Frank Miller getting mugged is one of those things that changed comic books forever.
He lived in Manhattan for a while and got mugged “once or twice“. That event (or those events) informed how he viewed crime in general for a number of really big storylines. Batman had The Dark Knight Returns and Year One were both masterpieces that explored the whole “vigilante” thing (and we’ve talked about it before).
The story he wrote before that one was in Daredevil. A little story called “Born Again“.
Looking back now, it’s easy to think “this story seems overblown…”, I mean. It’s not a story that particularly grabs you in 2018. At the time, though, it changed *EVERYTHING*. It changed everything so fundamentally that we now swim in the sea that Born Again created and we are the proverbial fish that don’t know what water is.
The basic storyline is simple. The Kingpin finds Daredevil’s secret identity and then goes on to destroy Daredevil’s life in such a way that can’t be traced back. Matt Murdock thinks it’s just a string of the worst luck ever until his apartment blows up and he realizes, holy cow, the Kingpin has been behind all of this. No one is willing to believe it because, hey, Kingpin is an upstanding citizen. Daredevil, completely broken, rebuilds himself physically, mentally, and emotionally and he goes on to fight back. This time, however, he is darker and more edgy. The story ends with Kingpin being revealed as a bad guy to the public at large. (Captain America shows up at one point.)
See? It doesn’t feel groundbreaking from here.
At the time? Back in 1986? Holy cow. It was a mature story that dealt with mature themes. (Before you say “it’s not *THAT* mature…”, the baseline story for Daredevil to that point was Daredevil fighting costumed bad guys who hijack trains. This gives the opportunity to have Daredevil fight on top of a train. That’s it. That’s the issue. Next month: Bad guys on a rollercoaster!)
This was the storyline arc that established that Daredevil was not just a Spider-Man rip-off but a serious hero in his own right. More than that, it made other comic books up their game and wander towards more mature stories instead of the usual “bank robber with a gimmick” thing that most mainstream comic books had going on to that point.
Going back and reading it now almost feels like a letdown. We have stories just like that every week.
But Born Again is the reason we have stories just like that every week.
That story is why we have Daredevil Season 3 now.
So… what are you reading and/or watching?
(Image is Netflix Daredevil Season 3 promotional art.)