jan 2007)

There are a whole lot of properties vying for your attention right now, but the one with the most cut through in the last seven days is by far: Daredevil!

The sonar-sighted superhero returned to Netflix, March 18th, for a second series of thirteen hard hitting episodes -- unlucky, for some! If you were here earlier in the year [1/11/2016], you know former Hero of the Week The Punisher is Daredevil's arch-rival in the sequel series, which also introduces Elektra.

The arrival of Marvel's murderously militant vigilante has upped the stakes for the streets of Marvel Netflix, and fuelled a level of intrigue that defies mixed reviews, and the slightly cheap and nasty Netflix style. Which is to say, like a lot of praised comic book television of the moment, I tend to think the show is awaiting a harsher rethink from habitual binge viewers still soaking up the novelty.

A theme of this year's Hero of the Week has been design in live-action, which may be among the softest targets for the Daredevil show. Punisher gets the look right, remembering the death's head emblem omitted from earlier adaptations. Anyone with color trademarks is subject to compromise.

In the late nineties, fans rallied around mutual agreement that black armor was antithetical to the Daredevil character -- a sin of the time. Restoration of the iconic red look coincided with the very Daredevil renaissance that made TV a viable, exciting prospect. Armored DD was consigned to cultural regret - a touchstone for what-not-to-do. The binary costume/no costume dynamic of Frank Miller's milestone work gave superior options, ending with Miller's desire to make comics less cinematic. Fans of the time had no idea where things were going...

The 2003 feature film grappled with similar concerns of colour and proportion. They shied away from literal body armor, but arrived at a conceit of protective leather that isn't worlds apart. Both examples challenge the acrobatic nature of the character. Why hasn't he worn armor for the majority of fifty years? Because that would severely impede the skilful mobility that is his greatest strength.

2002's Spider-man gave costumed heroes permission to be bold on screen, but the Daredevil film makers were intimidated by possibility of comparisons. They shied away from vibrant reds and a clean anatomy. Zips, clips and a detached mask were the solution to breaking up the outline. Even in comics, DD had been known as the poor man's Spidey from time to time, but it's such a shame to see success be the reasoning behind a fearful decision. At that time, the black pleather of X-Men was already looking dated. A different costume likely wouldn't have improved the legacy of Mark Steven Johnson's monetarily successful movie, but as one of several better decisions - who knows?

Proposing a man walk on screen in a bright red, spandex onesie is never gonna work -- but it doesn't have to. Spider-man films are the standard barer for embellishing the human form in figure hugging costumes. Flair is the solution to giving texture to an otherwise simplistic design. It's amazing how little visual style exists in an era dominated by comic book properties! Daredevil's red should pop against thick blacks. Lighting contrast and cinematography wouldn't just elevate the classic costume, but the works in general. It should inspire composition. Film is missing romance! A study in human anatomy in motion is something I'd love to see. Life after Nolan has been too often defined by choices of what can't be done. Superheroes can do anything. They're amazing.

That mask remains a surprisingly tricky one. The tall dimensions of Ben Affleck's head provided the opposite obstacle faced by Charlie Cox. The Netflix cowl is improving, but depending on the angle, it can still look like the top half is an avalanche threatening to consume his face. Do you cast an actor for their cranium, or their art form? I'm not sure I'm really convinced by the ofay Brit the Matt Murdock I think of, but he serves his purpose in anchoring the show.

I've got mixed feelings about their slow burn approach, which chose to make a plot of the iconic DD costume, which is at least undergoing slight modification in Series 2. On the one hand, I appreciate the economy of storytelling and sense of ceremonial gravitas. On the other hand, spreading the simple things thin reminds that budget has a commanding role, and there's still a long way to go before live-action matches comics for content.

Fortunately, there's plenty of comics goodness to go around! If you're digging Daredevil you can get a choice range of past entries via last week's Old Comics Wednesday. You can find more from the Netflix heroes by following links to Punisher, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist!

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