Thoughts on Character V Icon

by ryankl

Been thinking a lot about Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Elektra, and Danny Rand/Iron Fist.

Art by Louie Joyce

Art by Louie Joyce

I love all three of these characters, some sliiightly more than others, and recently had reason to consider why as I read three of their comic series, watch one of their TV shows, considered the possibility of another being in that show next season, and am really champing at the bit for the last one’s tv series to come.

And in all this internal musing, I realised some things:

I like Matt Murdock the most of all. The guy fascinates me and there’s a reason I call him my favourite character in all of modern literature; he’s spectacular to observe and he brings some of the rawest emotion to the page. And I also dig Daredevil but it’s never been about the suit for me, it’s the man.

I love Elektra in crazy depths and ways. And the fact there’s no separation between the woman and the ‘costume’ intrigues me dearly. She is a singularity, a source of her own power, and when she’s done well [see the recent book from del Mundo/Blackman] she’s just mentally absorbing at all times. Like looking at a gif of a lion eating a small village.

And then there’s Danny Rand. Well, I can say I love Iron Fist. The visual, the kung fu, the villains, the seven capital cities [+1]. Iron Fist miiight just be my favourite superhero, but Danny Rand is not my favourite man. Y’see, Danny Rand is lacking in character. I realised this walking the other day as I listened to an old Word Balloon chat with Fraction about Aja’s HAWKEYE and I saw/remembered how Barton and Rand look very verrrry similar. Blonde dude, that’s about as deep as we ever got into Rand’s headspace.

And don’t get me wrong, I loooove the Brubaker/Fraction/Aja run. But it’s all pulp, killer crazy fun, and not as huge in the character stuff. I mean, it’s there, but doesn’t feel as defining. In fact, if we think we know Danny Rand, I’d think again. We know some, but how much is there. We know his father died, betrayed, and his mother died, protecting. Then he partnered with Luke Cage. And he dated Misty Knight. Did these things change him?

I feel like Danny Rand is still [still] haunted by the death of his father. Something Murdock and Elektra share but have also moved on from [and I’m not saying you have to forget the death of your father but it can’t define you forever, and surely you add to those experiences]. Rand’s very latest title has been all about his dad. He keeps going back to the same girlfriend. He feels on a loop.

Whereas Murdock has dated many women, endured many problems, built and rebuilt an insane rogue’s gallery. When I think of Murdock, I think of a man broken by the erosion of emotional years, by the fact he goes back to the well and drinks the new poison on offer. And Elektra has gone from Daredevil’s girlfriend to this other beast, a remorseless killing machine, a woman after redemption, a dead Skrull. When I think of Elektra, I don’t straight up think of Murdock, I think of how cold she has become, a process that took time, and resurrections, and a whole history of events. Now we have Rand, a guy…yeah, a guy. He’s still bent outta shape by the death of his parents, he fights well, his kung fu is superb. But none of that is as openly telling about the person as compared to how I just described the other two. How much growth has Rand had? I mean, he did get that terrible white costume, but otherwise all I think of is ‘kung fu billionaire’ but that’s a high concept and nothing compared to the internal twists of how I feel about Murdock/Elektra.

Though props must go out to Swierczynski having Rand and Misty fall pregnant, and even though the pregnancy was taken back [in an in story way] I didn’t mind it because it was handled in a memorable way, memorable in a character sense. Something new on which to build the character of Rand moving forward, because he must move forward.

It seems to me there’s room for a run, or the upcoming Netflix show, to finally deliver us Danny Rand in a way we’ve not yet been shown. I mean, c’mon, he went to K’un L’un for a decade, he lost a formative teen decade in New York as a rich white kid and instead spent it participating in little else but the most gruelling kung fu training you could imagine. Why the ‘man lost in time’ angle hasn’t been greatly played up I will never understand. We know he can be cool, and that Iron Fist is the best ever, but I want to really connect with the man underneath that sweet yellow mask. Until we do, we’ll have cool, we’ll have rad, awesome, spectacular, but will we have understanding, a care, will we get the wind sucked from our lungs by grief or anxiety or glee? I love Iron Fist but I worry it’s only on a superficial level and I want Rand to mean as much to me as Murdock does. Because character comes first. The colour and the cool are just fine but it’s the human connection that will always drive a story home.

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