It's been a long time coming, but after 20th Century Fox lost the rights to ol' Hornhead after passing on Joe Carnahan's pretty awesome pitch, the Man Without Fear has come home to Marvel Studios and will join that company's cinematic universe with a new Netflix TV series. Even though cameras have yet to roll on the upcoming series, it's endured a bit of a roller-coaster ride in recent days due to the loss of Drew Goddard as showrunner combined with the announcement of the show's lead actor.
Marvel recently revealed that Goddard has been replaced by Steven S. DeKnight, creator of Spartacus and a writer for Joss Whedon's TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Meanwhile, Variety reported that Charlie Cox has been cast as Matt Murdock/Daredevil. The 31-year-old British actor's highest profile roles to date include 2007's Stardust opposite Claire Danes and Michelle Pfeiffer, along with a role on HBO's Boardwalk Empire as Owen Sleater, a driver and bodyguard to Steve Buscemi's Enoch "Nucky" Thompson throughout the show's third season.
Since the Daredevil series is finally beginning to coalesce into something real, and since we now have enough distance between 2003's pretty dismal outing for the character and next year's series, it's prudent to start wondering exactly what elements of the comics DeKnight and Marvel Studios will choose to incorprorate. Here are five noteworthy Daredevil tales the new show could likely take a few cues from.
5) "Return of the King" (Daredevil vol. 2 #116-119, vol. 1 #500) by Ed Brubaker, Michael Lark and David Aja
With the introduction of Matt Murdock and his supporting cast to the Marvel cinematic universe, many people are likely hoping that Wilson Fisk, also known as the notorious Marvel villain Kingpin, will turn up to torture Daredevil and his efforts to protect Hell's Kitchen. Although Kingpin made his first appearance in The Amazing Spider-Man #50, the character was exploited in 2003's Daredevil as played by the late Michael Clarke Duncan (perhaps the only bright spot in an otherwise mediocre film).
Although the "Return of the King" comic book arc was used to, well, return Kingpin to New York after a massive defeat at the hands of Daredevil, the concept of this arc by writer Ed Brubaker (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and artist Michael Lark (Gotham Central) could also be used to introduce him to the Marvel cinematic universe.
In it, Fisk has returned to the city after a long absence and wants to reassume his place as the head of the underworld, but in order to do that he needs to take revenge on the entity that killed his newfound love: the ninja cult known as the Hand. It's up to Fisk and Daredevil to bring them down, which may cause problems for the Man Without Fear whether or not he assists his longtime foe.
4) "Without Fear" (Daredevil vol. 2 #100-105) by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark
Also coming from Ed Brubaker's critically acclaimed run on the ongoing Daredevil comic book series is this extremely personal tale revolving around the villain Mister Fear and Murdock's wife.
"Without Fear" confronts Daredevil with a scenario that is universally terrifying to anyone, and that's a threat against loved ones by a character who only has a desire to hurt him through the people he cares the most for. Brubaker always excels at creating very personal stakes for these larger-than-life comic book characters, sometimes even allowing us to see them in an entirely new light, and the critical reception to "Without Fear" illustrated to many his continued ability to do that through a character like Daredevil.
While the previous films and the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series have shown us that there isn't really a shortage of already existing Marvel villains to potentially exploit in this series, Daredevil's specialized rogues gallery will likely be an important part of framing the conflicts of the show going forward, and Mister Fear's somewhat personal connection to Matt Murdock as a former law school classmate could potentially be a great introductory thread to lead to a story like "Without Fear." As a celebrated recent tale featuring Daredevil, it wouldn't be a bad place to look for inspiration.
Beyond that, the fact that the cover for the story's first issue also features characters like Iron Fist and Luke Cage, two of Daredevil's fellow Netflix-bound Marvel compatriots, shows crossover potential either before or after the planned Netflix event miniseries featuring The Defenders.
3) "Guardian Devil" (Daredevil vol. 2 #1-8) by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada
When Marvel decided to relaunch the Daredevil ongoing comic book series in the late 1990s, it turned to popular filmmaker and well-known superhero guru Kevin Smith to write the first story arc. Penciled by Joe Quesada, "Guardian Devil" is another story that goes after Matt Murdock's most vulnerable place--his heart--while also featuring an endearing side by placing a young infant in the superhero's care.
While it's filled with its fair share of heartbreak and darkness, Smith's snappy writing and undeniable penchant for good dialogue also helped make it surprisingly charming, if somewhat emotionally exhausting. If you're looking for a strictly "street-level" affair, though, "Guardian Devil" isn't exactly that. It features appearances by some of Marvel's more ethereal characters like Dr. Strange and the demon Mephisto, in addition to characters like Black Widow, the Kingpin, Kraven the Hunter and Spider-Man.
While it's more mystical orientation may be a disqualification for the possible tone of the show, it also allowed the symbolism behind Daredevil's superhero identity to be cleverly juxtaposed with his chosen role in the world. Similarly to how Batman is an agent of good cloaked in the darkness of evil, Daredevil is also a virtuous man in the garb of one of the oldest evil forces in human mythological history. Smith used that very effectively in this story, though if any part of it does end up being adapted, they'll have to leave Spider-Man villain Quentin Beck, aka Mysterio, out of the equation.
Overall, "Guardian Devil" is a different kind of Daredevil story, but at its core it still serves as a great character study for Matt Murdock, which may help the forthcoming series even if only adapting small parts of it.
2) "The King of Hell's Kitchen" (Daredevil vol. 2 #56-60) by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
Perhaps the most celebrated Daredevil run since Frank Miller's, the efforts by writer Brian Michael Bendis and artist Alex Maleev helped elevate the character's ongoing series to stratospheric critical heights, grounding Daredevil brutally in Hell's Kitchen while also expanding his role in New York City, leading to historic conflicts with anyone from the Kingpin to Bullseye to the FBI.
Bendis' run also saw Daredevil's secret identity virtually destroyed, while also giving him some great personal and professional highs and lows in his role as a lawyer, and as a human being. This particular story, "The King of Hell's Kitchen," takes place after Daredevil gave the Kingpin a crippling defeat, all but deposing him as the head of New York City's underworld. Now in a new position to reshape his neighborhood in ways he never thought possible, Daredevil basically takes the authority to name Fisk's successor as the new Kingpin of Crime... and he chooses himself.
Emphasizing some of the absolute best of the Bendis run, this story also has a great concept that only requires two things: that Daredevil have an existing rivlary with the Kingpin, and that he deals him a crippling defeat at some point. From there, the story's core concept can be exploited in a number of ways that can be self-contained to either this series or the other Netflix offerings that will be available, or potentially have grander implications for other corners of the Marvel cinematic universe if the creators want to take it that far.
1) "Born Again" (Daredevil vol. 1 #227-233) by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
The conversation about groundbreaking Daredevil material has to start -- and end -- with Frank Miller's historic run on the character. Much like he would prove to do with Batman for a generation, Miller's time shaping Daredevil would prove to be one of the most definitive character studies in comics up to that point, influencing nearly every creator that would follow in taking a crack at the Man Without Fear and his entire cast of characters. While other chosen entries have emphasized the conflict between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk very well, it was "Born Again" that serves as the standard bearer for what that conflict can be, and what makes it one of the most enduring antagonisms in comics.
Up to this point, the Kingpin had been a thorn more in the side of Spider-Man than anyone else, but in Miller's hands and armed with the information about the man behind the red-horned mask, he crafted what can likely still be considered Daredevil's darkest hour, and perhaps his greatest triumph. Couple that with the unparalleled artwork by David Mazzucchelli and you have one of the character's timeless classics.
To be clear, though, in the mindset of the new series, "Born Again" is not a story you pull out right away. It's something that needs to be built to well after you establish Kingpin and exactly why he would devote so much of his time and resources to the destruction of Matt Murdock. Given enough proper setup, though, "Born Again" could be the standout arc of the series, giving old and new fans alike something to become truly invested in.
What do you think? Are you looking forward to Netflix's Daredevil? Is there a particular story you'd like to see adapted, loosely or otherwise? Maybe your favorite battle between he and Bullseye, or even a story featuring the other Defenders? Sound off below, and be sure to come back here in seven days for a new edition of Comics on Film at Movies.com!
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