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The World of Daredevil: Matt Murdock

Writer Mark Waid begins a week-long guide to the Man Without Fear, beginning with his alter ego

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By Ben Morse

On July 20, the original Man Without Fear reclaims his title when Matt Murdock returns to Hell’s Kitchen in DAREDEVIL #1. Launching the Guardian Devil into the next phase of his life in the Marvel Universe will be a creative team without peer, led by writer Mark Waid along with artists Marcos Martin and Paolo Rivera.

As all our senses tingle with anticipation, we’ll be spending this week counting down with the people bringing DAREDEVIL to the printed page and discussing a variety of topics pertaining to his world at length.

Today we begin with Matt Murdock, DD’s civilian alter ego. What forces and events shaped a young blind boy to become a crusader for justice in two identities? How has he weathered the tragedy of his life? And why exactly do the ladies love him?

Who is Matt Murdock?

We grilled Mark Waid to find out.

DAREDEVIL #1 preview art by Paolo Rivera

Marvel.com: What are Matt Murdock’s most intrinsic qualities?

Mark Waid: Fearlessness, first and foremost. A complete and total devotion to justice and fairness, even more so than most other Marvel heroes. Charm. And masochism.

Marvel.com: What events and people most shaped Matt into who he is and why?

Mark Waid: Clearly, his father remains his greatest influence. "Battling" Jack Murdock taught Matt to always get up off the canvas, to always fight, and to always comport yourself with integrity. But the event that most shaped Matt was, obviously, his origin moment. I think his need to see justice through for the innocent springs from his own memories of how unjust it was that, as a child, fate "rewarded" him for a good deed by taking his sight away. On a personal primal level, I think Matt came to terms with that long ago, but it still taps a core wound in him when he sees something unjust about to happen to someone else. Over the years, especially the recent years, Matt's come to believe that, ultimately, the universe can stay fair and balanced so long as good men fight to make it so. Now, that may not be true, but that's the philosophy that keeps Matt sane. He has to believe that all the anguish he's endured in his life has some purpose, is part of some overall cosmic order; because if it's not, then hello, insane asylum.

Marvel.com: Why is Matt a lawyer? Why is he Daredevil? Does he have the same motivation for each or different reasons for his separate identities?

Mark Waid: Matt's a lawyer partly out of inertia—it was something that made his father happy—but mostly out of that same thirst for seeing justice done and seeing rules obeyed. He needs to prove to himself and others that going by the book is ultimately rewarding and does ultimately pay off, otherwise, his dad died for nothing. But Matt's a realist: he knows that as much as he wants that to be the case, it isn't always, and that's where Daredevil comes in—a masked identity that allows Matt to skirt the rules towards a noble end.

DAREDEVIL #1 preview art by Paolo Rivera

Marvel.com: How does the Matt Murdock of today differ from the Matt Murdock first introduced over 40 years ago?

Mark Waid: Well, he's probably suffered more than any other Marvel character ever, and that takes its toll. When Matt was first introduced, he was fairly lighthearted; the tragedy of his father's death was a factor in his growth, but by and large, he had a pretty decent life as an adult. But longtime readers know that further tragedy has bludgeoned Matt's soul to within an inch of its life, and that he's not suffering from an incurable nervous breakdown is a miracle. The short answer is: the Matt of 40 years ago had a lot of good days ahead of him. The Matt of today is one really bad day away from madness.

Marvel.com: Matt has been through an immense amount of tragedy in his life; why do you think he soldiers on? How does he do it?

Mark Waid: Until recently, he's soldiered on because his father taught him to do so and because he'd become addicted to martyrdom. It was all he knew. The self-destructive impulse is an interesting one in people; it doesn't always stem from insecurity. Sometimes, as in Matt's case, it grows because we all tend to gravitate back towards the familiar, and Matt is supremely familiar with misery, so making bad decisions has become a pattern  for him. Since his return to New York, he's come to realize that. He's learned that Catholic guilt by the ton hasn't really brought him peace, and this accounts for his new attitude; he's glib, he's positive, he's refusing to let the darkness get him down. He's desperately trying to break familiar habits, to deal with his addiction to tragedy by going cold-turkey, and it's a hard, hard road. It's way more of a struggle than would first appear, and he won't find it a simple road to walk. He's fooling himself by assuming that if he just tries to be happy, everything else will fall into place.

Matt Murdock by Alex Maleev

Marvel.com: At heart, is Matt an optimist or a skeptic?
Mark Waid: Are you kidding me? A guy who can't see who nonetheless will dive face-first off a building or swing through a hailstorm of bullets and shurikens without hesitation? To me, that's the textbook definition of "optimist"!

Marvel.com: Matt has quite the checkered past as far as relationships go; what attracts women to him?

Mark Waid: He's a good listener. No, wait, come back, I meant that seriously. He is a very open and empathetic man who'll listen to your troubles. Women know that if he's attracted to them, it's not because of the superficial. It's not because of how they look. How could it be? It's because of who they are. Plus, Matt's exciting. He's charming, he's confident, and any woman can tell just by watching how he touches things or how he eats a meal or smells a flower that he's unbelievably sensual. That's hot.

Marvel.com: How will you be approaching Matt Murdock, the man behind the mask? What elements of his character do you feel are tantamount and should remain untouched, and what new sides of his personality will you be exploring?

Mark Waid: The sacrosanct elements are his fearlessness and his physicality; his loyalty towards his friends. Beyond that, we'll be exploring a little more why he lives the life he does. The big question posed in issue one, a question I don't think I've ever seen asked, is "why would a man with Matt's super-heightened senses choose to live in one of the most densely populated cities on Earth?" When I go out for groceries, I shop at a nearby market where the aisles aren't big enough for two carts side-by-side, and while it's a great place, I always feel crowded. Customers are constantly stumbling over one another or dancing around one another, and there are always those who are blundering around without any sense of my personal space. Last time I was there, I thought to myself, "My God, Matt Murdock must feel like this every moment of the day." So why? Why be in a place where your senses are assaulted 24/7? The answer will, I think, surprise you.

DAREDEVIL #1 preview art by Marcos Martin

Marvel.com: What impact have the most recent events in Matt’s life had on his psyche and demeanor?

Mark Waid: Devastating, but you wouldn't know it talking to him. Yet.

Marvel.com: Do you like Matt Murdock? Is he the type of person you would want to know?

Mark Waid: I do like him a lot, and I'd probably be as charmed by him as anyone else— but knowing what I know, I wouldn't want to be his best pal. He's a little self-absorbed; and while in the long term, he's a good friend to have, on a day-to-day basis Matt is as exasperating as he is giving.

Join us tomorrow as Mark returns to talk Bullseye, Kingpin, The Owl, Typhoid Mary and the rest of Daredevil’s rogues gallery of villains!
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