Let’s break down the original comic book series that will heavily influence the upcoming Marvel Netflix series.
What is “The Man Without Fear”?
Created in the early 90’s, “The Man Without Fear” comic was a Marvel mini-series that looked to re-explore the origin of Matt Murdock, with the help of comic book creators Frank Miller (Sin City, The Dark Knight Returns), and artist John Romita Jr., (Amazing Spider-Man, Uncanny X-Men). Like many other characters introduced in the 1960s and 1970s, Daredevil was fairly cut-and-dry: boy gets doused with toxic radiation — taking his sight but granting his superhuman abilities — father is murdered in mafia shenanigans, boy becomes lawyer and dons devil costume to fight evil at night. Most early comic book series had a formula where the first issue of an ongoing book was dedicated to anything dealing with the protagonist’s origins, then it would move on to dig into all the super heroic adventures that the kids wanted to see.
However, as time went on, comic books became more nuanced, delving deeper into the nitty-gritty of their characters’ lives. “Man Without Fear” puts Matt Murdock’s life under a microscope, chronicling his journey from a child training on the rooftops with his elderly sensei, to an attorney who’s struggling with court cases while setting his own broken bones after a night of punching out gangsters. Arguably the best Daredevil story put to print, it’s reassuring to see that the upcoming Marvel/Netflix series is using this version as an outline for how they’re laying out their first foray into this brave new world.
Which Characters Will Be on the Show?
“Man Without Fear” almost doesn’t qualify as a proper superhero story. Granted, the character of Matt Murdock (played by Charlie Cox in the Netflix series) eventually becomes a superhero, and certainly is wearing a costume of sorts in the previews, but this is a story about a man outside of his costumed persona. As we follow Matt from his early beginnings, we get an insight into the man that he’ll become, focusing on not only his dire straits regarding his down-and-out boxer of a dad, or his struggles with neighborhood bullies, but on his ability to really find the good in a lot of situations. Early on in his childhood, Matt is taken under the wing of the old ninja sensei, Stick, (who will be played by Scott Glenn) and gets put through the ringer as the old man works with Matt to harness his new super senses, and come to grips with being blind. The training is intense, but Matt loves it (he has a big smile on his face as his adventurous spirit shines through). Though he tends to have a carefree attitude, the new show promises to be dark to compliment the source material its based on.
Set primarily in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen, we’ll be seeing Matt play a number of “parts”: reckless youth, mourning son, aspiring attorney, crime fighter, lover, practicing Catholic, and many, many other roles which really help set him apart from other heroes in the Marvel universe. However, Matt’s not the only one that we’ll be following closely in the series, because as much as this is Matt’s story, it is Wilson Fisk’s as well. Played by Vincent D’Onofrio, the future “Kingpin of Crime” starts as part of a gang who is slowly working his way up the latter, while keeping the fact that he’s breaking the law away from his newfound lady love, Vanessa (Ayelet Zurer). Now bear in mind, Kingpin is the villain of this piece, but he’s a villain who you can feel sympathy for and comes across as somewhat closer to Tony Soprano than Doctor Doom.
We’ll also be seeing Matt establishing ties in the forms of Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Paige (Deborah Ann Woll). They help Matt to start his law practice in NYC, fighting injustice and looking out for the “little guy” without donning red tights. While they both act as rocks to Matt throughout the mini-series, later down the road they face a number of ordeals that are brought down on them not only by Matt’s antics, but by their own. The name of the game for these characters is that they’re extremely broken in their own unique ways, and that’s what makes them interesting to read.
Which Characters Won’t Be on the Show? (For Now)
Well we won’t be seeing two of the biggest characters in Daredevil lore making appearances, and we they do, they won’t be given much screentime. Elektra, tragic girlfriend to a young Matt Murdock, plays heavily in the “Man Without Fear” mini-series but has not been cast or mentioned in this first season of Daredevil. The other character that we have confirmation we won’t be seeing is Bullseye. If Kingpin is the R’as Al Ghul to Daredevil’s Batman, than Bullseye is the Joker. Creators of the Netflix series have stated flat out that Bullseye won’t be making an appearance in the first season, as he did not appear in “Man Without Fear.” Surely though, his part will come later, as the battle between Matt and Wilson grows to a fever pitch.
Also, you may have wondered while watching the trailer, “Isn’t this guy supposed to be dressed up like, y’know, a devil?!” Right you are, however, the all black costume that Matt is wearing in this first season is straight out of “Man Without Fear,” and ironically, out of the old television movie, Trial of the Incredible Hulk. In the original series, we only actually see Matt wearing the Daredevil costume in the very last scene of the very last page of the very last issue of the comics. Is this to say that we won’t be seeing Matt cracking skulls in his patented red and black costume? Not necessarily, but don’t expect him to be in his signature duds right out of the gate.
Marvel Studios is trying something new and daring with these Netflix endeavors, and the fact that they’re pulling their ideas from the best source material they have leaves me with nothing but confidence moving forward.