We jump to the tragic life of modern Daredevil, where his only victories came in not having his entire life destroyed and everything he’s fought for become meaningless. These are dark days. In the current story from Daredevil #79, written by Brian Michael Bendis and drawn by Alex Maleev, Daredevil’s secret identity is outed by a tabloid. That’s right – because if he must go through physical trauma such as stabbings, beatings, and the normal superhero punishment combined with the emotional trauma of watching loved ones die in front of him and his unhinged sanity of keeping the overwhelming chaos from consuming him, we should add mental trauma to that list. It creates the full trifecta of never-ending sadness.
Then Kingpin comes forward admitting he has physical proof that Daredevil is actually Matt Murdock. Bullseye wants the documents. We pick up halfway through the issue and mid-fight.
Oh yeah, and Daredevil is married. Long story made short: she’s a sweet civilian who like Murdock also happens to be blind. Common interests build strong relationships, you know. Luckily, and not just for vengeance purposes, Daredevil gets an ally this time – someone just as ninja-y as our protagonist. It’s Elektra, because let’s be fair, you already see her in the page below before your eyes wandered to this text. Note that this Daredevil isn’t playing any games today. He hasn’t experienced joy in fifty issues. So when I offhandedly mention that Daredevil is tired of Bulleye’s crap, I’m underplaying just as much.
Arch-nemesis must be more than scary, dangerous bad guys. No, the superhero must need the supervillain – some terrible psychological aspect of having the opposite qualities (whether that be physical or personality) placed inside another person. Or at the very least, what the supervillain represents. Like say, how Spider-Man and Green Goblin represent different paths genius can take. Iron Man and Mandarin bring us technology versus magic. Red Skull’s a Nazi. But Bullseye? Daredevil doesn’t need him. He doesn’t represent anything symbolic for our crimson hero. And unlike the complex give-and-take of many superheroes with their dear arch-nemeses, Daredevil only possesses one emotion towards Bullseye: pure, unbridled hatred. Bullseye exists solely to be a bug for Daredevil to step on every few months, albeit a giant bug with claws and a shell and razor-sharp antennas and projectile venom and anything else dangerous a bug could have.
The fight isn’t over. Not for another five pages. To give a compliment where it’s due, Bullseye can take major punishment. We’re talking Punisher-level amounts of abuse and suffering. Now’s a good time to tell you that soon after this, as some sort of half-reward for being an awful person, Norman Osborn makes Bullseye an Avenger. He gets the penthouse suite, the ID card, and everything. People love and cheer for him. So as you watch the upcoming beatdown, know that Bullseye’s life is about to become awesome – he deserves far worse than what Daredevil and Elektra give him. Sometimes good things happen to bad people.
Everything about this fight gets wrapped up in a delightfully visceral bow. But as satisfying as Bullseye’s conclusion is, remember what I said at the very beginning. Daredevil can’t win. The poor guy has a span of about a hundred issues of constant torment far beyond what we non-powered wussies can endure. So when you see Bullseye lose so spectacularly, that only means Daredevil has to lose by that much more.
One more to go! Shadowland is next!
You want a good ol’ fashioned vengeance brawl? Of course you do. Because after a former love interest/supporting cast member of the superhero gets killed, our next thought ventures immediately to something like, “This [superhero] is going to beat the crap out of [supervillain].” But today, we jump to one of the most famous death scenes in Marvel comics – that sickening moment when Bullseye impaled Elektra with her own sai in all its full gory glory. And with her death, I know what you’re really thinking. You’re right: Daredevil is going to beat the crap out of Bullseye. We jump to Daredevil #181, written by Frank Miller and drawn by Miller & Klaus Janson.
So this story has a skewed angle: Elektra’s death and the aftermath isn’t told from Daredevil’s perspective. He serves as the foil. Every thought box you’ll see is Bullseye’s crazy thought process. Daredevil doesn’t say a word. Most importantly, Elektra’s relationship with Matt Murdock, Matt Murdock’s relationship with Foggy Nelson, Foggy Nelson’s relationship with Elektra, and all their relationships with Daredevil have spawned some worrisome suspicions on Bullseye’s psychopathic mind. Like say, maybe Daredevil’s secret identity isn’t so hard to figure out.
There’s a delightful irony in the Kingpin’s quick dismissal of Murdock as Daredevil in that Frank Miller’s most famous story involves the Kingpin discovering that Daredevil actually is Murdock. But Bullseye doesn’t confirm any of that for another decade or two down the line. So how does Daredevil throw him off the Murdock trail? Y’know how: the simplest superhero trick in whatever disguise/feint book every superhero’s required to read before they go off and billy club bad guys. Also, Bullseye’s a moron.
Notice how Murdock’s not quipping? Not ranting or taunting? Not doing anything but ramming his fist into Bulleye’s jaw? That’s some cold ninja shih tzu right there. It’s the moments when superheroes don’t speak that should freeze the bad guys’ blood. When they’re taking the fight seriously enough not to multitask with silly dialogue or angry monologues – instead just a combination of punches, concentration, and the total decimation of whoever managed to push them to this point. To bring in some more symbolism to their fight, on the pages below they run afoul of a passing train. The last time the two fought, Daredevil saved the unconscious Bullseye’s life from being run over a similar train. Moral responsibility totally sucks sometimes.
Okay, so I lied. Daredevil says six words. And when I previously mentioned moral responsibility? That was before Bullseye killed Daredevil’s first lover. Some lessons take more than one try for even the smartest superheroes to understand. And just like how we rely on the Joker’s bat-guano crazy rants of why he’s obsessed with Batman to cement his arch-nemesis status (though every arch-nemesis for every superhero seems to go on at least one obsessive monologue about their chosen enemy at least once per arc they appear in), Bullseye shines the same way here. Finally, if you can learn one important lesson from this fight, bad guys shouldn’t kill Daredevil’s love interests. He isn’t great at dealing with that kind of trauma in a healthy way.
We advance to modern Daredevil for our next fight on Friday! Get excited!
Over the next three articles, we’ll be reading three different fights of these two – mainly because I love arch-nemesis brawls and lengthy villain monologues. Bullseye likes to talk. Premiering about thirty issues before where we start today, our baddie started as all normal supervillains tended to in the 1970s: he planned ornate, extravagant plots for Daredevil to foil (like fighting Daredevil while riding a circus elephant or shooting Daredevil out of a giant crossbow) that were as forgettable as they were silly. But he kept showing up roughly every five issues or so. And today, in Daredevil #160-161, written by Roger McKenzie and drawn by Frank Miller, he finally gets that gold medal all supervillains aspire to be – Bullseye’s hard work (and bruises) attain him his long-awaited arch-nemesis status. For reference, you’ll be looking at the dawn of Daredevil emergence as the gritty, dark superhero that saved his title from cancellation and made Frank Miller a superstar.
Since Daredevil has far more important things to do than fight Bullseye, our baddie will have to force the superhero’s hand. Like say, attacking Daredevil’s girlfriend Black Widow.
No more happy Daredevil. Hell, Black Widow even straight up mentions the dramatic change a few pages from now. When you really think about a superhero’s life, it should only be a matter of time before they crack. How much crap does Daredevil have to deal with everyday? And not only it piles on far faster than our superhero can clear it, each new pile always comes with it a dose of broken bones and ruined days. He doesn’t even get paid – superhero-ing actually costs him a fortune what with new outfits and billy clubs and lost opportunities to work on his law firm. We can all proclaim from the heavens that Daredevil’s paid in justice, but he did choose a profession where every day is soaked in the angry fists of evildoers. He should at least get a stipend, I say. Oh, and that’s probably why Daredevil’s not happy anymore.
Despite this butt-kicking you’re witnessing, we have to believe that Daredevil and Bullseye are on roughly equal fighting levels. Our superhero’s a much better martial artist while Bullseye has the superpower to never miss his target with whatever he happens to throw (I know he’s officially non-powered, but we can all agree that his crazy aim is a skeptical stretch even for a universe where everyone fights crime in pajamas). Most importantly, Bullseye goes off an a long rant mid-fight, which I’ve always enjoyed in comics. Just like boxers recite lengthy speeches during their fights on ESPN. And if you want to notice the bigger difference between old Daredevil and new Daredevil, this new Daredevil really doesn’t have time for this bull anymore. No time at all.
Bullseye suffers from brain damage – crazy painful headaches, hallucinations, and personality shifts occur randomly. None of which are helped by Daredevil smashing his skull through a pinball machine. But the brain damage is at least a somewhat justified punishment for him killing people and whatnot. On a side note, these next few pages show just how much of a superhero’s career is left to chance. Sure, Bullseye’s crazy, but how crazy? If Daredevil guesses wrong, he dies – and Daredevil has to guess the insanity of each new bad guy every other issue or so. Thank goodness Daredevil’s series started selling well: superheroes make far more mistakes when their series dips in sales.
I know you’re upset that I didn’t show you the Daredevil versus Hulk fight instead. Mainly due to how little of a chance Daredevil has against the most powerful being in the Marvel universe. Oh, sure, we love to watch our adorable street-level heroes fight against impossible odds, but there’s nothing more foolish than Daredevil whacking the Hulk in the nose. It can’t harm him and the Hulk only gets stronger with each continued blow. But, here’s a taste. You deserve it.
We jump twenty issues next time to the mid-Frank Miller era!
Iron Man is dead. At least in this point in the comics. It allows War Machine to take over the title for a few issues, but it mainly consists of James Rhodes angrily stomping his feet in frustration at every single situation that comes his way. Seriously, for starring in his own superhero comic for these precious few issues, Rhodes has more angst than Spider-Man’s worst day. Anyway, in Iron Man #285-288, written by Len Kaminski and drawn by Kevin Hopgood & Barry Kitson – Iron Man obviously not “dead” dead – our hero hallucinates about his past. Mainly about his relationship with his father. Nowadays in current continuity, Tony Stark’s dad acts much like Batman’s dad: a paragon of the community and a role model for our superhero to aspire to be. But not in these four issues. Let’s meet a very different Howard Stark.
Iron Man has been sober for about a hundred issues or so. But all that previous alcohol fried his brain enough for him to repress all those awful memories of the domestic abuse committed by his boozy father. We know this story as a constant theme in comics — terrible parents force the prodigal son to begin his never-ending quest seeking the approval of people who will never give it to him. But this story factors so much into Iron Man’s personality: his love of machines, his superhero fantasies, his maniacal self-improvement, and his relentless drive; everything pretty much goes back to his father being a dick.
I know he’s called Iron Man and his first two armors were made of iron, but let’s chalk his father’s proclamation up to a coincidence. By the way, is it just me or is it weird to see Tony Stark without his mustache? Even as a child. That ten year-old needs to be rocking that pencil-thin mustache for me to be completely comfortable with this flashback.
You see what happens when you let kids be exposed to fantasy? They become billionaire playboy superheroes who gain the whole world’s adoration and love. Off topic, but I do hold a firm belief that superheroes are America’s King Arthur. Britain has their fictional greater-than-life heroes, complete with adventures and so on. We Americans created our own fictional greater-than-life heroes, just with spandex and who punch mobsters as opposed to slaying dragons. Though, if I can shamelessly plug, Green Arrow has totally slayed a dragon, so take that Lancelot or whoever.
You should feel bad for Iron Man, and not because he lost his parents. No, y’see, Iron Man is so amazing that nothing is difficult. He’s good at everything. He has no weaknesses. He’s a god among men. So shed your tears now, my friends. Can we all take a minute and proclaim what a genius Stan Lee is? He created Iron Man, a superhero literally no one can identify with (except maybe Elon Musk), injected into him the ego of an entire professional sports league, gave him everything the readers weren’t getting (like girls), and then somehow made this man a comic book superstar.
You know what happens next. Terrorists kidnap him or Vietcong or whatever’s the current group Iron Man first gets kidnapped by. I know nowadays his superhero origin relies on an abduction somewhere in the Middle East, but that changes depending on what decade the Iron Man story takes place in. But that incident propelled him to become a good person, warrior of justice, etc. May we all hope that our own physical, mental, or emotional transformation doesn’t involve building a suit of armor to blow up terrorists. But we should definitely hope that we can one day we could wear a pencil-thin mustache and still be called cool. That’d be a decent enough transformation, I guess.
Iron Man’s back to life! On Monday, get ready for a surprise (because I don’t know what we’ll be reading at).
Four months after Batman and Punisher’s first team up, they get another shot, and Punisher even gets top billing this time. But unfortunately for our dear Frank Castle, he’s not dealing with the raving craziness of pseudo-Batman/Azrael, a man who does not prepare for everything no matter how inane and weird. But despite the real Dark Knight jumping across rooftops, the Punisher’s still hanging out in Gotham City. His only supervillain Jigsaw teamed up with the Joker to do evil stuff, so he’s going have to stay for a while. In Punisher/Batman: Deadly Knight, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by John Romita, Jr. & Klaus Janson, the issue goes pretty much like you’d expect.
Batman and Punisher, each not fond of the other, get two short fights. It’s bound to happen, y’know, because the Punisher shoots people once while Batman prefers instead to have bad guys get jump kicked over and over again for decades. More importantly, without all of Azrael’s armor and claws, we’re going to get a fair fight – at least as fair a fight from two fictional characters each with rabid, loyal fan bases who’ll rise up against the opposite comic book company if their boy loses.
Look, let’s be honest: the Punisher has probably saved far more lives than Batman has. Not in terms of catching civilians from burning buildings, but just in the sheer thousands of mobsters and criminals the Punisher has taken off the street. And it is in the thousands. Every issue he mows down at least one crowded restaurant or party full of bad guys. So with the climax of the book over complete, and all Punisher has to do is clean up whatever trash remains – you know what’s going to happen in the next three pages as soon as you take a look at the first. Of course Batman’s not going to let Punisher kill Joker, and of course it’s done in a very non-Batman way, but what else could possibly happen? The end result always ends with the status quo. That’s good business.
You’re about to witness a punch so full of rage and frustration that it needed a two-page spread. But rest easy knowing that you and the Punisher likely have the same opinion of Gotham City: it’s an insane, illogical, mess of a widly broken city filled the most insane, illogical, and definitely broken people. Plus, in New York City, superheroes dress as spiders instead of bats, the way a civilized society should be.
On Friday, we’re delving into some of Iron Man’s daddy issues!
Finally, right? You know you’ve been clamoring for it – Batman does many things, but fighting non-powered dudes who shoot guns isn’t one he does often. By that I mean every ten pages as opposed to the entire issue cover to cover. But this team up carries a far different weight than the last article, due to the whole Batman and Punisher disagreeing violently over their very moral cores. So when they have their inevitable fight, it’s for real. No genital measuring contest here. Except in Batman/Punisher: Lake of Fire, written by Dennis O’Neil and drawn by Barry Kitson & James Pascoe, you might notice something different about this Batman. Hint: this comic came out in 1994.
That’s right, my friends. It’s Mecha-Batman. The lunatic Azrael still reigns over Gotham City as their forced caped crusader since Bruce Wayne’s back remains still broken by Bane. Azrael’s cult brainwashing and inferior complex to the real deal drives him further into those insanity depths he jumped in long ago. But since I introduced Azrael, I’ll give you Punisher’s intro as well. Spoiler alert: religion doesn’t come up as often with him.
I know that going into “stats” or superpowers is a useless discussion. The writers determine many of the imaginary limitations for the imaginary characters, but it won’t stop me from attempting it – it’s very late, and I have space to fill. Azrael’s suit makes him stronger, tougher, and faster than Punisher. But Punisher, usually armed with only silly weapons like guns and bullets, takes on Marvel supervillains frequently enough for that to negate all of Azrael’s benefits. Plus, the Punisher fights dirty. Don’t go expecting a long drawn out ordeal – it’s a six page fight – but I hope it’s bloody enough to satisfy your superhero bloodlust.
Punisher isn’t cheating. He thinks he is, but he’s not. If Mecha-Batman can use super strength and giant claws to fight a man clad in just spandex, it’s not against the rules if the Punisher pulls out a pistol. Actually, the fight should have probably started this way. And also, since when is the Punisher against cheating? The only reason the team up had to include Punisher’s baddie Jigsaw is because Jigsaw is the only bad guy Punisher has. He has a rogue gallery of one. His oppenets tend not to last more than single issue when Punisher’s modus operandi is to murder them. Almost always by cheating.
Good news. There’s a second team up, and Punisher fights the correct Dark Knight next time. We’ll read it next time to finish up our crossover articles, as it’s hard to find enthusiasm for all those Silver Surfer team ups.
[Ed. Note: I’m feeling better. I promised myself I would get to 500 articles, so I hope you’ll enjoy the final fifty articles as much as I’ll enjoy writing them! Until I’m back to 100%, I’m going to cut down to two articles a week – I appreciate your support far more than you would ever imagine.)
Last time the Man Without Fear and the Dark Knight crossed pathes, they basically spent the entire issue seeing who had the bigger wiener. We all know the winner: Superman. His perfection doesn’t end at the belly button, my friends. In their second team up, Batman/Daredevil: King of New York, Daredevil begins our story by traveling the mysterious dimensional gap of DC/Marvel cities to Gotham City. I know the story’s called King of New York. Just go with me here.
Daredevil’s following Catwoman, who stole something valuable or whatever. But because all good team ups must begin with fisticuffs, Batman’s going to show up to wreck whatever information party Daredevil hoped to figure out. Cue the initial brawl:
These two constantly seem to forget that they’re normal dudes who can’t do stuff like fly or land safely on the ground without transforming into superhero goo. And while I know Daredevil attempted to interrupt Batman, the crooks are going to figure out who’s on their tail when Daredevil tackles his superhero counterpart in clear view while they both fall to their deaths. Truthfully, Daredevil’s actions only serve for us to witness a cool acrobatic free-for-all between Batman and him. And it’s awesome. I never need context for stuff like that.
Thus begins round two of their big wiener contest. The stakes are just as high as last time (nothing). But here’s the summary of their current squabble: both Gotham City and New York City are awful places that create the most unnecessarily toughest people to ever walk the comic book universe. But it’s their super awful places.
The story takes Daredevil’s bad guy Kingpin and Batman’s bad guy Scarecrow to New York City where the Scarecrow plans to unleash a mega bomb of fear toxin that will destroy the tough people of New York City. Earlier, Kingpin betrayed Scarecrow – y’know, because they’re both supervillains and that’s why every time the Injustice League gets formed, it eventually dissolves into infighting and misery – and now Kingpin’s getting his revenge. These next two pages aren’t important to the story, but they’re important for my heart and soul.
As required in a team up, our two superheroes face their buddy’s supervillain. I’m skipping Batman versus Kingpin, but only because the Daredevil versus Scarecrow fight is so much better. The baddie can’t beat Daredevil in a fistfight, so he has to use that magical fear gas of his. But Daredevil’s the Man Without Fear, right? See? I told you their fight was better.
Victory for our heroes, who never meet again. Luckily, I found a bunch of other crossovers, so next time we’ll have Batman team up with another Marvel superhero. Hint: this one doesn’t banter or smile. He only wears shirts with white skulls. His name starts with “P” and ends with “-unisher.”