Actually this post should be titled “Things I Like Now” because to be honest until recently I never liked Daredevil. Now I’m a complete convert. It may seem that after the success and critical acclaim of the new Daredevil series on Netflix that I am simply jumping on the bandwagon. I want to assure you – that is exactly what I am doing. I will make no illusions otherwise.
The series has been rightfully praised and I, like many others, binge-watched the entire thing over a two day period. I am currently re-watching it at a more casual pace in order to attempt to catch all the nuance and references that I may have (did) miss in a frantic marathon. It is one – no, let me change that – the best superhero television show ever made. And that is high praise from someone who never really cared for the titular character. So how did this change of heart come about?
Basically what I thought of Daredevil comes from an opinion formed as a child. I fully acknowledge that is an unfair way to judge something, but I am continually astonished by the fact that I am still swayed by opinions I formed as a kid. For instance I still cannot bring myself to like the Justice League because I thought Super Friends was terrible. Conversely I still love Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends even though I know full well it is absolute crap. My childhood self still influences my adult self against any and all rationality. Damn him.
And that is how it is/was with Daredevil. My brother read Daredevil so there were always comics laying around and inevitably I read them. It’s what you do. And for some reason it just didn’t appeal to me. The stories just didn’t seem compelling, the villains were just a little silly and the main character held no excitement. And so at a very early age I decided that Daredevil was boring. And I kept that opinion for a long, long time.
I had friends who told me to read Frank Miller’s run, it’s seminal they said. And they said read Brian Michel Bendis’ run, iconic they said. Or Kevin Smith, people seemed to like that too. I ignored these suggestions with the excuse that I was too busy and had way too much else to read, but in reality I already had it in my mind that I didn’t like it and so never even gave it a chance. It wasn’t worth my time. And then in 2003 the film version came out only to reenforce my opinion. He was a cheap Batman rip-off and that was that.
And then something happened. Marvel got the film rights back for Daredevil and announced what we thought then was going to be a movie. This was in 2013 and at this point Marvel movies were unmatched and just plain awesome and I was faced with a dilemma; continue with my unfounded disregard for a beloved character that was going to be made into (what I thought would be) a film or just get over myself and read the damn comics. My nerd self overcame my child self and I decided to read the damn comics.
But where should I start? With the Silver Age original stories by Stan Lee and Bill Everett? Or maybe, like everyone tells you to, with Frank Miller’s run? With Bendis? Brubaker? In the end I just started reading the (then) current run by Mark Waid. And to my surprise I loved it. It was colorful and fun with plenty of humor but still had a “gritty’ edge to it that was compelling. I read the back issues and followed it up till it’s conclusion, and his current run is just as entertaining. Basically I discovered a new character that I’ve always known about. And that was just amazing.
Since then I have gone back and read everything I could. The Bendis & Brubaker material is truly fantastic. Of the Frank Miller run, I can see it’s appeal. Maybe I’m just burnt out on Miller; had I read this at the time or a bit after I probably would have thought it was brilliant and used words like ‘seminal’ and ‘iconic’ but as it is I just find Miller’s schtick a bit tired now. I understand what people see in it and acknowledge it’s importance, just not for me right now. Still can’t bring myself to read Kevin Smith.
I have gone back to Silver/Bronze stories, you know the ones that soured me on Daredevil in the first place, and I’ve kinda warmed to them. They are in fact silly and convoluted, but those old stories do hold a special charm for me. I can now see them for what they are and not for what I wanted them to be.
And that brings us back to the present and the new series. There is so much care put into this adaptation. Yes, a huge bit of inspiration comes from Miller but the series seems to take it as just that – inspiration. It is not beholden to that material and feels free to make itself unique. It is dark but not without humor. It is visceral and brutal but not without tenderness. It takes bits and pieces of older stories and knows it’s history but is not afraid to be something new. It’s what TV comic adaptations should be.
So here it is, a new appreciation and a change of heart. You could say it’s just a comic book character what’s the big deal? The big deal is that I was closed minded. I dismissed something out of hand because of a wrongheaded opinion I made without any basis in fact; just an uninformed notion and I missed out on a lot of really interesting things because of it. And if I’m dismissive of a comic what else have I been dismissive of? What else have I closed my mind to? Daredevil has become a case study into my own prejudices, as ridiculous as that may seem. It is now a journey to revisit as many things as possible dissuade myself of preconceived notions. All because now I like Daredevil. Comics are great that way.
And I guess I have to read Justice League now. Damn you childhood self.