Friday, June 6, 2008

Preposterous Plot Points #4 - "The Matryoshka Identities"

In the beginning, the blind lawyer Matt Murdock decided to use his talents to fight crime as the costumed vigilante Daredevil. Whenever he wore the costume, he was simply Matt Murdock impersonating Daredevil.
Why am I stating this obvious fact? Well, because there was a period in which it all became a little more complicated.

For a series of reasons that deserve a chapter solely dedicated to them, in fact, Matt told his closest friends that Daredevil was actually his twin brother, Mike, who wasn't blind and whose personality was totally different from his. To convince them of the existence of this imaginary twin, Matt began to impersonate him. And obviously, to maintain the charade, he had to keep in mind that whenever he was in costume, he was actually Matt Murdock impersonating Mike Murdock impersonating Daredevil.

With DD#30 the thing was brought to a new level of absurdity.
Matt, in fact, in order to lure Cobra and Mr Hyde, two villains who were traditionally antagonists of Thor, decides to disguise as the thunder god himself.
Better yet, instead of directly disguising as Thor, he decides to wear a Thor costume over the usual Daredevil costume.

What? Skin-colored plastic worn over his Daredevil costume? Wouldn't he feel hot as hell under all those layers of skin-tight stuff? Also, why does he feel he'd need his regular costume? Is he afraid that they can tell his true identity if he leaves his bare arms exposed?
Be as it may, with the transition of a page, there he is: happy as a schoolboy in his thunder god disguise. Now watch the panel below while keeping in mind that all of what appears skin is actually plastic fabric, and that underneath it there is supposed to be a Daredevil costume:

But it isn't over:

In this panel - which I personally find quite scary - not only the main character sort of admits the absurdity of forcing himself to juggle four identities, but we're also told that, because he needs to know the effectiveness of all the crap he's wearing, he decides he must test it on his friends. These friends, by the way, know that Mike Murdock is Daredevil, therefore he must be Mike Murdock under those masks. Which means that he's going to wear the "fancier" type of sunglasses which visually characterize Mike. Although Mike is supposed to be his identical twin, in fact, Matt is evidently afraid that they would believe him to be the one who is Daredevil, if he showed up with the wrong type of sunglasses.
So, in short, Matt decides to be Mike Murdock under the mask, and so wears the loud sunglasses for a moment. I think it's reasonable to say that he removes them immediately after, because despite all the effort I can put into it, I can't believe he would be wearing sunglasses underneath the DD mask underneath the Thor mask.

Despite all of this, his main problem is the "nutty cape" he's wearing, wich muffles his radar sense (I know what you're thinking, but remember we're talking about the days when even a clown like the first Matador, by just waving a cape of cloth around, could be a match for our hero).

It has to be noticed that his friends weren't exactly depicted as very bright in those days (which indirectly suggests that he has set the bar a little low for himself when he decided to test the effect of his costume on them).
Here Matt removes his Thor mask (which was apparently also included with the costume), revealing himself as the cool-sunglasses-wearing Mike Murdock, to the surprise of Foggy and Karen.

To be frank, Foggy, more than surprised looks perplexed, probably wondering how crazy Matt's twin brother really is. The poor fellow couldn't imagine that he was just peeking at the tip of an iceberg, there, and that there wasn't even a twin brother at all to begin with.

We now have Matt Murdock impersonating Mike Murdock impersonating Daredevil impersonating Thor.

Sure enough, as anyone who is familiar with superhero comics knows, impersonating another superhero, could well be a way to lure villains into a trap, but, more realistically, it is a good way to lure the impersonated superhero to you, leading to one of those "battle between two good guys caused by a misunderstanding" situations that have always made the authors go crazy.
Thor learns that someone is fooling around New York wearing his vestiges and decides that, verily, it is an outrage that can't go unpunished.
Before the fight gets serious (still, serious according to the 60's standards), the Norse god invokes the fury of the winds, which strips Daredevil of his disguise (the outermost one, the DD one remains conveniently in place), including the skin-colored plastic.

And so, at long last, after excruciating pages of distorted logic and improbable physics, one of the most insane plot points of the Stan Lee era comes to an end.
I'll conclude this entry of the matryoshka-identities of Matt Murdock with another eloquent panel taken from that issue that really contains it all: the writer's subtle admission of the fact that the plot is insane, the disturbing image of a man with half a costume who is about to wear a cowl of another costume over a pair of large sunglasses and looks happy about it, the obnoxius attitude that Matt had to put up whenever he was playing his twin brother, the blonde girl of the supporting cast who doesn't really care about it all because she's so in love with the main character.

With this issue, the reader is - maybe for the first time - grazed by suspects of Matt Murdock's latent mental instability, which in the successive decades of publications would have degenerated in more explicit forms like dissociative identity disorder, passive-aggressive neurosis and episodes of nervous breakdowns.

1 comment:

Gloria said...

I think that, by now, it should be clear that Stan lee was one of the undisputed masters of 20th century surrealism!