Daredevil’s Grin: An Unsent Letter to J. David Weter

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J. David Weter hosts a sensational podcast about Marvel’s Daredevil called Dave’s Daredevil Podcast.  I sent him a letter on December 13, 2013 that can be read here: Iconic Daredevil.  The letter concerns why Matt Murdock takes on the image of a devil.  After listening to a few more episodes of the podcast, I wrote this follow-up email:
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Dave,
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A sneaky lawyer’s trick. That is clever! I never thought of Daredevil as a legal loophole. I like that! It certainly answers the question (1) how Matt thinks of the alter ego that he has adopted as an alter ego.
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You answered a couple other questions that I had, too, in episode ten or earlier.
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One question is easy, of course. (2) Why does Matt choose Daredevil as the name of his alter ego? He chooses it because of “what the kids used to call him,” as Elijah Price says in Unbreakable. In The Man Without Fear, Frank Miller shows that the nickname cut him deep, as if he did not have (a) the courage to go to “the edge” (as Elektra speaks of it in TMWF) or the necessary (b) boldness or (c) “devil-may-care” attitude as regards consequences.
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Another question I was happy that you touch on is (3) why Matt wears a devil costume. As far as I could tell, you conjectured that his creators played on the “devil” part of “daredevil” without seeing any deeper connection between the two for their creation. That seems true to me, too. I don’t know any better, to be sure. I haven’t researched the matter, but, to my mind, that answer squares with how much time (or thought?) Stan and Bill could (or wanted?) to put into creating him.
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Still, the wordplay between “devil” and “daredevil” only answers part of the question. It answers (3a) why Stan and Bill gave Hornhead his devilish appearance (at least to some extent), but it does not answer (3b) what the devilish appearance means to Matt.
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Let me explain why I am so persistent about this question:
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(i) Matt’s sense of humor seems a bit shallow if Matt just liked the wordplay of “daredevil” and “devil.”
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(ii) Matt’s mind seems a bit reactionary if he took the identity out of some sort of spite.
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(iii) Matt’s attitude seems a bit conceited if he alone knows the meaning of the suit and the criminals and ordinary citizens do not.
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(iv) Matt’s process of making a crime-fighting outfit and equipment seems a bit tedious if he attached the horns just to play on the name. I mean: he was already sewing a high-manueverability costume that he can wear under his street clothes and constructing a sophisticated weapon (a very sophisticated and, to my taste, sometimes overly-sophisticated weapon) that he can carry in plain sight. Both of these are functional, but the horns–and should I add the red color (instead of urban camouflage)–seem to have been chosen in the first place for style.
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The horns amplify his radar sense, and that’s a great feature, but it seems to me to be an effect of the horns rather than their purpose.
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(v) Finally, Matt’s action of assuming another identity to fight crime seems a bit like displaced retaliation if the “devil” motif is not connected in his mind to a commitment to justice. I mean: if, to every outward appearance, he is making criminals answer to justice, but inwardly he is taking out his aggression against childhood bullies, he has transferred his anger onto individuals who are innocent of the wrongs for which inwardly he is getting satisfaction (see Michael Morrissey’s Boy Wonder).
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Consequently, Daredevil would not be a hero. I don’t want that to be true, so I will declare myself:
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[alpha] I want to believe that Matt has a deeper reason for wearing a devil mask.
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[beta] I want to believe that Matt–raised Catholic, so far as I know–takes his action, assuming a devilish identity, from some understanding of God and the devil, justice and punishment, purity and wrongdoing. I don’t even mind if his understanding is idiosyncratic rather than a traditionally Catholic one.
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[gamma] I want to believe that he conveys that understanding in how he looks.
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[delta] I want to believe that his look conveys that this man will be coming anyone who escapes civil law; that he will have a seemingly supernatural knowledge of who such people are, what they did, and where they are hiding; and that his inevitable arrival will be unexpected.
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[epsilon] I want to believe that, though he may have a grin on his face, his relentlessness will be a thing of terror. It could be so much more terrifying, too, if, when he goes to the darkest places and drags the filthiest criminals to justice, he goes like a jolly spirit, seemingly insensible to the agonies of the criminal mind–its guilty conscience and fear of punishment.
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Daredevil 5 Waid Martin His lawyer has him in a safe place
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I would very much like to hear whatever you have to say on this point (3b). It’s not as though it were the only thing that I am listening for on your podcast–if I began with congratulating you, I might not end!–but I am very interested in it. I enjoy every bit of what you do with your podcast, and I will be listening for as long as you make it.
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High Regards,
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Edward
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