Marvel Comics' Daredevil Shows the Experience of Depression
How the unique visual medium of comics can illuminate psychological ailments.
Posted Jun 28, 2015
As I highlighted in an earlier post co-written with Lauren Hale, writer Mark Waid and artists Javier Rodriguez and Alvaro Lopez of Marvel Comics' Daredevil perceptively showed the experience of postpartum depression through the title character's mother, who felt she had to leave her son for his own safety. More recently, in Daredevil #10 (from late 2014), the creative minds behind the Man without Fear, in this case Waid and regular artist Chris Samnee (credited together as storytellers), turned their talents to the depression suffered for some time by Daredevil himself, also known as Matt Murdock.
At his excellent (and recently revived) blog Too Busy Thinking About My Comics, Colin Smith dedicated a series of posts (beginning here) to how Waid, Samnee, and the rest of their creative team combined words and images as only comics can to deftly show how depression feels to Matt. (For another excellent example of depicting depresson in comics form, see "Adventures in Depression" at Hyperbole and a Half.)
Colin brings his own careful eye and ear to the analysis, and it is well worth a read. Here's a sample from the first post in the series:
In 2015's Daredevil #10, writer Mark Waid, artist Chris Samnee, colourist Matthew Wilson, and letterer Joe Caramagna brilliantly exploit the traditions of the superhero comic to discuss the singular and devastating effects of depression. In the comic's very first frame, Waid has Matt "Daredevil" Murdock declare, "This is what depression feels like". In the next five pages, we're introduced to Daredevil's own understanding of the psychological disorder that's once again been imposed upon him. Convincingly, his explanation is shaped not by a literal-minded regurgitation of a textbook definition, but framed instead by Daredevil's character and experience. Given Murdock's Catholic background, it makes perfect sense that he describes his depression as a demon of sorts, as "a living thing" that provokes and then consumes his "darkest moods". That the metaphor still struggles to convey his desperate situation is, again, convincing. Anyone who's ever tried to detail their own personal descent into despondency, and worse, will know how difficult it is to be both precise and meaningful.
Colin introduces many examples of both words and images to explain Waid and Samnee's insightful look at depression and the unique horrors it involves for the sufferer, which are all too often invisible to the outside world.
I strongly encourage you to read the rest in part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4—as you can tell from the excerpt above, Colin is a sensitive and stylish writer himself. Then, pick up some issues of Daredevil when you're done (at your local comic book shop or digitally at Comixology).
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For more insightful and enjoyable writing about Daredevil, be sure to check out Christine Hanefalk's blog The Other Murdock Papers. Also, a fascinating piece by Dr. Matt Finch on Daredevil and teaching children, based on a terrific winter-themed issue of the comic, is at Role/Reboot.
Finally, see an earlier post I wrote on Daredevil and self-loathing here at Psychology Today (in addition to the one on postpartum depression mentioned above), and my own (limited) comics blogging, see The Comics Professor, where you can also check out my books on superheroes and philosophy.