Devil in the Ring

boxing gym

© J Hardy Carroll

“Who’s that sparring with Rocko.”

“Murdock’s boy.”

Wally, the boxing gym’s owner was talking to his pal Stan. They always liked seeing fresh talent walk in to train.

“I never thought I’d see him here. Isn’t he in college or something?”

“Law school, Stan.”

“With that much brain power, why’s he training with a bunch of Hell’s Kitchen kids?”

“Probably because of his old man.”

“Yeah, too bad about Battlin’ Jack. They say the Fixer had him hit.”

“Better keep that to yourself.”

“Gotcha. Can’t believe that’s blind little Matty in the ring. It’s like he can still see.”

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields writing challenge. The idea is to use the photo at the top as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. My word count is 99.

Daredevil 7

Cover art for Daredevil issue #7 (1964), pencils and inks by Wally Wood

Today, I mined the 1964 origin of the Marvel superhero Daredevil, the Man without Fear. I don’t know how much has changed about Daredevil in the modern world of comic books and I’ve never seen the Netflix series, but in the original story, Matt was being raised by his Dad, a down and out boxer named “Battlin'” Jack Murdock and living in a rough New York neighborhood called Hell’s Kitchen. Jack forbids Matt to go into boxing or other sports and pushes him to become an outstanding scholar instead.

Even though Jack is past his prime, the only way he knows how to make a living until Matt grows up is to box. No one but the disreputable “Fixer” will manage him so he goes that route and seems to do very well for a while.

In the meantime, a now teenaged Matt sees a blind and deaf man crossing the street and about to be hit by a truck. Matt has secretly been training athletically as well as becoming an excellent student and has the speed and reflexes to push the old man out of harm’s way. However in the accident, a canister falls off the truck and hits Matt in the face. It contains some sort of radioactive substance which blinds Matt and also amplifies his remaining senses plus giving him a “radar sense.”

Matt continues to grow and train and after graduating college with honors goes into Law School. Jack has had a great winning streak in the ring but he finally discovers that all of his opponents were paid by the Fixer to throw their fights. Now the Fixer wants Jack to take a dive.

Matt is at the fight that night cheering his Dad on and Jack doesn’t want to let him down by pretending to lose. He beats the other boxer but crossing the Fixer proves fatal. He’s murdered later that night.

Once Matt graduates and opens a law practice with his former roommate Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, he decides to go after the Fixer. To honor his promise to his Dad that Matt Murdock wouldn’t go into a dangerous profession, he creates the alter ego “Daredevil,” which was a nickname the neighborhood kids gave him when he was little because he wouldn’t go out for sports like the rest of the boys.

Daredevil pretends he’s recorded the Fixer’s confession on tape and during a chase scene, the older criminal has a heart attack and dies. Justice is done. Matt continues to pretend to be “normally” blind concealing his super senses and Daredevil goes on to fight injustice and some of the most bizarre criminals ever to grace the comic books.

I named Wally and Stan after Wally Wood and Stan Lee. In 1964, writer/editor Lee and artist Bill Everett (who created Prince Namor, the Sub-Mariner in the 1940s) created Daredevil, but in issue #7, artist Wally Wood invented DD’s now iconic red costume (and interestingly enough, DD fights Prince Namor in that issue). It wasn’t commonly known then (and Lee still won’t admit to it today) but most or all of his artists had a lot of creative control over the Marvel comic books including plotting and writing, but Stan took all the credit.

Oh, I made up that part about Matt training at a boxing gym just for fun.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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81 thoughts on “Devil in the Ring

  1. Wally Wood was a genius. Comic books have taken on a mythical quality in our culture probably because we are short on myths. Michael chabon explored this very well in The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, including the puerile sameness of the heroes as well as the homoerotic overtones. I believe as our culture dumbs down that the simple predictable stories will be even more popular and make even more billions of dollars for the corporate entities that spawn them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There was something almost magical about Marvel Comics in the 1960s and into the 70s. They created a unique set flawed characters while DC was still producing “perfect” superheroes. The members of the Fantastic Four fought like a dysfunctional family, Spider-Man was insecure and almost anti-social, and Matt Murdock became the first “disabled” hero, albeit one with special abilities and a killer red costume (thanks to Wood). Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Wally Wood and many of the other artists were responsible for a lot happiness in my childhood. Modern comic books and now Hollywood probably won’t do the legacy justice. More’s the pity.

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    • The back story was originally created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett and I can hardly compete with these comic book giants back at the height of their talent and careers. I was just leveraging their creation since I so strongly associate old school boxing with Daredevil.

      Liked by 1 person

    • When you’ve only got 100 words to play with, writing is all about economy.

      If you don’t know who Matt Murdock/Daredevil is or anything about his origin, the story would probably seem baffling, which is why I wrote such an extensive afterword. Of course, it would be pretty unusual to find a blind man sparring in a boxing ring.

      However, there was a TV show on in 1971-72 called Longstreet starring James Franciscus as a blind insurance investigator (yeah, I know). Anyway, after he’s beaten up, he hires a martial arts expert to teach him self defense. The role was placed by real life Kung Fu expert Bruce Lee so I suppose it’s possible to teach someone visually impaired how to fight with certain limits.

      While Matt is blind, his other four senses are greatly enhanced plus he can “triangulate” sound so he can get a sort of “radar” image of his immediate surroundings.

      One of the dumbest things in the 2003 “Daredevil” movie starring Ben Afflick is when he gets into a fight with Elektra (played by Jennifer Garner who he later married and then divorced) in his Matt Murdock identity, still expecting her to believe he’s blind (and she still doesn’t figure out he’s Daredevil until much later in the film). In the 1960s comic books, Matt was a lot more careful.

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  2. James, I love a story with a back story and I often have one with mine too. I also try to write with an Australian slant, and given the readership is global, I feel the need to explain. I’ve never really been into comics or superheroes, but understand the need.
    I really enjoy how you wove the superhero theme into your take and you created strong characterization. Well done.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

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    • Thank you, Rowena. Not everyone is into comic books and the only ones I really like are centered around the 1960s and into the 70s, though I have perused earlier and later up through the 1990s. It’s been said more than once that superheroes are particularly popular in America because we have no mythic heroes, being a relatively young nation (the important exception would be the indigenous peoples who have been here much longer and have a rich mythic tradition). Perhaps that’s why superhero movies are so popular just now.

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      • Thanks, Rowena. It’s interesting to see the evolution of comic books. Originally the target audience were ten to twelve year old boys but as the writing matured, they made their way into college dorms (in the early to mid 1970s). Then as fans became adults, superheroes were part of their history and nostalgia. There have always been superhero TV shows and movies (“Wonder Woman,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Six Million Dollar Man”) but with the advent of CGI, it’s now possible to create him on the big screen as looking (for the most part) realistic. So the whole thing has snowballed to where now superheroes have a massive appeal and a huge fan base. Thanks for the link.

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    • Matt Murdock was born from the legacy of all the boxing stories and films from the 1940s and 50s, an Irish Catholic kid being raised in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York whose boxer Dad wanted better things for him but in the end, he had to live in two worlds, both in which he fights for justice.

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    • In this case, I needed to make it clear that the character of Matt Murdock wasn’t my own invention. Also, boxing in 1964 was a different thing than it is today, so an explanation was needed. Well, all that and the fact that Matt could spar in a boxing ring and be blind. Besides, I enjoy the explanations, Dale.

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  3. For a change, I got all your references without depending upon your research 🙂 Do give the Netflix series a shot since you find the character so fascinating, it’s very well made, especially the first season.

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  4. Loved it but maybe because I am such a comic book fan so I knew where this was leading to 🙂 The Netflix series is pretty good and way better than that Ben Affleck movie.

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  5. Wow! That brings back memories! I bought that very same comic in ‘Dark They Were And Golden Eyed’ up in London in 1979! It was a dog-eared copy, not up to their usual standard, but I didn’t mind. I can’t remember the story inside but I spent hours redrawing that cover! Thanks for the memory 🙂

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    • You’re welcome. The story was actually really good. Namor wants to sue the human race for possession of the surface world and picks out the law firm of Franklin and Murdock at random. Unfortunately, Prince Namor is too impatient to wait for court dates and decides to speed things up by attacking the Army. Daredevil tries to stop him but is hopelessly outmatched. Finally, barely conscious, DD appeals to Namor not to hurt anyone. Because the Sub-Mariner respected DD’s courage and sense of honor, he flew over the military forces into the ocean rather than taking them head on. End of story.

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      • Wow. Damn, I should remember but I don’t. But thanks for taking the time to give me the details. I was always really into the artwork and usually remember a cover I had, but so often not the stories. I collected Marvel comics from 1976 to 1982 and had some great issues, many of them first appearance and first issues. When I left home in 1983 I left the comics, all bagged and catalogued in a cupboard meaning to go back for them when I had a proper base, but my mum gave them all to charity! It took me years to forgive her but I will never forget!

        Liked by 1 person

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