Marvel keeps forcing weak, street-level heroes like Spider-Man and Daredevil to fight the all-powerful Mephisto – and there’s a very good reason why.
Marvel’s famous street-level heroes Spider-Man and Daredevil often fight street-level crime – but they also have a strange tendency to fight Mephisto, the Marvel Universe version of the Devil. Both characters, while quite strong and possessing superhuman powers, are relatively weak when compared to the likes of heavy-hitters Thor, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel – which means they have very little hope of defeating Satan himself. This being the case, why does Marvel force Peter Parker and Matt Murdock to fight the nigh-unbeatable Prince of Darkness?
Neither Daredevil nor Spider-Man are completely helpless; both have powers far beyond the reach of ordinary humans. Daredevil can lift up to 450 pounds and is incredibly agile, though a majority of his physical skills come from training. He also possesses superhuman senses; he can hear sounds from miles away, his sense of touch is sensitive enough to read without Braille (by feeling the ink on paper) and can maneuver throughout New York City without a cane. Spider-Man, for his part, can lift nearly ten tons, can crawl on walls and has a passive ‘spider-sense’ that alerts him to danger. Unfortunately, even with their powers, the two are as ants compared to Mephisto.
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In 2007, Marvel released Spider-Man: One More Day, in which Aunt May is slowly dying after an assassin misses his true target (he was aiming for Peter). Mephisto offers Peter a deal: Aunt May’s life in exchange for his marriage to Mary Jane. Peter accepts (much to the detriment of Spider-Man fans, who believe he made the wrong decision). For his part, Daredevil has encountered Mephisto numerous times: Daredevil #278 involves Mephisto using his son Blackheart to corrupt Murdock leading to the Heart of Darkness story arc, and in 2021’s Heroes Reborn, Mephisto uses the new alternate reality to humiliate and use Murdock to go against his faith.
Marvel pits these two heroes against Mephisto for multiple reasons. The Devil is so incredibly overpowered compared to these two street-level heroes that they can’t even hope to beat him in a fistfight, and must use their wits to win the day. The Devil also uses temptation and manipulation, and both heroes react quite differently: Spider-Man uses his connection to others to fortify his mind, while Daredevil finds strength in his Catholic faith.
The third and final reason why Marvel throws these two characters at Mephisto is to expand their world on a gargantuan scale. Peter Parker and Matt Murdock both operate in New York City, which is one small corner of an unimportant country on one planet among millions. Mephisto forces them to reconcile with the fact that they are merely cogs in a machine – but even cogs like Spider-Man and Daredevil can make a huge difference in the universe.
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