The Mystery of the Catholic Devil

The Mystery of the Catholic Devil March 20, 2013

Since I started getting back into comic books, people have asked me my favorite. That is a difficult question to answer, as I have a number of “favorites” for different reasons. For example, I’m a huge Green Lantern fan. As a fiction writer, there’s nothing more appealing than a superhero who can create “objects” by the use of a ring and his pure willed imagination.  I may not fight evil by fiction writing, but I’d like to think so.

However, there is a comic that I’ve discovered in the past few months that continues to knock me out on all levels; Marvel comics’ Daredevil.  With the release of Daredevil #24 today, comic book day, I thought it would be a good time to explain why I love Daredevil above all other comic book characters.

Daredevil is a Marvel comic that follows the story of Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer living in a rough part of New York called Hell’s Kitchen. His father, Battlin’ Jack Murdock, was a washed up boxer who raised Matt in his Catholic faith after Matt’s mother left. His father instilled in him the desire to learn and be a better man. At the same time,  Matt was a boy full of fear who never did anything risky, which caused his classmates to call him in derision, “Daredevil.”

Then, came the fateful day Matt pushed a blind man out of the way of a truck bearing radioactive waste. The waste poured into Matt’s eyes and robbed him of his sight. However, it also granted him the ability to heighten his other senses into radar-like sight and hearing. When his father was killed by the mob for refusing to throw a fight while his son was in the audience, Matt swore to dedicate his life to fight the evil plaguing Hell’s Kitchen.

Frank Miller, a legendary comic artist and confessed atheist who gave the world many legendary Daredevil runs, believes Matt Murdock to be the most “Christian” of all superheroes. He found Murdock’s struggle with reconciling his faith and being a masked vigilante “fascinating.” Miller really brought this out in his stories by showing Daredevil living in Hell’s Kitchen, fighting for the oppressed, sacrificing himself for others, and how Matt sought to live out his faith, even if he often failed at it.

Kevin Smith (of Dogma fame and self described Catholic), Joe Quesada and Jimmy Palmiotti built on these ideas in their legendary Daredevil run. This eight issue run is one of the most profound discussions of Christianity I’ve read in the comic world. It’s truly awe inspiring how Smith handles Daredevil’s faith and not just hints, but screams it from every page.

(Possible Spoilers ahead)

How does Smith do this? He uses the very Christian concept of “strength through our weakness becomes our power” as the driving point of the plot.

Indeed, if you think hard enough about it, Daredevil’s superpower, his blindness, comes from weakness. He serves Hell’s Kitchen and New York through his strength that developed because of his weakness. In Smith’s Daredevil run, he brings this out in profound ways as Matt fights to save a helpless baby. Murdock takes in his ex-girlfriend who betrayed him by being a porn-star and telling his secret identity to Kingpin, one of Murdock’s enemy. Through Matt’s weakness, he “saves” her and is saved himself as he meets his long lost mother who has become a nun.  His mother tells him in a crisis of faith, “You’re an angel, Matthew. Not one of the heavenly hosts, but a servant of God nonetheless. As such, placing your trust in him shouldn’t take a great leap of faith. Ask Him what to believe.”

The theme of redemption is strong in this particular run of Daredevil, but Smith believed he just picked up on themes Miller and others had in writing runs of the comic. Weakness becomes strength. Self-sacrifice to redeem others. And, a deep love for his area of the city to keep fighting for its redemption from the violent crime that plagues it. This comic floors me every time I read it.

The final exhortation in the comic seals the deal. Daredevil cuts short his confession with a priest to go fight crime. When the father asks him where he is going, Matt replies, ‘I’m off to do my Father’s work, padre, off to do my father’s work.'”

This comic is devotional reading for me. Sin. Redemption. The power of being helpless. Sacrificing yourself so others might live. All concepts that go deep to my heart.

This is why I love Daredevil. And why you should too…..

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