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What Can Marvel Do To Make Daredevil Work? Copy “Arrow” (Or, “Angel”).

By Rob Payne | Think Pieces | May 6, 2013 | Comments ()


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Marvel Studios executive Kevin Feige recently announced that the media rights to one of the comic publisher's oldest characters have reverted back to their ownership, after 20th Century Fox passed on Joe Carnahan's grind house reinvention and then promptly sat there, blinking like a blind man at a sign language conference. I'm with Fox in thinking that a Daredevil movie is perhaps not worth the effort, though I love the character. No, now is the time for Daredevil to be reborn on television. Really, anything to wash out the taste of that dreadful movie would suffice -- and, before you mention it, no, the director's cut does not make it better.

Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell, Michael Clarke Duncan and directed by Mark Steven Johnson, is bad. Just plain not very enjoyable or well-made. It isn't the worst superhero movie or the worst comic book adaptation (hello, once again, dearest X-Men: The Last Stand), but all the source material fidelity gets lost in the bland execution and being overly serious without realistically grounding any of the theatrics like Nolan did with Batman. Daredevil, a.k.a. Matt Murdock, definitely has a dark origin and many depressing story arcs, but he's not always so damned tortured and woe-is-moi like Affleck's tears in the rain performance. He's supposed to be like Spider-Man haunted with Catholic guilt, and also an incredibly talented and charming public defender. When the character is written well in the comics (Mark Waid, Joe Kelly, Brian Michael Bendis, pre-crazy Frank Miller), he's almost better than Batman, minus the psychosis but with the ability to have semi-normal human relationships with other grown men and women. That really doesn't sound too dissimilar from the CW's version of Green Arrow does it? Or, let's be honest, Joss Whedon's "Angel."

Okay, yes, Daredevil and Green Arrow (and Angel) are very different characters - one wears head-to-toe red, the other dons green (and the other-other black); one is blind, the other an archer (and the other-other a vampire); etc., etc. - but Marvel could definitely learn a thing or two about television shows from their super heroic competitor. Certainly, with Joss Whedon's "S.H.I.E.L.D." and, supposedly, a "Hulk" series arriving in the future, the studio probably thinks it's already got a handle on this TV business. But team espionage and wandering outcast shows are far different from the lone hero working in one area with a small-ish supporting cast. Actually, with Whedon on the payroll, I'm sure the studio could handle that, as well, but he's only one (super) man and surely he can't oversee two shows and the cinematic Avengers, as well as passion projects like Much Ado About Nothing? Luckily, this is where internet blogging comes to the rescue.

With stories that are usually less about the action and more about the intrigue, and Daredevil solving crimes and prosecuting criminals at least as much as he's kicking ass, there's much more narrative potential for an ongoing superhero legal dramedy than another attempt at a blockbuster franchise. What would that show look, sound, and feel like? If you weren't paying attention earlier, go ahead and re-read the title of this piece. So, hey, let's make "Daredevil" a TV show, Marvel. Here's how:


DON'T Focus On The Super Heroics
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Of course, that doesn't mean there shouldn't be any red-tighted acrobatics and thug punching. Every episode should feature Daredevil, but, like "Arrow" is about Oliver Queen, the show should be all about Matt Murdock and why he dresses up like a freak and swings between rooftops despite being blind and a not unsuccessful attorney. DD's super senses are the perfect kind of TV powers to feature in and out of costume, and would require a much lower effects budget than "Smallville" ever needed. Imagine how exciting it would be for Murdock to uncover a villain's secrets because he recognizes the heart beats from a previous Daredevil encounter, or vice versa. What makes the comic character great is that he doesn't have two personas; his identity may be hidden, but it's always Matt in that costume and Daredevil in those power suits.


DO Flashbacks Of Daredevil's Origin
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But as important as Matt Murdock's personality and motives are, his origin doesn't need to be retold in extensive detail in a pilot episode. Nor does his martial arts training with his mentor, Stick. Those elements should absolutely be included, because they're fundamental to understanding the character, but "Arrow" has handled this beautifully by parsing out information when the overall story demands we need to know, and meanwhile we follow the lead and try to piece together what he's up to based on the piecemeal facts we do have. It's simply engaging television, and Daredevil's back story - blinded in accident by chemicals that gave him super senses, boxer father murdered "in front of his eyes" by the Kingpin for not taking a dive, and trained by a ninja to fight crime as a way of supplementing his legal work - is rife with interesting and entertaining mini-narratives. All we need at the start is why Murdock is a superhero, then we can find out how he did it.


DON'T Cast Stars In The Lead Roles
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This is probably obvious, but it's easy to get caught up in dream casting. So unless Guy Pearce wants to start slumming it on genre television, Murdock/Daredevil needs to be played by a relative unknown who is also more than a pretty face and a cool haircut. Not bringing baggage from earlier work is really important for a character like this, who could otherwise be boring if we know what to expect week in and week out. David Boreanaz was sort of a name when he got promoted from "Buffy" to "Angel," but his true talent was kept mostly under the radar before he got the title gig. Likewise, Stephen Amell was "that guy from that thing, maybe" for eight years before "Arrow." Just like those anti-heroes, we need to be with Murdock from the ground running and no sooner. That said, please feel free to fill out the cast with welcome genre actors like John Barrowman, Paul Blackthorne, Kelly Hu, and Alex Kingston.


DO Include His Supporting Cast
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As fundamental as his origin is, Murdock's co-workers, friends, lovers, and enemies are also an integral part of what makes the comic great (when it is). Foggy Nelson is one of the best friends and sidekicks in all of fiction, much less superhero fiction, and Jon Favreau's performance in the movie pretty much nails the character. But there's also Nelson's overbearing mother, Murdock's own mother (a nun), the reporter Ben Urich (also played well, but totally against type, by Joe Pantoliano in the flick), and, naturally, all the various girlfriends and lady acquaintances Matt Murdock has accumulated, or will accumulate throughout the series. (Elektra just scratches the surface.) But a great hero needs a great villain, and the aforementioned Kingpin of crime more than fits that bill. Michael Clarke Duncan (RIP) did well enough with the part, but he needs to be more than the big bad who's taken out at the end of the first season. He needs to be the series' big bad, who may not even get his comeuppance in the final episode. He needs to be the Wolfram and Hart of the whole shebang.


DON'T Skimp On Comic Cameos
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While super-heroing shouldn't fill up all 42 minutes of this prospective show, "Arrow" has shown that not tiptoeing around comic book references can be a fun nod to fans and not distracting to n00bZ. "Smallville" did this exactly wrong. At first, that show molded its comic characters to fit a teen soap opera, and then it allowed for all the costumed craziness you'd want from a Superman show... except from Superman himself. It became a joke that the only character the "no flights, no tights" rule applied to was the man of steel. "Arrow" has already solved this by just putting its lead into the costume right away. Once it convinced the audience Green Arrow wasn't ridiculous, the show was able to squeeze in the Huntress, Deadshot, and Deathstroke with very little fuss. And since comic Daredevil and comic Black Widow have had relations in the past, a cameo by Scarlet Johansson wouldn't be remotely out of place.


Like my recommendations for MTV's "Scream" before, I don't presume to think these suggestions would make for groundbreaking or award winning television -- though there's no reason "Daredevil" couldn't also have the storytelling flair of cable TV's best -- but it could be immensely watchable. Just like the shows it could best emulate. Or maybe there just isn't an audience for Daredevil, but he's got more upside than a "Hulk" sans Mark Ruffalo. There's no way that will be a winning proposition.


Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He works cheap, if Marvel's listening.



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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • MarTeaNi

    Get Mark Waid to write it. Half-way there already.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    pre-crazy Frank Miller

    Is that the Frank Miller of 300, Sin City, or Batman: The Dark Knight Returns? Because that Frank Miller pretty much sucks.

  • Fernando Yanmar Narciso

    i think it shouldnt take itself so damn seriously though, my only grudge with, for instance, the dark knight trilogy is how serious and deep nolan has tried to make that world, but also forgetting that BATMAN IS A NUTJOB ON A FUCKING BAT SUIT! THAT JUST CANT BE TAKEN DO DEAD SERIOUSLY!

  • John W

    Marvel also has the rights back to Punisher, Blade and Ghost Rider.

    I don't know about GR, but Punisher and Blade would definitely make for decent shows, although Blade would probably suffer from the over abundance of vampire shows.

    I could just imagine a crossover between Punisher and Daredevil.

    If Punisher didn't merit his own show then he would definitely make for a great recurring character on a DD show.

  • greg

    blow it out your ass

  • superasente

    I was looking into the night sky on a cloudless spring evening recently. I did what every man has done since humanity developed a sense of curiosity (probably an evolutionary function, but who knows); I found myself star-gazing.

    Now, I'm sure you know that stars are millions of miles away, and even though light travels very VERY fast, it still takes quite a long time for the light from those stars to arrive on my doorstep. Millions of "light years," to be (more or less) precise. So, as difficult as it is to imagine, the light that you're seeing from the stars above is light from the distant past. You're literally looking at something that might not even be there anymore. It is a genuine marvel.

    Then I get to thinking - wow, our distant ancestors had no idea of this - they could not have imagined this truth. They had no idea that stars were just cousins of the Sun. Who knows what they thought stars were - tiny thorn-pricks in the sky? They had no idea that the Sun and Stars are super-heated gravitational-swirls of plasma, or that a dying star once gave birth to the planets and moons, and by extension our very bodies. They lacked the logical and mechanical tools to identify the incalculable variety of celestial bodies, and the vast expanse of space.

    Frankly, I started to panic a little because of this. I got to feeling a little off-set from my forefathers. Not more advanced - let me be perfectly clear that I don't feel superior to the people who lived hundreds of thousands, and millions of years before me. For all intents and purposes, the men and women who developed into our species two-hundred thousand years ago in southern Africa had the same cognitive and physical potential that I was born with, and I am only advanced by merit of my culture. I panicked because their way of life suddenly seemed so static and foreign to me. It feels a little bit - I don't know, empty somehow, to know so much and to have so little mystery. There seemed to be romance and elegance somehow in the forgotten, unchanging way of life.

    And suddenly it passed. I remembered something very important.

    We weren't so different. Because they felt just as diminished by the stars as I did. They gazed up into that brilliant scatter of cosmic beauty (perhaps even seeing more than I will ever hope to, as they were unburdened by cities and light pollution) and likewise understood how small and insignificant they are. They may not have known exactly what the make-up of the universe was, or exactly how small they were in comparison. But I imagine that they probably understood exactly how fragile life is, and how short their time was to behold and delight in sentient existence. They looked at the stars and they knew this, as surely as I know it today: that we are small and insignificant.

    Greg, I encourage you to go home tonight and look up at the stars. If it's cloudy, do it tomorrow. Pour a cold glass of scotch, or whatever your poison is, throw on some gentle, deep music (maybe some Nina Simone) and contemplate your existence. Take scope of the unfathomable universe that surrounds you, and drink in the delight of your diminished value.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    *slow clap, building to thunderous applause*

    Bravo, sir!

  • greg

    blow it out your ass rob

  • Mrs. Julien

    YOU'RE BACK!

  • DoctorDouchebag

    They should give this part to that guy from The Wire and Chronicle who is supposed to play the new Human Torch. Man he would kill it in a decent part instead of playing shitty side characters in the shitty FF shitty reboot. He's a really talented actor who deserves a good turn is what i'm saying, oh and FF suck balls!

  • googergieger

    Attach Nolan's name to it, and watch fauxhipsters blindly flock to it.

  • OR

    Also he should fight ninjas

  • Marc Greene

    I'd say just try not to make it any "darker" than the comic. Daredevil shouldn't kill people. DD has a very cool pantheon of villains (costumed and not) and supporting characters to take advantage of - there shouldn't be a huge need to reinvent them to make them that much more modern or believable... except maybe Stilt-Man.

  • Spazholio

    I dunno, man. The comic did "dark" fairly well on its own. Remember that time he took over the Hand?

  • Marc Greene

    Absolutely. That was fairly recently though. I can only imagine that they would work through the Miller storylines first (which would be awesome). The movie should just be less leather, less CGI, and less DD straight up murdering anyone. Remember in the comics DD let Bullseye live, but broke his spine. The Punisher and DD had real beef too because their methods were so different.

  • "maybe there just isn’t an audience for Daredevil, but he’s got more upside than a “Hulk” sans Mark Ruffalo"

    Seriously. Mark Ruffalo's Hulk was one of the best parts of The Avengers - menacing, surprisingly funny and way more nuanced than I'd expected. Unless you're willing to pay his salary to be on t.v., leave well enough alone. It really wouldn't compare well.

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