Warning! Some of the information in this article may turn out to be Daredevil season 3 spoilers.
Things are about to get deadly on the mean streets of Marvel because Bullseye is coming to Netflix’s Daredevil season 3. Fans have been awaiting Bullseye’s arrival since the first season, and with good reason. Well, now he’s here, played by Wilson Bethel in a surprisingly layered performance.
Over the years, many writers and artists have done their creative best to make Bullseye one of the most fearsome foes in the Marvel Universe. So let us go back in time and discover the deadly secrets of Bullseye, the man who never misses. Be warned though, as we travel back and find these greatest Bullseye stories, the journey is littered with the corpses of men and women (and thus, potential spoilers) who crossed Bullseye. Victims punctured with playing cards, pierced with paper clips, and penetrated by ninja weapons.
The first character known as Bulls-Eye (not Bullseye) appeared in Nick Fury: Agent Of SHIELD #15 (1969) by Gary Friedrich and artist Herb Trimpe. This Bulls-Eye attempted to kill Nick Fury but was taken out by Dum Dum Dugan. Bulls-Eye was packed away into Marvel obscurity and seemingly has no connection with the Daredevil baddie, but when a villain possessing the moniker returned, the Marvel Universe would become a much more dangerous place.
It’s hard to imagine that Bullseye has become such a major force of evil in the Marvel Universe considering the assassin has no powers. He is highly trained in martial arts and has perfect aim. Bullseye used to be a pitcher in the major leagues but was banned and prosecuted for killing a batter with a bean ball. From there, Bullseye trained himself to kill with any object from office supplies, to peanuts, to playing cards.
With all that being said, let’s get to our reading list/history…
The Bullseye we all love to hate first appeared in Daredevil #131 (1976) and was created by Marv Wolfman and John Romita Sr. Now, you guys have to understand one thing about Daredevil’s rogues gallery circa 1976: it was not very good. It was fun and some characters like Kilgrave the Purple Man (you know, from Jessica Jones), Gladiator (good ol’ Melvin Potter, who keeps popping up on the Daredevil Netflix series), and, of course, Wilson Fisk, have all gone on to star in some phenomenal tales, but this era of DD villains was before the days of Typhoid Mary and Elektra, so when Wolfman and company first introduced Bullseye, he seemed like another one-and-done DD baddie.
Admittedly, in this first appearance of Bullseye, the villain had a bit more of an edge to him compared to, let’s say, Matador or Stilt-Man (but let’s face it, a potato has more of an edge than Matador). In Bullseye’s first battle with Daredevil, he sets up a series of exhortation and murder plots and even publicizes himself in an interview with the Daily Bugle. Bullseye actually defeats Daredevil but soon, Matt pulls himself together, and for the first time, lays the smack down on Bullseye. Wolfman told a tight yarn and Bullseye was daringly different, but the master assassin could have just been another forgettable entry in the Daredevil rogues gallery…if it wasn’t for Frank Miller.
When Bullseye would next appear, it was an issue drawn by the creator that would fully unleash Bullseye on the Marvel Universe: Frank Miller. Don’t forget about writer Roger McKenzie who penned the story that first unleashed the full brunt of Bullseye on Marvel. In Daredevil #160-161 (1979), Bullseye desperately wants revenge on DD for his previous defeat, so he kidnaps Daredevil’s than true love the Black Widow and forces Matt Murdock into a brutal confrontation. McKenzie writes a tight, brutal tale while Miller finds frenetic visual language to bring Bullseye to life. The master assassin must have struck a chord in Miller, because when the iconic creator had full creative control of the book, he put Bullseye front and center.
In Daredevil #169 (1981), both written and drawn by Miller, the full horror of Bullseye is unleashed. In this issue, Bullseye finds himself with a brain tumor. The villain is so obsessed with Daredevil, that now everyone he sees resembles the Man Without Fear. So Bullseye goes on an epic killing spree. By issue’s end, Daredevil stops Bullseye’s reign of terror, but with this single issue, Bullseye basically became Marvel’s Joker, an unstoppable force of insanity.
In Daredevil #171-172 (1981) by Miller, Bullseye becomes the hired assassin of Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin. This is Kingpin at his most driven and violent because he just had to bury his beloved wife Vanessa. Kingpin wanted to burn the world and Bullseye would be his match. This unholy alliance would define both villains for decades to come. Which brings us to a moment that would solidify Bullseye as one of Marvel’s most heinous villains forevermore…
The Death of Elektra
“…You’re pretty good. But me…I’m magic.” With those words in Miller’s Daredevil #181 (1982), Bullseye slits Elektra’s throat with a playing card and plunges her own Sai into her chest. You see, at that point, Kingpin had replaced Bullseye with Elektra and the psycho killer that never misses had something to prove. Of course, Elektra was also Matt Murdock’s lover so her death sent shockwaves through the world of comics. It was a watershed moment as the seemingly unstoppable Elektra was systematically dismantled and murdered by Bullseye and became one of the first truly unforgettable Marvel moment of the 1980s.
Bullseye paid for his actions when Daredevil tossed the killer off a rooftop, shattering his spine. Bullseye was paralyzed and things took an even darker turn when Daredevil visits Bullseye in the hospital in Daredevil #191(1983). As Bullseye lay immobile, Daredevil plays a faux game of Russian roulette with the prone killer. It was the darkest moment of Miller’s run on Daredevil and may have been the darkest moment in the history of Marvel. A hero pressing a gun to the temple of a killer that robbed him of his great love. Damn.
Elektra was not the last love Bullseye would take from Matt Murdock…
The Death of Karen Page
The coming of Bullseye to Netflix could mean horrible things for one Karen Page. Because in the famed Guardian Devil (1999) storyline by writer Kevin Smith (snootches) and artist Joe Quesada, Bullseye is hired by the Spider-Man villain Mysterio to kidnap an infant. During the case, Bullseye uses Daredevil’s own billy club to kill Daredevil’s other great love Karen Page. Page had been Matt Murdock’s constant since Daredevil #1 and now, like Elektra, she was dead because of Bullseye.
When Brian Michael Bendis took over Daredevil in the late 90s, fans knew the writer had a killer Bullseye story ready and waiting. After all, Bendis is and was a master of hardcore crime sagas and dark noir. Fans were not disappointed when Bendis presented the storylines “Lowlife” and “Hardcore” in which Matt Murdock’s identity as Daredevil is revealed to the world.
Bullseye uses this new revelation to attack Murdock’s life and attempts to murder DD”s current lover Milla Donovan. Murdock is having none of it and confronts Bullseye. With the rage of the loss of Elektra and Karen, Daredevil beats Bullseye almost to death and carves a bullseye symbol into the killer’s head. Yeah, it was a response to the best-forgotten Daredevil movie of the late 90s, but it was a moment of pure vengeance as Daredevil finally made Bullseye pay for all the pain he caused.
The next time Bullseye would appear would finally be separate from the world of Daredevil. Bullseye joined the Thunderbolts team led by Norman Osborn. Bullseye operated as Osborn’s most secret of weapons and was only unleashed on the most dangerous of missions. So let that sink in, Bullseye is so deadly, even Norman Osborn was wary of the master killer. As a member of the Thunderbolts, Bullseye helped fight Spider-Man, the Skrulls, and was even paralyzed again by the Native American hero known as American Eagle. Bullseye’s time with the Thunderbolts hit like a bolt of lightning in 2007 and was presented by Warren Ellis and Mike Deodoto.
Things got even sicker when Osborn transformed his Thunderbolts into the Dark Avengers. Bullseye adopted the identity of Hawkeye and seeing the man who had killed Elektra and Karen Page profaning the iconic heroic identity of Clint Barton was truly twisted. Dark Hawkeye marked Bendis’ return to the character in the 2009 Dark Avengers series. Bullseye/Hawkeye also starred in a bloody and twisted mini-series in 2009 by Andy Diggle and Tom Raney.
The Magic Returns
After his time as Hawkeye, Bullseye was killed in the Shadowland crossover. At this time, a new assassin named Lady Bullseye became a major player in the New York underworld. Lady Bullseye brought Bullseye’s corpse to the Hand and had the killer resurrected. Sicker than ever, Bullseye was confined to an iron lung and did what he does best: make Matt Murdock’s life a living hell. Bullseye sends many adversaries to weaken Daredevil during Mark Waid and Chris Samnee’s superb 2013 run on Daredevil until he was once again defeated by the Man Without Fear.
Daredevil season 3 arrives on Netflix on October 19.
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