There and Back Again selects a character to highlight, then showcases iconic stories and moments within that character’s history.
Written By: Ann Nocenti
Art By: John Romita Jr & Steve Ditko
Published: May of 1988 by Marvel Comics
If you ask Daredevil fans who the greatest foe of Hell’s Kitchen is, the consensus, I believe, would be focused on Kingpin. Sure, there’s room for debate in that statement, but it’s hard to prove that anyone else in the Daredevil universe has had more impact on both Matt and Daredevil’s life. On more than one accession Wilson Fisk has ruined Matt’s law practice, he’s hired multiple assassins to kill Daredevil, targeted the people Matt loves in multiple ways, but in one specific case, he hired a woman who proved to be a foe unlike any other: Typhoid Mary.
Now, if you’re new to the Daredevil universe, Typhoid Mary may not be a name you’re ultimately familiar with. She isn’t a huge name in the Marvel universe, and has only been seen in recent years sporadically, and never really the focus of any particular story.
Why then, have I chosen to focus this week’s “There and Back Again” on Typhoid Mary? Because she holds a very interesting parallel to our hero this month. We’ve been following the major stories, both new and old, of Daredevil. We started with, what I believe to be, the best version of his origin story in Man Without Fear. Then, we delved into a deep understanding of who he is as a man, and a hero, in Roulette. So what does Typhoid Mary bring to the table? Well, as I see it, Typhoid Mary is something of a Bizzaro Daredevil. She’s everything Daredevil isn’t, while also being a mirror to who he could easily be.
To start us off, let’s talk about one of the more interesting aspects of Typhoid Mary’s personality. She suffers from dissociative identity disorder, more commonly known as multiple personality disorder. Now, we know Matt doesn’t have that particular illness, however, because he lives two separate lives, one as the lawyer Matt Murdock, and the other as Daredevil, it isn’t difficult to see the parallels.
An interesting side of Typhoid is how her different selves manifest. There’s a calm, nearly passive persona named Mary, who’s quiet and clearly a pacifist. Then there’s Typhoid, who’s far more adventurous, fearless, ultra-violent, and sex driven. In these two personas there’s an interesting twist. We learn that both Mary and Typhoid have different…well…everything. As Typhoid she smells, sounds, acts, talks, even her heartbeat is different. This allows Typhoid to manipulate not just Daredevil, but Matt as well. Typhoid can somewhat take control of the Mary character, thus allowing her to be two separate people at the same time.
To further deepen this connection between Daredevil and Typhoid, we find her unruly disregard for the rules to be in tension with the lawyer side of Matt, but reflective in his vigilante efforts as Daredevil. She doesn’t play by anyone’s rules, good or bad, paid or unpaid, as Typhoid, she does whatever she wants. On the other hand, as Mary, there’s no questions to be asked. The rules are the rules, the law is the law, and Mary does everything she can to stay within, never questioning, never straying. Now, as we get to Matt and Daredevil the similarities begin to jump off the page. We see this character of Typhoid Mary in how Matt lives his life, very lawfully by day as a lawyer, but has strayed far from law abiding as the Daredevil. It is this nearly constant tension between these two characters that deepens their interactions wonderfully.
It’s as if, Ann Nocenti, the writer who helped create Typhoid, did so with the intention of showing both sides of a coin. Neither of Daredevil or Typhoid are the exact same, however, neither are they completely opposite. In Typhoid, what we see is a Daredevil who doesn’t have that moral compass we explored in Roulette. Her gun is always fully loaded, with a pocket full of bullets just in case she runs out. No one is ever safe, life means nothing to her. Everything is meant to be mayhem, wrapped around whatever Typhoid’s fluctuating desires. Whereas Daredevil explores his lawbreaking side far differently. There are boundaries to keep himself in check. It isn’t about self satisfaction for him, it’s about making hell’s Kitchen a safer place, and standing up for those who can’t defend themselves.
What we end up with in this series is a moment when Matt Murdock comes face to face with a version of himself that he’s been hiding from. In Typhoid he sees what it’s like to cut loose and be driven by pure desire and instinct. As Matt he’s fascinated by Mary who’s helping a young blind boy cope and learn that his life isn’t over. On the other side, Daredevil is disgusted by Typhoid. She’s everything he has disciplined himself not to become, and dealing with her in the midst of one of Matt’s most difficult times (he’s lost his license to practice law) pushes him in directions he isn’t comfortable with.
Typhoid is such a great character, and it’s really a shame that she’s a lesser known character. She was able to add such a great depth to the Daredevil world, and through her great characterization, allowed the universe of Daredevil to be explored in fascinating ways. Typhoid Mary is easily one of my favorites in the long publication history of the character. If you’re looking for some Daredevil stories that deepen the character, while also reaching back into the character’s history, Typhoid is definitely a must.
The series collected on ComiXology is fantastic for an easy to find purchase, and there’s also a Daredevil Legends trade-paperback that can be purchased on Amazon named “Daredevil Legends Vol. 4: Typhoid Mary,” that covers her story arc wonderfully as well.