Twisted Love - Typhoid Mary
essay & picture selections by Loren Freid
“She’s so sick...so gorgeous...she’s wicked sexy, she’s like...fatal, man...yeah, she’s a poison goddess...she’s the virgin, the whore and the killer all in one package!”
“Her split personality. The Murdock-Daredevil schism. Both have aspects of light and dark, the dualism forcing an unnatural division between good and evil...If any woman on earth could do the job I require - it is this masterpiece...”
“Now, as a man, I lose myself in the power of those same senses. Lord help me, I lose myself...”
By her own admission, Typhoid Mary is “a love-maker and a man-hater.” She is a psychotic, schizophrenic sexual predator who will unabashedly flaunt and manipulate her gallery of alluring and dangerous personalities for one singled-minded purpose: to dominate and humiliate men. Her meteoric rise up the ranks of New York’s deadly underworld to become The Kingpin’s most lethal and cold-blooded assassin (as well as his most desirable paramour) is due, in no small measure, to the near-orgasmic pleasure she gets from her stealth-like ease at manipulating, seducing and murdering men.
At the core of Typhoid's dark existence is our fateful hero, whose significance in her life evolved over many years into an increasingly complex and disturbing tapestry of lies, deceit and immorality. What started simply enough as a mere assignment for cold cash (Daredevil #254), soon degenerated into a protracted and bitter game of sexual manipulation and deceit (Daredevil #256-263 & 297) before it finally climaxed into a deeply personal and sole-searching vendetta for mutual destruction (Deadpool #7, Daredevil/Deadpool '97 Annual). This on-going dance macabre they share would forever change their lives. Matt Murdock would undergo a torturous journey of self-discovery that unearths a series of disconcerting and dark realizations about his character that eventually lead him towards a path of absolution. Typhoid Mary undertakes a journey that eventually unearths a deep, dark secret about their relationship that ultimately leads her to the rationalization that Matt Murdock is the one man responsible for - and almost uncontrollably attracted to - her psychopathic, deviant behaviour. In both cases, it is Daredevil who will dearly pay.
The introduction of Typhoid Mary into Daredevil was tantamount
to the dropping of an A-Bomb onto an unsuspecting city! With legs spread-eagled,
hands brandishing swords, long, braided, flaming red hair windblown and wild, half
her face smothered in thick snow-white make-up, a taut, shapely body encased in an
outfit worthy of a dominatrix, and an odd, deep pinkish skin-tone (resulting from
an unusually high body temperature), Typhoid Mary burst onto the pages of Daredevil
Volume 1, #254 in a story entitled “Heart Attack!” What’s more, her violent actions
and peculiar kinetic and mental traits packed an even larger wallop than her
bizarrely flamboyant, erotic mien. We’re immediately introduced to Typhoid Mary’s
brutal and sexual power over men as well as her unusual abilities to create fire by
sheer will, lift and use inanimate objects as deadly weapons without touch, and
force men into uncontrolled behaviour by simply projecting her thoughts into their
minds. Within the first five pages of “Heart Attack!,” she fought and then seduced
a gangster in an alley, manipulated him to become her willing accomplice, seized
control of a crack cocaine ring, murdered all its members, and joyfully had sex
with her accomplice in the blood drenched room as she simultaneously sets fire to
it. She coldly states: “Mmmmmm...Smell it, piles of cash...HaHaHaHaHa.”
When her accomplice asks if “blood an’ guts gets (her) off,” she simply replies:
“Yup..Let’s have fun (i.e. sex).”
Typhoid’s poisonous injection into Daredevil comes at an extremely unstable and vulnerable time for our unfortunate hero. At this juncture, we are keenly aware of four horrible truths surrounding Matt Murdock’s life: 1) He has already experienced an incredible string of heart-breaking - and often tragic - relationships with former lovers, most recently of which include the suicide of Heather Glenn and the betrayal of Karen Page. His history with relationships, and these two relationships in particular - still relatively fresh and raw - have no doubt left Matt confused (at best) and angry (at worst) with women; 2) His life is currently in an uncontrollable and damaging free-fall; he remains deeply traumatized from the aftershock of the recent chain of events, chronicled in the “Born Again” saga, that destroyed his home and personal possessions, robbed him of his life savings, alienated his closest friends and stripped him of his licence to practice law; 3) He is struggling desperately to rehabilitate the frail pieces that remain of his shattered life - he sets up a fledgling non-profit law clinic, acts as a consultant to other lawyers, and in particular, attempts to mend the broken relationship that exists with his estranged lover, Karen Page; and 4) The Kingpin, still unsatisfied with the damage he inflicted on Matt’s broken life through the Born Again saga, remains obscenely obsessed with finding new, sadistic approaches to further humiliate and degrade his arch-nemesis. Typhoid Mary now becomes the Kingpin’s newest weapon in his insatiable quest.
This time around, The Kingpin’s purpose is to ruin Matt’s desire to achieve a true and lasting love with Karen Page. He demands Typhoid Mary to “...make him love you. Love you like he can’t live without you. Then rip his heart out, and leave him alive and bleeding!”
To achieve the Kingpin’s goal (and thereby collect a cool million bucks in the process!), Mary constructs a plan to thoroughly distract and weaken Matt by simultaneously bombarding him with two contrasting personalities that force him to consume almost all of his time, attention, energy and desires exclusively on her. One personality, Mary Walker, is focused on Matt Murdock and the other, Typhoid Mary, on Daredevil. Mary Walker plays to Matt Murdock’s desires - she is a seemingly kind, gentle, and caring volunteer worker with the blind. She offers Matt her assistance to mentor and train a young blind boy as her inroad to gaining Matt’s affections and trust. But, she is also very sexually aggressive, coming on to Matt at all times and in all public places, including the apartment he shares with Karen. Typhoid Mary plays to Daredevil’s passions - she is outrageous and violent, attacking him on public streets at every available opportunity and constantly taunting him with sexual innuendos regarding his relationship with Mary Walker that leave him totally dumbfounded. Eventually, our troubled hero, already frail from the awful existing circumstances that surround his life, becomes so completely disoriented and confused, his super-senses cannot deduce that Mary Walker and Typhoid Mary are the very same woman.
Mary’s plan works to perfection. She reports to The Kingpin: “...you told me Murdock was so moral. Well, I’m finding him as willing to cheat as any guy. He may live with his little heart-throb (Karen Page), but he’s still hot for Mary.” (Daredevil #256) Sure enough, Matt Murdock eventually succumbs to Mary Walker’s sexual advances. And, although initially regarding Typhoid Mary as “sick and demented and disgusting,” Matt later concedes, in an inspired moment of candid introspection, that “I wanted it, wanted her, her sickness...” (Daredevil #267) thereby confirming his near fatal-attraction to vicious sex games and twisted love.
By Daredevil #263, Matt Murdock is a shattered, defeated man. His duel with Typhoid Mary left him hospitalized, delirious and beaten to near death (the result of a battle with a horde of super-villains Typhoid unleashed on him). More importantly, it turned him into a cheater. His inability to remain faithful to the woman he loves would negatively reverberate throughout the tattered remains of his broken life. The worst was yet to come. With a loyal and loving Karen Page at his bedside, Matt calls out Mary’s name, causing his distraught and anguished lover to run away. As a result, his non-profit law clinic, which Karen managed, permanently shuts down. But more importantly, his dream to mend his broken relationship with Karen Page is now ruined. The frail remnants that remained of Matt Murdock’s horrible life prior to his encounter with Typhoid Mary have vanished with Karen Page. With Typhoid Mary delivering the final, crushing blow, The Kingpin’s victory over Matt Murdock is complete. Matt Murdock’s total capitulation to Typhoid Mary Walker plummets him into absolute destitution and despair. In fact, his world has turned into a figurative and literal hell.
Defeated, defiled and humiliated, Matt Murdock seethes with a burning desire for revenge. However, that will have to come at another time. As angry as he is for the damage inflicted on him, he is too mentally and emotionally frail to fix it. Instead, he recedes into a crestfallen, melancholy state. He heads back to his destroyed home. His burning desire for revenge is replaced by the actual burning of the remains of his life. “Nothing to do with the remains of my life but burn it all,” he says. He ends up burning everything that’s left that once had personal value and importance to him, including Karen’s dress and his law books. He allows a street punk to take his last remaining possessions of material value. “This is a funeral...Mine,” he says. “I’m cremating my remains.” Soon after, he leaves New York city with what is left of his once worldly possessions: $30 in cash, his Daredevil costume, a trench coat and a fedora.
For the next several months (perhaps years!) Matt is seen roaming aimlessly through upstate New York, now in a near catatonic state of mind. His foray into the rural and small town countryside plunges him into a series of strange mishaps and bizarre encounters. Along the way, he temporarily hooks up with Spider-Man. But Spider-Man notices a change in his old friend and ally. In their battle against Blackheart, Spidey observes: “There’s something up. He’s (Daredevil) reckless! Like someone who doesn’t care if he lives or dies!” (Daredevil #270)
Eventually, though, Matt heals. And he goes back to New York. His return is accompanied by a series of rapid fire encounters with arch-rivals Bullseye, the Punisher and The Hand. He also has a short period in which he temporarily loses his mind (a demonstration that he has not - and perhaps never will - fully heel from his initial confrontation with Typhoid Mary). But, nonetheless, his time back in New York seems to build up his strength and resolve to settle his score. Eventually Matt re-appears self-assured and emotionally and mentally fit.
Being blind has forced Matt to become an extremely resilient and resourceful man. Plus, history shows that he is a great student of life who learns his lessons well from his litany of knowledgeable and giving mentors - whether they be his scholarly professors who taught him the law, or the cantankerous and mystical figure named Stick, who taught him to maximize the use of his four remaining hyper-senses, or the youthful and spontaneous Elektra and the stylish and worldly Natasha Romanoff, who taught him the art of making love. Now, his latest mentor, the evil and perverted Typhoid Mary has taught him love on an entirely new, dark plateau: the art of vicious sexual manipulation. And, although he is blind, Matt is capable of seeing and realizing his twisted attraction to it - and to her. Embittered and vindictive and seeking maximum revenge, he will not make the same mistakes again. Next time, he will not lose. Next time, and for all time thereafter, the student will teach the teacher.
Matt’s vaunted morality and ethics - which have framed the core of his existence and manner as a lawyer, a superhero, and a man - will be forced to pay yet another stiff price. His morality has already been attacked and severally challenged by his latent poisonous vices. He has already witnessed and regretted both his inability to remain faithful to the woman he loved and his pleasure at engaging in games of vicious sexual manipulation. Now, his morality will further be eroded by his self-centred and desperate need for revenge against the woman singularly responsible for exposing him to the true, dark underbelly of his being.
To gain his revenge, Matt must turn the tables on his psychotic mentor and play the part of the sexual predator/manipulator. He will make her his victim. He will be as vicious and cold-blooded to Typhoid Mary as she once was to him. And, above all, he must fight to keep his own emotions and pleasures in check. (He notes: “...where we touch--her skin feverish--feeding back into me, my own temperature rising, roiling--enhanced sensation threatening to run out of control--like before, like she says she wants...”) Failure to do so will result in making him a mirror image of his impending victim/former mentor.
What follows is a disturbingly cold-blooded and shockingly calculated scene in the life of our hero. Whereas Typhoid once used Mary Walker in order to seduce and manipulate Matt Murdock, Daredevil will now exploit Typhoid in order to seduce, manipulate and dominate Mary Walker. It has been months - if not years - since Daredevil first encountered Typhoid Mary. In the first part of the “Last Rights” storyline, Typhoid, surprised at once again having to confront Daredevil, is goaded into a battle. The fist-a-cuffs are just Daredevil’s ruse to gain entrance into the Mary Walker persona. His premeditated battle is immediately followed by a falsely loving and tender display of foreplay that first confuses Typhoid and then reverts her into the demure and willing Mary Walker. As the gentle and trusting Mary Walker, she is no match for the spiteful and vengeful Daredevil. He will use sex as a weapon to betray her trust and force her into submission.
To complete the frame-up, he follows his unholy tryst by notifying the authorities of her location and falsifying documents that have her committed for long-term psychiatric evaluation. Mary Walker, now alone and frightened, is left to face the horrible consequences of her shattered life, thanks to the damage inflicted by her co-protagonists, Typhoid Mary and Daredevil. Matt Murdock, fully ashamed of the awful, cold-blooded abuse he has just orchestrated, laments: “I only hope she can forgive me (of) mine (sins)...” He also hopes that one day he can also forgive himself, as he worries if his once vaunted morality can ever again overcome the evil that has taken shape within his own heart.
But Typhoid Mary Walker cannot forgive, nor forget. In fact, the next - and perhaps final - unseemly chapter of their lives together will reveal an entirely new and twisted connection, one that predates their known shared history.
Several years have passed and Typhoid Mary Walker, by-and-large, remains institutionalized. They have not been kind years to her. Over that period of time, she has been repeatedly poked, prodded, probed and even sexually abused. As a kind of defense mechanism against these non-stop violations of her free will and body, new personalities emerged inside her. (See Marvel Comics Presents #109-116, 123-130 & 150-151 and Typhoid #1-4.) As a result, she is perhaps even sicker now than ever before; and perhaps even more angry and vengeful now than ever before. What’s more, the personalities constantly clash for control over “Mary,” resulting in excruciating mental pain. With no help or relief in sight, she hires the mercenary called Deadpool to break her out of her mental hospital (Deadpool #6) and release her from the mental and sexual torture she has been forced to endure. In the process of her break-out, Typhoid Mary defeats the other personalities and takes back control over “Mary.” Typhoid is now out for sweet, deadly revenge, against all the men who have ever violated and betrayed her, including the doctors who analyzed and raped her and the judges who kept her institutionalized. Top among her priorities is of course Daredevil, who sexually manipulated and framed her.
As if the two combatants don’t already share enough personal baggage and hatred for each other, their blood feud gets further fueled and complicated by a startling new revelation that will forever link them together for the rest of their lives. As a result of an accidental reflex in a brawl he was having at the time, Deadpool kicks Typhoid out of a two-storey window. This event, rattles loose in her mind a similar situation that took place many, many years ago. That prior event had long since been forgotten and buried deep within the bowels of Mary’s brain. No more. Typhoid remembers - and she sets off to New York to confront the perpetrator of that prior event: “The Red Man.” This time, Typhoid’s re-entry into Matt’s life is motivated by no mere professional assignment. Instead, it is the result of an all-consuming, uncompromising pent-up passion for personal, deadly revenge.
However, Typhoid’s forthcoming encounter against the “Red Man” will occur during a phase of Matt’s life much different than she has ever witnessed. Unlike the dark and desperate phase that cloaked his life at the time of their first encounter, or the spite-filled feelings for revenge that punctuated his life at the period their second confrontation, Matt Murdock is currently experiencing an amazing professional and personal renaissance. For instance, Matt has been reinstated by the New York Bar to practice law, he has re-established a highly respected and lucrative practice with his former partner and best friend, Franklin “Foggy” Nelson, his alter-ego, Daredevil, remains an extremely popular and respected superhero and, above all, he has successfully rekindled his romance with Karen Page. Even his arch-nemesis, The Kingpin, poses no serious threat to his welfare having gone underground following his humiliating defeat at the hands of our hero, as chronicled in the conclusion of “The Last Rights” saga.
Mind you, in the intervening years since Typhoid’s incarceration, things haven’t exactly been perfect for Matt Murdock. For example, he has had to endure the consequences of some of his own offbeat ideas, most notable of which was the creation of an amoured Daredevil costume. More importantly, he has had to address a series of major personal set backs, such as the exposure of his secret identity, the tragic murder of yet another former lover, Glorianna O’Breen, and the incidence of a second mental breakdown. That said though, he has weathered these storms in fine fashion. In fact, his recovery from his recent breakdown seems to have provided him with a wonderful mental and emotional cleansing. He emerged from it in unusually excellent spirits. He is imbued with confidence and comfortable of his own abilities and identity as both Matt Murdock and Daredevil. So as Typhoid Mary Walker remains mired in deep mental illness, emotional distress and psychotic madness, Matt Murdock has settled into one of the most stabile, healthy and happy periods of his life. It’s as if Typhoid’s wicked downfall - the execution of which almost costing Matt Murdock his very soul - represented the first step in his long rehabilitation back towards a moral and spiritual respectability. Hence, this time around he is in a much stronger and healthier frame of mind to confront Typhoid Mary - and the startling revelation she has in store for him.
Upon hearing of Typhoid’s escape, and perhaps thinking that a good offence results in the best defense, Daredevil does not wait for her to track him down. Rather, he wastes no time in taking the hunt to her. With Deadpool setting the stage, acting as the self-appointed go-between and cheeky, yet dark humoured referee, the two bitter adversaries hook-up for their climatic showdown.
With his hyper-senses stretched to their very limits, Daredevil becomes easy prey in a trap Typhoid sets for him. Anticipating Daredevil’s highly concentrated focus, Typhoid activates a piercingly loud sound that nearly paralyzes our hero. Daredevil collapses to the floor, writhing in unimaginable agony. Never one to miss an opportunity to inflict copious sums of ghastly pain, Typhoid takes full advantage of Daredevil’s weakened state to land a few well placed punches and kicks for good measure. Now immobilized, Daredevil can do nothing except become the unwilling captive audience for Typhoid’s presentation of her dark secret.
In an astonishing declaration, Typhoid reveals that she was the creation of Matt Murdock. She explains that her first meeting with Matt Murdock did not take place at the time she was commissioned by the Kingpin to wreak havoc on his love life. Rather, it occurred many years earlier. It was a freakish chance-meeting that would ultimately change the course of both of their lives. As a “young manling” bent on revenge over the murder of his father, Matt follows the perpetrator into an east end brothel (see The Man Without Fear mini-series #1-5). In the ensuing commotion, young Matt - raw in his abilities as a fighter and still many months removed from the creation of his superhero alter-ego - panics and accidentally kicks a young prostitute named Mary Walker out the window, causing her to fall several stories, presumably to her certain death. The incident, in-and-of-itself, left a black mark on Matt’s soul that he has carried with him for years. However, the girl did not die. Rather, as Typhoid states: “Everything that was weak...died. Everything that is now...was born. Born of him...Born of you, Devil.” As Typhoid fatefully concludes: “There’s always been a bond between us...One so deep even I didn’t understand it...” Consequently, a singular moment many, many years ago, linked to the murder of Matt Murdock’s father, not only lead to Matt Murdock’s formative development into Daredevil but also spawned the conversion of an abused prostitute named Mary Walker into the man-hating monster called Typhoid Mary. A quirky turn of fate resulted in conceiving Daredevil and Typhoid Mary as twins of circumstance, their mutual parent being Jack Murdock, Matt’s father, whose murder formed the yoke for their birth. And fate would continue playing its twisted game on the two combatants. Years later, their relationship becomes an insidious, incestuous game of brutal sexual manipulation and deceit.
But there is more to Typhoid’s astounding declaration. She injects a shocking and impassioned perspective: As a consequence of this one fateful act that ultimately lead to her creation, it is Daredevil who is thus singularly responsible for all the evil she has perpetrated. It is Daredevil who must be made accountable and be forced to pay the consequences.
Daredevil, now recovered from his beating, fights back. In perhaps his soundest state of mind in years, Daredevil is able to reject Typhoid’s illogic. While engaging her in battle, he emphatically “refuses to accept responsibility” for what she became. He will not allow himself to be drawn into any degree of guilt or responsibility for her murderous actions. In a profound moment of mental clarity, he states: “Was I there the first time you took a life? No! You made that choice on your own!...I will always be ashamed over what I did to you, but I will never accept responsibility for darkening your heart. I will not take on the guilt of the crimes you’ve committed. We’re all forced to make choices in the face of pain. I’ve chosen to uphold the light as best as I can, in spite of the darkness. You’ve chosen to embrace it...and nothing you say will ever make me accountable for that.” Typhoid, now exhausted from battle and devastated by Daredevil’s aggressive denial of responsibility for what she has become, suffers a mental melt-down. She collapses into an embryonic position and quickly loses consciousness. Against Daredevil’s better judgement, a sympathetic Deadpool proposes to carry Typhoid away and become her personal care-giver.
On his way out with Typhoid, Deadpool relates to Daredevil the true purpose of this climatic showdown. He states: “Believe it or not, Redman, this was one big therapy session, and you played your part just fine--.” He also summarizes its outcome: “...Mary was after the wrong demon. I had to help her see that...you got as much out of this as she did. Absolution.”