Okay, at this point, I assume everyone has watched Daredevil Season 2 on Netflix, and if you haven’t…what happened? Where are you? Is everything okay? Blink three times if you can’t talk in front of your captors. One of the things people have been complaining about is that they changed the comics very heavily in a lot of places…some people love the changes, other people think they ruined the characters. We thought it’d be fun to go on a walk through history and look at the comics that Daredevil Season 2 was inspired by.
Obviously, if you haven’t watched Daredevil Season 2, there are some major spoilers in here. And if you care about 30-year-old Daredevil comic book spoilers… be warned.
There were a lot of heavy references to the works of legendary writer Frank Miller this season. We’ll get to more of that in the Elektra section, but you can feel Miller’s influence even in the basic setting. Much of this season took place at Josie’s Bar, a favorite local hangout for Foggy and Matt. This is a popular criminal hangout in the comics, where Matt Murdock is usually cracking open skulls instead of brewskies.
Frank Miller was the writer who created Elektra, and also the first writer to have Daredevil fight the Punisher. Granted, things go somewhat differently on the show than his original stories, but they’re still worth reading.
If you’ve never picked up Miller’s Daredevil before, the original fan-favorite run starts in Daredevil #165 and ends in Daredevil #191. Miller would also return to the character several times over the years, most notably for his Kingpin epic “Born Again” and Daredevil’s definitive origin story in “The Man Without Fear.” These aren’t just classics; they’re the stories that made Daredevil into the character we know today, instead of a cheap wisecracking Spider-Man knockoff.
Elektra on the show and Elektra in the comics are very different. For starters, to explain the accent and French heritage of actress Elodie Yung, they had her be adopted in the show instead of Greek-like as she is in the comics. She’s also wearing about a million less scarves and ribbon things.
There are a lot of significant personality changes, too. In the comics, Elektra isn’t just a ruthless assassin-for-hire; she is a cold person who’s completely different than the young girl Matt Murdock once fell in love with. She doesn’t enter Daredevil’s life trying to seduce him; she wants nothing to do with him. There are still some feelings towards her first love, and she saves Daredevil’s life multiple times. But it’s important that she views him as an enemy. Matt Murdock isn’t an old flame she’s desperately trying to rekindle things with, he is in her way and she is not afraid to kick his ass to stop him.
The biggest difference about Elektra in the show is her connection to the Hand. The concept of the “Black Sky” introduced last season is unique to the show. Instead of being simply a rich heiress turned deadly ninja, Elektra is introduced as a living weapon of prophecy who’s supposed to bring great power to the Hand. Her connection to the Chaste, the group that battles the Hand, is also strengthened. The original comics had Elektra as a relatively normal college student when she met Matt Murdock (albeit the wealthy daughter of an ambassador). She left Columbia University behind and met her mentor Stick after an incident where Matt saved her life but accidentally got her father killed.
The show, by contrast, has Stick raising Elektra and training her since childhood. Instead of an organic meet-cute, her connection with Matt Murdock was part of a mission. Stick sent her to try and recruit Matt, and she accidentally fell in love with him along the way.
This manipulation by Elektra is used to introduce us to another character from Daredevil history.
Roscoe Sweeney, A.K.A. “The Fixer” is the man who had Daredevil’s father murdered. In the show, Elektra kidnaps Sweeney and has him wrapped up like a present for Matt. She uses Sweeney to try and push Matt into taking a life, an incident which leads to their break-up.
This is very different than Sweeney’s hilarious death in the comics. Daredevil’s first appearance in Daredevil #1 saw Sweeney die after Daredevil scared him into having a heart attack. You can’t see it well in this image, but Daredevil is a dude in a bright yellow circus outfit running on top of a rolling trash can.
The death of Elektra, an important moment from the comics, is also played very differently.
In the comics, Elektra didn’t last for very long. She appeared in January 1981 and died in April 1982. Daredevil’s nemesis Bullseye brutally impaling her with a refrigerator is maybe the most iconic moment in Daredevil history.
Lacking Bullseye, the show has her murdered instead by the Hand’s leader Nobu as he is trying to kill Daredevil. Rather than a senseless murder by a psychopath with a grudge, this is a deliberate sacrifice on her part. Elektra walks into death knowing that this is the only way she can stop the Hand from getting their…mitts on her.
Elektra seems to be dead for now, but this is Elektra we’re talking about. She could probably go toe-to-toe in a frequent resurrections contest with Jean Grey. The Hand have also demonstrated the power to bring people back from the dead, so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that we might see her again.
Let’s just hope she doesn’t come back as a Skrull this time.
There were some pretty big differences between Frank Castle in the comics and Frank Castle on the show, especially in tone. Bernthal’s Punisher is a lot more personable than the traditional comic book Punisher. He makes small talk, he cracks jokes. He even sits with Karen Page in a diner and chats about the guy she has a crush on. This is largely a necessary change for the medium. Frank Castle in the comics is a brooding stoic who almost never speaks unless he has to. His rich characterization and motivations are largely expressed through internal monologue using thought bubbles, something that just doesn’t work as easily on television.
There were also several deliberate homages to comic book scenes. The biggest one happens early on when Punisher captures Daredevil and chains him up on the roof. This is a direct reference to their encounter in the Garth Ennis story “The Devil by the Horns.”
In the original story, Frank sets up this scenario to force Daredevil to understand him. Daredevil is chained up and given a gun, then told that he must choose between killing the Punisher and letting the Punisher kill a criminal. If he fails to pull the trigger, he will have to live the rest of his life knowing that he is responsible for anyone else the Punisher kills. It’s an extremely dark moment for both characters. Ultimately Daredevil does end up pulling the trigger, but of course the gun is empty. The Punisher finishes his assassination, and tells Daredevil “you can leave the killing to me.” This plays out a little differently on the show.
The dialogue hits a lot of the same points. Punisher tells Daredevil “either way, you’re a killer” and Daredevil responds “what kind of choice is that?” Frank’s classic response is “the kind I make every time I pull the trigger.” In the show, however, instead of pulling the trigger, Daredevil turns the gun around on his own chains. He shoots himself free and tackles Castle. Castle gets the shot off and kills his mark anyway, but we still have a Daredevil who sticks to his values.
The biggest changes to Frank Castle were in his origins. We all know the classic story where his family was gunned down by mobsters in Central Park. The comics have portrayed the death of Frank Castle’s family several different ways, sometimes they were randomly caught in a shootout, sometimes they stumbled onto something they shouldn’t have seen and were killed as witnesses. Either way, it’s usually seen as a random act of violence.
The show gives their deaths a deeper significance. We learn that this gang shootout was part of a police sting operation gone wrong. The crooked D.A. Reyes authorized this operation while there were still people in the park, directly putting innocents like the Castle family in danger. This is a controversial change that would probably make much less sense for Frank Castle in the comics, but makes a lot of sense for Frank Castle on Daredevil. The “random act of violence” is thematically important when introducing Castle as a lone vigilante. This version of the Punisher is specifically intended as a dramatic foil to Daredevil though. Despite his vigilante status, Matt Murdock is an attorney, so a lot of Daredevil’s motivations revolve around him having a lot of faith in the legal system. It makes sense that his antithesis would be someone who isn’t just completely outside the system, but someone who the system failed.
We’re also treated to another villain responsible in the form of Blacksmith. This is a larger role than usual for Ray Schoonover, originally introduced as a single appearance character in the ’90s. In the comics, Schoonover was Castle’s commanding officer, and he tried to wipe out their entire unit when he worried they would expose his drug smuggling ring. Castle forced him to confess and then commit suicide. The show gives Schoonover a codename, and sets him up as the druglord behind the Central Park shootout that created the Punisher.
Familiar Faces and Things to Come
We don’t have space to go into every single character from the comics who appeared on the show, but it seems wrong to leave them out. Grotto, Smitty, Finn Cooley, “Big Ben” Donovan, Mr. Nesbitt, Blake Tower, Mr. Hirochi, and Star are all minor characters taken directly out of the comics. The ending hints at the existence of Micro. If Linus Lieberman, a.k.a. Microchip, is going to be a part of the next season, that means we’re only going to see the Punisher getting bigger and crazier and more dangerous. I for one cannot wait. I’ll leave you with a look at exactly who this “Micro” is and what kind of impact he might have.