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Five Reasons Marvel’s Daredevil Was Better than the Source Material

Something different - an entertainment post.

In producing Marvel’s Daredevil for Netflix, creator Drew Goddard had quite a task for himself. Much like Christopher Nolan when he took on Batman in his back to basics trilogy, Goddard found himself tasked with making a character who had previously been depicted in what most fans and critics saw as a B-movie.

Goddard not only surpassed that threshold but may have surpassed the original material, making the general message set upon for decades by creators Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Kevin Smith, Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Waid all the more clear - by getting to the core ethos of each character and making it more pronounced. Here’s how:

Matt Murdock - When Matt Murdock was first designed by Stan Lee and artist Bill Everett in the 1960s, the character’s alter ego was lanky, muscular and blonde. This look often clashed with the vulnerability that was expressed when the character was revised in the 1970s. It almost seemed as if he was pretending to be Matt Murdock, much as Clark Kent pretended to be Superman. Actor Charlie Cox bested this by bringing a shyness and vulnerability that made the character of a small boy granted incredible powers by a chemical accident more believable than ever. Cox’s portrayal was so perfect that it made his problematic relationships with Elektra Natchios (played by Elodie Yung) and Karen Page (played by Deborah Ann Woll) all the more believable as it is clear they attracted to him both for his strength and his sensitivity, ultimately becoming estranged from him because of just those same traits.

The Punisher - Marvel has produced well on a half dozen portrayals of this character since the 1980s. Much like DC Comics with Superman, Marvel for some reason was not able to hit the mark even with a character whose drive and appeal seems so simple - Frank Castle lost his family and wants revenge on organized crime. Drew Goddard finally did what failed to be done so many times by looking beyond previous film and comic book adaptations of the Punisher and looking to successful cinematic incarnations of such a character. Jon Bernthal looked and talked alot like Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Travis Bickle, an unhinged Vietnam war veteran who fights his own vigilante fight against child sex traffickers. The court room scene where Frank Castle openly lavishes his one man war on New York’s kingpins sounded more than a bit like Robert De Niro’s “You Talking To Me?” scene, as does the platonic but intimate relationship that Karen Page and Castle form throughout the second season, which mirrored Bickle’s two female relationships in Taxi Driver - with Betsy, a girl he awkwardly dated, and “Easy,” a child prostitute played by Jodie Foster.

Elektra Natchios - Elektra was probably the point at which the earlier Daredevil adaptation with Ben Affleck failed the most. Jennifer Garner’s character of Elektra didn’t make much sense in any way, which didn’t stop it from going on to its own B-movie franchise. Elodie Yung’s Elektra was fleshed out perfectly - we found out about her intimacy and difficulty with Matt Murdock just before learning how she had been a student of Matt’s mentor Stick from the beginning. Elektra is portrayed as sloppy with her attractiveness despite how strong it is and this, along with her clinginess to Murdock, is fleshed all the more by learning most her upbringing was spent as Stick’s student, training to be an assassin. Whereas Bullseye killing her in the 2003 film was random and weird, her time as an assassin made it make all the more sense and Stick’s words “Matt, you are the toughest son of a bitch I have ever met” after Matt says it was still worth loving Elektra resound a whole lot more than Jon Favreau’s Foggy Nelson asking “do you want to talk about it?” in the 2003 adaptation. 

Kingpin has only really been portrayed outside of comic books a few times - most notably in the 1990s Spider-Man cartoon and then in the aforementioned 2003 Daredevil film. Both portrayals weren’t off point but were very comic bookish. Michael Clarke Duncan’s character especially seemed a bit like Jack Nicholson’s Joker - an accurate portrayal, sure, but just a bit too campy. Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal, however, created layered elements on to his character, much the way Heath Ledger made Batman’s Joker complex - a strong devotion to his wife Vanessa Marjanna (played by Ayelet Zurer) and a role both as a successful politician and then an incarcerated criminal. Drew Goddard effectively weaved him in to the plotlines of both seasons without overdoing it, emphasizing the role Kingpin had in most Daredevil storylines as a constant backdrop to Matt Murdock’s life.

Karen Page - Fans of the Daredevil comic books will be more than aware than Page’s fate is along the lines of most of Matt Murdock’s girlfriends. I won’t spoil it. I assume that Drew Goddard will not change this and the lead up to that, making Page a strong, dynamic character who at times seems more in tune with what is going on than Murdock himself, is one of the most successful character dynamics in the whole series.

Drew Goddard’s Daredevil was arguably better than the source material and a success for Marvel Television’s growing line of dramas. At a time when people have deemed the superhero genre as oversaturated, Marvel may in fact only cementing their role at the forefront of popular entertainment.


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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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