Chapter 11 | There Is Something It Is Like to Radar-Sense

Chapter Subheadings

The Radar Sense Experienced • Visualizing the Radar • The Conspicuously Absent Radar


Regardless of what we make of its nature, there have been common themes in how the experience of the radar sense has been written. This chapter also takes a closer look at what the artists have had to add to our understanding of what it is like to radar sense. Learn more about what the writer describes as “the conspicuously absent radar,” and what we might learn from psychological concepts like salience and crowding. 

Chapter Excerpt: “When I mentioned that this particular treatment of Matt’s senses has been common throughout comic book history, this was not an exaggeration. Whether writers are doing this deliberately, or simply following tradition or some unspoken rule of how things ought to be is anyone’s guess. Is there perhaps a feeling deep down that relying too much on the radar sense is a bit of a cheat?
Whatever the case may be, the fact remains that Daredevil does not appear to be “radar-sensing” by default at all times. The practice of letting Matt first make references to what his other senses are detecting, before acknowledging the radar, is obviously easier to spot in the earlier issues. These tend to contain more internal monologue about what he is picking up and when, but you can detect it by reading between the lines, or panels, in many of the more recent comics as well.”


From Daredevil #353 (1964), by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord

Foggy: “Okay, Matt — You can stop pretending now.”

Matt: “Foggy–?”

Foggy: “This whole ‘blind’ thing. I know you’re really Daredevil! Some ‘best friend’ — lying to me all these years… playing me for a fool…”

Matt: “No, Foggy — you’re wrong! I thought you understood… I really am blind, from a childhood accident that heightened my remaining senses — and added a sort of radar sense! It gives me an idea of an object’s contour — but that’s all.”

Foggy: “Let me get this straight. You only see things in outline… so you decided to put on a costume, run around on rooftops, and fight supervillains?”

Matt: “I’m an endless contradiction that’d never stand up to cross-examination, Foggy. Always thought that was part of my charm.”

Matt and Foggy are at their offices, Foggy has his back turned toward Matt, while Matt tries to set the record straight. We then see a front view of Foggy, from Matt's perspective, where he appears as a white line against a black background. Other objects are similarly hinted at in the background.

From Daredevil #132 (1964),
by Marv Wolfman, Bob Brown, Klaus Janson

Bullseye: “Now, my friend, we shall see which of us has the greater ability — me with my infallible aim, or you with your uncanny acrobatics.”

Daredevil thinks: “Infallible aim is right… only my radar senses help me dodge his missiles. A normal man could never hope to calculate their trajectory in time — let alone move fast enough to avoid them.”

Daredevil and Bullseye are fighting it out at the circus. Daredevil is ducking and jumping to dodge the bowling pins Bullseye is throwing.

From Daredevil #47 (1998), by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Matt tells the reader: Jasmine. She’s killing me with jasmine. (In a good way.) How do girls know how to smell just right? The strawberry in her hair. The jasmine on her skin. The vanilla on her feet. She’s got it all on just right.

I know there’s more to a woman than smell. I know. But with my unique perspective, my view of the world through blind eyes and enhanced senses… smell is a big, big part of it. Even her heartbeat is elegant. She’s nervous — embarrassed but her posture doesn’t give her away. She’s a blind woman — so posture isn’t something practiced — it’s something inherent.

I let my radar fill in the blanks. So I can ‘see’ what my other senses can’t give me. I feel her form. Her silky, shiny hair. Her precious, pale skin. 

Over the course of four pagewide panels, the reader is shown Milla sitting across from Matt. Attempting to show his perspective, the first panel is washed in a berry red, and the details slightly blurred. In the subsequent two panels, the details are less blurred and the red tint is fading. The final panel shows Milla and the things around her as they appear to the reader.

From Ultimate Marvel Team-Up #7 (2001), by Brian Michael Bendis and Bill Sienkiewicz

Matt tells the reader: “A childhood accident took my sight. This is what I see when I open my eyes. Don’t pity me though. I hate that. See, the same accident that took my sight enhanced my other senses to amazing levels.

So, even though I will never see him the way you do – I know everything about the man sitting in front of me. His heart is racing. An up-tempo rhythm. It’s hard to keep from tapping my toe to it. He’s been sweating for hours. He sweats – it dries. He sweats again. His roll-on deodorant (Right Guard sports stick) is about to buckle under the pressure. That on top of the gyro sauce stain on his shirt? This isn’t a pleasant smell. Add the faintest trace of gunpowder. His fingertips. Gunpowder and cigarettes. Marlboro lights.

Then there’s the heat right off his body. Everyone — everything has it. Let’s me know where he is. Oof! And I can feel the perspiration. The humidity radiating right off of him. He’s just awash with panic. Dipped in it. And with my years and years of training in the arts of the samurai  – and the shadow arts of the ninja – I have found a way to take this information and put it to work for me – to put it all together… to paint the picture. A picture of this. Police detective Bruce Greenwood.”

The man sitting across from Matt comes into view as it were over the course of two pages. The first panel shows a blurred bluish smear that reveals nothing. Gradually the blue tint disperses and the detailing of the man's face and background become more distinct.
The man's face continues to develop more detail until it looks like the rest of the artwork in the comics by the bottom of the page.

From Daredevil #88 (1964), by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Caption: “Slowly, feeling the energy drain from his knees and calves, he stumbles, rises to his feet–!”

Daredevil thinks: “That gas — somehow, it’s disrupting my nervous system — short-circuiting my coordination!”

Caption: As though through a heavy veil, he ‘sees’ an abrupt movement in the shadow-clouded radar darkness before him — painfully he tries to twist sideways — and meets the sudden onslaught of a dozen fists! 

Villain: “Now, Bernie — now! Move those arms you blundering moron — move them!

Daredevil, on the ground, gradually regains consciousness and reaches out to grab his attacker.

From Daredevil #96 (1964), by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Caption: Radar-senses: How to describe them? For the blind super-hero called Daredevil — for the sightless lawyer, Matt Murdock — they provide a glimpse — if only a vague, ill-defined glimpse — of the world other men see — a world which now strains to reach him — and finally — does! 

Matt: “Natasha… Commissioner O’Hara?”

O’Hara: “Yeah — it’s us, hornhead. Just wanted to tell you to get well — an’ to let you know things are square between us. For now.”

Daredevil wakes up in the hospital, still wearing his mask. The first panel shows radar rings emanating from his head. The second shows blue-colored shapes of people against a darker background, and the third panel shows Natasha and the commissioner at his bedside.

From Daredevil #1 (2011), by Mark Waid and Marcos Martín

Foggy: “Glib. Did you miss the fact that I was bringing up a serious subject?”

Matt: “No. I ignored it. Totally different. Anyway, New York. Bustling, moving, jostling… the radar sense that came with the radiation is the gift that took the most getting used to.”

Foggy: “That one really is a miracle.”

Matt: “It’s not just some optic-substitute thing.”

Foggy: “You’ve said it’s more like echolocation.”

Matt: “Like my brain is constantly pinging my surroundings 360 degrees. But there’s a sort of tactile facet to it, as well. Radar sense feels like walking through the room and touching everything at once.”

Foggy: “Indoor voice, please.”

Matt: “Hey, I just work here.”

Foggy: “It really seems to have gotten sharper over the years.”

Matt: “I don’t know that ‘sharper’ is the word. It’s more that my brain has developed a language of its own to interpret physical things. It’s gotten so that words like ‘rectangular’ or ‘yellow’ or even ‘slim’ or fat’ are not the sorts of terms I tend to think in anymore. Although I am concerned about your standing heart rate.”

Foggy: “Hey, radar sense, how many fingers am I holding up?”

Matt: “I thought that was a vienna sausage. My bad. 125th St. Best music in the city.”

Matt and Foggy, who is carrying a bag of groceries, have a conversation while moving from the street, into a subway station, and finally on to the platform where a musician is playing.

From Daredevil #114 (1964), by Steve Gerber and Bob Brown

Caption: “Fighting his way back to consciousness, Daredevil turns all his hyper-senses to assessing the bizarre scene — and finds it defies all logic! Three shapes, two humanoid… But only one audible heartbeat: The Gladiator’s. The other man seems almost wraithlike, ghostly. There is something chilling about his very presence.

But by far, the greatest enigma is this third shape, this crude, shaggy, unwieldy — beast? Whatever. And the strange ‘squooshing’ sound it makes when it moves… as though its substance were… living slime. Even the odors are maddening — the nauseating stench of burning flesh — the foul, fetid smell of the monster’s form — and a certain indefinable scent of death!”

Daredevil's head is in the foreground, near the bottom corner of the panel, radar rings emanating from his head. Behind him, filling the rest of the panel, is a group of ill-defined, filled-in outlines of shapes of various beings.

From Daredevil #306 (1964), by D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel

Daredevil: “There!”

Spider-Man: “‘There’? There what?! Why do I feel so in the dark with the blind guy around?”

Caption: Tracing the footprint in the floorboard grit… Tactile sensation searching the rubbery carcass of the lastest victim in a timeless struggle.”

Daredevil: “No surviving nuclear wars for you, pal…”

Caption: “Radar picks out the insect’s contours, the imprint stamped there.”

Daredevil: “Can you spin your webbing soft enough to pick up a positive image here?”

Spider-Man: “Yeah, I can, but… I mean, c’mon, DD, the name’s Spider-Man, not Roach… The things I do for friendship and crimefighting… You want I should bronze that?”

Daredevil: Just mark it ‘people’s exhibit number one’ in the case against The Surgeon General…”

Spider-Man and Daredevil are examining an indoor location of interest. Daredevil finds an insect under the leg of a chair. He touches it before we are shown a radar perspective of the outline of a key that has been imprinted in the insect's body. We get a better look at it from the mold provided by Spider-Man's webbing, which Daredevil touches approvingly.

From Daredevil #304 (1964), by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney

Caption:Images of colliding, featureless figures echoing theri way back to the top of the arch. Tension so thisk he can almost feel it raising the hairs on the back of his arms underneath the supple red of his suit. Daredevil sees none of it — and follows it all. Senses drifting, focusing, then moving on again as radar comes back from 360 degrees at once — a wholly unique world view of the seemingly separate, mental pictures forming of how it might all come together.”

Daredevil beholds a scene below of a pickpocketer stealing something from a young man with a camera in the park below.

From Daredevil #9 (2011), by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera

Daredevil: “Just caves.”

Daredevil is moving through an underground cavernous tunnel. The first panel is radar perspective panel which reveals the general shapes of the rock surfaces. In the second panel, where we see those same surfaces, and Daredevil himself, from the reader's perspective, the additional detailing afforded us reveals that the uneven surfaces of the rock wall are actually large monsters.

From Daredevil #285 (1964), by Ann Nocenti and Lee Weeks

(Amnesiac) Matt: “I see them… As a map… a contour… I feel the fish scales… but their eyes are blank. Their stench, I can taste it… But color? What is their color? And the man…

Fish vendor: “What? Can I help you?”

Matt thinks: “The man is as the fish… Shape… form… surface… but blank eyes… lipless… colorless… and that sound… that pounding… I can’t really see… but I don’t feel… I’m blind… but I sense vision… That pounding… like a heartbeat. My god… I hear his heartbeat!”

From Daredevil #81 (1964),
by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

The Black Widow: “…No! Air — escaping from his lips. And his eyes — they’re opening. He sees me.”

Caption:‘Sees’? That’s not quite the word we’d have used — to describe the process of Matt’s uncanny radar sense… A sense that shows a looming, blurred figure — …a figure that fades — lost with the losing of momentarily-returned consciousness…”

At the bottom of the sea, Matt regains consciousness to radar-sense the approach of the Black Widow who has dove in to rescue him. Her form is indistinct, but impressively three-dimensional.

From Daredevil #313 (1964), by D.G. Chichester and Scott McDaniel

The below panels were selected to illustrate Scott McDaniel’s approach to the radar sense. Note the Daredevil’s deliberately difficult-to-decipher view of the man crouched on the floor, with boxes and flasks around him.

Daredevil hovers over a man investigating the aftermath of a fire, requesting a conversation with him. In addition to the reader's perspective of the two head on, where the other man is seen hunched down with his box of tools, we see Daredevil's view. White etchings on black attempt to give more than an outline, in that they provide some sense of depth and detail, but it would be very difficult to decipher if we didn't know what we're looking at.

From Daredevil #92 (1998), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

Included here as an example of the berry red color wash that was used (with or without radar rings) during much of volume 2, specifically the issues colored by Matt Hollingsworth.

Matt thinks: “So I pull back my anger, and I read the room. Every sound and smell. I read her — her breathing, her heartbeat… And I know.

Vanessa Fisk: “You’re doing whatever it is you do… That allows you to be blind and still be Daredevil… So I don’t have to tell you that I’m dying.”

Matt: “No. But it doesn’t explain what you’ve done. You’re sick — you’re dying… So you just — you go for revenge?” 

Matt faces off against a mortally ill Vanessa Fisk. The first two of four panels are overlayed with a berry red tone to bring home the idea that he is studying Vanessa. Both panels also have radar rings.

From All-New, All-Different Point One (2015),
by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

Blindspot: “I’m not… I didn’t mean to, uh, disturb you or anything. I’m just –“

Blindspot thinks: “What the hell? That’s impossible. I’m invisible. How can he –“

Daredevil: “Hey, careful! You’re right on the edge. You don’t want to –“

Blindspot: “Oh n– Aah!”

Daredevil: “Don’t worry… I see you.”

Daredevil spots Blindspot on a rooftop. Since Blindspot uses a suit that makes him invisible, he is caught off guard, and falls off the edge of the building before Daredevil catches him. The panels which show Daredevil observe Blindspot have a red filter but also contains conspicuous details such as lit windows on the buildings behind him, and stars in the sky.

From Daredevil #4 (2015), by Charles Soule and Ron Garney

Steve (off-panel): “Daredevil! What are you seeing?”

Daredevil: It’s a bomb. They wired their whole lab to blow, Steve.

Steve: “How much time is left?”

Daredevil: “I… I don’t know.”


In the book, I describe the writing that’s visible in Daredevil’s radar sense “view” as belonging to a stack of document folders. The writing is actually on the sticks of dynamite (my bad!). However, the point I made about the writing being visible still very much stands, and for the same reasons.

Daredevil enters a room with a set of explosives on a timer about to go off. His perspective shows a blank display on the times, since he can't see the digital numbers. However, the same panel still shows the writing on the sticks of dynamite that shouldn't be there, if this is indeed Daredevil's radar-view.

From Daredevil #153 (1964), by Roger McKenzie and Gene Colan

Daredevil thinks: “– Wait! I can hear wind currents whipping around a flagpole below me — to the left! If I can twist my body just enough to fall toward — No! I overshot it! Falling so fast — it’s hard to focus radar sense! But I’ve got to grab it! Gotto… Whew.

Never realized before how much I depend on my billy club! Unghh–! My arm! First Paladin [last issue] — and now this! Feels like wrenched an elbow! Too much… pain… Can’t hold on–!”

While pursuing the Owl, we see Daredevil fumble on his way down the side of a building while reaching for a flag pole.

From Daredevil #155 (1964), by Roger McKenzie and Frank Robbins

Matt thinks: “Oh man! Am I glad that’s over! My head feels like its’ going to split wide open! I don’t think I could’ve faced another…”

Becky (off-panel): “Mr. Murdock? I hope I’m not too late, but…”

Matt thinks: “Oh, no!”

Matt: “P-please… I’m sorry… but could you just go away?”

Becky: “Just… go away? So that’s how it is, huh, Mr. Murdock? Sure, I’ll go! I’ll be glad to! And don’t bother getting up, counselor! I got in here by myself… I can leave the same way!

You’re no different than the rest! You think I’m helpless! That I can’t do a full day’s work… just because I’m handicapped! And if you see things that way, Mister, I’m sorry for you! I really am sorry!”

Matt thinks: “M-my God! The sound of her voice — even her heartbeat… She must be sitting down! And I can hear rubber wheels squeaking against the floor! Then she’s… she’s…”

Matt to Becky: “Miss, please! Wait! I… I didn’t see… I… didn’t see… at all…”

Matt is hunched over his desk in pain after a long day of interviews for the vacant secretary position at Nelson & Murdock when Becky arrives.
Becky enters the office in her wheelchair and gives Matt a piece of her mind. When he realizes what's going on, he gets to his feet, his cane clearly visible, and Becky gets a bit of a surprise of her own.

From Daredevil #174 (1964),
by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

Caption: “For a time, he floats in a void that is as dark and as silent as death. Then, he feels starched cotton fiber rustle lightly against his legs… he smells the sharp, ammonia-laden antiseptic of a hospital, oddly mixed with a delicate perfume… he hears a voice, soft and melodic:”

Heather: “You had us worried, lover.”

Caption: “He wakes, but the darkness never leaves.”

Matt: “Uhhnn. Heather…”

Heather: “Dr. Gloss says you’ll be okay, Matt. Me, I’m not so sure. I mean, it’s a turn-on, having an affair with Daredevil. It really is. But don’t you ever stop? Tossed through windows… shot… stabbed… hit by bombs… There’s got to be a better way to spend your evenings! In fact, I’ve got a few suggestions…”

Matt: “Just a second, that radio…”

Heather: “What radio?”

Distant radio: “…to avoid another such attack, police are moving Melvin Potter to another facility. Potter, also known as the Gladiator, is charged with…”

Heather: “Matt — What –“

Matt: “The ninja— They’re after Melvin! But if he’s moved, he’ll be more vulnerable than ever! He– Oof!”

Heather: “What’s wrong with you, darling? You never fall down! Your radar–“

Matt: “My radar –it’s gone!”

Note: This scene with Heather is eerily reminiscent of the one from the first episode of season three of the Daredevil television show, as seen here.


Early in season three, episode one of Marvel's Daredevil, Matt falls out of bed and only then realizes that his ability to detect silent objects is gone. Here, we see him on the floor as Sister Maggie reaches for him.

From Daredevil #104 (1998),
by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

Matt: “Milla! Milla!”

Matt thinks: “Calm down, Matt. Concentrate. Where is she? What’s happened here? That smell… Blood.”

Matt: “No…”

Matt thinks: “Thank God. The nurse is still alive… but not in good shape.”

Matt returns home, desperately looking for his wife Milla. He initially fails to spot Milla's nurse who lies badly injured on the staircase. When he does so, it is the blood he detects first.

Examples of “conspicuously absent radar”
in the Daredevil television show

Matt finds dead human bodies in a slaughter house, as seen in episode one of Daredevil, season two.

Further reading

At The Other Murdock Papers