1976: Daredevil provides a lesson in media literacy

Cover to Daredevil No. 137

Cover to Daredevil No. 137

It’s no secret there’s a lot of emotion concerning this year’s U.S. presidential election. The contest has spurred commentary about the need for media consumers to be on the watch for fake news websites and to be careful before what they share on social media

The thing is this concern isn’t new. Forty years ago, the Daredevil comic book waded into this territory during a run of stories scripted by Marv Wolfman, who  was also the editor in chief of Marvel Comics at the time.

The story line first surfaced as a sub plot in Daredevil No. 129, published in the fall of 1975 and penciled by Bob Brown. Matt Murdock and his then-girlfriend Heather Glenn are watching TV news. A newscaster resembling Walter Cronkite comes on with a story about a photo showing John F. Kennedy and Robert F. Kennedy apparently alive.

Two issues later, No. 131,  we see a man chained to a console being forced to prepare “another broadcast.” At the start of issue 133, the man (clearly a scientist) is killed by an old DD foe, the Jester. Over the next few issues, the device involved is revealed to be capable of editing real videos into convincing fakes.

All of this reaches a conclusion in issue No. 137, published in 1976 and drawn by John Buscema, subbing for Brown. Toward the end, Our Hero is interviewed by a television newscaster. The device is now in the hands of the authorities. But DD has a word of advice for viewers.

“I can’t voucher for the accuracy of TV news reporting, Wally, but at least the news won’t be altered by criminals,” Daredevil says. “Though, I think all people should learn to get their news from many sources — TV, radio, newspapers, magazines — to prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future. A well-informed public is the best weapon against blatant lies — from wherever they originate.”

Of course, in the 21st century, there are many additional digital media. Also, traditional media outlets are questioned about their ethics, accuracy, etc. Still, the notion that people need to be well read is perhaps more important now than when this comic book story line was first published.