Continuing our feature on the very best Daredevil websites around the world, this time round Comic Booked was lucky enough to talk to Christine, responsible for the The Other Murdock Papers. Running the site from her native Sweden, TOMP is home to Christine’s keen observations on the current state of Daredevil affairs, and generally speaking is a well-balanced and friendly site to pay a visit. We spoke to Christine on all things Daredevil, in what proved to be an insightful and enjoyfully extensive chat.
Christine, if we can go right back to the beginning – what first drew you to comics?
I read comics as a kid. I wouldn’t say I was a tomboy, I loved dolls and dresses, but I also really loved comic books and fantasy, like Star Wars, then later Star Trek and I would read Superman and Spider-Man. We didn’t have that much in Sweden – the only translated comics were the big superhero comics, which were basically Superman and Spider-Man. I think these days they have the X-Men too, but most people read the non-translated comics. So I had that geeky part of me as a kid, and then when I was around nine or ten they stopped publishing the translated Superman in Sweden, so I just dropped out of the whole comics scene.
So for you, where did Daredevil come into it?
I guess it was a good few years ago – and this is actually really embarrassing, but I rented the Daredevil movie. I really didn’t think much of it, like most people did. Then about five years ago it was on TV and I saw it again. I didn’t find it that good that time either, but I found that the premise of the character kind of interesting, so I went online and found that there was a director’s cut of the movie that I then rented and liked much better – although now I’ve came full circle and I’m with everyone that hates the movie – but this was a time before I had any knowledge of the comic book version of the character. I was just sort of intrigued by the character and I found the Man Without Fear website (manwithoutfear.com). I was twenty-seven at the time, and I thought ‘wow, grown-ups are allowed to read comics‘. I had not been in a comic book shop ever in my life, I had not read a comic since I was twelve. That’s when I read a lot of the site and realised I wanted more of this character. So I then ordered the first three trade paperbacks of the Frank Miller run – the Frank Miller run proper, not The Man Without Fear – I started reading those and I got really hooked, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now I can look back, and I wouldn’t say I hate the movie. One of these days I’m going to have to write a letter to Ben Affleck and say ‘whatever happened, it wasn’t great, but you’re sort of the reason I got into comic books again’. So he’s got that going for him. Now I’m so entrenched in the comicverse I understand all of the problems with the movie and I see them and I can’t even watch it any more because it annoys me so much. Once upon a time it got my attention.
I actually only watched the Director’s Cut for the first time in the past year, and I can’t tell if I only enjoy because I was so burned by the original cut that I’m willing to accept anything that resembles a potentially half decent Daredevil movie.
The difference between the original cut and the director’s cut is that whilst the Director’s Cut is still a flawed movie, it still at least has a plot that holds together. Somewhat. Which the theatrical cut really didn’t. At all. The one thing it did for Ben Affleck was introduce him to his now wife (Jennifer Garner, who played Elektra). They got two kids out of that movie.
If nothing else! Did you go from the Miller paperbacks straight to where the comic was at that time, or did you have to catch up some more?
It was all over the board. I jumped directly into the Kevin Smith run (Guardian Devil – Vol 2, #1-8), which I hated. I’m so glad that I’d read Frank Miller before that, because if I’d started with Guardian Devil I wouldn’t be here today. I don’t read it so much now because I don’t like it, but I think my problems with it started with the opening issue where Karen Page writes Matt a letter where she says something to the effect to say that Matt actually minds that Karen doesn’t go to church, which is really objectionable for me in every single way, and it bugs the heck out of me. And, then Mysterio and the baby, and it was weird… It’s funny with Guardian Devil, because it’s one of those stories people either love or hate, and to me it just didn’t sell me on the character, so I was glad I had read Frank Miller’s work going into that. From there I got into volume two, and the beginning of volume one. I haven’t read Daredevil from beginning to end, it’s just been one piece of the puzzle at a time.
So what originally prompted you to start The Other Murdock Papers?
Well, The Other Murdock Papers kind of grew out of the fact that I’d tried blogging on various subjects in the past, and I’d never been that successful at actually sticking with something. I’m amazed that I’m now at 430 posts, which is unprecedented in my book. When I started I had been posting on the Man Without Fear message board for quite a while, and I felt that I had so much to say about this character, I wanted to interact with other fans who felt the same way and so I set up my own shop. Bottom line, I love writing. I moved my enthusiasm from the Man Without Fear board and channeled it into the blog instead, because I was kind of posting the same things. Plus I also like web design so it was a fun challenge to run my own website, and start my own little thing.
From your time blogging about Matt, are there any specific observations about him that you’d care to share?
Not that I could list, but I guess very much of what I do with the blog is analysing the character. It’s interesting to me that while the portrayal of Matt Murdock has changed quite a bit from Stan Lee’s days, it’s still not completely impossible to patch together all the different aspects of the character under different writers into one complex character that still sort of holds together. There are so many different sides to him – some very appealing, some not so appealing, but they still don’t contradict each other as much as you would expect, and he still holds together as a single character. There are particular cases where I feel, oh – that particular writer, that particular issue wrote him out of character, you know, as I percieve the character, and I’m sure that everybody has reactions like that. I think every single reader has a different perception of their favorite character. He’s a very complicated guy.
In talking to Robert from The Matt Murdock Chronicles, he said that he noticed a subtle trend that any time Matt Murdock forms a relationship with a strong, independent woman he gets scared and the relationship ends, whereas the relationships he seems more comfortable with are with women that are a bit more vulnerable and needy – would you agree?
I haven’t considered that he would be with women considered weaker. Of course Heather Glenn, he bosses her about – but then she bosses him around too. So does Karen Page, I mean sure, you have the 60s Karen: ‘oooh, I wanna give you a sponge bath! My poor blind boss, can I cuddle you?’ She’s very much ‘oh, he’s so brave‘ in that very 60s way: ‘oh, I feel so sorry for him – but I love him‘ – really condescending, but at the same time, and especially later on, she’s depicted as a quite a strong character. A very flawed and complicated character, but still someone’s that got her own distinct personality. I mean, any time they’re not together, it’s because she’s left him.
What do you think makes Daredevil fans so passionate about him?
I’ve been thinking about this. I think there are a couple of reasons – this is the boring reason, but i think it contributes: I think that the fact that he’s had one single book for so long that’s been rather uncomplicated and uncluttered has made it easy for people to stick with it for long periods of time. I think people can jump in and out of reading Daredevil without missing much – sure, you’ll miss things going on, but it’s like a long running soap opera where you can jump back in and not feel like you can’t follow what’s going on. I think that the format of the book itself has made it easy to follow, it’s been one single title, he hasn’t been in many events, there have been no clones – of course he did have that made up twin brother, but that was very early on! He’s been a character that’s been easy to follow for a long time and hasn’t required you to read ten other books to keep up, so it’s been easy for people to keep it on their pull list as the only superhero comic they read. I think there’s a logistical reason.
I guess that’s step two because for people to even want to jump back in, the character has to be appealing to start with – I think with Matt Murdock people find him very relatable because he’s so low-powered. I think it was really gutsy of Stan Lee to come up with a blind superhero back in the 1964, because especially at that time that would’ve been a huge stigma. I find the very first issue of Daredevil to be really good – it’s a great example of good silver age comics. It was a good issue, but they did announce a character with a quirk that no one had done before and that really set him apart from all the other characters – someone with a very human flaw. Now, most of the issues that actually follow the first issue were actually complete crap, so I actually think that especially for readers back then that it was only the gimmick of the blind superhero that kept people reading for like, the first forty or fifty issues. So I’m thinking he must’ve survived on the gimmick for a long time alone, and I say ‘gimmick’ because it was treated as a gimmick, it wasn’t treated in any kind of modern, sensitive way at all.
Of course, since then the character has graduated into being much more than that, but at the same time, creators have sort of made him flawed in more ways – psychologically, morally, emotionally, and I think for all of these different reasons it makes you care about Matt Murdock, it makes you invested in him – he has a vulnerability that characters like Superman or Spider-Man don’t have. If you beat him up he’s going to hurt – a lot. He has no heightened strength or anything like that, so I think that really does contribute to why people find him appealing. There are many different reasons, but it all boils down to him being someone that people can relate to – someone that doesn’t blast laser beams out of his eyes. He’s here, in the present, living a regular life. Until they started ruining his life five or seven times over.
He’s also had a very strong supporting cast in characters like Foggy Nelson. I often describe Daredevil as ‘the superhero next door‘, because he is in some ways very ordinary – Spider-Man can’t keep a job – he’s a genius, but can’t keep a job, then you have other characters that are hugely, independently wealthy. Then you have a character like Matt, and sure, he probably makes decent money being a lawyer, but he still has a regular day job that doesn’t involve him taking photos of himself. He’s very ordinary yet very extraordinary at the same time.
What would you say some of your favourite Daredevil stories are?
I would say as a general rule I like the modern take on Daredevil – not all the depression, though. We need to stop ruining Matt Murdock’s life again and again and again! Let him have a bad day, a bad defeat every now and again, but don’t push him to the brink of suicide. That’s the one thing I don’t like about the modern take on the character, all of Volume 2 has been way darker than anything Frank Miller wrote. When Volume 2′s been good, there are some elements that I like way better than Frank Miller’s run, although admitting that is like swearing in church, because we’re supposed to love his run above all else. However I think the Miller run was probably the most even, it maintained a very high quality. It made the character what it is today, so I can’t underestimate how pivotal that run was. However, my very favourite issue is probably ‘Roulette‘, in Daredevil #191 – I really, really like that. Another one of my all time top ten is Daredevil #304 by DG Chichester – ‘34 Hours‘ is a very elegant, wonderful issue. It’s different from #191 in many ways, but they both strip the character down to show what he’s all about. So, I would like to see more of that. A lot of times simple does it. You can tell a very complex story just based on the strength of the character – he can be interesting enough in himself that if you let him shine, it can be enough to tell a good story. I actually liked Daredevil #500, even though I wasn’t one of the people who was on board with Daredevil taking over The Hand. A lot of people were ‘oh, this is awesome‘ and I was left going ‘why is he doing this again?’ I got that if he didn’t do it, they were going to let the Kingpin lead them, but on the other hand why would they let him? There were so many things about it that didn’t make sense to me, but it was a good issue and it played to Ed Brubaker’s strengths. Other than that it’s hard to pick single issues when everything now part of a story arc as oppose to single issues.
Have you ever had any reaction from Daredevil creators to The Other Murdock Papers?
Antony Johnston has commented on the site once or twice. The site was up and running when Diggle took over, so he and Antony are the first creative team that have even worked on the book since my site started getting serious. I do know that my site gets visits form Marvel and 20th Century Fox, because I check my visitor stats! Jason Henderson who wrote Shadowland: Daughters of the Shadow commented one time too. Diggle has never commented, but I met him at Thoughtbubble in Leeds. I’m not sure if he reads what I write, but when I talked to him in person if was funny – he said ‘oh, so you don’t like Shadowland!‘ We talked for like two and a half hours, it was really insane. When I showed up in Leeds Antony Johnston came up to me – I was talking to MOMBCast and he came up to me only having seen my picture and knowing I had an American accent, it was very surreal.
***Just as this article went to press, Christine announced that she would be featuring a chat with Daredevil co-writer Antony Johnston on her site – go check it out!***
I know from your blog that you really enjoyed the first issue of Daredevil Reborn. Is there any particular direction you want Matt go in through the story, or even beyond?
Reborn is right up my alley! It’s very Matt Murdock focused, it’s the guy behind the mask that’s much more compelling. He’s much more interesting exploring himself. I think I liked everything about it, it’s got an interesting mystery going on, I really liked the scene with the blind boy, it was very human. I have this idea about Matt, in that he’s complicated but he’s still a very nice guy – in a lot of ways, he likes helping peoople. So it was nice to have a scene where he helps people by being himself – no costume, no powers, just Matt Murdock. I liked the art too even though it deviated from the hyper-realistic type we’re used to, I thought it was nice. I think Reborn illustrates is that you can write a very compelling story utilising the inherent quirks, or whatever works, about Matt Murdock – you can use that to tell an interesting story without making it overly complicated. Shadowland was all over the place, a complicated plot with tonnes of different players, but overall I missed the main character. Reborn looks like it’s going to be a very simple story, in terms of the few characters in it, but all the more compelling for it, where the protagonist reacts to what’s happening around him as oppose to just plot. It’s a good example of ‘do more, with less‘ – in Swedish there’s a saying ‘you don’t have to cross the river to fetch water‘ and I think a lot of times that’s what creators do, they create unnecessarily complicated plots or they put characters in unnecessarily strange dilemmas. There’s always this sort of demand from readers like ‘we need to see something that’s never been done before‘ but I what like to see would be giving Matt Murdock some breathing room – let him drive his own stories. Things seem to happen to Matt all the time and he just has to deal with it, instead of him being proactive and solving other people’s problems. So I would like for him not have his life ruined every year or issue – just do a story that’s compelling in his own right and use the character to his strengths to make it interesting, and not too status quo changing or ‘you’ve never seen this done before‘. We don’t need another status quo upheaval.
Although the one time he tried to be proactive recently he commanded a ninja deathcult to help him clean up Hell’s Kitchen and ended up possessed by a demon.
Maybe just do what normal people do then!
If there was reading this that wanted to know where to start reading Daredevil, what would you advise them?
I still think in order to get the best grasp of Daredevil, read the first issue. It’s the only silver age issue you need to read, a nice origin issue and it gives you everything you need to know. After that, jump to Frank Miller’s run – you can skip twenty-five years easy, just go straight to #168 where Elektra’s introduced – it introduces a new character but also aspects of Matt’s past we’ve never seen before – until then we’ve never seen him in college, so that gives a lot of background. A lot of people recommend Man Without Fear, I don’t love it, I know I’m supposed to but I’m not a huge fan of John Romita Jr… I know, I’m a horrible person. What we need to remember about Matt is that his longest running relationship is with Foggy Nelson, and that brotherly relationship is missing from Man Without Fear. But Born Again, is a must read. I’d say that’s all people need ot get a basic understanding and from there they can jump on wherever, but I personally would go straight to the start of the Bendis/Maleev run from Volume 2 #26 onwards.
Are there any other sites you head to to get your Daredevil fix when you’re not running your own?
I follow Robert’s site on and off – he posts a lot, it’s really amazing. I don’t check in on a daily basis, but every couple of months I will sit down and catch up with all he’s done. And I check in with Man Without Fear for all the news that Kuljit posts. Asides from those, there’s not that many!
I’d argue that you really don’t need much more than those two and yours – Robert and The Matt Murdock Chronicles features in-depth reviews of Daredevil’s past, you tend to cover the modern day happenings of Matt Murdock, and Kuljit and Man Without Fear pretty much cover everything!
Exactly, Man Without Fear is like the Royal Library or the archives – anything you ever need is there. Robert’s will be a great resource one day, it’s very exhaustive.
Thanks to Christine for taking the time to talk to Comic Booked! If you’re very lucky, we may just have time for one more Fans Without Fear before our Character of the Month moves on – stay tuned!