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Calling All Friends of Ol’ Mike Murdock
(Oh. Right. There Aren’t Any, Are There?)

(Soundtrack: REM —Life’s Rich Pageant)


“C’mon group–yuk it up! I don’t bite!”

During the course of a tintinnabulatin’ romp through Essential Daredevil Volume One, H of The Comic Treadmill protested against the genius plot contrivance that is… Mike Murdock.

Calumniator!


For those of you who don’t know, Mike is the black sheep of the Murdock family–a gaudily-clad wildman whose feet invariably wind up on desks, or in his mouth, whenever he spies a woman drawn by Gene Colan.

What gets me is–first H complains, quite rightly, that a magazine with only three cast-members generates very claustrophobic feelings in the reader, and then he objects when a zany fourth is added to the mix! Okay, so maybe having Matt pretend to be his own twin wasn’t the best way to open up the strip, but you have to applaud the attempt. What did you want Stan to do, have Murdock and Nelson take on a third partner who actually spends most of his/her time in court?

Besides, I think Mike Murdock makes a lot of sense. DD isn’t your typical Marvel character at all–there’s no “great power” thrust upon him, and consequently, no “great responsibility” for him to live up to–he gets a raw deal as a child, loses a lot of marbles, and, like Batman, resolves to put the ones he’s got left into the “revenge/adventure” basket. Like Bruce Wayne, and unlike Peter Parker, “Matt Murdock” is a facade, a place to hide until ol’ hornhead can come out to play with the criminal element. Sure, Peter lets off steam as Spider-Man, but he never retreats into heroism–quite the opposite, in fact: he’s always on the verge of hanging up his webshooters, because they’re messing up the part of his life that he really cares about.

Stan Lee’s Daredevil, on the other hand, clearly anticipates Watchmen‘s take on superheroing-as-sublimated-sexuality. Matt Murdock is just begging for reasons to ignore life–and Karen Page: “I’m blind! I’ll never be any good for anyone…” “Oh, Foggy’s heart beats quickly, whenever Karen is near! I must not interfere, even if it’s obvious she has no interest in him…”


Let’s just face it–Matt is the kind of person that suits up for a red romp instead of going on dates. He’s just a (physically) normal guy, armed with a little bit of radar and a powerful dissociative urge. He can’t knock criminals out with his pinky, or anything like that. There’s no compelling reason why he shouldn’t “leave death to the professionals”.


Except that Matt’s a role-player. Crusading attorney. Blind monk. Crime fighter. And yes… swinger in a summer party shirt!

But beating on the Owl is not a panacea, after all. If you’re powerfully attracted to a woman, you’re still going to feel the need to express that, especially if you can read heartbeats and you know she’s been waiting for you to do it since issue #1. But Matt just isn’t ready for that. So he delegates the task to “Mike”. I think it makes perfect sense. H is disgusted:

Lying to his friends and hitting on one of them while under an assumed identity. Glad I wasn’t one of Matt’s friends.

But I think this is the point! Matt isn’t a good friend! He’s a masked vigilante first, and a masked “alter-ego” second (and, as it turns out, third!). Helps to explain why Karen Page hit the skids so hard in the “Born Again” stories, don’t you think?

In the seventies, Doug Moench would take this crimefighter-as-role-player thing and run with it in Moon Knight, but I think Stan did it first, in Daredevil #25!

Good Day Friends!
Dave

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