When Marvel Comics' Daredevil (AKA Matt Murdock) was just a child he learned an important lesson from his boxer father "Battlin" Jack Murdock; when life knocks you down you get back up and you keep fighting. Throughout his life Murdock has done just that. When he lost his sight in a freak accident and gained super senses he mastered those abilities and used them to become crusader for justice on the streets and in the courtroom. And when villains like the Kingpin try to destroy his life Daredevil picks himself up and fights back. The only way to truly keep the resilient crime fighter down is to kill him.
What happens when the inevitable finally happens and someone puts Matt Murdock down for good? And what kind of events will lead up to that fateful day? On October 3, writers Brian Michael Bendis and David Mack and artists Klaus Janson, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Alex Maleev begin to answer those questions and more in the eight-issue miniseries "Daredevil: End of Days." CBR News spoke with Bendis and Mack about the series, which transports readers to a dark, near future Marvel Universe where an intrepid reporter must uncover the mystery of the final days of the Man Without Fear.
The story of Daredevil's final days have been a long time coming, and that's not just because Matt Murdock has made a lot of enemies during his crime fighting career. Bendis and Mack penned their first "Daredevil: End of Days" script back in 2007 and the co-writers are thrilled to finally have the series hit stores in October.
"I think subconsciously we were so happy to be working with Klaus Janson and Bill Sienkiewicz that me and David didn't want to push really hard for them to finish it. We just wanted to walk around and tell people we we were woking with them and it's been a very wonderful collaborative experience. Everyone is really giving it their all and is really passionate about the book," Brian Michael Bendis told CBR News. "I recently got to read the first issue with eyes wide open because David and I had written it so long ago that when I saw it finished I didn't remember anything that was written. So I got to read it pretty cleanly and it worked for me. I was really excited by that."
"Everybody put a lot of work into this project, but there were moments when it kind of lost its momentum," David Mack added. "A real effort was made to keep shepherding it and make sure everybody was still interested and still working with their other schedules and deadlines. We had meetings throughout this and now it's finally on schedule and coming out in a few weeks. It's a great feeling."
Mack's involvement on the book came about when Bendis began chatting with him about an idea for a final Daredevil story that Warren Simons, who was editing the book at the time pitched him. "He said to me, 'Warren mentioned this idea. We can maybe take the beginnings of this idea and turn into something really different than I had imagined for it,'" Mack explained. "So we started figuring it out and this idea of Brian and I co-writing was really fascinating. I was used to writing by myself so I wasn't even sure how co-writing would work. When I'm writing stuff I'm usually agonizing over things and thinking about how to finesse every detail and make it work.
"I wasn't sure logistically how that would happen. It turned out to be an incredible collaborative process though, where Brian and I would have discussions about what we were thinking about and what would be great in the story. From those back and forths all these ideas just started happening; much more so than if it was just one person writing things out," Mack continued. "One person would say something that the other person would react to. It went back and forth and by the end of the conversation we knew basically what an issue was about. Then one of us would go off and put together their version of a full script and hand it off to the other person. That person then finessed it. It was an incredibly new and interesting creative process for me. I learned a lot from it."
For Bendis and Mack, writing the story together was just the first half of the fun of "Daredevil: End of Days." The second half was seeing Bill Sienkiewicz, Klaus Janson, Alex Maleev, and Mack himself, all artists who have had memorable "Daredevil" runs, bring their story to life.
"We thought that if we have Klaus, Bill, Alex, and David It would seem weird to just have Klaus pencil and Bill ink. Klaus and Bill are amazing painters and they're both awesome pencillers and inkers, and so are David and Alex. So we thought why don't we make the format of the book able to use all of their talents?" Bendis mused. "So we have flashbacks and other story elements that are illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz or Alex within the confines of the basic structure, which is Klaus pencilling and inking, but it starts to shift as the story gets more complicated. That allows us to celebrate Daredevil as an artistic statement, and that's great, except that it takes more time too."
"Bill and Klaus are guys Brian and I grew up on and were highly influenced by. We loved their takes on 'Daredevil' when we were younger and now these guys are sending us e-mails asking for our opinions," Mack added. "Klaus will send us an e-mail saying, 'Hey the script is this way, but I'm thinking maybe this is an interesting solution for it. What do you guys think?' And we're very much like 'Everything we know we learned from you guys!' So it's just utterly fascinating that they would treat us as peers and ask us questions. We were like, 'Whatever you think is the right thing to do, do it. You're the people that we learned from.'"
The story Bendis and Mack crafted opens with the death of Matt Murdock and explores the impact of a life of violence and vigilantism. The person exploring his life is Murdock's former friend, Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich. "Daredevil: End of Days" is a detective story that pays homage to a cinematic classic.
"It's more than a tip of the hat to 'Citizen Kane.' Our story is what if Charles Foster Kane was a violent, brutal vigilante," Bendis joked. "Something happens during Matt Murdock's very public murder that forces Ben Urich to investigate and write Matt Murdock's last story. He really doesn't want to, but it's the last week the 'Daily Bugle' will be in existence and Jonah Jameson kind of forces him to tell the story because no one else is going to.
"The media doesn't do stories like this anymore. They live in a world where there's no investigative journalism. Hard to imagine that their world would get that way," Bendis continued with a laugh. "Ben is sort of the last dinosaur and he's forced to tell the story of a man he's grown to have a lot of conflicted feelings about. So Matt's death sends Ben after this story, which gets very complicated. It takes him through the Marvel Universe, Daredevil's past lives, and through the years we haven't seen him. He's been missing for a few years."
One of the reasons Bendis and Mack chose Ben Urich as a protagonist for "Daredevil End of Days" was because they wanted a hero that could give readers an objective perspective on the titular character's life. "Daredevil has this incredible mythology and this wonderful history that so many brilliant creators have given to the character, and in a way this is kind of a love letter to all of that. We tried to incorporate as much of the different facets and characters of 'Daredevil' as we could, but we didn't want to do that from Daredevil's point of view though," Mack said. "When you're reading a 'Daredevil' comic and he's the protagonist, the majority of the world is seen through his senses and his way of perceiving the world. So you're actually being given a non-objective point of view. There are a lot of psychological issues there that Daredevil has which are glossed over to a degree because you're seeing the story through his perspective.
"We wanted to have someone with a little more self discipline and objectivity like Ben, the Marvel U's premier investigative reporter, looking at Daredevil who is a hero with a lot of flaws and, for lack of a better phrase, blind spots," Mack continued. "One of the themes we'll illustrate in this story is that living a life of extremes, as Daredevil and some of these characters do, affects the other people in your life. There's a ripple effect that impacts their loved ones and all the different aspects of their life. If it's completely told from the hero's perspective you don't really think about that as much."
For Bendis the other appeal of making Ben Urich the protagonist of "End of Days" was that it afforded the writer another chance to pen the veteran journalist. "He's a character who I used to write a lot when I first came to Marvel, but then I stopped myself because it's so much fun," Bendis remarked. "Writing Ben Urich, investigative reporter for the 'Daily Bugle' feels like you're writing 'With Great power comes great responsibility.' It feels like you're really writing a Marvel Comic when you write those words, and I haven't written those words in a long, long time."
Mack didn't have the opportunity to write Ben Urich during the short time he was working on "Daredevil," but he does have a special fondness for the character. That's because he played a prominent role in "Wake Up," the debut arc of Bendis' acclaimed 2001-2006 run on "Daredevil" -- a story which Mack provided the art for.
"What we're doing now in a way is almost like a book end to that story because it very much has a similar tone of Ben trying to make sense of something. There's a story that he's got ahold of and can't let go. So he's trying to make sense of it and as much as he wants to be objective there are a lot of personal issues in it for him as well," Mack explained. "In fact, that 'Wake Up' story that Brian and I did together features a little boy named Timmy that Ben connected with, and at the end of that story he ends up adopting Timmy. The story we're doing now takes place about 10 years later and Timmy is a teenager. He's a big character in this story as well. So we get to see him further along and he'll play a critical part in the story."
Ben Urich begins his investigation into Matt Murdock's final days by interviewing some of his costumed colleagues. "Most of them aren't inclined to talk with Ben about Daredevil. They've sort of distanced themselves from him, so it's almost like a Dante's Inferno scenario. Ben is meeting all these tiers of people on his quest to find something out. Each tier of that inferno becomes more dark, deep, dangerous, and mysterious," Mack remarked. "The next tier after the heroes that won't talk with him are the people in Matt's personal life. Some of them aren't very inclined to talk to him and some are a little bit more approachable. So just about every character that Matt or Daredevil bas been associated with is somebody on Ben's list to speak with. It's interesting because we get to see where these people ended up and what kind of effect Daredevil had on their lives."
Like all Marvel characters, Daredevil has had a variety of relationships, but his most famous and powerful relationships have been romantic ones. In "Daredevil: End of Days" #2 Bendis and Mack will revisit those very entanglements as Ben Urich seeks out the women that were part of Matt Murdock's life.
"Ben knowing Matt the way he did goes right to the women. So we get to see all the women in Matt's life 10 years later. Elektra, Milla Donavan, and a lot of women that he knew are included here," Bendis said. "When we started this book I said the one thing I can promise you that you've never seen before -- if you're not convinced by these amazing artists and this story -- is that the idea of Elektra Natchios soccer mom is something you need to see."
The old Daredevil flames Urich visits include a character near and dear to Mack's heart, Maya Lopez AKA Echo. Mack introduced the character to the world in "Parts of a Whole," an arc he wrote and Joe Quesada drew, which ran through "Daredevil" Volume 2 #9-15. The character would go on to appear in Bendis' "New Avengers" run and the writer used her again recently in "Moon Knight" series, where she was murdered by the villainous Count Nefaria.
"When I started writing 'Daredevil' I asked Joe Quesada if there was anything specific he wanted me to write about or bring to the story. He said he wanted me to create a character that would be unique to Daredevil. She was originally created to play an antagonist role for that story and would hopefully be a character that, like Daredevil, views the world in a very unique way," Mack explained. "I thought Matt Murdock would be able to relate to her more than other people because while she's not blind, she's deaf. So she has to use her other senses more to interpret and react to the world, just like Daredevil does.
"It was really interesting coming up with that character in 1998 and then seeing her still have a life 'New Avengers' and 'Moon Knight,' and to see her become a hero was especially interesting," Mack continued. "We had written much of this story before the 'Moon Knight' story came out, but I was really happy to see how Brian used her in 'Moon Knight.' That was an incredible story and when I die I want to die a Marvel death with the ability to come back in the 'next season,' so to speak."
Echo's appearances in "End of Days" are extra special for Mack because he's not just co-writing the character in the story -- he's also bringing her scenes to life as the artist.
"Any time a particular character is featured we'll try to match that character with the artist most associated with the character. So when Elektra shows up it's a great opportunity to have fully-painted Bill Sienkiewicz vintage 'Elektra Assassin' style artwork that's associated with that character. It brings you back to what that character's legacy is," Mack said. "Then we put you back to the current story in terms of how the current story is told. In the first issue there are little sections where Bill paints the Kingpin in a similar way that he did in 'Daredevil: Love & War' Then we'll come back to the present moment and it will be Klaus and Bill again. That happens throughout the book and sometimes those sequences get longer and longer in terms of when the art style changes."
While figures like Echo and the Kingpin loom large in "Daredevil: End of Days," the book is about more than just his relationships with his ex-lovers and arch-enemies. It also takes a look at Matt Murdock's dynamic with a character who is his ideological opposite when it comes to crime fighting, the gun toting vigilante known as, the Punisher (AKA Frank Castle).
"The Punisher is one of my favorite Marvel characters," Mack told CBR News. "When I was a kid I read the Frank Miller-Klaus Janson era of 'Daredevil.' The very first issue that I ever got was the angel dust story with the Punisher in it. It was that cover with the Punisher shooting Daredevil and I grew up without a TV and access to comics, so I wasn't prepared for that. I was at a friend's house and they had this 'Daredevil' issue where this guy with a skull on his chest was shooting holes through this man dressed as a devil on the cover. It was outside my comfort zone at the time, but I was fascinated and had to read the book. It had this effect on me.
"There was this really hard edged, shadowy, dark character killing people left and right in a drug story and it was almost too much for me to handle when I first read it. That character, the Punisher, had an incredible effect on me and a few years later I ended up finding the next issue of 'Daredevil' at a second hand store," Mack continued. "I was a little more ready for it and I was fascinated to see how the story telling was told and the way Miller and Janson composed all the panels, shapes, and shadows. From then on I ended up collecting every appearance of the Punisher. I haven't got like the last 15-20 years, but up to a certain period I had every single appearance of the Punisher and read every single detail about him as a character."
Clashes between Daredevil and the Punisher during the Miller-Janson era of "Daredevil" kicked off a long running feud between the two characters. While the killer vigilante was never a formal member of the Man Without Fear's Rogue's Gallery, battles with the Punisher were always a harrowing experience for Matt Murdock, and not because Daredevil was in mortal danger when they faced off. It was because Frank Castle was a grim reminder of what Matt Murdock could become if he ever crossed the line and killed any of his foes.
"The Punisher actually plays a pivotal role in this series. Timmy, Ben's adoptive son, is kind of torn between the symbols of the Punisher and Daredevil," Mack said. "He had this powerful experience with Daredevil when he was younger. So Daredevil means something very personal to him. Then in the wake of all these things that happen later and Daredevil's death in the first issue he becomes very conflicted. In this story Timmy latches on to the Punisher and his methodology. He's sort of conflicted between how the Punisher deals with things and what Daredevil does. Each of them has a certain attraction."
The brutality of characters like the Punisher and the early death of Matt Murdock means "Daredevil: End of Days" is going to some pretty dark places. They are all places longtime "Daredevil" fans have been before, but tonally they're very far away from the character's current and highly-acclaimed adventures by writer Mark Waid.
"This harkens back to that noirish Daredevil, the pulp hero, but it's even darker. It takes place in the future and things have gotten worse in Hell's Kitchen and it's so dark compared to Mark Waid's book that I think it's going to be startling to people, including Mark Waid," Bendis joked.
The gritty, crime-ridden world of "Daredevil: End of Days" takes place in the future, but visually it has more in common with some of the nightmarish and twisted cityscapes found in classic neo-noir films of the late '60s and early '70s. "There's this real visceral quality to the city and just the way the story is told," Mack explained. "It's not a major part of our template, but there are aspects of it that remind me of 'Taxi Driver' or 'Chinatown' or Coppola's 'The Conversation' or the Warren Beatty film 'The Parallax View.' In those film's there's a character trying to unravel some mystery and the paradigm of what they think it is in the beginning is a little different than what it really is. And then suddenly their quest consumes them. So it matches a lot of the texture of those films and the content, but also the story telling."
Bendis added, "We imagined a future where nothing's better; where New York was returning to the feel it had in films like 'Taxi Driver' and 'French Connection.' That's the way we envisioned it. Everybody's phones are cooler and they have a lot of awesome gadgets but in general it looks like as Travis Bickle said, 'Somebody has to come and wash all the scum off the streets.'"
The journey down the mean streets of future Manhattan in "Daredevil: End of Days" has been a long time coming, and Bendis, Mack and all of the creators involved are sorry fans have had to wait so long. Readers can rest assured though, the creators went out of their way to make sure they told a story that was worth the wait.
"Sometimes when a comic book doesn't come out for awhile people get the feeling that it's like a movie that's been on the shelf for a couple of years. That's not what this is. This a celebration of all that Daredevil represents to comics, which is some of the greatest artists that have ever worked on comics have worked on 'Daredevil,'" Bendis said. "Some people will come to this project just because Bill Sienkiewicz and Klaus Janson are doing it, but there's bound to be some of our audience who are discovering their work for the first time and those of you who know their work know what it's like to see it for the first time. So it's exciting to know that there are going to be people who will have that experience because of this project. It's also exciting to think that some readers might be discovering the work of David Mack and Alex Maleev for the first time as well.
"This a very unique project," Bendis continued. "It's been gestating for awhile and everyone involved is taking their time to do this beautifully. I think the thing that I'm most excited about is that all the artistic talent involved on this book is being used in such a unique and profound way that you're getting the best of a lot of very good people who meant a lot to this character."
"Daredevil: End of Days" #1 goes on sale October 3.