Welcome to our Third Annual Mom Month here at Dimestore Dames! Each May, we celebrate some of comics’ most fascinating mothers—the good, the bad and everything in between.
Publisher: Marvel Comics
First Appearance: Daredevil (vol.1) #229 (1986)
Created By: Frank Miller & David Mazzucchelli
Like so many superheroes, Matt Murdock, aka Daredevil, grew up under the specter of a dead parent. Raised by his father, professional boxer and alcoholic “Battlin’ Jack” Murdock, he idolized his father, but Jack was having nothing of that. He pushed Matt toward more scholarly pursuits, claiming he’d promised Matt’s mom, Maggie, on her deathbed that Matt wouldn’t end up like him.
As an older child, Matt was hit by a truck carrying toxic waste, which blinded him and heightened his other senses. While he was in the hospital, a nun would come visit him. Since Matt was Catholic, this wasn’t very weird, except he didn’t know who this one was. She was perceptive enough to pick up on the fact that he now had superpowers, though, and urged him to keep them secret.
Many years later, while Matt was on a downward spiral, he ended up stabbed and nearly died. A nun—the same one who’d visited him as a child—found him and nursed him back to health in the mission she ran. He came to realize that her scent was strangely similar to his own, and when he asked her point-blank if she was his mother, he could hear her heart skip—she was lying.
Yes, Maggie Murdock had never died. She’d married Jack (I assume, since her last name is Murdock) but apparently was never really comfortable as the wife of a drunk boxer, nor with the concept of being married at all. She was pregnant when she left Jack and began the process of becoming a nun before her son was even born, returning him to his father as a newborn. As Matt grew up, she kept an eye on him while pursuing her calling.
Since she’s hip to the fact that Matt’s Daredevil, he still goes to her from time to time for philosophical advice and first aid. It took years for Maggie to finally admit to being Matt’s mother, though she’s never really offered him any explanation for why she left him.
So What’s So Great About Her?
In fiction, mothers often have a way of being impossibly saintly—especially if they’re dead—or wretchedly evil, to be the flipside to that saintliness. Or, in comics especially, they’re just entirely absent, and there’s not much use speculating how they may have impacted their children. Very rarely do you come across a mother who encapsulates this simple truth: not every mother was meant to be one.
I’m not Catholic, nor am I a particularly religious person in general, so I can only begin to imagine the conflict someone like Maggie could go through, torn between her deep spiritual convictions and romantic attraction. (I can also only imagine what a headtrip Matt went through as a Catholic, finding out that his angelic mother was an actual nun.) The details of how an aspiring nun and an alcoholic, second-rate boxer got together are fuzzy to say the least, but God, would I love to know that story, though it’s sure to be a heartbreaker. But one can assume she ended the relationship not too long after it started, since she was gone before Matt was born.
There’s a moment in Kevin Smith’s Daredevil run where Maggie wistfully compares Matt to Jack (see below), and the tone just seems so bittersweet that I can’t believe Maggie didn’t love her husband. Nor do I think she left her son because she didn’t love him enough—she quietly kept her eye on him his entire life. Even if she seems happy in her life, useful in purpose, I don’t think she’s entirely at peace or ever will be.
Sometimes, our lives end up at a fork in a road, and you have to choose which way to go. Maggie chose one direction, changed her mind, went back and took the other. It seems to be the right one for her—she’d probably have been a lot more miserable as Jack’s wife—but there was no good way to right her misstep. I can see how one would think that telling Matt his mother was dead was the kindest option, though he was inevitably going to be damaged by her absence, no matter the excuse. I’m sure Maggie knows this as well as anyone else.
Her relationship with him has obviously gotten a lot better, but it’s still not exactly maternal. They often have more of a mentor-student vibe to me sometimes. But God, Maggie is such a compelling character, not to mention intelligent, hard-working, and damn if she can’t keep a secret. In her rare appearances, she’s practically brimming with conflict and backstory that’s dying to be told. She’s not a good mother, but she’s what Matt has, and she’s so interesting that I can’t help but want more of her. I’m sure Matt feels the same way.
Daredevil #229-230; 233; 267; 295; 325; 348-349; 375; 380
Amazing Spider-Man #277
Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1
Marvel Holiday Special #2
Punisher (vol.3) #18
Daredevil (vol.2) #4-8
Daredevil: Battlin’ Jack Murdock #1; 3