When superhero fans talk about who a character’s nemesis is, there’s usually an obvious stand out -- even if that just makes it more fun to argue for the less obvious options. Batman has The Joker, Superman has Lex Luthor, Spider-Man has Green Goblin, Captain America has Red Skull, and so on. Daredevil is one major superhero who provides an exception to this rule. When looking at Daredevil, there’s a trifecta of antagonists, each providing a compelling case for being made the top of the pyramid: Kingpin, Elektra, and Bullseye. Each new season of the Netflix series Daredevil has introduced one of these essential enemies to the story, with Bullseye finally arriving in the show’s third season. With all of them present, it’s worth examining why Bullseye stands out as the greatest villain in all of Daredevil lore.
Much like Kingpin, Bullseye has an origin that wouldn’t necessarily tie him to being an essential element in the series. Whereas Wilson Fisk debuted in the pages of Amazing Spider-Man, only finding a new hero to battle many years later, Bullseye didn’t arrive until Daredevil #131, created by Marv Wolfman and John Romita Sr. in the midst of an entertaining, but not exceptional run on the series. He began as yet another supervillain with a gimmick. In Bullseye’s case, he was a gun for hire who could hit just about anything using just about anything. The only thing that made him stand out from a crowded pack of mediocre Daredevil villains was an exceptional costume design. That would change dramatically over the next decade though.
The Greatest Hits
Daredevil is a series with a long history of featuring exceptional creators, often resulting in some of the most critically-acclaimed runs in superhero comics. It was the series that brought Frank Miller to prominence as he began work on the series as penciller before assuming writing duties as well. Walking through Miller’s work on Daredevil and why it is a highlight of both his career and Marvel Comics’ history would require a series of articles; the reputation of that work speaks for itself. Bullseye played a central role in that run from start to finish.
In Daredevil #169, “Devils,” the villain was elevated from being yet another bad guy with a gimmick to a deranged serial killer. A brain tumor caused him to see every person in New York City as his enemy Daredevil and act accordingly, killing dozens of innocent civilians. This standalone issue was an impressive early outing for both the villain and Miller. As the series continued, Bullseye was present for almost every highlight. The climax of events involving Daredevil, Kingpin, and Elektra arrives in Daredevil #181, “Last Hand,” and it’s Bullseye who plays the villain in both of the issue’s epic action sequences. He’s also the only featured recurring character at the end of Miller’s initial run in Daredevil #191, “Roulette,” which this critic would argue to be one of the single greatest superhero issues ever.
After Miller set the bar for Daredevil comics, almost every writer and artist to come since has used Bullseye in a central role. Whether it’s Kevin Smith and Joe Quesada or Mark Waid and Chris Samnee, Bullseye brings the hardest hits and plays a key role in many of the greatest stories. At a certain point this sort of coordination is more than coincidence. Daredevil is simply a better comic when Bullseye is around to be the villain.
A Fixture in Every Media
The attraction between Daredevil and Bullseye goes far beyond the world of comics though. In addition to being a regular feature in the funny books, Bullseye has followed Daredevil into every notable adaptation to date. While some fans still chuckle about the 2003 film adaptation of Daredevil, Colin Farrell’s performance as Bullseye is a highlight of the movie, no matter how over-the-top his performance and the script make the role. Even as a campy movie, it’s still an absolute delight to watch Farrell in big action sequences or crack jokes over poor civilians who never saw him coming.
Bullseye’s arrival in the Netflix series has been asked about since it premiered in 2015. Hints of the character’s presence with a playing card featured in one shot left fans drooling, and there was a lot of disappointment when he didn’t play his own role in Elektra’s story, which was adapted directly from the comics. Now that he has arrived, many are cheering the third season of Daredevil to be a best for both the series and the many Marvel shows on Netflix. No matter where Daredevil goes, Bullseye is sure to follow eventually and make the story better.
A Dark Mirror0comments
History makes a compelling case for Bullseye being one of Daredevil’s greatest villains, but it’s what Bullseye reflects in Daredevil that makes him the greatest. Daredevil represents the creation of order in difficult circumstances. Facing poverty and disability as a child, he used systems like public schools and the law to pull himself up and make a difference. Matt Murdock’s career as a lawyer is every bit as important as his activities as a vigilante, as the latter reinforces the system the former cherishes. In a society that is sometimes unfair, Daredevil is a figure who struggles to make it work.
Bullseye is the greatest threat to this system. Both Kingpin and Elektra often work within the ordered world that Daredevil values so highly. Kingpin struggles to be seen as a legitimate business man and uses that order to empower himself, while Elektra can be swayed to help maintain the status quo at times. Bullseye is a force of pure chaos. He sees no value in individual human lives or the systems that make society function. Bullseye kills without thought and sows chaos wherever he goes. He is a bug in the program and seeks to undermine the very ideals that give meaning to the life and work of Matt Murdock in both of his identities. In the same way that Joker or Lex Luthor hold up a dark mirror to their own arch nemeses, so does Bullseye to Daredevil. That is why he will always be Daredevil’s greatest foe.