By John Markle
In September of 1986, American comic book writer Frank Miller published arguably one of the most well-composed comic books of all time, Daredevil: Born Again. In Daredevil: Born Again, a continuation of Miller’s earlier Daredevil issues, Matthew Murdock, known by few as the heroic Daredevil of Hell’s Kitchen, goes through a spiritual journey. His journey is one of death, rebirth, faith, love, redemption, and forgiveness. In this journey, not only Matt, but his friends as well, are dragged through their own personal Hell before they can once again find the light in their lives (Draper, 2013, pg, 2). This collection of Daredevil issues is a clear and deliberate parallel to Jesus and his final days. Matt’s journey as written by Miller is a testament to the power of faith, hope, and love.
Miller’s adaptation of Daredevil proves that a hero can be anyone. This graphic novel powerfully connects the over 2,000-year old message of Christ to a modern audience that can relate to this imperfect hero. Like most people, Matt faces multiple everyday problems from relationship issues to losing a job. Through both identities, he shows us that no matter how big or how many problems we may encounter, with faith, hope, and love we can defeat them.
Background and Identity
Originally depicted as a background character, Miller gave Daredevil his public identity as Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer. Miller added depth to Matt’s character by making him Catholic. Unlike earlier comic book characters such as Batman and Zorro, Daredevil was not just a vigilante hero seeking justice. His beliefs and actions were guided by the teachings of the Catholic faith and were used to guide Matt’s moral compass as he constantly shifted between being a lawyer and the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.
Like Jesus, Matt draws a great deal of his strength and love from his relationship with his father, Jack Murdock. Jack fought for what was right and to be the man he wanted Matt to see him as: a strong, willing, and devoted father. Unwilling to compromise his beliefs and honor in front of Matt, Jack refuses to throw a boxing match and defeats his opponent in the ring. Angered by the outcome, the men that attempted to fix the match ambush Jack and kill him outside the gym. Jack’s death gives Matt the need to find justice in the world. Matt’s purpose, much like his father and Jesus, is to fight for and defend the marginalized and misrepresented.
“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in, I was naked and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you visited Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? When did we see You sick or in prison and visit You? And the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.” (Matthew 25:31-Matthew 25:46, Berean Study Bible).
In addition to a sense of justice, achieved without compromising his integrity, Matt has a sense of hope from his dad. Miller incorporates a flashback early in the series just after Matt’s accident that caused his blindness. As Matt begins to fade out of consciousness, he hears his father say, “SON? CAN YOU HEAR ME SON? THE DOCTORS…THEY SAY YOU’LL BE FINE, SON. YOU’RE A HERO BOY” (Miller, 1986, pg. 57). This flashback with his father during a scary time for him instills that sense of hope in Matt. No matter how hard he falls, Matt still has the hope to continue with what his father believed in and fought for.
Catholicism in Daredevil: Born Again
Catholicism is based on the teachings and life of Christ. Jesus preached to love one another, seek peace, and to serve the poor and marginalized. Jesus was arrested, crucified, and died on the Cross. On the third day, he rose again to show the power of love over even death (The Nicene Creed, 1909). Miller creates a series of events that directly parallel the Stations of the Cross. He cleverly uses each issue’s cover page and certain critical panels in the story to re-create a visual image of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. Matt falls to his lowest when he is illustrated shivering and homeless without his friends after being humiliated by Wilson Fisk. At this point, the once tough Daredevil cannot even fend off low-level muggers (Miller, 1986, pg. 75). Matt seems to have lost everything—his apartment, job, friends, and even his own identity. Despite seeming to have lost it all, Matt is still able to draw from within himself faith, hope, and love.
In Matt’s quest for justice, he comes to find that despite all the good he does, more bad things still happen to him and the ones he loves. It is through his ability to respond and fight for love that Matt can rise from his metaphorical “crucifixion” to later defeat his most troublesome foe, Wilson Fisk. Fisk is shown in frustration on the second to last page of the issue, Armageddon, just after Nuke, a hitman sent to kill Daredevil by Fisk, is defeated by Daredevil (Miller, 1986, pg. 176). Fisk cannot comprehend at this point how Matt can absorb every blow he sends him. No matter what obstacle Fisk throws Matt’s way, Matt can conquer each of them through love.
“Forgiveness and love are rarely the focal points of superhero comics…But this is what sets Born Again apart from the rest of comics. In the end, it isn’t about defeating the Kingpin or finding justice for what happened. It’s about salvation of the soul, no matter how low a person may have gone in his or her life (Draper, 2013, pg, 6). Matt chooses to forgive the one he loves most, Karen Paige. Karen begins Daredevil: Born Again with a drug addiction, no money, and trying to survive by prostitution. Karen betrays Matt by revealing his identity in order to obtain drugs. She realizes shortly after her betrayal that Matt has always been the one that could love her no matter what. “—Even as she runs she hates herself for the name that comes to her—The man who always helped—Matt—” (Miller, 1986, pg. 27). When Jesus taught his followers how to pray, he taught them the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses, As we forgive them that trespass against us.” (Matthew 6:9-13, King James Bible) Jesus calls us to ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. Despite Karen’s betrayal and all her flaws, Matt instantly forgives her. Matt is still able to love her just as Jesus was able to love all no matter how damaged or flawed they were.
The values of faith, hope, and love that are shown through Daredevil and Matt Murdock demonstrate that even at the worst of times, with faith, hope, and love, one can survive. In order to find salvation as it is taught in the Catholic faith, you must lose yourself to gain everything. Matt responds to his suffering and loss by finding a way to forgive Karen and to keep loving her and those close to him. Only then is he truly reborn, just as Christ was. By choosing to forgive, Matt can defeat the powerful and wealthy Wilson Fisk, persevere through many limitations and obstacles, and regain a sense of purpose.
Despite all his flaws and disabilities, Matt gives people hope because he is still able to defy all odds and persevere. It is often easy for us to get discouraged by our own imperfections and limitations. Miller once said, “he really is a flawed hero, in that he’s a man who intends to do good and causes much damage. Matt should have been a villain. He had a horrible childhood, his romantic life was the worst…but somehow he redeems himself and moves ahead. He just doesn’t give up” (S.E. Henderson, 2017, pg. 140). Miller brilliantly creates a very relatable character that can do super things despite his many limitations.
Frank Miller makes the story very believable because we can relate to Matt, his struggles, and his desire for justice as Daredevil. “There is true beauty in this single page (Page 130), a truth that speaks to the hearts of all types of people. If two fictional characters can demonstrate the true power of faith and forgiveness, imagine the impact that these acts can have on the lives of you and me” (Draper, 2013, pg, 6). What makes Daredevil so appealing is that he is a regular kid that lost his sight. People like me who have dealt with long-term medical illnesses and disabilities can easily connect. I can relate because I was a kid just like him that was diagnosed with a serious illness and was put through many difficult situations. Like Matt, I have never been the one wanting to complain or be held back by my disabilities, but both of us have been forced to go though some hellish circumstances. This comic gives me the hope that even at those low points, I can get through them. In the face of adversity and overwhelming challenges, Miller’s Daredevil inspires us all to choose love.
- Miller, F. (1986). Daredevil: Born Again (Issues #227-231). New York, NY: Marvel Comics.
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