“Religion, Philanthropy, and Daredevil: A Conversation with Ann Nocenti- Part 1”

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking with Ann Nocenti, who wrote Daredevil for Marvel Comics from 1986-1991 and is widely heralded as one of the book’s greatest writers.

Let’s get right to it!

Father Niko: “Why do you think the character’s Catholic roots work so well for him?”

Ann: “Well, I think that one of the great things about comics is they are a visual medium and when there’s a very impactful visual it gives you a sense of conflict even just from looking at them.  It’s an instantly deep kind of a thing.  For Daredevil to be wearing a Daredevil suit, to be wearing horns and in red and invoking a sort of Satanic look, for someone who… when he’s really crushed, he’s really lost, he goes into the church.  I don’t ever think of him as a man of faith so much as I think of him as a man who sometimes needs faith.  He’s not a churchgoing guy, he doesn’t spout Bible passages, but when he’s crushed he goes and sits in a church.  That tells you something.”

dd2FN: “I read not too long ago that there is no organization that feeds more people on a daily basis on planet Earth than the Catholic Church.  Given that in your run you made him be kind of a social worker, more on street level which I know everyone loved, given that your background is Catholic and you heard about feeding the poor and things like this growing up, do you think your upbringing fed into that decision to make him more of a street level person?”

AN: “I have complicated feelings on charity.  I worked in Haiti and I watched what feeding the poor did to people which was not always a good thing.  It created kind of a cycle of dependency.  Being on the ground after a tragedy like the earthquake that hit Haiti and watching the Red Cross and the world food programs… at first, it’s amazing.  People don’t have food and then have food.  The problem is if you just keep dumping food on people rather than training them how to irrigate land, how to produce for themselves… I have complicated feelings on charity of that nature.

“I watched people that were so dependent on the rice that kept dumping into the tent camps that they didn’t go off into the fields and they missed the planting cycle.  When you work with local agronomists, local agronomists were very upset.  It’s not charity to make people dependent on you.  Charity is to liberate people from a cycle of dependence by teaching them how to take care of themselves.  The organizations that I’m most related to were the agronomy organizations in Haiti that actually got seeds, got people out of the tent camps, got them making little gardens, taught them irrigation.”

FN: “I didn’t know that you were that involved in Haiti.  That’s really phenomenal.”

Part 2 next week!

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