Brian Michael Bendis brought a gritty tone to Daredevil. He took the brightly dressed hero and put him into the world of violent criminals. His writing was perfectly complimented by the artwork of Alex Maleev.
Issue 26-31 covered the ‘Under Boss’ story, which set in motion the events that would lead to the Daredevil having his identity revealed. They should be of interest to any games master wishing to run street level adventures in New York.
The story provides how both the criminals and cops view the superhero community. It illustrates how you don’t need garish super-villains to make your adventures entertaining and that criminal organisations can be just as dangerous.
This storyline centres around the Kingpin being dethroned. The crime lords recent blindness was seen as a sign of weakness allowing Sammy Silke to convince several mob captains to overthrow him.
First they showed Wilson Fisk that his word was no longer law, by targeting Matt Murdock. Then they tried to assassinate him by turning on his during a meeting, stabbing him repeatedly, as Julius Caesar had been.
Mr Silke was to assume control, letting all those who aided in the attack keep more of their take. Ultimately his reign was short lived. Vanessa Fisk used her influence to ensure that all those who had betrayed Kingpin were quickly killed, forcing Silke to seek refuge with the police.
This story identifies the flaw with the way that the Kingpin ran his crime empire. He placed himself at the head of the organisation, with no loyalty or accountability to other crime families.
Silke correctly identifies that unlike many heads of crime families, Kingpin wasn’t a made man. If they killed him there would be no retaliation from others within their criminal organisation. This made him vulnerable. It is only due to his wife that the Kingpin didn’t loose his crime empire forever.
You could highlight this in an adventure set prior to ‘Under Boss’. Other criminals could plan to strike at the Kingpin and the PC heroes would have to decide whether they should protect him. This could also be why Punisher targets Kingpin, knowing that he can attack him without drawing attention from the other crime families.
Afterwards, once Kingpin has regained his position, he may take steps to rectify this situation. This could lead to alliances with other criminal organisations. PC heroes might want to put a stop to this, in the hopes of preventing the Kingpin from becoming more powerful.
The Kingpin could also take out some insurance so that the other crime families would suffer if anything were to happen to him. This would ensure that they would try to protect him, without the Kingpin swearing any allegiance to them.
During this period things are likely to be very chaotic in New York. The Kingpin’s possible death made the headlines of most major papers. The heads of the various crime families might feel they were invulnerable and be more bold in their activities. After Vanessa Fisk’s retribution there would be a wave of panic and reorganisation.
Any street-level superhero could feel the effect of all these changes. Who knows what this kind of shake-up with knock loose?
Open Season on Matt Murdock
During this period a bounty is placed on Matt Murdock’s head, offering half a million dollars to anyone who could kill him. This resulted in a number of assassination attempts, which he only survived due to the fact Matt Murdock was secretly Daredevil.
There plenty of adventures that can spin out of this. There could be more assassination attempts on Murdock’s life and this could be a good way to put him in conflict with notable mercenary villains. Daredevil vs Deadpool would be interesting.
Other heroes might also be impacted by the sudden influx of would-be assassins. It seems likely that the Punisher would catch wind of these events, and might even be conflicted over what action to take, given his troubled past with Daredevil.
SHIELD could take advantage of this turn of events, using it as an opportunity to draw out assassins they are hunting. They could use Matt Murdock as bait or use a Life Model Decoy, which would complicate matters if a group of PC heroes swoop into to save the lawyer and accidentally ruin SHIELDs sting operation.
This storyline illustrates how a heroes life could be complicated when it is their secret identity, rather than their heroic persona, that is targeted. For example Peter Parker could find himself a target because of a photo he has taken.
The natural thing to do is use their super powers to protect themselves but then they run the risk of exposing their true identity. This is when they need to turn to other heroes to protect them.
Operating from Falzone’s Billiards and Pub located on 122nd in New York, Falzone was a Talent Broker. Big figures in the crime community would come to him when they wanted someone killed by a super-villain.
Falzone would then use his contacts, who would use their contacts, to reach the appropriate person. This is how criminal organisations were able to hire people like Boomerang and Elektra.
Falzone used to be a big name until some years before ‘Under Boss’ takes place. It is unknown what caused this fall of grace and could be the basis of an adventure.
There are many Talent Brokers like Falzone. They are important middlemen in the criminal community and characters like him can be a good place for heroes to find out who is responsible for hiring mercenaries or tracking down super-villains.
In this story Daredevil is able to trace the assassination attempts back to Falzone because of the smell of pool chalk on the wanted posters given to the assassins. This is an example of how a clue can identify the particular Talent Broker used.
Daredevil is unfamiliar with Falzone but that doesn’t mean that other superheroes in New York wouldn’t be. PCs might unwittingly come in contact with him if they happen to spend any time at his Billiards and Pub.
This could lead to a tense scene in which heroes, in their secret identities, recognise a super villain in their civilian on the premises. Do they decide it is just a coincidence or investigate and find out about Falzone’s other business?
Due to his involvement with Kingpin’s attempted murder Falzone is killed by Vanessa Fisk, a single shot to the head. A minor player in the Marvel universe Falzone will probably stay dead.
This doesn’t mean an inventive games master can’t bring him back. Falzone, given who he does business with, might have anticipated such a turn of events. The bearded man who met clients could have been a front, with the real Falzone working behind the scenes.
As noted there are many Talent Brokers like Falzone, so it is a simple matter to introduce a character who fulfils the same role. An adventure set after this story could focus on someone trying to fill his shoes, attempting to take Falzone’s clients for themselves.
The Secret Identity of the Daredevil
In this story we learn that many of those who worked for Kingpin knew that Daredevil was actually Matt Murdock. Out of respect and fear for their boss they pretended that they didn’t refusing to even acknowledge the information.
Events are put in motion when the Kingpin’s son, Richard Fisk, informs Sammy Silke. Using this information Mr Silke put a bounty on Matt Murdock. He would attack him where he was most vulnerable and show that he wasn’t playing by the rules.
The secret identity is one of the oldest of superhero tropes. The above is an example of how the knowledge of who they really are can remain a closely guarded secret. Those who do know can’t do anything with the information and are afraid of acting on it.
It also allows a games master a way to justify how a villain knows who a superhero is, without going through the trouble of having to unmask them. This can also work the other way, with heroes learning who a villain really is through someone who knows.
This doesn’t mean that the genie can’t be put back in the bottle. Someone will only believe the informer if they’re reliable and evidence supports them. A hero can convince others that the information is untrue by throwing suspicion on those who know and making it look doubtful that the information is correct, for example making it appear as if their two identities are in the same room together.
This could be the goal of an adventure, with heroes working to discredit the information that is floating around about them. There are multiple approaches they can take, giving a group of players a lot of freedom.
A large company that developed a chemical amphetamine called Zeezee’s. With its colourful packaging it was specifically aimed at the teen market. Failing to meet food and drug administration guidelines they falsified reports and went to market.
Those who used the product suffered from internal bleeding and even cardiac arrest. Autopsies left no doubt what was responsible for their deaths. When the families tried to take the company to court Worldwide Corporation counter-sued them for slander.
Matt Murdock successfully represented the families, securing one of the largest cash awards in New York legal history. This is a notable moment but certainly not the only thing of interest.
PC heroes can become involved in this case early on. They could be required to rush a collapsed child to hospital. They could investigate the cause, securing the memo that revealed Worldwide Corporation was well aware of how dangerous Zeezee was.
In the lead up to the trial Matt Murdock could approach the PC heroes to ask them to protect the families from intimidation. The jurors might also have pressure placed on them. The heroes will need to work behind the scenes to ensure that the trial goes ahead.
Worldwide Corporation is an unscrupulous company that could be responsible for similar terrible acts in your own adventures. It is doubtful that they would have ceased trading just because they lost one legal case.
It might have hurt them enough that they’d want revenge on Matt Murdock. Soon after this case it became public knowledge that he was Daredevil. This could lead them to hire a super-powered mercenary to strike at him.
PCs could take the role of Daredevil and his allies, defending themselves from attack and tracing their source back to Worldwide Corporation. If they can find evidence that links them to the attack then it is possible they could be shutdown.