With the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil kicking off on March 18, I thought I would take advantage of a slow week and offer up some background two of the characters joining the cast. I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, but if you haven’t read about Elektra’s appearance in the Daredevil comic, I suggest skipping the last paragraph.
Frank Castle, The Punisher
The Punisher first appeared in Amazing Spider-man #129, 1974. A victim of a shooting that killed his wife and children, Frank Castle vowed to wage war on criminals. His willingness to kill, kidnap, torture, and extort bad guys made for an unusual character at that time, although he did “team up” with a number of other super-heroes. By the late 80’s and early 90’s, Punisher’s antics left him as just one of a new crop of anti-heroes. Marvel Comics did their best to capitalize on the character’s popularity by launching three, monthly comics and a feature film in 1989. The Punisher even appeared in Archie in 1994.
The characterization of Frank Castle has varied considerably through the years. At one end, he’s a soul searching, honorable soldier, frustrated by his role as vigilante. Other authors have portrayed him as completely insane, going so far as to shoot a pair of litterers (Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-man #82, 1983).
I suspect Daredevil will draw from Frank Miller’s seminal run on the comic, specifically the “Child’s Play” storyline in issues #183 and #184 from 1982. The story sets both Daredevil and The Punisher against the same villain, exposing the similarities and differences between them. An obsession to fight crime drives them both. While Daredevil strives for justice, however, Punisher seeks vengeance.
The power vacuum left by Wilson Fisk’s departure feels right for such character development. An ongoing, TV series looks like a great forum to build and explore the dichotomies between Daredevil and Punisher over time. Hopefully, this season of Daredevil will wash the rather bitter aftertaste of three so-so movies out of our mouths.
Elektra, Elektra Natchios
Created by Frank Miller, Elektra first appeared inDaredevil #168, January, 1981. Introduced as a love interest to the title character, Elektra quickly emerged as a popular character in her own right. However, she has not done well outside of her handling by Miller and has yet to maintain a stand-alone comic for very long.
Elektra Natchios, daughter of Greece’s Ambassador to the US, attended Columbia University with Matt Murdock. The two became lovers. Elektra left school and the States after a terrorist attack, and failed rescue attempt by Matt, led to the death of her father. Alone and disillusioned, she wandered the orient to train in the martial arts. She eventually joined then separated a group of assassins known as The Hand.
As Punisher and Daredevil act as foils for each other, the early appearances of Elektra add a third element to mark the character development of Matt Murdock; obsession without moral direction. Elektra enters the conflict as a paid assassin, bringing her into direct confrontation with Daredevil. She begins to question her actions as her time and interactions with Daredevil increase. As the story progresses, Matthew’s desire to redeem his old lover grows and Elektra’s steps in that direction significantly endanger her.
Like Punisher, a long form serial production seems better suited than a movie to develop this character. Given Elektra’s moral ambiguity, It will be interesting to see where she fits into the established storyline of the Netflix series. Will she enter as an ally or enemy?
For all her success under Miller, it can’t be said that the often problematic author treated her well in the pages of Daredevil. She was introduced then disposed of in one story arc to only further the development of the main, male character. I’m hoping her television debut will provide writers a better opportunity to provide character depth and growth Elektra deserves.