Superheroes regularly face overwhelming odds to save the world. Sometimes, the greatest battles are fought within, and Daredevil is no stranger to dealing with personal issues. Matt Murdock has one of the most turbulent lives of any hero. From his earliest days, tragedy dogged The Man Without Fear. Over the years, Daredevil has faced a variety of enemies, but his greatest is surely depression.
Matt’s struggle with depression is a major part of the character. His mental health battles have featured in a lot of iconic stories, like Born Again and The Elektra Saga. Given everything he’s experienced, it’s little wonder Daredevil has suffered with depression. His journey makes him relatable, so I’m taking a look at how Matt has learned to handle his depression.
An ongoing struggle
Throughout his life, Matt has faced many tragedies. This includes having his girlfriend Elektra murdered by Bullseye and having his professional reputation destroyed by Kingpin. Matt has also needed to deal with the death of his other love, Karen Page, and the mental breakdown of his wife, Milla Donovan. Each bout of happiness has been followed by tremendous loss. This is the nature of depression. In Matt’s case, he’s described his depression as a ‘demon,’ which makes sense, given his Catholic background.
Matt’s demon is on fully display in Frank Miller’s Born Again. In the story, Kingpin finds out about his secret identity and he destroys Daredevil’s life piece by piece. Matt loses his job, his home and his sanity. His depression is all-consuming. Yet, he manages to take his life back and defeat Kingpin, proving that he can rise above his mental health struggles.
Depression in the family
As a mental health illness, depression can be passed down through generations. Matt’s mother, Maggie, suffered from postpartum depression (PPD). This illness is characterised by extreme sadness, anxiety, crying and self-doubt in becoming a parent. In the past, PPD has been misunderstood as ‘baby blues,’ not being taken seriously.
After giving birth, Maggie constantly worried about her son’s safety. Her thoughts developed into paranoia and self-loathing, leading her to believe she was a bad mum. Maggie’s PPD was so severe that she attempted to kill Matt. Luckily, she came to her senses and chose to run away. Through counselling and treatment, Maggie recovered. She devoted herself to becoming a nun.
Writer Mark Waid is responsible for introducing PPD into Matt’s family tree and this was informed by his own experiences with depression. To provide an accurate representation of the illness, Waid spoke to his mother about her own PPD.
The fact that depression runs in Matt’s family may have contributed to his mental state.
Raising awareness for men’s mental health
Having gone through depression, I connect to Daredevil’s experiences. Depression is a terrible illness that makes it hard to get through a single day. It’s left me feeling frozen in place and unable to get out of my own head.
Characters like Daredevil are invaluable when it comes to raising awareness for mental health issues in men. Daredevil is down to earth because of his personal problems. Even with everything going on his head, he continues to protect Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a reminder that people with depression can accomplish amazing things.
If you suffer from depression then please remember that you’re not alone. Comics are a wonderful medium for expressing themes that need to be talked about and I encourage you to pick up a Daredevil story.
Depression isn’t the only issue that comic characters experience. You can read my article on 6 mental health disorders that superheroes struggle with to find out more.