Many superhero stories today question how much property damage vigilante superheros actually cause, but Daredevil #191 (1964) asked how much damage superheros do to people.
Warning: Major Spoilers for Frank Miller’s Run of Daredevil (#158-191)
Frank Miller cites the issue as his favorite piece published by Marvel and rightfully so. Miller, alongside Klaus Janson’s fantastic inking and color, shot Daredevil into the spot for Marvel’s most popular superhero for years, and rightfully so. Issue 191 of Daredevil or “Daredevil: Roulette” acts as a sequel to the most infamous comic death since “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, in which Daredevil villain Bullseye kills Elektra. If you aren’t familiar with this comic run or this infamous death, you may have seen this image before.
Note: I’ve edited the photos in this article to avoid certain parts of the story. I do so to allow readers to read the comic themselves without ruining the full story.
In the issue, Daredevil visits Bullseye, paralyzed from his fight with Daredevil after killing Elektra. Except instead of killing Bullseye, he tells him a story. He visits Bullseye not as Daredevil, but as Matt Murdock, the blind defense attorney with a troubled love life.
Murdock visits not to seek revenge for Elektra, but to ask a question.
Daredevil met a child named Chuckie Jurgens, a child with a delusional disorder which makes him think he’s Daredevil himself. Chuckie also has an abusive father who turns out to be an embezzling criminal.
Daredevil thinks it would be a nice treat to take the boy out for a day of pretending to be Daredevil instead of seeking medical help for him.
This makes even Daredevil question the effect he had on the child, whether he was the catalyst, or if it was just coincidental that a vigilante was Chuckie’s excuse from wanting to be free of his abusive father.
Daredevil is so busy basking in the glory of Chuckie’s worship, he’s blind (physically, AND metaphorically now) to what he should be doing to help the child and what effect he has on Chuckie.
This issue brings up the question that superhero media still brings up today: do superheros create supervillains or do superheros exist because of supervillains? Even Daredevil himself still questions this, with the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil centering around this question.
Its such a powerful question that it can never be fully answered, and this comic beautifully explores the futility of asking it.
Miller tells readers how corrupting power can be. How easily a man revered by the populace can become self-centered and blind to the needs of others.
If you’ve been paying attention to the panels so far, you may have noticed a distinct lack of color in the background of the man without fear. This is extremely out of character for Frank Miller. Daredevil comics by Frank Miller almost always had a detailed, dark background to contrast the crimson and orange of Daredevil’s costume, but in Roulette, the background is almost always blank.
Despite the issue’s dark themes, the only way to describe this use of backgrounds is wonderful as it puts Matt Murdock’s emotions on display. It shows how vulnerable he feels. He’s not in the dark of night where he’s at much a disadvantage as his opponents in blindness. He feels remorse, he feels hollow, and the emptiness of the background is perfectly representative of this. Now back to the story.
Daredevil catches Chuckie’s father holding a man at gunpoint, and takes him down, except Chuckie went full vigilante thinking he was Daredevil himself. Seeing his father taken down by the real Daredevil sends him over the edge.
Chuckie, having an undiagnosed mental disorder, is regularly bullied at school. Now believing that he is evil like his dad, begins believing he is actually Daredevil’s villain rival, Bullseye.
Daredevil’s self-centered behavior leads to the destruction of young Chuckie’s childhood.
Of course, there are no ramifications for Daredevil’s actions. He didn’t tell Chuckie to shoot the kid. Daredevil is in no way responsible for Chuckie’s actions. Regardless, Daredevil should, and does feel guilty because there was so much he could have done to prevent this.
Roulette shows how easily power can corrupt a superhero, or even a normal human being. Daredevil does not kill, but with his skills, he easily could.
Five pulls of the trigger, and its Bullseye’s turn to take the shot.
This is why he visits Bullseye. Not to avenge, but to make a point to himself, and the reader.
The only difference between a supervillain and a superhero, is which one shows mercy.
The comic brings up so many fantastic points about the prospect of someone having too much influence and power, and the role of superheros in general. Anyone who loves superhero comics should definitely read Frank Miller’s run of Daredevil, as it is one of the best comic runs of all time.
If you want to read the entirety of Miller’s Daredevil you should pick up the three Daredevil: Omnibus volumes 1-3 which encapsulate his 33 comic run of the character. The comics cost a hefty $29.99 US per issue, but they’re worth it.
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