Daredevil: Where Do I Start?

While Marvel’s flagship super-hero Spider-Man swings through the skylines of New York City, Daredevil exists on another level: the street level. Created by Stan Lee and Namor creator Bill Everett (with some design help from Jack Kirby) in 1964, his was the story of a blind son of a veteran undercard boxer who grows up to avenge his father’s killer and bring justice to the streets of the Clinton Hell’s Kitchen section of New York as both a hero and a lawyer. Gifted with enhanced senses from the same accident that robbed him of his sight, Matt Murdock has evolved into a thoroughly different kind of hero than other Marvel heroes, both in attitude, story, and substance.

Through the years, a number of notable creators have made their mark on the horned hero of Hell’s Kitchen, with some readers defining the character’s long history through so-called eras: the Lee era, the Colan era, the Miller era, the O’Neil era, the Smith Era, the Bendis era, the Brubaker era, and so on. In this week’s installment of Where Do I Start, we narrow 47 year history into five seminal collections that haven proven to be the foundation for the Man Without Fear.

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear: Although Daredevil’s origin story has been told numerous times before and after this story, Frank Miller & John Romita Jr.’s portrayal here continues to be the definitive origin and also one of the character’s greatest stories. Acting in a “Year One” style story, Miller delves into the character to explore the transformation of a runt son of a boxer into a street-level vigilante with pathos.

Daredevil by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev Ultimate Collection – Book 1: It’s the book that made Bendis a star at Marvel, and now 10 years later it still stands high as the best Daredevil run since Frank Miller. Bendis & Maleev really brought Matt Murdock’s story to a new level, pulling in deep realism and delving into the psyche of why the titular character is the way he is. Although it has his name on the title, this run on Daredevil shows him as the lead character in a deep ensemble piece where the good guys aren’t white knights and the bad guys aren’t necessarily all bad.

Daredevil: Born Again: Frank Miller made his name on Daredevil both writing and drawing stories, but this later story partnering with artist David Mazzuchelli proved to be the highpoint of Miller’s run on the character by far. In this collection, Daredevil finds his secret identity secret no-more as former girlfriend Karen Page sells it for a drug fix. Daredevil struggles with trying to put that secret to bed from his arch-nemesis the Kingpin while also trying to help his one-time love.

Essential Daredevil, Vol. 1: Although Daredevil wouldn’t be definitively defined until years later in Frank Miller’s early 80s run, it’s important to go back to the very first stories to see how the character evolved. This book collects the first 25 issues, going from Stan Lee & Bill Everett to Jack Kirby & John Romita Sr. and even the first stories by Gene Colan; the star of this collection (for me at least), is Wally Wood’s brief run on the book that coalesced the character’s early concepts into a more uniform story.

Daredevil Omnibus, Vol. 1: If every comic creator has a company-owned character they were born to write, I’d say Ed Brubaker’s is Daredevil. Although he might be best known for Captain America and his creator-owned crime fiction, Brubaker seemed to not just know Daredevil but know his entire world; from the streets he works on to the friends he keeps, and most importantly, what gets to the character and how enemies exploit it. This handy volume collects Brubaker & Michael Lark’s first set of stories in the title, starting off with Daredevil in prison to dealing with his arch nemesis kingpin and trying to carve out a life for him and his wife.

Daredevil: Fall of the Kingpin: Although this story-arc is the least-known out of our list today, it’s worth tracking down. Created in the mid-80s when everyone was trying to work in the shadow that Frank Miller cast on the character, writer D.G. Chichester and artists Lee Weeks and Al Williamson went back to Miller’s own Born Again arc to find out what happens next for both Daredevil and the Kingpin.


  1. Man Without Fear is so good, one of my annual re-reads. At the Dallas Comic Con in May, JRJR named it as the project in his career he was most proud of.

  2. Daredevil: Yellow. My first experience with DD and it made me a huge fan. It’s a romping fun but emotional origin story

  3. Wow, I thought Quesada’s run was suposed to be one of the best. It was probably on my next Daredevil to read list, but now I am thinking about going back and checking out more of these which I remember reading awhile ago, but not falling in love with.  PS Does anyone else notice that Daredevil seems to have EVERY major writer on it for some time, pretty awesome.

  4. I have all Miller’s Daredevil in hardcover. It’s one of most treasured gems on my shelves. In fact I’ve been considered revisiting them in prep for Waid’s run. Now I think I definitely will. Good stuff.

  5. @MountNJ  That’s partially becuase of DD’s status both in the Marvel U. and in sales. It’s never been a huge seller, and he’s not exactly a crossover favorite, so they can put people on it and let them do whatever they want. Writers tend to have more freedom on DD than on other books.

  6. Daredevil: Yellow by Loeb and Sale and Daredevil: Guardian Devil by Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada are two huge ommisions.

    Smith and Quesada’s Marvel Knights run on DD paved the way for the entire Marvel line we read to today, and featured a death that defines the character to this day. Easily one of the best and most influential books in Marvel’s recent history.

  7. Ann nocieti and jr jr run is underated

  8. @davidtobin100  agreed, that was the book that got me into daredevil

  9. @mikeandzod21  Second. Yellow really grabbed me by the balls and made me dig the man without fear. 

  10. I don’t know if anyone knows this but I sell comics for a living (at Jim Hanley’s Universe). DD is one of my favorite characters, so I tell folks that if they read, in this order:

    Born Again
    Guardian Devil

    They get a really great love story of Matt and Karen. Seriously, it works on so many levels. After that, sure, jump into the Bendis/Maleev and then the Brubaker/Lark runs, but read those three in that order. I haven’t had one person that I recommended this to come back and question it.

  11. I would add that Wally Wood is responsible for the costume we all know and love.

    Man Without Fear and Born Again are two books I pass to people as a jumping on point into the the entire medium.

    It’s a shame the O’Neil/Mazzuchelli era and Gene Colan era haven’t been collected in trade outside of the essentials.  

  12. @VitoDelsante  Absolutely love the way you think! For their Marvel effort, Loeb and Sale’s Yellow is the one to get.

  13. I’d also nominate Yellow.

  14. @RapidEyeMovement: Exactly. Daredevil: Yellow.

  15. Dude, how can you NOT have Millers first run on Daredevil? I would argue thats by far the most important work on Daredevil ever. Born Again is obviously Millers best work on the character, but it was his first run that established who the character was, what his city was like, he introduced Elektra, and made Bullseye and Kingpin into really threatening villains who have become DD’s archnemesis. 

    Otherwise, awesome list.

  16. The Man Without Fear is one of my all-time favorites. And yeah, to leave out the first Miller run is an oversight…that’s where a lot of what DD is all about came from!

  17. One of my personal favorites is the run written by David Mack, “Parts of a Hole.” It tends to get forgotten, as it was after kevin Smith and Before Bendis, but it is absolutely fantastic, and the story line that made me fall in love with Daredevil. it’s also the story that made me think Kingpin is a terrific character. I used to have no interest in him at all, but mack made him seem like this amazingly interesting villain. I absolutely loved that run.

  18. Daredevil Yellow is amazing as is Guardian Devil and all the others listed above. I will always have a soft spot for the Karl Kessel/Cary Nord run. I enjoyed Joe Kelly’s run too.

  19. yes, EVERYTHING Miller has written of the character is essential reading. if you can get the omnibus (out-of-print and gouged by those who have it) or the three trades that make up his initial run, it is worth your time and money. great Miller art with really unique layouts and narrative techniques. crazy, insane Bullseye, vengeful Kingpin, sewer people, the best Ben Urich story ever. that run really has it all for Daredevil’s world. AND it’s how we know he can taste every grain of salt on a pretzel.

    PLUS Love and War with Bill Sienkiewicz art, amazing. 

  20. i would say stay away from Brubaker’s run. it looked great… but sucked

  21. It’s actually harder to find a bad run of DD than a good one.

  22. @flakbait  Go read Bob Gale’s arc, the story so bad they leave it out of the reprints. That was pretty bad. But you’re definitely right, there have been a lot of great DD runs over the years. They should start putting out some of the pre-Marvel knights runs, besides the obvious Miller one. there were some good, solid stories back in the day on this title.

  23. I really enjoyed Brubaker’s run on DD. I thought it was great, it just so happen to come right after what I consider probably the best run on the character with Bendis and Maleev, which I think may underscore how great Bru’s run on the book was.

  24. “Nice [Chris], a sly declaration of new classic status slipped in with a couple of old safe ones…”

    Sorry, couldn’t resist quoting High Fidelity. Lee Weeks is a fabulous artist but to put that run ahead of Yellow, the original Miller run or the Smith/Quesada run is a stretch.