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Oct 15

Daredevil Villains #5: The Matador

Posted on Sunday, October 15, 2023 by Paul in Daredevil

DAREDEVIL #5 (December 1964)
“The Mysterious Masked Matador”
Writer, editor: Stan Lee
Artist: Wally Wood
Letterer: Sam Rosen (uncredited)
Colourist: not credited 

While the previous issue featured a goofy Silver Age villain who became increasingly grim in retrospect, there are no such concerns here. In Wally Wood’s first issue, we have the Matador, who is as Silver Age as it gets. He is an evil matador who commits crimes in the style of a matador while dressed as a matador. He is absolutely committed to the theme. He is wonderful. He really should be fighting Adam West, and isn’t that what you come to the Silver Age for?

Like any new villain, the Matador gets quite the build-up. He has been on a “one-man crime wave”. He is, we are assured, “the greatest threat to law and order in years”. Now, you may be wondering how exactly you commit crimes in the style of a matador. Does it just mean wearing a fancy costume and waggling a sword around? No, no it does not. In his first scene, the Matador robs an armoured truck by making it crash with his bullfighting skills. He stands in the middle of the road and confuses the driver by waving a cape around. And he is very pleased with himself. “What delicacy! What artistry! What magnificent daring!”

This issue isn’t just about the matador gimmickry, though. There’s an actual theme to this story. Eventually we get the Matador’s origin: he’s Spain’s most famous and controversial bullfighter, “Manuel Eloganto”. Ah, the sixties. Audiences turned on Manuel over his cruelty towards the bulls – we’re not told exactly what this involved, but since bullfighting already involves killing the bulls, I suppose any more detailed explanation would be a horrible tone clash. Manuel was so distracted by the booing that he got gored. Now that he’s better, he wants “revenge on all mankind”, and to do that, he’s going to manipulate the public into loving him. That’s not a means to an end, mind you. It’s the entire plot. He just wants to make the suckers love him.

So, he reasons, what could be cooler than a criminal matador who pulls off ludicrously audacious crimes? A rogueish underdog who outwits the establishment? And incredibly, the Matador is right – the public does love his adorable matador-themed antics. The local kids are starting to play as the Matador instead of Daredevil.

You could do basically the same idea today with someone streaming prank videos, but is that as wonderfully absurd as a criminal matador? Of course it isn’t. The Matador’s crimes are genuinely ridiculous, in the best possible way. He shows up at a costume party in full costume and tries to crack the safe in full view of the guests. He robs a burglar alarm factory. “No one has ever dared rob a burglar alarm factory before!”, he declares.

The story comes dangerously close to making Daredevil into a humourless scold. “The Matador has struck again!” he laments. “And throughout the nation, the young people, and the foolish, unthinking adults, will soon start making a hero of him!” And you wouldn’t want to be a foolish, unthinking adult, now, would you? Daredevil would be disappointed in you.

Fortunately, Matt raises his game with his plan to lure the Matador out. He holds a press conference to announce that the Matador is actually Daredevil. As expected, this prompts the Matador to show up at Matt’s office and ask what the hell he thinks he’s playing at. Of course, the plan also means that Matt looks like an idiot when Daredevil publicly defeats the Matador a few pages later, but that’s dual identities for you, and besides, everyone will have forgotten about it by next issue.

This is a fabulous issue, but that’s not to say that the Matador would have worked as a recurring character. He’s very gimmicky indeed. And he’s meant to be. It’s literally the point. The gloryhound angle might have had some legs, but the matador theme is pretty limiting – part of the joy of the issue is that it finds enough variations on the theme just to get to page 20. Besides, the Matador is a craze. We get the kids playing Matador in the street, we get a newspaper headline “Stores report record sales on Matador suits”, and by the end of the issue, the trash cans are overflowing with matador outfits cruelly discarded by disillusioned children.

That’s the whole point, and returning to it too quickly would have been a mistake. The Matador makes a handful of later appearances, but you can see why nobody tried to make him a regular.

Bring on the comments

  1. Omar Karindu says:

    I did like the bit in Mark Gruenwald’s U.S. Agent miniseries where we see that the Matador ended up quitting villainy, and was so pathetic that a new recruit to the Scourge of the Underworld organization couldn’t even bring herself to shoot him.

    Curiously, Ed Brubaker created a serious successor version of the Matador in his Daredevil run, playing up the idea that the word “matador” basically means “killer.”

    Luckily, that arc was more focused on Tombstone and one of Brubaker’s interesting deconstructions of a femme fatale archetype, so neo-Matador was mercifully lost in the shuffle.

  2. Michael says:

    You left out the most ridiculous bit, Paul- the Matador neutralizes Matt’s senses by tossing his cape over Matt’s head. So, basically the Matador’s super power is to TOSS HIS CAPE OVER PEOPLE’S HEADS.

  3. Omar Karindu says:

    Michael: So, basically the Matador’s super power is to TOSS HIS CAPE OVER PEOPLE’S HEADS.

    Fortunately, Matt learns rom his mistake here by Annual #1, and he’s able to trick the Matador into using this dreadful power on the Leap-Frog, taking that mighty menace out of the fight.

    And so the Matador learned that with a great cape must come great responsibility!

  4. Mark Coale says:

    First question: would he team up with the Man-Bull or feud with him?

  5. Omar Karindu says:

    Mark Coale said: First question: would he team up with the Man-Bull or feud with him?

    He did both! In Daredevil v.1 #129, the Man-Bull, having gone on a “the world’s unfair to me” rampage, is found by the Matador, who convinced Man-Bull to commit a robbery for him.

    But then the Man-Bull figures out he’s being used, grabs the Matador, and leaps into the Atlantic Ocean in a sort of suicidal tantrum.

    Interestingly, the Matador is portrayed here out of costume and kept in the shadows, albeit with an outrageous accent. It’s only at the end of the story that the Man-Bull identifies him as the Matador.

    Rumors that an aging, addled Matador spent his twilight years working as a lowly waiter in a cheap hotel in Torquay remain unconfirmed.

  6. Thom H. says:

    They should bring this guy back, but now he has the power to control bulls. And people have to pretend they love him or he’ll kill them with a stampede of bulls. And he’s trying to turn New York into New Pamplona or something. Boom! Instant classic.

  7. wwk5d says:

    Reading the comments I’m surprised this guy was ever brought back to begin with.

  8. The Other Michael says:

    The Matador would have been perfect for the supervillain support group we saw in the She-Hulk show, where we instead got a rivalry between the Man-Bull and… El Aguila.

    I can’t remember… was there ever a thing where the Matador was all “my cape,it is red to drive the bulls mad!” And Matt had to be all “oh, right,it’s red!” In horrible overacting to preserve his secret identity as a blind man…

  9. Mike Loughlin says:

    The Matador should have returned in a series of all-new identities designed to get the public back on his side. The Milkman! The Game Show Host! The Champion Curler! The Hibachi Chef! Every issue can follow the plot of this comic, with Matt having to pull increasingly desperate press conferences in order to draw him out. “The Barber is really… Dr. Doom! And he’s bald! And, and, and he used whipped cream instead of shaving cream!”

  10. Josie says:

    I never read a comic with the Matador, but I do remember in Priest’s brief run on Deadpool, he had Constrictor whining ala George Costanza that Matador gets more respect than he does.

  11. Joe S. Walker says:

    Wouldn’t a bullfight audience be displeased if the matador didn’t kill the bull cruelly enough?

  12. Chris V says:

    That shows just what ungodly things he was doing to those poor bulls.

  13. Omar Karindu says:

    Chris V. says: That shows just what ungodly things he was doing to those poor bulls.

    That explains the cover to Daredevil v.1 #5. I always wondered why Daredevil is shown kneeling in anguish, covering his ears, while everyone else just sort of stares at him.

    Clearly, the Matador has just gotten done telling some of his horrifying bullfighting stories.

  14. Mark Coale says:

    You could have done a comedy take where Matador has such bad eyesight (maybe he is actually Vulture age) that a) why he got gored and b) confuses Matt for a bull because of his horns.

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