(Author’s note: Spencer’s Soapbox is a weekly column here on SHH where yours truly tries to spur a conversation on specific topics. Dive in to the latest installment below and check out the previous ones by clicking here.)
Before I was even born, my parents knew I would be color blind as all the men on mother’s side have the affliction. When I was in Kindergarten, we learned my right eye was lazy and I had to wear an eye patch to help correct it, though I “lost it” and still suffer from the disorder. In second grade, I had to start wearing glasses when I read. The day I got my driver’s license, I was told if I didn’t wear glasses while driving I’d be ticketed, doubly so if I didn’t have a mirror on the right hand side. Suffice to say that my vision has never been my strongest trait. I think this might be why I was so drawn to Daredevil as a character from a young age – the one superhero that couldn’t see but still saved the day.
All of the Marvel heroes were interesting to me since I was growing up in the start of the superhero movie boom, but that red outfit, worn by a blind man, really stuck with me. As I’ve gotten older my appreciation for the character has continued to grow even as I leave behind other characters I was interested in previously. Some folks may not get the appeal of Daredevil, especially when Batman and Spider-Man rule the roost, but I love him. Even when I got hired to work for SuperHeroHype, my boss asked me who my favorite superheroes were and I answered: Swamp Thing, Green Arrow, and Daredevil. He may not be the fastest hero, the most well known, have the coolest power, but Daredevil is my guy, and he’s my favorite for a number of reasons.
What separates Daredevil from the other heroes is not what he can do but what he can’t do. His greatest ability is his handicap, his blindness. Matt Murdock can’t see but thanks to the accident that gave him finely tuned senses, he can paint a picture of his entire surroundings in a language that no one else can dream of. Every other superhero is defined by what they can do. Superman can fly, Batman is smart and knows karate, Spider-Man can stick to walls, Wolverine can heal fromm any injury, but Daredevil is defined by the thing he can’t do, see the world around him.
Another trait of Daredevil that gives him such a deep nuance as a character are the multiple dichotomies fighting within him. Daredevil is one of the few heroes that has a day job directly linked to his nighttime activities. Matt Murdock is one of the most gifted lawyers in all of the Marvel U, and he has a very defined sense of justice and respect for the law… by day, because at night he throws it all out the window when he puts on the horns and beats criminals in Hell’s kitchen to a pulp. Murdock is also one of the few superheroes to maintain a religious identity at the forefront of his character, and in the face of all the other things he’s been a part of. His Catholic upbringing has provided the necessary roots for a number of stories but also the blueprint for his daily struggle as lawyer/vigilante. That’s not the dichotomy at work though, that would be Matt being a devout Catholic and spending his nights running around dressed as The Devil.
There’s another big piece of Daredevil’s character that really separates him from his fellow Avengers – most heroes are defined by the people they save. Superman saves Lois Lane, Batman saves Gotham, The Avengers save the Earth, and the Guardians save the galaxy, but Daredevil is defined by the people that he can’t save. Countless love interests and friends of Daredevil are either killed, driven mad, or flipped from being normal citizens to crazed killers, and its the defeat that he feels from not being able to prevent these things that gives him that extra layer. Matt learning to keep going and persevere in the face of all this adversity is what makes him great and offers us the chance to learn something from him. Mr. Fear might not drive your wife mad, Kingpin may not destroy your entire life, Bullseye might not kill your former lover (twice), but despite how monumental your problems might seem, you can overcome them. You have the power to triumph.
Daredevil’s ability to punch people really hard isn’t what forms him as a character. It’s grit, it’s overcoming fear, it’s causing fear, it’s pride in your home, it’s respect for the law, it’s knowing that sometimes the law lets the man get away, and it’s doing your best through the worst scenarios. Jack Murdock never wanted his son to live a life like he did, punching for money, putting fear into people and wallowing in the gutter with mobsters, but this is exactly what Matt would go on to become. Matt knows that despite being a book smart lawyer as his father wished, they’re still the same man that doesn’t take no for an answer. He honors his father’s wishes while also managing to provide for his neighborhood and his city despite all of the hardships. As Johnny Cash would say, he’s got gravel in his guts and spit in his eye, but he doesn’t give up. At some point I finally accepted that I won’t be able to fix the problems with my own eye sight, but like Daredevil I make it work.