Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Remember when people started getting really into ninjas?

I mean, people never stopped being into ninjas- ninjas are cool. But remember when there was a while there when they were REALLY cool?

You know Ninja Gaiden was out for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was HUGE and there was that whole array of bad late 80’s movies that you can watch on U.S.A. at two in the morning (American Ninja, just to cite an example). There was just this era, late 80’s-early 90’s, where people loved this. I wouldn’t even say martial arts was in either- I mean, again, people were always into martial arts. But it wasn’t like the 70’s when Chinese superstar Bruce Lee broke out.

I guess the thing that people loved about Ninjas?...well, I don’t think it was the martial art of Ninjitsu, exactly.

No, it was more like everybody fell in love with this vision of ‘ninja’ that was entirely fantastical. Now, I know there are some crazy kung-fu flicks out there, with flight and magic powers and all that jazz. But I’d like to think that the core appeal of martial arts movies and fiction to fans is something like this: you (or we- I’m one too.) like this idea that you will continually challenge yourself, mentally and physically, and gradually build your skills to new and heightened levels of prowess. But the progress takes WORK. You gotta fight. Fight to make yourself better. To bring your mind and body and spirit into unison.

That isn’t what people loved about ninjas at all, during the ninja-craze. No- we loved that ninjas fought with fancy, shiny, archaic weapons that looked cool and performed seemingly superhuman feats like it was nothing. It was sort of like if you were told someone was a ninja, or even just saw them wearing ninja clothes, you could assume the following facts about them were true:

1. Ninja’s could sense mystic forces. And the presence of other ninjas.

2. Ninja’s could climb walls, walk on tightropes, and perform ridiculous gymnastic stunts, easily. In fact, it was so easy for them to do this, that they could do all sorts of other things WHILE doing this- like fighting other ninjas- because it took almost no concentration.

3. Ninja’s can become invisible in any environment, if they wish to.

And so on. It’s sort of like these childish, mystical ideas about what it mean to be a ninja was just out there, in the collective unconscious. We weren’t in love with ninjas because they had striven so hard to be powerful. We were in love with them because they were RIDICULOUSLY powerful and it cost them no effort to be so. It was sort of like when you were kids and you were dreaming up characters, and you keep trying to make your character the coolest, until finally you’re like "yeah, but my guy is a NINJA," and let’s face it, nobody could top that, right? We all just started indulging in that fantasy. Of being so superhumanly-agile and badass that it was like this kind of magic that helped you defy the forces of physics itself.

Comics was no exception. Batman had been pulling his disappearing trick for a long time, but up until the 70’s he had been a lot more Dick Tracy, or even James Bond, than anything else. The creations of characters like Lady Shiva tied him more closely to martial arts. But then, early 90’s?

Ninja. Total ninja. The batarangs, the ridiculous aerial stunts; even the FEEL became ninja-like. The darker suit. Relying on the night and darkness more, spreading fear and confusion. I hate to say this, but some of the fights in Knightfall- especially the ones between Bane and Azrael- have bad American ninja movie written all over them.

Chris Claremont certainly did his share around this time too, X-Men style. Psylocke got reborn as an Asian hand-trained assassin and Wolverine- or, ‘Patch’- spent a little more time in Japan (both in flashbacks and in the book’s current issues). But I guess Daredevil was where it really jumped off the page, you know? Not surprising, since Frank Miller was the guy who really took it there. He had already helped kind of re-envision Batman as a lot more ninja-like. But yeah. Sai’s, assassins, rooftop fights, the Hand- who were, you know ACTUAL ninjas. I mean, it doesn’t get more “ninja” than having a bunch of actual ninjas fighting Daredevil, right?

And I mean, even the popularity OF Daredevil was "ninja." Ninja was an underground thing. A cult hit, until T.M.N.T. got bigger. It was sci-fi and indie. Daredevil had never been the most popular Marvel comics character but the people reading it knew it was THE comic to spend your three fifty on each month. Even now, Daredevil isn’t huge- but the fans who were in the know back then were getting that thrill of being into something that you didn’t see happening in any other comic on the rack!

It’s times like this that I regret the Daredevil movie. Now let me be careful when I say that- because I actually don’t think it’s such a bad movie! I just don’t think it’s a GREAT movie. All in all, the cast isn’t bad- I think Affleck is an under-rated actor, I’ve always like Jennifer Garner and Colin Ferrell as Bullseye was Irish. Good. Just very, very Irish. But it wasn’t a big enough production. It was slapped together, under-budgeted.

I like to envision a Daredevil movie- and it would HAVE to be this arc, the three of them (Daredevil, Elektra, and Bullseye) duking it out on the rooftops of New York. Nothing else would be epic enough to give the movie justice, as sort of having the gritty sensibility of The Dark Knight, with its realistic portrayal of crime and morality, but with completely off-the-hook, ridiculous, ninja-style action sequences. The fights need to be BIG and they need to really showcase the near-inhuman-preciseness of each character’s fighting style. Sort of like Kill Bill, but a little classier. I know this is just geekiness within geekiness to reference this-but I think a good Daredevil movie should be like watching a Dead or Alive video game (those who get it, will get it).

The problem is the movie got made. It’s over, it’s done. Hulk got a second chance, Superman might; but see, even then: it’s sort of a waste. Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor...I’m afraid there’s no going back, cast-wise.

Still, I just can’t abide the idea that such ridiculously awesome fights will never be choreographed. I don’t know if there’s any room to move back in this direction, but I’d love to see it happen.


  1. Interesting post and yes i agree hopefully if they make another Daredevil movie it will be great.And as far as typical ninja movie Isaac Florentine's NINJA was pretty good


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