Category: Stick

Stick: I am very disappointed in you.
Matt: Your approval means nothing to me.

Stick: You go down this path – our path… it’s not a long life.
Matt: I don’t know. You seem pretty old.
Stick: Thanks.

Stick: What makes you feel better when you feel terrible?
Matt: My friends.
Stick: Ew.

So what's Matt's relationship with Stick like? It's clearly very complicated and I don't know what to make of it. Because Matt seems equally frustrated with Stick (telling Jessica, Luke, and Danny that Stick is very good at manipulating people), yet also clearly felt affection for the guy (given how he teared up when telling Foggy what happened).

    Yes, it’s… complicated.

    In the comics (as in the show), Stick enters Matt’s life during a period of turmoil. Matt has just lost his sight, and finds himself trapped in a new, torturous world that he doesn’t know how to deal with and can’t discuss with his father. His whole childhood was defined by confinement, with Jack’s well-meaning over-protection forcing him to sneak out on his own to indulge his restlessness nature. After his accident, Matt sees this one source of freedom closed off, seemingly forever. He feels powerless, frightened, angry, and alone.

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Caption: “That night. In the gym. It used to be Matt’s favorite place– but now it’s filled with cries of frustration– tearful fury– and low sobs that speak of defeat. He can’t see. He can’t see. He’s useless.”

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1 by Frank Miller, John Romita, Jr., and Christie Scheele

    Stick saves him from this despair. He understands Matt on a fundamental level– something Matt has never experienced before. (He and Jack are very close, of course, but they don’t fully get each other.) They’re similar people– two big personalities capable of challenging each other, which is part of what makes their interactions so much fun. Stick offers Matt hope and– more importantly– power. With Stick’s help, Matt fashions something he saw only as a weakness into a new source of strength, and he rediscovers his own freedom and independence, which has become even more important to him since his blinding. And while his training is hard, and Stick is an unforgiving teacher, Matt is a stubborn, hard-headed thrill-seeker, and in between the frustration, pain, and occasional terror, he enjoys learning to fight and use his powers. While Jack cares for Matt in mundane ways, Stick understands his need for freedom, adventure, and empowerment, and encourages behavior that his dad would never, ever allow.  

    (Pictured below: Jack Murdock nightmare fuel.)

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Caption: “The nights are the best. When Matt wakes before dawn– and, as always, Stick is there– and they dance, unseen…”

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1 by Frank Miller, John Romita, Jr., and Christie Scheele

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Caption: “He remembers feeling alive– in a way he never had before. The city was alive, too: he could hear every night-sigh, every bellow of rage, every desperate cry of hope. Catch the scent of an insomniac’s three A.M. cigarette. Of pooling blood. Of shedding tears. All of it– the pain and the joy, the terrors and the triumphs– washing over him as he sucked in his breath, made the leap… captured the night in the palm of his hand. But no matter how high he leaped, how far he went, his teacher pushed him higher, farther.”

Daredevil vol. 1 #349 by J.M. DeMatteis, Cary Nord, and Christie Scheele

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Matt:Stick! I made it, Stick! That was awesome! Right? It’s like I was flying! Whaddaya got t’say to that, old man? Huh?”

Daredevil vol. 3 #25 by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and Javier Rodriguez

    (Stick calls Matt “punk”, Matt calls Stick “old man”. Aren’t they great?)

    Matt knows that, essentially, he owes his life to Stick, and their team-ups when Matt is an adult reveal a functional working relationship and sense of mutual trust.

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Matt: “Hallucinated, just as I was taking that last shot. Relived a promise to my father that I made as a child. That promise made my childhood a misery, Stick. The neighborhood ridiculed me horribly, made me so angry…”

Stick: “All the things that’ve made you feel that way… they’re obstacles in yer mind, keepin’ it from workin’ right […]. You gotta dig deeper now, Matt. You gotta face the enemies in yer head. An’ they’re just as real to you as if they was flesh and blood. They can kill you. Scared?”

Matt: “No.”

Daredevil vol. 1 #177 by Frank Miller, Klaus Janson, and Glynis Wein

    But Matt also resents him, to a certain degree. While “I hated that man. But he taught me well” (from DD vol. 3 #25, excerpted above) feels like an oversimplification, it speaks to Matt’s conflicting feelings regarding his teacher. The main comic doesn’t show us their initial falling-out, so we have to assume it’s the same as what happens in the Man Without Fear mini-series– which isn’t entirely within the regular continuity, but exists alongside it and often informs it. (You’ll notice we’re referencing it a lot in this post.) In MWF, Matt’s training ends when Stick deems him too volatile and emotional, as evidenced by his all-encompassing relationship with Elektra and his violent treatment of the people who killed his father. (The actual degree of violence in Matt’s revenge quest varies between MWF and the normal continuity… but in both cases he goes out and attacks people for emotional reasons, so we can assume Stick’s response is the same.)

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Matt:Stick– what–”

Stick: “Shut up and listen. That girl is poison. She’s on her way to the worst side and she’ll drag you down with her. It’s bad enough you failed me. I won’t have you joining the enemy. I’ll kill you first.”

Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #3 by Frank Miller, John Romita, Jr., and Christie Scheele

    (We have major issues with the way Elektra is portrayed in Man Without Fear, but that’s a topic for another post.)  

    Being cast aside in this way would be enough to make anyone resentful. Stick is right– Matt is extremely emotional, which often impacts his judgement– but Matt also has a lot of pride, and rejection hurts. His reunion with Stick as an adult is short, as Stick ends up sacrificing his life to protect Matt, Natasha (Black Widow), and Stone shortly thereafter. But he lingers on as a kind of sentient ghost, haunting both Matt and Elektra and offering up advice, for a long while afterward– which allows their relationship further exploration. Mostly, we’d characterize Matt’s attitude toward him as grudging respect and admiration. Matt would never choose to hang out with Stick, he recognizes that he’s a massive jerk (takes one to know one, right?), and he is fine with not having been chosen to join Stick’s super secret boy band. But he’s also willing to go to Stick for help when he needs it, and to trust in his advice… and as we said, he is grateful for everything that Stick has given him.  

    The situation in the Netflix show is similar– with one vital alteration. The sting of Stick’s rejection is far sharper in this universe due to Matt’s young age (616 Matt and Stick didn’t cut off contact until Matt was in college), and the fact that he doesn’t encounter Stick until after his father’s death. By switching the order of events and removing Jack from the narrative early (we’re not huge fans of this choice, for the record), Stick’s significance in Matt’s life increases. In the comics, Stick is a mentor and parental figure, sure– a kind of counterpoint to Jack– but in the show he is Matt’s only parental figure (that he knows of, anyway). When he has lost the one person he had in his life, Stick appears. And Matt clings to him all the more tightly because of it. 616 Matt would never have made Stick a dang bracelet. That wasn’t the nature of their relationship because that warm, fuzzy parental role was still filled by Jack. But Netflix Matt needs someone to hug him and take him to the park and tuck him in and do all the normal caregiver things… and that’s not what Stick is there for. He doesn’t want to get attached to Matt the way he grew attached to Elektra, and he certainly doesn’t want Matt getting attached to him.

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    Reaching out for that kind of love and being rejected, losing another father, is a terrible experience for young Matt. Thus, his resentment of Stick is far more powerful in this universe– but so is his emotional attachment. After they get their initial, obligatory name-calling out of the way, Matt is friendly to his mentor when he first reappears. The discovery of the bracelet among Stick’s belongings clearly hits Matt like a truck, showing that on some level, he still cares that Stick might think of him as a son.

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    And while he doesn’t have much time to mourn, he cries when he realizes that Elektra has killed Stick.

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    (This moment, by the way, is probably multi-faceted grief. He is upset that Elektra killed someone, he is upset that she had the capacity to kill Stick (who is her father figure too), and he is upset that Stick is dead. It’s just a depressing situation on all levels.)

    This underlying attachment– which, evidence suggests, is mutual, and part of the reason Stick broke off contact in the first place– clashes with Matt’s anger and resentment, and the manipulation that becomes apparent throughout both seasons of Daredevil and The Defenders. On the surface, Netflix Matt hates Stick and his lying and scheming and emotional abuse. But underneath… it’s complicated.  

Sass on sass on sass. #DEFEND

He’d probably hate this. Which is why we’re doing it. #DEFEND

andyjwest:

endless list of MCU characters → stick

andyjwest:

endless list of MCU characters → stick

Savagery. On. Display. #DEFEND

Because reasons. #DEFEND