Before I start this post, I have a little confession to make. I’m a fan of the original Ben Affleck Daredevil movie. According to most people on the internet, this makes me the bipedal equivalent of a unicorn. Good thing I’ve never really given much weight to other people’s opinions. I liked the fact that they showed Matt Murdock popping vicodin, because of course he would; he’s just a normal guy with incredibly heightened senses. Colin Farrell as Bullseye? Nailed it. I enjoyed the hell out of it, warts and all. I’ve always been a fan of Daredevil. I’ve read ALL the comics, that’s not an exaggeration; I’m a nerd (or geek, or whichever one people are applying to comic book fans nowadays [cause that’s important, if I’m a nerd, I don’t want to be lumped in with those worthless geeks, and vice versa, right fellas?]), and that’s what nerds (or geeks) do.
As a lifelong fan of Daredevil, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the premiere of the new Netflix series, and pestered S. constantly about it. “Well, that weekends booked up, that’s what we’re doing. Let’s get all our outside stuff done by Thursday, because I’ll wait ’til Friday night, but that’s it. We doin’ Daredevil.” Below is a sampling of dialogue from our marathon viewing of Netflix’s and Marvel’s Daredevil:
(MAY BE SPOILERS)
S: “Oh, it’s Jessica from True Blood. Who’s Karen Page? Is she important?
Me: “I guess you could say that, she’s Matt Murdock’s junkie ex-girlfriend who eventually sells his secret identity for dope…Wow, how much did those last few seasons of True Blood suck? They sucked A LOT. that black suit, the whole episode so far, has some real Frank Miller-y vibes.”
S: “Shut up, make me a sandwich*. Who’s Frank Miller?”
Me: Frank Miller wrote some of the best comic book story-lines ever; then, when he started being very vocal about certain political views he holds, he was shunned and treated as a pariah, very similar to the way Alan Moore was treated. They’re like comics “crazy uncles” that make everyone uncomfortable, and people say things like “He wasn’t THAT good anyway.”, or “To be honest, I never really liked his stuff.”, because that’s what the “cool” kids are saying. What disaster in New York are they talking about?”
(*We say this to each other A LOT. We think it’s funny. The same way we think that, when we’re out in public, if one of us makes a sudden movement and the other flinches, we think it’s funny. The best part is, we genuinely don’t care if you think it’s funny or not.)
Me: “Is that Rosario Dawson, star of such films as Clerks 2: The Clerkening and Kids?” (yup, straight dork…)
S: “I can’t tell, who’s Claire Temple?”
Me: “Ha, she was Luke Cage’s girlfriend for a while. With that hoodie thing going on, I get a kind of Sin Eater vibe off her, maybe she’ll become Sin Eater; or maybe she’s going to be in the Netflix Luke Cage series.”
Me: “I must have missed something, who are these guys? Ben? Ben Urich? Is that Ben Urich?”
S: “I don’t know who that is…”
Me: “It’s the dude Joey Pants played in the Affleck movie. Oh, it IS Ben Urich! That’s awesome, he’s a very important character; he’s a reporter, just a regular dude, but he’s always kind of involved in some major shit. He’s had run ins with The Punisher, worked at The Daily Bugle with Peter Parker, REALLY important in Daredevil comics. Look at those framed headlines behind him; that one is about The Incredible Hulk movie, that one is about The Avengers! This series is canonical, that’s amazing. I’m very excited.”
S: “Okay, calm down. dork.”
It goes on and on like this for the entire viewing, which was spread out over the weekend. I’m not going to bother doing a blow-by-blow for the rest. The only really pertinent bits are the arrival of Stick (to which I said, “Huh, I always figured him for Asian.”) and the conversation between S. and myself during the events of episode 11, which follows:
S: “I hope they don’t kill off Karen or Ben, they’re awesome.”
Me: “No way, never happen. The show’s just starting, and they’re both major players in the comics; by which I mean DECADES (damned near 40 years) of history.”
Then comes episode 12…
Are you fucking kidding me?
Here’s the relevant post-credits dialogue from episode 12:
Me: “I can not believe they killed Ben.”
S: “It’s okay baby, he’s fictional*.”
Me: “Yeah, but he’s ‘super-important’ fictional.”
S: “It’s too late to watch the last episode, let’s watch it tomorrow.”
Me: “Whatever, I don’t even care.”
(*Yet another thing I constantly badger S. with. She gets attached to characters (as do I), and takes deaths/setbacks hard sometimes.)
So, Ben’s dead; like, really real, fictionally dead. In the current Marvel cinematic universe; all the movies, all the TV shows; there’s no more Ben Urich. We have an 8-year-old character, specifically created for the cinematic universe, whose death served as the catalyst for uniting The Avengers, resurrected and made front-runner on a canonical TV series, retconned into the actual 616 comics universe, beloved by millions of fans (me included, even if I think the show has turned for the worse); meanwhile, an “average joe” character, with nearly 40 years of history in the actual comic books, is written off and thrown away in the very first season of a new series. Yup, that’s about the state of the “big two” comic book publishers nowadays.
I’m honestly still disturbed by this, it’s the whole point of this “uh, I know they’re your toys and all, but…” blog post, it’s why it’s taken me a few days to sit down and write it. I didn’t care that most of the series was just an amalgamation/rehash of story-lines in the comics, it was still solid. I’m a fucking fan, I live for this shit. Nothing makes me happier than knowing that people finally appreciate something that I’ve found pleasure in my whole life.
The more I think about it, the more firmly I believe it’s indicative of the mediocre (trying really hard to be polite here) writing that’s now deemed “acceptable” by the creators, the industry, and the fans. They knew who they were writing this series for, and it wasn’t for people who’ve read and loved the comics for years, through the good times and the bad, no matter what. This was written for the people who were attracted to the medium because of the newer films. They’re aware that most of those people (I will not call them “nufans”, I support anyone liking awesome things, and I don’t/have never bought into the whole “fake geek/nerd drama bullshit) don’t have a clue who Ben Urich actually is, so they make him a solid character; they make sure to portray his personal struggles, they make him real and solid and sympathetic; and then they throw him away in a desperate attempt at tragedy. He becomes the sacrificial lamb, the one who has to die so everyone can see that “the stakes are high”. That’s not tragic, that’s shitty storytelling. That’s a hackneyed plot device that’s just as overused as a villain threatening/committing sexual violence. It’s bush league.
I didn’t complain when Black Widow outran The Hulk on the helicarrier, I didn’t complain when she “tricked” the Asgardian god of mischief (although, being Loki, maybe that was the plan all along). Hawkeye, a normal guy who happens to be really good with a bow and arrow, making completely impossible shots? Sure, why not. Iron Man standing toe-to-toe with Thor? I might grit my teeth, but sure, if you say so.
I try my best not to complain when more and more often, year after year, the comics continue to sink further and further into a mire of overused, rewritten, tripe and company spanning cross-overs that JUST AREN’T THAT GOOD. I didn’t seriously complain about any of the X-Men movies (but oh boy could I!). This is just a little too much.