Matthew Murdock is a man of contrasts. He was raised in poverty and grew up to become a lawyer, thanks to his single father, a boxer and part-time mob enforcer who pushed his son to study rather than fight. Blinded by a freak accident that also heightened his other senses, Matt acquired a range and depth of perception that sighted people can only dream of. Together with fighting skills acquired in violation of his father's wishes, he uses his enhanced senses to fight crime as the costumed hero Daredevil, the Man without Fear, who regularly violates laws he has sworn to uphold as a member of the bar.
In this book, philosopher Mark D. White explores the moral character and behavior of Daredevil, one of the most intriguing and dramatic characters in superhero comics. Focusing on his earliest stories, from 1964's Daredevil #1 to 1986's "Born Again" storyline, we'll ask who Matt Murdock is and why he does the things he does, in terms of both motivation and the basic character traits that influence his choices. We'll examine Matt's belief in the importance of rules, the role of promises in his life, and his sense of responsibility, each of which he tends to take farther than he should. We'll discuss how he balances his personal devotion to the law with his nocturnal activities, and we'll follow him as he becomes more violent, crossing the line into torture, but avoiding killing (for the most part). Most generally, we'll watch as he gradually starts to come apart at the seams, the roots of which appear early on but intensify as the years go on, reaching a climax as his life is completely dismantled in "Born Again" with the help of one of his greatest foes-and one of his closest friends.
Written to appeal to newcomers to both comics and philosophy, A Philosopher Reads Marvel Comics' Daredevil is the perfect introduction to how Matt Murdock developed over his first several decades to become a superstar of comics, TV, and movies today. His story can also provide a way for us to think about how we deal with our own internal conflicts and contrasts-without ever having to put on a skintight red costume!
Mark D. White is a professor of philosophy at the College of Staten Island/CUNY and is the author of A Philosopher Reads Marvel Comics' Thor, A Philosopher Reads Marvel Comics' Civil War, The Virtues of Captain America, and Batman and Ethics.