Graphic Novel and Comic Book Series Analysis

Daredevil by Mark Waid

Comic book series and graphic novels looked at from an editor's perspective on the craft of writing a story that works.

last edited on 28. Sep 2019

published on 26. Sep 2019 by Melanie Naumann

Comments: 0

Copyright of used images (photos takem from the book): Daredevil by Mark Waid

Daredevil - an analysis of the first six issues

Daredevil by Mark Waid - Daredevil - an analysis of the first six issues

Daredevil: What a well-done blend between a crime and an action story that actually depends on if the protagonist is in disguise or if he is his superhero alter-ego.


»A while back, I got outed as Daredevil in the tabloid press. Turns out in an era of internet surveillance, Homeland Security, and DNA analysis, secret identities are a bitch to maintain.« Daredevil, Issue 1


What’s Daredevil about?

Synopsis from Amazon:

Issue 1-3: Matt Murdock is back and hoping to resuscitate his law practice, he takes on a police-brutality case, but someone is trying to silence the victim. Then, Klaw, master of sound, makes his deadly return!

Issue 4-6: And the blind literally lead the blind as a visually impaired client targeted for assassination holds the key to a global conspiracy.

 

Daredevil: First Impression

So I’ve seen the movie with Ben Affleck as Daredevil before I’ve read the comic book. Since seeing the movie, Daredevil was not my favorite superhero. I can’t even tell you who is. I like the anti-hero kind of guy like Wolverine from the X-men series. If I had to choose a superhero I’d go for Iron Man.

But my point is, after reading the first 6 issues of Daredevil I have to say I do really enjoy the story, the plot and the characters. I did not expect that the story would captivate me as much as it did. And the story Issue 1-3 and Issue 4-6 worked without any doubt.

So let’s look at those two stories and find out why they have worked:

 

1. What’s the global genre?

As soon as we hear it’s a comic book about a superhero, we think it’s an action story. Superhero stories suggest that they turn around the life and death value. And there’s no denying that this assumption is indeed true. There are fights. People get hurt or killed. There’s almost certainly always a victim. Someone in danger. There are one or more villains. And the role of the hero is clearly defined because his name is mostly on the title of the comic book.

 

But is Daredevil an action story?

Life and Death are certainly at stake. In the prequel to the story we are told that Matt’s dad Jack was gunned down by gangsters. So there’s death in play right from the start. But before that, we find out that Matt Murdock is an attorney. So we know he serves the law. And what should everyone want who truly serves the law?

Justice!

And that justice is primarily at stake is stated right in this very sentence in the beginning:

»Jack (father) didn’t want Matt to become a fighter. But to bring his father’s killers to justice.«

 

The crime genre is defined by the global Value at Stake: Justice/Injustice. So value shift moves from Justice to Unfairness to Injustice to the negation of the negation: Tyranny.

Tyranny would mean that a core group of people could decide what the law is according to their mood. In comparison, Injustice is when someone is getting away with a wrong done and does not suffer the consequences.
Unfairness is something that is not morally right and someone might feel that he was treated unfair but there’s nothing he can do about that. Justice will make sure that there is a system of laws that people can follow. If justice is something that’s part of our way of lives we feel safe because we know that if someone is doing something wrong, he will be punished accordingly.

Shawn Coyne says about the Crime genre:

»The crime story concerns our desire for justice, and by extension the very security of our social structure. Because it explores a primal need, feeling secure in the fundamental notions of right and wrong, it remains and will always remain at the top of story popularity.«

 

If we look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs or the gas gauge of needs (Story Grid) crime stories are all about the need for safety. But it’s far more than that: It’s justice vs. tyranny which is another way of saying it’s order vs. chaos. Too much order can end in Tyranny. Not enough order ends in chaos. So you can see the higher we rise in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs the values at stakes gain a greater level of shades of grey.

»The Crime Story is an arch-plot (Hero’s Journey) or mini-plot (multiple characters) external genre. It begins with a crime, builds with an investigation or completion of the crime, and pays off with the identification of the perpetrators or their escape from identification. It is resolved with the perpetrator/s being brought to justice or getting away with the crime.« Rachelle Ramirez, Story Grid certified editor


In Daredevil we can see there’s one focal point in each main story: One person. One organization. One level of moral degradation.

We want to find out: Will Daredevil get justice?

And we are interested to find out: Who committed the crime? Who threatens the victim? And why did he do it?

Crime stories are like filtering down and upending the lives of people around that one sort of causal source of ›evil‹. Evil is thereby considered a denigration from society’s baseline norms.

And even though Daredevil can move through the streets and save people, his overall purpose is being a lawyer and help the people stand up for themselves by teaching them how to make their case in court.

»But I can’t stand by and let clients I believe in go without justice. So I’m doing the next best thing. I’m giving them the tools they need to find justice on their own.« (Daredevil, Issue 4)


Daredevil Issue 1-6 Analysis of a crime/action story


Note: Interesting to follow up on: Superheroes often have double identities. Matt Murdock is a lawyer and he’s the superhero Daredevil. When he’s a Daredevil he is still out for justice, but the values turn more on the scale of life and death than justice and injustice. But when he is a lawyer, justice stays the primary focus. Even with this said the force that makes Daredevil act the way he does is his true identity Murdock, who wants justice more than anything else.

So I guess we can settle for the primary genre is Crime – Courtroom while the secondary genre is Action.

 

2. What are the obligatory scenes and conventions of the global genre?

Global Genre: Crime Courtroom

Daredevil Issue 1-3

Obligatory Scenes

  • An inciting crime or an incitement to commit a crime (upends just world).
    The client Jobrani (victim) was assaulted by police officers (villains) and Matt Murdock (attorney, hero) has to help Jobrani win his case.
  • The protagonist is actively trying to solve a crime or a puzzle and bring the antagonist to justice.
    Matt Murdock wonders why Jobrani can’t find any representation, a lawyer who could take his case to the courtroom. That’s why he follows up on asking different lawyers why they did not take on the case.
  • Speech in praise of the villain.
    The antagonist is introduced to the reader as being the master of sound. As soon as Daredevil finds out who he is dealing with he is thinking: ›Oh, this is bad.‹ as well as ›Ulysses Klaw. A man transformed into a living sound. Fought the Black Panther and the Fantastic Four.‹
  • Discovering and understanding the antagonist’s MacGuffin.
    Klaw is just a piece of his former master and he wants to bring him back to be whole again.
  • The protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist fails.
    Daredevil is able to run away from his tied up position in Klaws hideout. But Klaw follows him to get the antenna back.
  • Progressively complicated search for clues.
    First Murdock has to find out why no one wants to represent Jobrani. Then he needs to understand what Jobrani would do with the money that he could get through winning his case. This leads Murdock to Jobrani’s old building where he meets the villain.
  • CORE EVENT: Exposure of the criminal.
    Klaw confesses why he targeted Jobrani’s case: »Hidden here, our only threat of exposure was the man who once owned that building.« And we know that Jobrani wanted to buy the entire building.
  • Resolution: Criminal is brought to justice or escapes justice.
    Daredevil defeats the piece of Klaw and breaks the antenna.

 

Conventions

  • There is a MacGuffin driving the story and investigation forward.
    The antagonist Klaw wants the building to be able to bring back his master in secret. A mission that is threatened by Jobrani eventually buying back the building.
  • False clues (red herrings) that throw investigators off the path.
    Foggy believed Kirstin who showed him the psychiatric evaluation of Jobrani who is hearing voices. (It’s true but it’s misleading Foggy in assuming that Jobrani is nuts.)
  • Make it personal (possible):
    Klaw makes it personal to Daredevil because he uses him for getting his master back.
  • A crafty killer/villain who has constructed the perfect crime.
    If you’d start hearing voices, would you confine in somebody? Probably not. And that’s what makes Klaw’s crime so perfect because no one would believe the people he blackmailed.
  • Lots of interviews:
    We have to consider that this is a comic book and not a novel. Still, there are some interviews to be found. Be it Foggy questioning Jobrani or talking with Kirstin. Or Daredevil interviewing the other attorneys (some happened off-page)
  • Lots of secrets:
    The biggest secret is Murdock still trying to deny that he is Daredevil.
  • There is a ticking clock. The protagonist has a limited time to solve the crime or puzzle.
    Jobrani needs to find a new lawyer before the next hearing.
  • There is a clear threat of escalating danger for the protagonist’s mental or physical health/safety.
    Daredevil is captured by Klaw and shall be used by him to bring back his master. The sound waves drive Daredevil insane.

 

Daredevil Issue 4-6

Obligatory Scenes

Daredevil Issue 1-6 Analysis of a crime/action story

  • An inciting crime or an incitement to commit a crime (upends just world).
    Murdock is interested in a wrongful termination case because the kid suing is blind. 
  • The protagonist is actively trying to solve a crime or a puzzle and bring the antagonist to justice.
    Murdock wants to find out why the kid’s employer would fire him if he had treated him like a son.
  • Speech in praise of the villain.
    Daredevil considers the Bruiser to be a ›human wrecking ball.‹ or ›He can move his center of gravity to one hand and hit like a wrecking ball or down to his knees so he’s impossible to flip.‹
  • Discovering and understanding the antagonist’s MacGuffin.
    There are two villains at play, and each one of them has their own MacGuffin. The Bruiser wants to defeat Daredevil because that will help him gain more recognition and get a sponsor. But Mr. Zachary is interested in secretly moving his trillions around through his shell companies and holding subsidiaries that are incorporated through Latveria. So no one could prove they are connected to Megacrime. So he has to tie up loose ends, like the blind translator and the supervisor Mr. Randall.
  • The protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist fails.
    Daredevil can’t defeat Bruiser on the boat. (1. fail). And after Daredevil defeated Bruiser (2. fail) there are still those five other fighters at whose mercy Daredevil is.
  • Progressively complicated search for clues.
    Murdock has to help the blind guy remember what he overheard the Latvians talk about in the office. Then they get shot at, wich means they have to flee. On the boat of Mr. Randall Daredevil has to find out what is going on in that organization that they want to kill the boy and Mr. Randall too.
  • CORE EVENT: Exposure of the criminal.
    The core event is finding the data drive that contains crucial information about the five criminal organizations. And DAredevil not only has it but with it, he possesses the power of knowledge.
  • Resolution: Criminal is brought to justice or escapes justice.
    Mr. Zachary is killed. Mr. Randall shall be on the run for the rest of his life.

 

Note: I loved the hero at the mercy of the villain scene in this story. Daredevil did not fight those other five fighters that each belongs to one of the five criminal organizations. He outwitted them brilliantly!


Daredevil Issue 1-6 Analysis of a crime/action story


Conventions

  • There is a MacGuffin driving the story and investigation forward.
    The villain Mr. Zachary wants the blind translator Austin and later even his supervisor Mr. Randall to tie up loose ends.
  • False clues (red herrings) that throw investigators off the path.
    Murdock can’t understand why the blind translator was fired. Because if he might have overheard something they would have kept him in the office to find out what he knows.
  • Make it personal (possible):
    Bruiser sees Daredevil as just another trophy on his list of superheroes he wants to defeat.
  • A crafty killer/villain who has constructed the perfect crime.
    Mr. Zachary thought his criminal offenses and him laundering money through the holding subsidiaries in Latveria would be the best new level of cloaking and to be able to hide that his operations are connected to Megacrime.
  • Lots of interviews:
    Murdock interviews the blind translator and his supervisor.
  • Lots of secrets:
    Mr. Randall has played a part in an international terrorist conspiracy. Mr. Zachary was hiding the data drive. Murdoch is still trying to hide his Daredevil identity.
  • There is a ticking clock. The protagonist has a limited time to solve the crime or puzzle.
    The blind guy is in mortal danger. And Mr. Randall is about to leave to country. Daredevil has to act fast to find out what’s going on.
  • There is a clear threat of escalating danger for the protagonist’s mental or physical health/safety.
    Daredevil has to fight Bruiser who is much stronger than Daredevil. So Daredevil has to find Bruiser’s weak spot through his senses to be able to defeat him.

 

3. What are the objects of desire?

External object of desire (WANT): Matt Murdock wants to give people the tools to find justice on their own in court while still helping them out with doing the dirty work and all the investigations.

If I had to decide on the internal genre at play I couldn’t tell for sure by only considering issues 1-6.

We can see that the character Matt Murdock is sophisticated and has a highly developed will. But I guess overall he is ready to self-sacrifice for all humanity, for justice and for each individual. He had to become the man without fear in order to fulfill his dead father’s wish: to bring justice not only to his father’s killers, but to everyone who is troubled by criminals and villains.

So, for now, I’d say the Daredevil series has Morality - Testing Triumph as its internal content genre.

»When a protagonist of highley developed will and sophistication experiences a challenge and trial but maintain their inner moral compass and strength of will, they make a selfless choice and earn respect and admiration.« Story Grid

 

Internal object of desire (NEED): Matt Murdock needs to keep his father’s faith in him and bring justice to the world in order to keep being the man his father wanted him to be.

 

4. What is the narrative device and point of view?

The Daredevil series is told in first person and third-person objective point of view (POV).

The main POV-character is Matt Murdock/Daredevil.

Daredevil is the only character whose thoughts the reader has access to. Therefore the narrative distance is kept very close to the blind protagonist in order that we as the reader can experience how Daredevil ›sees‹ his world. We become aware of his heightened sentences and he tells us through his thoughts how he perceives his surroundings.

Without letting the reader into the blind man’s world we would never be able to identify with Daredevil because we just wouldn’t be able to understand his abilities. But by letting us hear, smell, feel and taste what he does, we grow attached to him because he is able to show us the world through his ›eyes‹. I just love how well done a visual story can be told from a blind’s man point of view.

Sometimes the POV shifts to the villain or another character which serves the purpose of increasing the narrative drive through using dramatic irony.

Dramatic Irony is when the reader knows more than one or more characters in the story. And when we see how the antagonist plans his next hit against a victim in the story or Daredevil himself, we anticipate with excitement how Daredevil will overcome that obstacle.
Also, because it’s a crime story, we might fall into the trap of red herrings or be able to find out earlier than the protagonist, that he was following misleading clues.

 

5. What is the controlling idea?

When we talk about crime stories, there are two general options of how the controlling idea might sound like.

If the story has a positive ending, the controlling idea could be:
+ Justice prevails when the protagonist overpowers or outwits their antagonist.

If the story has a negative ending, the controlling idea feels like a cautionary tale:
- Injustice (possibly tyranny) reigns when the antagonist outwits or overpowers the protagonist.

 

For Daredevil we could use the positive controlling idea because it sums up perfectly what this superhero crime story is about.

But we can also try to put some more detail into it by considering Daredevil’s internal object of desire which is the cause for his motivation to fight injustice.


Justice prevails when the protagonist holds on to his moral compass which is strengthened by doing right by his dead father and who puts other people’s need ahead of his own which gives him the strength and the will to be able to overpower or outwit the antagonists that threaten the life of good and innocent people.


With that controlling idea, it’s no wonder that we like Daredevil or superheroes in general. We want to believe that with all that injustice in this world, that there are people who have the strength to stand up against evil villains and who are so strong and idle that they would risk their lives for ours. They are admirable. And it’s a nice thing to think that there are superheroes in this world who fight for the everyday man.

 

6. What are the beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff?

Issue 1-3

Daredevil Issue 1 – 3 consists of 3 chapters (70 pages).
Chapter One – 30 pages
Chapter Two, Three – 20 pages

 

Beginning Hook – Chapter 1 (16 pages = 23%)

Inciting Incident: When Matt Murdock returns to his hometown to practice being a lawyer again ...
Progressive Complications Turning Point: ... and is not only greeted by a crowd of reporters (1. progressive complication) but has to face the accusations of being Daredevil also in court where they are used to attack his credibility (2. progressive complication) until the judge reschedules the hearing so that Mr. Jobrani can find himself another lawyer because Matt Murdock is not serving him well as being continuously referred to as Daredevil (Turning Point) ...
Crisis: ... Murdock then has to decide if he fights the judge’s recommendation or if it wouldn’t serve his client best if he gets off his case.
Climax: Matt Murdock wants to refer Jobrani to another lawyer and is willing to foot the bill.
Resolution: Murdock knows people still think he is Daredevil.


Middle Build – Chapter 1 – 2 (32 pages = 46%)

Inciting Incident: When Murdock wonders why Jobrani can’t find representation after having done a full background check on him ...
Progressive Complications Turning Point: ... and Daredevil finds out that other lawyers have been threatened by weird, echo heavy, electronic voices (progressive complication) which leads him to go and check up on the place that Jobrani wants to buy, where he encounters beings in the physical shape that are nothing but noise ...
Crisis: ... he has to decide if he retreats and runs away or if he stays to find out more but risks losing his sanity.
Climax: Daredevil wants to stay sane and hits one of those beings to be able to escape ...
Resolution: ... which releases such a loud noise that he faints.

 

Ending Payoff – Chapter 1 (22 pages = 31%)

Inciting Incident: When Daredevil finds himself strapped inside a metal skeleton
Progressive Complications Turning Point: ... and Ulysses Klaw wants to use him to bring back his master ...
Crisis: ... he has to decide if he is going to make a loud noise and risk hurting his senes of if he should let Klaw use him hoping he’d survive but knowing he helped bring back a great villain.
Climax: Daredevil screams and is able to defeat Klaw.
Resolution: He helps Jobrani win his case by teaching him how Jobrani can represent himself in court all by himself.




Issue 4-6

Daredevil Issue 4 – 6 consists of 3 chapters (60 pages).
Chapter One, Two, Three – 20 pages

 

Beginning Hook – Chapter 4 & 5 (26 pages = 43%)

Inciting Incident: When Matt Murdock decides not to be a trial lawyer anymore but to give his clients the tools to find justice in court on their own
Progressive Complications Turning Point: ...and he hears about a wrongful termination case of a blind kid ...
Crisis: ... he has to decide if he wants to take on that case which he considers the doggiest of the dog cases or if he does not take it and let a fellow blind, maybe wrongful discriminated kid, lose his job.
Climax: Murdock visits the blind kid and listens to his case ...
Resolution: ... and they both get shot at.

 

Middle Build – Chapter 5 (14 pages = 23%)

Inciting Incident: When Murdock grants his client cover at his own place and tries to reconstruct his memory to find out what the blind kid overheard ...
Progressive Complications Turning Point: ... and the kid tells him those latvians talked about Hydra ...
Crisis: ... Murdock has to decide if he stays with the kid or if he follows the investigation to confront the kid’s supervisor.
Climax: Murdock leaves and finds Mr. Randall on his boat trying to leave the country.
Resolution: Daredevil is attacked by the Bruiser and thrown into the water.

 

Ending Payoff – Chapter 6 (20 pages = 33%)

Inciting Incident: When Daredevil follows Bruiser to Mr. Zachary’s hideout having to fight Bruiser again ...
Progressive Complications Turning Point: ... and he is singled out 5 to 1 with guns pointed at him ...

»Close quarters, I’ve already been beaten half to death, and two imminent hostages stand flatfooted behind me.«

Crisis: ... he has to decide if he will fight or if he uses his lawyer skill of negotiating to get himself, the blind kid and Mr. Randall out of the life-threatening situation.
Climax: Daredevil makes his case and puts reason forth ...
Resolution: ... so he becomes the man who is wanted by five cartels!

 

Conclusion: Daredevil Issue 1 – 6

I am definitely hooked by the Daredevil story. I want to go on many more adventures with Daredevil. I love how he is portrayed as this strong, sophisticated character who follows a high moral compass. I really enjoyed ›seeing‹ the world through Daredevil’s senses as well as how the connection to the Marvel Universe is accomplished without confusing the reader or distracting him from the main story.

I have definitely become a fan of the Daredevil series!
What about you?

Daredevil - an analysis of the first six issues


Now that you have made it all the way to the end of my blog post, it'd be really great if you could spend two more minutes and let me know your thoughts.

Did the story work for you? What did you like the most about Daredevil by Mark Waid? What didn't you like?

Leave your answer in the comments below.

Or share this post.



Your comment

Comments 0


Melanie Naumann - I help comic book writers craft authentic stories in every kind of setting. Melanie Naumann - I help comic book writers craft authentic stories in every kind of setting.
Editing Comics

Story Consultant

Melanie is a developmental editor and action/thriller writer from Germany. She specializes in applying the Story Grid methodology to the art of writing graphic novels. She is currently working on a case study to show how the principles of story structure can be applied for telling stories that work through the art of captivating pictures, captions, and dialogue.

Melanie has traveled the world and lived in New Zealand, Australia, and Spain before settling down in her home village in Saxony, Germany.

Get access to the full The Umbrella Academy Vol. 1 Story Grid spreadsheet.


See for yourself how well the writer Gerard Way executed the scene work for this masterwork of an action mini-plot story.
Get access to the full analysisGet the SpreadsheetGet access to the full analysis
The Umbrella Academy Apocalypse Suite - Full analysis of the story