In early 1964, writer/editor Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett came up with Daredevil, an entirely new Marvel superhero who debuted in Daredevil #1.
Marvel’s Daredevil was actually not the first comic book character to use that name. Jack Bender came up with a character called Daredevil in 1940. However, the only thing that the two comic book Daredevils seem to have in common are their athletic skills and their acrobatic exploits.
Legendary comic book artist Jack Kirby also contributed to the creation of Marvel’s Daredevil, but the extent of Kirby’s involvement isn’t clear. Comic historian (and former Kirby assistant) Mark Evanier has suggested that Kirby designed Daredevil’s first costume and the character’s signature billy club. However, there isn’t definitive proof about the extent of Kirby’s contributions to the character.
Daredevil has one of the most iconic origin stories in comics. So much so, that even the origin of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles pays homage to Daredevil!
Matt Murdock was raised by a single father in the Hell’s Kitchen area of Manhattan. Although bullied as a child, Matt was selfless to a fault. When he was a young boy, Matt witnessed a blind man in the path of an oncoming truck. Matt saved the man, but was blinded himself when the radioactive chemicals from the truck struck him.
Following the accident, Matt discovered that his other senses were heightened to a superhuman degree. Matt also developed a “radar sense” which allowed him to “see” without the use of his eyes.
In Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the same accident that created Daredevil led to the mutation of the Ninja Turtles. But that was an unofficial crossover at best. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles began as a parody of Daredevil, but that’s a longer story for another Origins and Evolutions.
You can’t talk about Matt Murdock’s origin without bringing up his father, “Battlin' Jack” Murdock. It’s a common trope in comics for the hero to have lost a loved one or parent. But Jack Murdock’s influence over his son has stayed with Daredevil even to the present day.
Jack Murdock was a retired boxer and single father who insisted that his son, Matt, pursue an education in order to have a better life. After Matt’s accident, Jack returned to boxing to support him. A mobster named The Fixer ordered Jack to throw a fight, but the elder Murdock refused to go down with his son in the audience.
Battlin' Jack Murdock was victorious in his final match, but he was subsequently murdered by The Fixer’s men, leaving Matt Murdock an orphan.
Seeking justice for his father, Matt Murdock trained himself (which was later retconned to include Matt’s mentor, Stick) and he became a remarkably gifted athlete whose skills were only enhanced by his special powers.
Daredevil’s infamous yellow and black costume was made out of his father’s boxing robe. And in one of his first adventures as Daredevil, Matt Murdock confronted The Fixer and avenged his father when The Fixer suffered a fatal heart attack.
In his daily life, Matt Murdock became a lawyer and partnered with his best friend, Foggy Nelson in a small law firm: Nelson & Murdock. One of Matt’s signature tricks is that his radar senses can tell him when someone is lying. That allowed Matt to take on innocent clients who had been wrongly accused.
Foggy has been Daredevil’s most consistent supporting character throughout the life of the character. Jon Favreau played Foggy in the “Daredevil” movie, while Elden Henson will portray Foggy in the “Daredevil” series on Netflix.
Karen Page was introduced as Nelson and Murdock’s secretary, and she quickly became Matt’s love interest. Karen had an on and off again relationship with Matt that seemingly ended after he revealed his dual identity to her. Strangely enough, Karen became a supporting character in Ghost Rider during one of the periods in which she had been written out of Daredevil’s comic.
“Grey’s Anatomy” star Ellen Pompeo played Karen Page in the “Daredevil” movie, although most of her scenes can only be found in the director’s cut of the movie. Former “True Blood” actress Deborah Ann Woll portrays Karen in the “Daredevil” series.
Daredevil’s yellow and black costume only lasted six issues before EC artist Wally Wood unveiled a new red costume for the title character in Daredevil #7. This outfit is considered to be one of the most iconic comic book costumes of all time.
Even to the present day, Daredevil’s costume has been largely unchanged aside from some minor alterations and artistic license. Although this costume has been noticeably absent from the ad campaign for the “Daredevil” series on Netflix, it has been broadly hinted that Daredevil’s red outfit will appear before the end of the first season.
And in case you were wondering, Daredevil is badly losing a fight with Prince Namor of Atlantis in this classic cover.
Within the Marvel Universe, Spider-Man has been one of Daredevil’s most consistent allies. Their first meeting came in Amazing Spider-Man #16, in which the forgettable villain, The Masked Marauder tricked Spidey and Daredevil into fighting each other.
The two heroes eventually figured out the Marauder’s deception and went on to forge a memorable friendship. During the ‘80s, Daredevil and Spider-Man came to know each others’ secret identities, which also cemented their ties.
Another unifying factor between Daredevil and Spider-Man is Wilson Fisk, The Kingpin of Crime. Originally created as a Spider-Man villain, Kingpin has become more closely associated with Daredevil. Michael Clarke Duncan played Kingpin in the “Daredevil” movie, while Vincent D'Onofrio took over the part for the “Daredevil” series.
In a bizarre chapter in Daredevil’s history, Spider-Man inadvertently exposed Matt’s secret identity in a letter that was intercepted by Karen and Foggy. To deflect suspicion from himself, Matt created the persona of “Mike Murdock,” his never-before-seen twin brother who was not-so-secretly Daredevil. Note that Mike wasn’t supposed to be blind and his persona was a lot closer to Daredevil’s than Matt’s was.
To ramp up the comic book silliness, Matt developed an identity crisis and came to question whether he was really Mike/Daredevil or himself. Eventually, the “Mike Murdock” identity was dropped when Matt faked Mike’s death and Matt took over as the “new” Daredevil.
Aside from Karen Page, the most consistent lover in Matt Murdock’s life was Natasha Romanoff aka the Black Widow. Writer Gerry Conway brought Black Widow into the series in the pages of Daredevil #81 and she went on to share title billing in Daredevil and the Black Widow #93.
The dual title came to an end with issue #108, but Black Widow remained in the book until issue #124. However, Black Widow continued to reappear in Daredevil’s life as a friend and sometimes lover.
That connection is unlikely to be explored in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but it would be very entertaining to see.
Marv Wolfman followed Conway on Daredevil and he promptly wrote Black Widow out of the series. By Wolfman’s own account, he was “unsatisfied” with his Daredevil run and left the book after less than two years.
However, Wolfman created one of Daredevil’s most iconic villains during his time on the title: the assassin known as Bullseye.
Bullseye is a homicidal psychopath with the ability to throw any object with lethal accuracy. He is far and away the deadliest foe that Daredevil has in his rogue’s gallery of villains. Bullseye has murdered two Daredevil’s lovers and made his life hell for years.
Colin Farrell portrayed Bullseye in the “Daredevil” movie, but the character will not appear in the first season of Marvel’s “Daredevil” on Netflix. However, that may change if “Daredevil” gets a second season...
More than perhaps any other comic creator, Frank Miller has become synonymous with Daredevil. Miller debuted as the artist of Daredevil in issue #158 before taking over the title as the writer and the artist as of issue #168.
It was during Miller’s run that Kingpin became ingrained into the Daredevil mythos and the rivalry with Bullseye was ramped up. Miller also added more fantastical elements to Daredevil, including the ninja clan known as The Hand and Stick, Daredevil’s blind mentor who seemingly had a radar sense of his own.
But Miller’s most memorable contribution was another one of the great loves of Matt Murdock’s life...
In Frank Miller’s first issue as the writer of Daredevil, he introduced Elektra Natchios, the former lover of Matt Murdock who had reinvented herself as an unstoppable assassin. Miller retconned Elektra into Matt’s backstory as his girlfriend in college. When Elektra and her father, Hugo were kidnapped, Matt’s attempt to rescue them led to Hugo’s death.
Years later, Elektra reappeared in Matt’s life when he attempted to stop her from assassinating a criminal. Elektra even briefly worked for the Kingpin before refusing to kill Foggy Nelson (because of his connection to Matt). In response, Kingpin ordered Bullseye to kill Elektra... and he succeeded.
Elektra proved to be far too popular to be permanently killed off. Miller wrote her resurrection story a few issues later and he said that Marvel promised not to use Elektra again without his permission. However, that promise was not kept and Elektra remains prominent in the Marvel Universe.
In the early ‘80s, Daredevil made his animation debut in “Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends” during the episode "Attack of the Arachnoid." Daredevil’s in-costume appearance was only in flashback, but legendary voiceover artist Frank Welker portrayed Matt Murdock in the episode.
Within the context of the episode, Matt served as Spider-Man's lawyer when Spidey was falsly accused of several crimes.
After a few years away from the title, Frank Miller returned to Daredevil alongside artist David Mazzucchelli in issue #227 for the famous “Born Again” storyline. In this tale, Miller revealed that Karen Page had sold out Daredevil’s secret identity while she was a drug addict. That information eventually reached the Kingpin and he used it to systematically destroy Matt Murdock’s life.
In the process, Matt briefly went insane and he was nearly killed by the Kingpin himself. Eventually, Matt managed to rebuild his life with Karen and shatter the Kingpin’s public persona in a victory of sorts. “Born Again” is considered to be one of the definitive Daredevil stories and it will likely be used as source material if the “Daredevil” series gets multiple seasons.
Who could possibly follow Frank Miller on Daredevil? The answer is Ann Nocenti.
Originally brought on board as fill-in writer for Daredevil #236 before becoming the full time writer for over four years. Nocenti’s take on Daredevil was noticeably weirder than Miller’s, as she brought Daredevil into conflict with Mephisto (Marvel’s version of the devil) and literally sent Daredevil to Hell.
Nocenti’s run produced two enduring characters: Blackheart, the son of Mephisto and Typhoid Mary, an unstable woman with multiple personalities who was a love interest for both Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk. As Mary, she was a sweet and innocent woman who loved Matt. But as Typhoid Mary, she was a sadistic killer with psionic powers.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe gets all of the credit for inspiring shared universes among film and TV franchises. But it wasn’t even the first time that Marvel tried to bring that concept to live action.
During the late ‘80s, Marvel and NBC were attempting to use the series of “Incredible Hulk” TV films to potentially pave the way for more Marvel characters on TV. In 1989’s “Trial of The Incredible Hulk,” it was Daredevil’s turn to get the live action treatment as Rex Smith played Matt Murdock, the lawyer of David Banner (Bill Bixby).
Of course, Matt eventually went into action as Daredevil as well, while challenging Wilson Fisk, who was played by John Rhys-Davies (who went on to play Gimli in The Lord of the Rings trilogy).
Daredevil’s iconic red suit was replaced by a black outfit in this film, which may have influenced his appearance in the Daredevil: The Man Without Fear miniseries a few years later.
Following the departure of Ann Nocenti, writer D. G. Chichester and penciler Lee Weeks revisited Daredevil’s war with the Kingpin in the “Last Rites” storyline.
Beginning in Daredevil #297, Matt Murdock finally managed to bring down Wilson Fisk’s empire and he also reclaimed most of what he lost during the “Born Again” storyline.
Chichester remained with the Daredevil title and brought even greater changes in the “Fall From Grace” storyline in issue #319. To prevent his identity from being exposed, Matt Murdock faked his death yet again and assumed a new secret identity: Jack Batlin.
Daredevil even got a new armored costume and a seemingly meaner personality, in part to convince the world that he was a brand new Daredevil. However, the changes were not embraced by the fans and Daredevil’s red costume and original identity were restored shortly thereafter.
In 1993, Frank Miller revisited Daredevil alongside artist John Romita Jr. in the five issue miniseries, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear.
Miller used the opportunity to revise and expand Daredevil’s origin. Among the new elements were a black costume that Matt wore before becoming Murdock (which definitely inspired the first costume used in the “Daredevil” series on Netflix) and the revelation that Matt’s father, Jack worked as an enforcer for The Fixer before he was murdered.
Miller also wrote in expanded roles for Elektra and Stick while depicting the first meeting between Matt and Foggy as well as the introduction of Matt’s conflict with Wilson Fisk.
During the mid ‘90s, Daredevil made his return to TV in two episodes of “Spider-Man: The Animated Series.” This time, Edward Albert provided Matt Murdock’s voice as he defended Peter Parker against trumped up charges before Spider-Man and Daredevil inevitably teamed up to prove his innocence.
The episodes were actually released on DVD as Daredevil vs. Spider-Man, which is long out of print. Daredevil also made a guest appearance on the “Fantastic Four” animated series from the ‘90s, which adapted the classic "And a Blind Man Shall Lead Them" story from an early issue of Fantastic Four.
Very few fans seem to remember that writer Karl Kesel had a brief stint on Daredevil before Marvel canceled and relaunched the series.
However, Kesel’s run changed the dynamic between Matt and Foggy by letting Foggy in on his secret identity as Daredevil. That aspect of their relationship endured for nearly two decades.
In 1998, Marvel recruited Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti to revitalize some of the lesser selling Marvel characters. Under the Marvel Knights banner, Quesada and Palmiotti relaunched Daredevil as the art team for writer and director, Kevin Smith.
At the time, it was considered to be a huge coup to land Smith during the height of his career. Smith, Quesada and Palmiotti’s “Guardian Devil” storyline proved to be extremely popular and it succeeded in renewing interest in Daredevil.
Smith only stayed on the book for eight issues, but Daredevil once again became one of Marvel’s top heroes.
In 2003, 20th Century Fox released the “Daredevil” live-action movie directed by Mark Steven Johnson. For his first cinematic outing, Matt Murdock aka Daredevil was portrayed by Ben Affleck, with Affleck’s future wife, Jennifer Garner as Elektra.
Despite a very solid cast, “Daredevil” was not the huge, Spider-Man-level blockbuster that Fox had hoped for. Fan response to the “Daredevil” film was mixed, although Johnson's director’s cut has won more praise than the theatrical cut did.
Fox was encouraged enough to spin Garner’s Elektra into her own movie... which bombed hard. But Marvel Studios fans should be grateful for that. If “Elektra” had been a hit, then Fox probably wouldn’t have let the rights to “Daredevil” expire.
After Frank Miller, Brian Michael Bendis may be the most definitive Daredevil writer. Arguably, Bendis’ Daredevil run alongside artist Alex Maleev is even better than Miller’s as Matt Murdock was forced to deal with the exposure of his secret identity in a way that he couldn’t entirely walk back.
Bendis also introduced Milla Donovan, a blind woman who eventually became Matt’s wife. And after four years on the book, Bendis ended his run with a cliffhanger that saw Matt arrested by the FBI for his activities as Daredevil.
Writer Ed Brubaker and artist Michael Lark followed up on Bendis’ dangling storylines by following Matt Murdock in jail while another hero assumed Daredevil’s mantle during the Civil War storyline. Matt eventually got an unexpected assist from The Punisher that allowed him to escape jail and at least partially clear his name... even though most of the public still believed he was Daredevil.
Brubaker’s run also wrote Milla out of the book after she was driven insane by one of Daredevil’s foes. And like his predecessor before him, Brubaker left Daredevil in a bit of a cliffhanger as he assumed control of the Hand ninja clan to prevent them from recruiting Wilson Fisk as their new leader.
Andy Diggle followed Brubaker and Lark’s run with Daredevil’s attempt to forge the Hand into a force for justice. Several Hand ninjas even added horns to their outfits to honor their new leader.
But the Hand was essentially a death cult and impossible to tame. Instead, Daredevil slowly became corrupted by an actual demon inside of him. During the Shadowland crossover storyline by Diggle and artist Billy Tan, New York City’s street level heroes united to save Daredevil from himself.
And in the aftermath, Matt abandoned his heroic identity while Wilson Fisk took his place as the leader of the Hand.
Before Diggle left the character behind, he wrote the Daredevil: Reborn miniseries alongside Antony Johnston and artist Davide Gianfelice. Daredevil: Reborn followed Matt Murdock to Mexico as he was drawn into a conflict with a drug cartel.
The experience allowed Matt to rediscover his inner hero again, paving the way for his return to New York City and yet another relaunch of the Daredevil comic.
Mark Waid subsequently took over as the writer of Daredevil, alongside several artists including Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee with a new issue # 1 and a noticeably lighter tone in 2011.
Waid’s run has been extremely well received by fans and critics for his fresh take on Matt Murdock, Foggy Nelson’s battle with cancer and for Waid’s inventive takes on several classic villains.
Marvel has announced Waid’s departure from Daredevil, which means that the Man Without Fear will probably get another relaunch after this summer’s Secret Wars event.
In 2013, Marvel announced an ambitious deal with Netflix to bring four of its street-level superheroes to live action. Foremost among them was “Daredevil.” Shortly after recapturing the Daredevil rights from Fox, Marvel began developing “Daredevil” for television.
Genre veteran Drew Goddard signed on as the executive producer and showrunner of "Daredevil." But after Goddard left to focus on a “Sinister Six” movie (that may or may not happen), Steven S. DeKnight stepped in to take over as showrunner... and early reviews of the series seem to indicate that “Daredevil” has been more faithfully adapted this time.
Charlie Cox will play Matt Murdock/Daredevil, with Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson and Rosario Dawson as Claire Temple.
Don’t be too shocked if Netflix orders a second season of “Daredevil” before Comic-Con.
Even if "Daredevil" doesn’t get a second season, Charlie Cox will be back as the Man Without Fear in the eight part “The Defenders” miniseries on Netflix.
Marvel Studios is essentially trying to recreate its winning formula for “The Avengers” on Netflix by introducing Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in their own series before bringing them all together in “The Defenders.”
It could work, and it probably will. Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter have already been cast as Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, respectively. That only leaves Iron Fist yet to be cast, and it’s also unclear who will write and direct “The Defenders” eight episode miniseries.
However, it seems likely that “The Defenders” will premiere in 2017, since “A.K.A. Jessica Jones” is slated for a late 2015 debut, with “Luke Cage” to follow in 2016.