Aaah, Daredevil, the devil in Hell’s Kitchen.
When Stan Lee and Bill Everett co-created Matt Murdock, I’m sure the duo took everything they knew about Satan and injected him with a crap load of irony. Thus, Daredevil was born; a Catholic, blind vigilante who struggles to spare the villains that enforce the namesake of Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan—a cyclical cauldron of chaotic feasting and suffering.
The imagery that the DD universe evokes is one straight out of good conventional storytelling, where expectations are demonized, inverted to illustrate the gray.
For the hardcore losers-slash-fans of the Netflix series such as I, you’ve probably already binged-watched the second season… and been exposed to the following promotional adverts.
From TL to B: Daredevil advert/Peter Paul Rubens’ St. Sebastian (1614), Punisher advert/ Caravaggio’s David with the Head of Goliath (c. 1610), Karen Page advert/ Caravaggio’s St. Jerome Writing (c. 1605-1606)
As you can see and as better dissected elsewhere, these adverts are straight out of some of the Baroque period’s most famous oeuvres. Characterized by the use of oil, the exposure to dark and religious themes, and a pregnancy of details, it seems that Baroque art is well-suited to the TV show’s voice.
SPOILER DISCLAIMER: YOU’LL NEED TO HAVE SEEN DAREDEVIL SEASON 2 IN ITS ENTIRETY TO PROCEED.
The imagery here is poignant and reveals A LOT in terms of what these characters will be doing and how they will be developed in the second season.
Matthew (Charlie Cox) remains a vigilante pariah due in part to his concealment of secrets, much in the same vein as St. Sebastian had been tied to a tree and shot with arrows for concealing his faith from the Roman army. Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) evolves from assistant to a rising journalist, devoting herself to the pursuit of truth, just as St. Jerome had devoted himself to the spread of God’s word via his Biblical translations. Newcomer Frank Castle/Punisher (Jon Bernthal) is depicted as David, triumphant over Daredevil-Goliath. No doubt this is a reflection of their ideological disconnect—one sends evildoers to prison to offer a second chance, the other sends them to the nether realm of finality with unadulterated contempt.
I’ve researched the Internet for about 2.2 minutes to see if anyone else has discovered from what artwork Foggy’s and Elektra’s posters are supposed to be derived.
Cuz, you know. Main characters, duh!
Then I got bored and decided to just make sense of them myself.
Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson)
Keeping in tune with the Caravaggio theme, the first piece of art that comes to mind is The Inspiration of Saint Matthew (1602).
Except Foggy doesn’t really move on to be a devoted gospelist or anything similar. Which brings me to consider options from the Dutch Golden Age.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (Johannes Vermeer, 1665)
Step aside, ScarJo! Since the Dutch Golden Age was characterized by a degree of secularity, still life images, and landscapes, this banality reflects how Foggy may be perceived in relation to his hot, blind friend.
But that was so season 1.
The Art of Painting (Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665-68)
What, another woman? If Karen can be represented by a man, it stands to reason that Foggy can be represented by the reverse.
At first glance, the muse in the painting might seem similar to the woman with the jumbo pearl earrings. Armed with a book and trumpet, the muse is what drives the artist… an inspirer, a supporter, a poet whose weapon is her words. All these reflect who Foggy is to Matt Murdock.
Were we to reexamine Foggy’s promotional poster, however, we shall see that the negative space is almost empty compared to the muse’s surroundings. There is no artist to inspire nor to support; only a newspaper in the foreground that reads, “The Devil in Hell’s Kitchen.”
Season 2 Foggy Nelson comes to realize his internal worth, independent of whatever contributions Matt Murdock might have shared to define Foggy’s identity. The men do not end their friendship but they do drift apart. Foggy crafts his own story and to him, Matt eventually becomes an afterthought as old as the newspaper of yesterday.
Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung)
Small wonder I couldn’t find any interpretations on Elektra’s character poster. It doesn’t seem as dynamic and full as your typical 16th-18th century painting. The best I can offer are those characterized under Spanish Baroque.
These three paintings by Tiepolo (1767-1768), Murillo (1678), and de Ribera (1635) are all dubbed, (The) Immaculate Conception. Believe me, there are more under the same title but they all maintain recurring ideas and symbolism.
I know what you’re thinking. The parallel between Elektra and the Virgin Mary’s conception might seem really out of left field… but as pretentious over analyses might provide, the puzzle pieces are there waiting to be connected.
In all three Spanish paintings, Mary stands above the world, surrounded by babies beneath her and behind. She is the mother of man, free from original sin, and a figure of praise and adoration.
As we learn from the second season’s conclusion, Elektra is more than an assassin of the Chaste. She is, in fact, the true weapon of the Yamanote—The Hand Ninjas that have been since antiquity. Elektra is the Black Sky, the clan’s figure of praise and adoration.
But how are the dead gentlemen surrounding Elektra significant? Were they ordinary goons, they wouldn’t be. But as members of The Hand, they mirror the babies in the Conception as lifeless worshippers of their patron figure.
How am I sure they’re of The Hand? Asian, HELLO?!
While Mary is the giver of life and the mother of man, Elektra is the palm that links The Hand’s fingers, the sickle-bearing harbinger of death.
Personally, I wish Elektra’s poster resembled the image on the left more …
Judith Slaying Holofernes (1598-1599)
I feel like this better encapsulates Elektra’s most memorable scenes. Not to mention, it is consistent with the Caravaggio schema.
Plus, let’s face it. If there’s anything really out of left field, it’s the Black Sky bit.
Going for Baroque
Okay, so I don’t claim to be an art historian bombarding you with readings that may not even make a lick of sense. But the motivation behind my analyses stems from a dissatisfaction with the advertising inconsistencies. Why have there been Baroqueian allusions to the characters of Daredevil, Punisher, and the ever-annoying Karen Page (not to mention, the references to Michelangelo on two other posters) and not Elektra or Foggy?
Moreover, there really is something to be said about Daredevil’s overall sensibility. The Christianity-based inverted imagery sets the show apart from its contemporaries, Marvel production or otherwise. I’m not religious by any means, but any experience that helps add depth to a show—that gives teasers to what might be expected of a particular character—helps the audience become more than just an audience.
They become participants.
And this effect is something, I feel, is worth going for broke.