‘Daredevil’ — A Devout Catholic Hero Returns

He's a rarity in the secular superhero world

Superheroes are all the rage in Hollywood right now, and audiences are frantically dropping their dollars as fast as Tinseltown can spit these caped crusader stories out. We are hot on the heels of the record-breaking box office debut of “Deadpool” and awaiting what is bound to be a huge opening for “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

These stories, while popular, are secular almost by nature. It’s hard to fit in stories of religion while telling tales of supermen from outer space and talking raccoons. The pure fantasy of these stories and their resistance to acknowledge any God or religious bent may be a turnoff for some. However, there is one character worth taking note for those seeing a void in these fantastical tales.

“Daredevil” premieres its second season on Netflix on March 18, and the character is worlds apart from his web-crawling and flying friends. The superhero has long been a popular oddity among Marvel comics. He’s a blind man with heightened senses who fights for justice in the halls of court by day, and fights crime dressed like a devil at night.

That may sound like just another hokey story from the splashy pages of comics, but Daredevil’s history and core characteristics make him perhaps the most real character to fit into the current superhero helping of movies and television. He’s also the most religious.

Matthew Murdock, the fictional man behind the Daredevil mask, was blinded as a child. Never knowing his mother and losing his father at a young age led Murdock on a path of pain and suffering. It is Murdock’s pain and guilt and need to be better for himself and others that drives him to Catholicism. In the comics, Murdock’s religious conviction to Catholicism is perhaps his most distinctive characteristic, even more so than his heightened abilities.

The most popular Daredevil comic, “Born Again,” was part of a reinvention of the character by comic writer Frank Miller in the 1980s. Daredevil had been a struggling book, and Murdock’s religion had been little more than a side-note in his vigilante stories. Miller changed all that when he retold the origin of Hell’s Kitchen’s guardian devil in “The Man Without Fear.”

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Bringing Murdock’s struggles with Catholicism and his religious convictions to the forefront of the book made the character click for many readers. “Born Again” told a tale of tested faith. In the story, Murdock hardly ever dons his costume and is mainly forced to wrestle with his faith in God while his life falls to pieces. The story ultimately ends up being one of redemption with direct references to the story of Jesus Christ.

“I figured Daredevil must be Catholic because only a Catholic could be both an attorney and a vigilante,” Miller humorously noted in the documentary, “The Men Without Fear.” “He had a horrible childhood, his romantic life was the worst … but somehow he redeems himself and moves ahead. He just doesn’t give up,” Miller continued, noting Daredevil’s strength from his religious conviction.

The popular Netflix series openly pulls mostly from Miller’s writing and everything post, which is when Daredevil’s religion became a focal point for the character. The first season even opened with Murdock sitting in a confessional. The rest of the series uses Murdock’s religion as both a central piece of the show and an important aspect to the hero’s life. While still a brooding dark and violent show, to be expected in today’s television landscape, the character of Matt Murdock is always appropriately treated as a moral center for the show, even when his faith is being tested.

It’s quite a contrast from the rest of the crime fighting field. While a Pew Research Poll from 2015 showed some seven in 10 Americans identify with a branch of the Christian faith, Hollywood is hesitant to ever acknowledge religion in their more popular films. Despite that, Daredevil is a character whose faith is simply too important to ignore.

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Joe Quesada, Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment and executive producer of Netflix’s “Daredevil,” wholeheartedly embraces Daredevil’s Catholicism and its surprising popularity with readers. Answering a question on Newsarama.com, Quesada first acknowledged Daredevil as a “practicing Catholic” and continued the thought, saying, “In the case of Matt Murdock, it’s (Catholicism) come to define him. It also adds an interesting juxtaposition and wonderful irony between a man who worships a Catholic god yet wears a devil suit to fight crime. There have also been numerous scenes depicting Matt gaining an incredible amount of comfort from his religion. The scenes of him in the confessional stand out most to me as one of many moments when organized religion has been shown in a positive light.”

It’s all the more reason to pay more attention to “Daredevil.”

Despite existing in a secular field, the character is one people can relate to. He’s a breath of fresh air, dripping in Catholicism. He struggles with his faith, tries to do what’s right, uses his convictions for strength; and he always ends up back at church.

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