What if Wonder Woman had ended up in Marvel rather than DC?
Judging from Thundra, it probably wouldn’t have gone great.
But hey, you never know. Chris Claremont could probably do a pretty solid job channeling William Moulton Marston. Actually, I’d be pretty curious to see what Louise Simonson would do with her. (or Ann Nocenti, though I’d prefer to see her take on Amazons in general.) As in all things, it would depend a lot on the writer.
What are some similarities and differences between the comics version of Karen and the show version of Karen?
Great question! They’re quite similar, actually. Career-wise, MCU Karen is going places 616 Karen never did, and the actual details of their lives are quite different, but a lot of the main points are the same.
As in the comics, MCU Karen is from the tiny rural town of Fagan Corners, Vermont. She arrives in New York City as a naive outsider, eager to build a life for herself in the big city. In the show, we know that there is something sinister in her past involving her brother. This is not true in the comics– though her father does turn into a supervillain at one point. In the comics, her first job (that we know of, anyway) is with Nelson and Murdock, though her dream is to become an actress. We don’t know what MCU Karen’s career goals were before becoming a secretary and then stumbling into journalism, so we can’t say outright that this is a difference. MCU Karen certainly has some acting ability…
MCU Karen most closely reflects later, post-Stan Lee Karen. In her earliest appearances she was very much the one-dimensional Female Love Interest cookie cutter character, engaging in love triangle shenanigans with Matt, Foggy, Daredevil, and Matt’s fake brother Mike, repeatedly insisting that Matt get his eyes fixed, and occasionally getting menaced by supervillains. However, that’s not to say that she didn’t have her moments in this early period. As time went on and more effort was devoted to expanding her character, she began to develop the tenacity that would become a core of her character. When Matt ruined their engagement plans (again!), she broke up with him and went out to California to focus on her acting career. And she did occasionally take on dangerous situations by herself…
Karen: “Daredevil! I know I should have awakened him… let him be the one to follow our sinister servant! But we Pages have always believed in doing things for ourselves! Whatever happens… I only hope I’m up to it…!”
Daredevil vol. 1 #57 by Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, and Syd Shores
Both Karens follow the same general character arc: the destruction of innocence, and the transformation of that destruction into a crusade. MCU Karen is plunged into the violence of Hell’s Kitchen’s criminal underworld, and after witnessing all of that ugliness, becomes determined to fight back. This has always been one of the most compelling elements of 616 Karen’s narrative. She goes out to Hollywood with dreams of stardom, and ends up mired in a nightmare of drug addiction and pornography. She manages to claw her way back out– and then becomes determined to prevent others from experiencing those same horrors. While still recovering from her own addiction, she starts up a free clinic in Hell’s Kitchen through which she provides food, shelter, moral, and (via Matt) legal support for anyone in the neighborhood who needs help.
Karen: “Yes, yes, sadness can be seductive. But part of that is the drugs. That’s why you have to stay off them! No, Chuck… come down to the clinic… Yes, now. Don’t stay alone there…”
Daredevil vol. 1 #250 by Ann Nocenti, John Romita, Jr., and Christie Scheele
We also see this in the aftermath of her pornography career. Having been abused herself, she forms a group dedicated to fighting violence and exploitation within the pornography industry. Through this work she is constantly confronted with reminders of her own traumatic experiences, but persists in speaking up for what she believes in.
Karen: “Don’t give in to x-ploitation! Sign our petition?”
Creep: “…C’mon, give in!”
Karen: “Get lost!”
Daredevil vol. 1 #294 by D.G. Chichester, Lee Weeks, and Christie Scheele
One arc in particular follows Karen’s investigations into a child pornography black market that she happens to stumble upon.
Karen: “What was that?! What was–?! Oh, god, she couldn’t have been more than– […] I’ve still got the disk, and I’m going to get whoever– whatever– did that to you, honey. I swear I’m going to get them…”
Daredevil vol. 1 #330 by D.G. Chichester, Scott McDaniel, and Joe Andreani
And finally, we see this in Paige Angel, Karen’s radio talk show alter ego. This is her first step back toward acting since the destruction of her Hollywood career, and it offers her a chance to connect with people. She is compelled to reach out, in whatever way she can, to improve the lives of those around her and thus cope with the specters of her own trauma.
“Karen put into ‘Paige’ all of her curiosity, her cynicism, her sympathy for the ideas and fantasies of the people who called in to her show. But there was something else about the show for Karen. It allowed her a safe place to perform, to play a role. She had loved acting once, and it had led her as close to hell as she ever hoped to come. […] In ways Karen Page didn’t talk about, ‘Paige Angel’ helped her exorcise the last bad demons of that ugly time. And if she could help her listeners just a little, […] that was better than good: it was redemption.”
The Cutting Edge by Madeleine Robins, p. 105
In the comics, Karen ends up sacrificing her life to save Matt– and while we hope that won’t be incorporated into the show, it’s something we could see MCU Karen doing as well. MCU Karen takes that crusading, self-sacrificing spirit even further, becoming obsessed with rooting out injustice, and risking her life again and again. We’ve talked about it before, but one of our favorite elements of MCU Karen is how closely her story resembles that of the typical superhero narrative– Matt’s in particular. She fights crime in secret, all while doing her best to keep her civilian friends safe. Sometimes she fails. Sometimes she miscalculates. Sometimes, despite her best efforts and intentions, the people around her get hurt. But she remains firm in her conviction that she must keep fighting.
Her job at the Bulletin is a synthesis of all the various jobs she builds for herself in the comics (as mentioned above) to fight injustice. We’re actually torn about the journalism angle, since there’s an element of unbelievability about her getting that job that weakens the concept. But it’s a quick, easy, and convenient way of giving her the capacity to fight crime, and we’re hoping that– in Ben’s tragic absence– she will take over his role as Matt’s journalist buddy.
MCU Karen is also much more morally complex than 616 Karen. In the comics she is responsible for the Kingpin acquiring Matt’s secret identity, about which she agonizes afterward, but Matt never blames her for it and she is able to move on fairly quickly. In the show, she has far more demons. Her mysterious, possibly violent past, her struggle with having committed a murder, and her resulting fascinating identification with the Punisher (with whom she never interacted in the comics) adds a layer of complexity that makes her particularly compelling. But we appreciate the fact that, despite these changes (and in some cases– in our opinion– improvements) she is still recognizably Karen.
One of the first comics I read monthly, and years later, still one of my favorites. Picking up Nocenti’s Daredevil for the first time as a kid was a revelation. Sure, the book had all the action you’d expect from a superhero comic, but it also had rich layers of ongoing story, resonant thematic content, social and political consciousness, thoughtful character development and one of the best rogue’s galleries (Typhoid Mary, Shotgun, Bullet, the Wildboys, Bushwacker) since the Flash met Captain Cold and the gang.
Nocenti’s fresh, contemporary take on the character was more than enhanced by John Romita Jr.’s pencils, which themselves were further enhanced by Al Williamson’s inks. As creative partners, Nocenti and Romita made perfect sense. Both were young, up-and-coming talents with unique, hip styles influenced by new wave 80′s. Williamson was more of a wild card. He was old school, coming up as an artist for EC Comics and spending much of his time prior to Daredevil working on more straightforward sci-fi comics, like Star Wars and Flash Gordon. And yet Williamson and Romita’s art meshes perfectly. As a great inker, Williamson understood what was special about Romita’s art and enhanced it.
The result was a creative team working perfectly in synch, coming to the exact right character at the exact right time. Nocenti’s Daredevil is not just one of the best, probably the best, Daredevil runs of all time, and not just one of the best superhero comics of all time, but, with its perfect blend of style and substance, off the wall action and moving emotional weight and the synchronicity its three creators brought to one anothers work and to the atmosphere of series as a whole, it’s one of the best comics of all time.
Harris Smith is a production coordinator, social media editor and creator outreach specialist at comiXology. He’s watching Daredevil season 2 as he writes this and having a pretty good time.
3. Chuck Forsman’s self-published Revenger continued to channel the spirit of 80′s action movies like Death Wish 3, combined with the stark, deadpan sensibility that made his previous comics, like TEOTFW and Luv Sucker so powerful.
4. Future Shock Zero- If you want to get an overview of the best of today’s indie/art comics scene, Josh Burggraf’s sci-fi anthology is the perfect place to start, with comics by some of my favorite artists, including Lala Albert, Alex Degen, Sophia Foster-Dimino, Victor Kerlow, Jasoph Murphy, Aleks Sendwald, Pete Toms and Ben Urkowitz.
Harris Smith is a senior production coordinator and the editor of comiXology’s Tumblr, as well as the publisher of Felony Comics and a film programmer at the Spectacle Theater in Brooklyn. His New Year’s Resolution is to read and make more comics in 2016.
Do you think Matt is better suited as a prosecutor, or a defence attorney, as he seems to have been most of the time? Which, in your opinion, does he seem to prefer?
This actually doesn’t come up as much as you might think, so it’s hard to point to a specific panel and say “Hah! Yes, Matt prefers ____”. There’s also not a ton of consistency, and he will occasionally jump from defense to prosecution from one case to another without explanation. But his general trend is toward defense, and since that’s the type of law he’s practiced for most of his career, we can assume that’s what he’s most comfortable with. He hasn’t shown a particular talent for one over the other either. He’s a good lawyer no matter which side he’s on, but overall, he’d rather spend his professional life keeping innocents from going to jail than throwing bad guys in jail– which is part of the reason why he does the Daredevil thing in his off-hours. That way, he is able to balance out the occasional instance of defending people he knows are guilty. And that leads right into your other question, so we hope you don’t mind if we go ahead and answer that here too…
All the time. There’s a reason he’s been disbarred so many times. (Actually, there are two reasons, but we’ll leave the Kingpin out of this for now. The problem is mostly Matt.)
Judge: “Our issue is less with your sabotage of the Ogilvy case than with Nelson & Murdock’s now-disclosed history of ethics violations. Your past activities as a vigilante, as well as the questionable actions you and your partner have taken to preserve that identity, leave us no flexibility. With a heavy heart, this court hereby disbars Matthew M. Murdock and Franklin P. Nelson.”
Daredevil vol. 3 #36 by Mark Waid, Chris Samnee, and Javier Rodriguez