Comic writer J.M. DeMatteis — who also happens to be a TV scribe for animated series like Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Justice League Unlimited, and ThunderCats — wrote a treatment for what he hoped would be a faithful version of the Marvel story. Stan Lee gave it the thumbs up (much to DeMatteis' glee), but Hollywood had other ideas in mind. "The Fox executive in charge of the DD project wasn't as thrilled with my treatment as [producers/writers] Carlo [Carlei], Chris [Columbus], Stan [Lee] and the others were," DeMatteis recently wrote on his blog. Apparently rights for the project were up for renewal, but the powers that be let them lapse. " … New producers, writers and directors came along, ultimately bringing Daredevil to the screen in 2003. (I like to think that somewhere, in some alternate universe, the version I worked on made it into production and there's a special edition DVD sitting on my shelf.)," DeMatteis wrote.
THE MAN WITHOUT FEAR
Final Draft Treatment
J. M. DeMatteis
--on the Manhattan neighborhood called Hell's Kitchen, fifteen years ago, where we find a gang of teenagers strutting their stuff down the hot summer streets. The clear leader of the group is sixteen year old MATT MURDOCK...a cocky young Cagney, with energy, anger, and an attitude. He's the focus of the group's attention: their unquestioned leader.
As they strut, Matt's clear second-in-command, GENE ROMITA, asks about Matt's father. "Who's he fighting this week, huh?" Gene says with a laugh. "Michael Jackson?"
Without thinking, Matt backhands Gene across the face, knocking him to the pavement. "Shut up about my old man..."
"Hey," a defensive Gene says, wiping blood off his lip, "it's nothin' you don't say all the time..."
"I can say whatever I want," Matt growls. "You keep your fat mouth shut." Then Matt softens. An astute observer would see a flicker of regret, of shame, in his eyes. "You okay?" he asks, helping his friend up, trying hard not to sound too concerned. "Yeah, yeah," Gene says. "No big deal."
The group stops across the street from an overweight, overheated policeman, OFFICER KELLY...who's standing outside a Korean deli nursing a cold bottle of soda. "There he is," Matt says. "This ain't such a good idea, Matt," Gene says. "Kelly knows you. You cross him one more time and--"
Matt reaches into his back pocket, pulls out a ski mask. "Who says Kelly's gonna see me?" He slips it on. Stan's not convinced. It's too risky.
"That's the whole point," Matt says as he bolts. "You know me...I'm a freakin' daredevil!"
He moves, with the speed and stealth of an urban ninja, across the street, and ever-so gently snatches Kelly's billy club.
By the time the policeman realizes what's happened, Matt's just a blur, racing up the street. The policeman gives chase...as do two other cops in a passing patrol car--
--and we see that Matt, far from being frightened (this kid seems to have been born without fear), is finding a heady exhilaration in the chase. Just as the cops are closing in, Matt...with the effortless grace of a gymnast (he's a natural athlete)...grabs the bottom rung of a fire escape and, in a few astonishing moves, scales the building, takes to the roof, and runs, leaping--again, without an iota of fear--from rooftop to rooftop. He's running at top speed, approaching a between-buildings chasm that would give anyone pause--
--but Matt's eyes are alive with a recklessness, a delight in the challenge and the dare. He leaps--and in this moment he seems truly, fully alive.
Having ditched the cops...and the ski mask...Matt stands on a roof-edge, surveying the city, so full of potential and excitement and danger. This city's mine, his eyes seem to say. I can just reach out and take whatever I want, whenever I want it.
Matt hurls the stick high into the air, then effortlessly snatches it as it falls. Grins as he holds it tight in his hand: a trophy. A symbol of his youthful arrogance, his wildness. Of the devil in his soul. CUT TO:
The Murdock apartment. Several days later. Curtains drawn. No lights. Stacks of filthy dishes in the sink. A squalid mess.
Matt's father, JACK MURDOCK, is on the couch, half-a-dozen beer cans scattered on the floor, talking on the phone. "I know, but...but this wrestling thing...yeah, yeah...but it's humiliating, it's...yeah, Mr. DeFalco, yeah..." We see the defeat in his eyes, as he clutches a flyer advertising a wrestling match between "Mephisto" Murdock (Jack, in a tacky devil's suit) and "Ape-Man" Miller (a hulking brute in a cave-man costume). Matt comes in....walks past his father heading for his room.
Jack slams down the phone. "One damn minute," he says.
Matt turns to see his father...drunken rage in his eyes...holding the nightstick in his hands. He found the nightstick on the roof, he says. He pulls out a duffel bag filled with other stolen goods...dumps them on the floor. "Along with alla this." Matt doesn't say anything. "Why?" Jack growls.
"Because I could," Matt says, defiant. Not an iota of fear in his eyes.
"My own son," the boozy, bloated Jack slurs, "a common thief."
"My own father," Matt spits, the words out before he even realizes it, "a drunken joke."
Jack backhands Matt across the face, sending him sprawling.
Matt gets up without a word and leaves the apartment.
Jack stands there, shame and regret shadowing his face. He staggers into the adjoining bedroom. In the corner is a little table with pictures of the saints, a crucifix on the wall, and--clearly the central image, the holiest of holies--a framed photograph of Matt's mother, Jack's late wife, MAGGIE. A desperate Jack looks at Maggie. "What am I gonna do?" he says. "Maggie...what am I gonna do?"