I should really get my next door neighbour from when I was a kid to write this for me. He was the one who got me into Daredevil. Or he tried. Kept telling me about this writer named Frank Miller and these characters who were really ninjas named Stick and Elektra and I don't know who all else. He had the whole Miller run if I wanted to read it.
"I dunno," I said, probably, "what are his powers? Like can he fly or does he have a spaceship or lightsaber or magic elfstones or anything?" I was 11.
"No, he's blind, but he's a ninja. And a lawyer."
Luckily for me Daredevil crossed over with the X-Men for both the Mutant Massacre and Fall of the Mutants. Well past the glory of the Miller run, but for 12yo me (now one year older and much wiser and more discerning) Daredevil fighting Sabretooth in the sewers, or trying to keep Hell's Kitchen in one piece while Apocalypse's Ship floated overhead were super awesome.
Funny thing is, I've still never read the Miller run.
But I've read a lot of great Daredevil comics. I've even read the first 50 issues of the original series on the Marvel Unlimited app. They don't have #51 for some reason so that's where I'm stuck until they fix this oversight. Um, most of those first 50 aren't really among the greats I was referring to. They're fun! Some of them. But not really great. All the elements were there, more or less- not so much the ninja stuff- but it took Frank Miller and others to really bring DD to greatness.
Those first 50 issues had a lot of pulpy, goofy villains like Stilt Man and LeapFrog and the aptly named Leland Owlsley, the Owl. The best part of that era has to be where Matt adopted the guise of a fake twin brother named Mike when Karen and Foggy started getting a little too close to the truth of Matt's nocturnal goings-on. So he claimed that his long lost twin was Daredevil, and wore sunglasses and acted all hiptothegroove when he was pretending to be Mike. Everyone was fooled!
Here then are some Daredevil comics I heartily recommend for people who binge-watched Daredevil on Netflix and can't wait for Season 2. As I've said in previous Comics 101s, you can get them from a comic book store in various formats, such as trade paperbacks and omnibi. I highly recommend digital services such as Comixology and Marvel Unlimited, and your library also might have some of these collections as well.
The Miller Run: Since I haven't read it, you'll have to take the word of my next door neighbour from when I was a kid. And every other comics fan ever. Don't worry- I'll get there, as soon as Marvel Unlimited plugs their gaps so I can continue my reading of every Daredevil (and actually every Marvel) issue ever from #1.
Daredevil: Yellow, by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. DD's costume was originally yellow with some red in it, though it only lasted six issues or so. Loeb and Sale do a marvelous job of exploring Matt's past and origins without retconning or wrecking anything. A great introduction to the character.
The Bendis/Maleev Run: About fifteen years ago Kevin Smith made waves in the comics world when he revitalized Daredevil in a hugely popular and well-regarded run. It . . . maybe doesn't hold up these days. But Brian Michael Bendis took over from him and wrote, in my opinion, the best comics of his career, and he has written a lot of comics. This run is stunning and heartbreaking and dirty and gritty and so damned smart. I want to talk about all my favorite moments but I want you to discover them for yourself. Comixology actually has a killer deal on the omnibus at the moment, if you like digital: [https://www.comixology.com/comics-sale]
The Waid Run: You can also call it the Waid/Samnee run though Samnee had a few excellent substitute artists here and there. Starting with Daredevil Volume 3 from 2011 through to the present Volume 4. This is a consistently excellent and awesome series. Scaling the grimdark back a touch, Waid explores the somewhat lighter side of Hornhead. It's fun. But it's not light-hearted, exactly. I think I've teared up more reading this series than any other. There's cancer. There's also a nuanced and knowing exploration of depression in a couple of different forms. Devastating, but amazing.
Lastly, don't forget the Affleck movie. Haha just kidding forget the Affleck movie. Enjoy!
UPDATE FOR 2016 Season 2!
Punisher was never my jam. Ever. Sorry! I like what I've seen of Bernthal's performance so far, very much, and am looking forward to how this season turns out (I'm only on episode three). Some trusted friends recommended me this one arc of Punisher and I tried reading it on Marvel Unlimited but it was so not for me that I must have read the wrong series. Maybe? I dunno. Greg Rucka is a writer I trust and I might try tackling his run one of these days. Not superhigh on my priority list.
Haven't met Elektra in the show yet, but I loved the recent series Elektra written by Haden Blackman with heartstopping art by Michael del Mundo. Check it out on Marvel Unlimited or Comixology or at your local comic shop!
- Nathan Waddell