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Sunday, August 31, 2014 

More on the soiling of Matt Murdock's mother

The CBR contributor Carla Hoffman wrote about Mark Waid's Original Sin tie-in that allegedly tells us all we need know about Maggie Murdock and why she became a Catholic nun. It's even more ludicrous than I thought:
In Marvel’s “Original Sin” storyline, heroes have been given glimpses of truths or secrets from their pasts that impact their personal lives. Matt Murdock was shown a shocking vision of his mother recoiling in terror from his father; Murdock, thinking the worst, goes to talk to his mother (now a nun, for maximum Catholic imagery) and an adventure ensues. We’ll skip the part about extradition to Wakanda for radical nun terrorism for now (it’s more mild than it seems) to get to the twist in our hero’s vision: that his mother wasn’t recoiling from his father, as he’d assumed, but rather from herself and her own baby. After giving birth to Matt, his mother Maggie fell into what’s now known as a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder, and began to lose herself to depression, guilt and rage. In a moment of that rage, she lashed out to attack baby Matt, and the scene we witnessed in flashback was Jack Murdock protecting his son from a mother who could no longer cope. She left her family and found solace in the Church, dedicating her life to helping others.
I wouldn't favor turning Jack Murdock into an outright wife-beater, as the first part of this story suggested would be the case. But I don't favor turning Maggie Murdock into a crazy, violent crackpot either, and I'm wondering why Hoffman sees nothing wrong with this; not even the dumbfounding subplot of radical nun terrorism, which may not be as mild as she says it is. I'm sorry, but I think I'll stick with Frank Miller's rendition, and I have some of his DD work in my collection somewhere.
This is a surprising topic for a comic book: You don’t see a lot of women’s issues highlighted in storylines, let alone one that doesn’t depict the woman in question being abused or otherwise victimized. There remains a social stigma surrounding postpartum depression and other mood disorders, and depicting one so honestly is no easy feat. It’s very specific, which would make the casual reader think it’s a little too out there for general discussion … until you see the statistics at the end of the comic, stating that 1 in 7 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers have depression or anxiety during pregnancy or postpartum. Respectful to the topic and very informative, Daredevil #7 presents this issue with dignity. And that’s just not from my comics-reading opinion, but from professionals and survivors as well (it’s pretty cool to see comics spoken of on Psychology Today).
The subject matter, maybe, but not Sister Maggie. If Waid and others want to address postpartum depression, that's all fine and well, but not at the expense of established characters. It's almost hilarious how some people seem fine with this because Jack wasn't soiled further than need be, and Maggie gets it instead. It's not respectful to her. And I don't see how a story tied in with a crossover like Original Sin can be much good. Serious issues are no justification for questionable retcons, and Psychology Today is lauding this at the expense of the cast.
Daredevil #7 took our assumptions — most readers probably thought the vision Daredevil saw was of his father abusing his mother — and used those emotions for a different end. Instead of Jack Murdock, abusive husband, we saw a loving father and troubled husband as his reassurances to his wife couldn’t break through her depression. The sympathy already garnered for Maggie remained as she struggled through her terrifying postpartum depression; Rodriguez’s art for the flashbacks is incredible, with tight, suffocating panels and a realistic edge that makes the terror we feel for Maggie hit home that much harder.
I'm not impressed with this defense of the tale. We may not have wanted Jack retconned into a wife-beater, but that doesn't mean DD fans want Maggie turned into an abusive mother either. In fact, doesn't it contradict Waid's claims he wanted to make this book brighter in tone? I don't see what's so realistic about the nun-terrorism either; that part sounds pretty contrived. If Waid's leaving the book soon, it'll be no loss.

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It is now de rigueur for heroes to have deep psychological "issues" stemming from childhood trauma. Evidently, today's writers are so neurotic themselves that they can't write about characters who are sane and rational.

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