Before The MCU: DAREDEVIL - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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We head to Hell's Kitchen for our next look back at the pre-MCU days of Marvel's most popular superheroes...

The superb Charlie Cox Netflix series has maybe given us the best live-action interpretation of the Marvel comic book character we are likely to see (what? did you think I was going to champion the 2003 Ben Affleck movie?), as well as being the most successful and consistent of all the Marvel Netflix series'. So it's no surprise then that of all the small-screen Netflix MCU characters we have seen, Cox is rumoured to be the first one to reprise his role of Matt Murdock / Daredevil for the big screen as part of the upcoming third MCU Spider-Man movie. It's nothing we should be too surprised about really as back in November 2013, when the Daredevil series was first announced, Disney CEO Bob Iger stated that if Marvel's Netflix TV shows become popular, "It's quite possible that they could become feature films".

But, Charlie Cox was not the first live-action Daredevil and, as much as I try to wipe his version from my memory we can't omit it's existence, Ben Affleck wasn't the first either. That came 14 years earlier, but we're not starting there, not quite yet. First off we're going back to 1975...

As we discussed in the first of these features looking back at the pre-MCU live-action versions of Marvel superheroes, Angela Bowie, wife of a certain David Bowie, secured the TV rights to Black Widow in 1975 for a duration of one year. The deal also included a second Marvel character, Daredevil!

Bowie planned a TV series based on the two characters and had photographer Terry O'Neill take a series of pictures of herself as Black Widow and actor Ben Carruthers as Daredevil (with wardrobe by Natasha Kornilkoff) to shop the project around to producers.

Born Benito F. Carruthers on August 14th 1936 in Illinois, USA, his most famous role was probably as Ben in John Cassavetes' 1959 debut feature film Shadows. Carruthers other films included A High Wind in Jamaica (1965), Robert Aldrich's The Dirty Dozen (1967) as Glenn Gilpin, Riot (1969) as the unpredictable and psychotic Joe Surefoot, and Universal Soldier (1971), with his final cinematic credit being Man in the Wilderness (1971).

Carruthers take on Matt Murdock / Daredevil never came to fruition as the project stalled at the developmental stage. As Angie Bowie explained some years later...
We were unable to place the series.

Unfortunately at that time it was considered too difficult and expensive to film, special effects, etc.
So the 1970s were live-action Daredevil-less, but the next decade changed that....

...but we're not there yet!

In 1983, perhaps inspired by the success of The Incredible Hulk TV series (more on that very soon) which had recently finished its five year run, ABC looked to develop a live-action Daredevil series for the small screen. It seems that two different versions for a proposed pilot episode were doing the rounds at the time. Academy Award-winning writer Stirling Silliphant completed a draft, and possibly more interesting is the discovery of Tony Kayden's proposed screenplay, titled "Blinded By The Light", this unmade pilot was to be produced by Irwin Allen - he off Lost In Space, The Towering Inferno fame. The cover of the 65 page long script featured the illustration from the then-recent Daredevil #200 (above), perhaps for inspiration of the intended series' tone, but, of course, neither proposal was ever filmed or produced. Daredevil would have to wait another six years for the first live-action version...

One time teen-idol heartthrob, Rex Smith began his entertainment industry career with a platinum album hit "You Take My Breath Away" and went on to perform in all mediums from Broadway, film & television to producing his one man show. In 1989 he became the first actor to portray Matt Murdock / Daredevil in a live-action production - the made-for-television-movie The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk...

Having bought Thor to the screen the previous year in the rating's success The Incredible Hulk Returns, a second Hulk TV movie was quickly green-lit. Debuting on May 7th 1989, The Trial Of The Incredible Hulk looked, once again as it had with Thor, to work as both a continuation of The Incredible Hulk TV/Movie series and a backdoor pilot for a new weekly Daredevil TV series, to launch in the Fall of 89.

As for the story, David Banner (Bill Bixby) gets arrested, and lawyer Matt Murdock helps to prove his innocence. Daredevil tells his origins to Banner, which in this version involves Murdock being inspired by a police officer to become a hero. Later, with the help of Hulk, he battles the Kingpin (played by the wonderful John Rhys-Davies), called only Wilson Fisk here.

While remaining fairly true to the source material of the Daredevil comic books, the largest change was that Daredevil's traditional costume, including his horns, was replaced with a black ninja-like outfit. Daredevil would later wear a similar black outfit in Frank Miller and John Romita Jr's 1993's Daredevil: The Man Without Fear miniseries, as well as, of course, the Netflix television series.

Though it did not succeed in giving birth to an ongoing Daredevil television series, The Trial of the Incredible Hulk garnered very high ratings. Reviewers were less enthusiastic about it than The Incredible Hulk Returns though, the most common criticisms were the absence of the Hulk himself from the final act and the misleading title (the "trial" only takes place in a dream sequence). It still did enough to get a third Hulk made-for-television movie produced, 1990s The Death Of The Incredible Hulk (which we'll briefly visit in a later Before The MCU article).

As for Daredevil though, the next time we'd see him in a live-action capacity would be in 2003 when Ben Affleck starred in the 20th Century Fox film, written and directed by Mark Steven Johnson. I think, perhaps, the less said about that the better - we've revisited it here if you're in the slightest bit interested - it does, of course, pale in comparison to Charlie Cox's take. Which is perhaps why, of all the Marvel Netflix Defender characters, he's the one supposedly making the jump to the big screen.

Next time we check out the pre-MCU days for The Master Of The Mystic Arts.

Previous Before The MCU Articles
Black Widow

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