Marvel’s The Defenders arrives on Netflix, signalling the culmination of the studio’s plan to replicate their ridiculously successful cinematic model on the small screen.
Not only does the miniseries see the return of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist – drawn together to form the eponymous superhero team – but also several of the supporting players from each of their respective series.
Among these familiar faces, without doubt the most mysterious is Daredevil’s former mentor Stick. Unlike fellow guests stars like Elektra or the Punisher, Matt Murdock’s enigmatic martial arts master stands out by virtue of just how little extra information fans of the comics know about him.
He might have been around for over 35 years, but Stick has kept his cards fairly close to his chest, revealing very little about his past during this time. What was his childhood like? Has he ever been in love? Exactly when did he start referring to himself as a fallen tree branch? Your guess is as good as anyone’s!
Still, there are at least some things we know about creator Frank Miller’s modern spin on the “blind samurai” archetype, some of which may have a bearing on the plot of The Defenders. With that in mind, we’ve done some digging and pulled together this list of 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Stick!
15. He’s The Inspiration Behind Master Splinter
Something many hardcore comics geeks – but far fewer casual fans – will be aware of is that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started life partly as a parody of the wildly popular Daredevil comics of the 1980s.
It’s even strongly implied that the radioactive ooze responsible for the turtle’s metamorphosis was the same toxic waste that blinded Daredevil and triggered his powers!
However, it’s not just Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Raphael that owe a debt to ol’ Hornhead – their martial arts teacher (and humanoid rat) Master Splinter was based on Stick, as well!
This affectionate ribbing extends to Splinter and the Turtles’ archenemies The Foot, who are a thinly-veiled, playful dig at Stick’s nemeses The Hand.
14. He Wasn’t Originally Part Of Daredevil’s Origin
It’s hard to imagine now, given how engrained Stick is in the Daredevil mythos, but the martial arts master wasn’t actually part of Matt Murdock’s original origin story!
Prior to Frank Miller taking over the comics, Daredevil’s fighting style was a fusion of superhuman acrobatics and boxing skills picked up from growing up around his father, “Battlin’” Jack Murdock.
It was only following the introduction of Stick – as well as other oriental elements to the mythos, like The Hand – that it was retroactively established that Matt had been trained in martial arts.
This served to dramatically change the tone and direction of Daredevil’s characterization, transforming him into something closer to a brooding, samurai-like figure, unlike his prior swashbuckling self.
Fans seemed to respond well to the change – and to Stick – as subsequent writers in both comics and other media have followed Miller’s lead (although there has been a recent push to slightly lighten the tone of the increasingly dour books).
13. He’s Died (And Been Reincarnated As A Baby)
Whilst death is a pretty big deal in the real world, in comics, it’s very often akin to a bad case of the flu: it’ll put you out of action for a while, but you’ll be back on your feet eventually.
This proved no different in Stick’s case, after the crotchety old geezer sacrificed himself to save Daredevil and Black Widow during a battle with the Hand.
Even though his death – which basically amounted to the mystical equivalent of blowing himself up! – appeared fairly irreversible, Stick would eventually be reincarnated as a newborn baby.
Once the Hand got wind that their old enemy had found his way back to the land of the living, they made it their mission to kill the child.
12. He’s Also Been Resurrected As An Adult
Most people are lucky to be resurrected once, but Stick has actually managed it three times – the second and third as a full-grown adult!
During the third Contest of Champions, alien hoarder the Collector revived the venerable martial artist in order to fight on his behalf against the Grandmaster.
However, Stick’s luck doesn’t last, and he’s later completely disintegrated by a futuristic version of the Punisher. As with his earlier demise, you’d be forgiven for thinking no one could recover from such a mortal injury – but the wily sensei again proves he’s a hard man to kill!
See, fellow contestant the Maestro (aka “Evil Hulk From The Future”) accidentally revives Stick whilst playing around with a crazy-powerful piece of hardware called an Iso-Sphere.
Making the most of his third lease on life, Stick not only survives the tournament, but makes his way back to Earth, too.
11. He Once Cured Wolverine Of His Feral State Of Mind
X-Man Wolverine is well-known for his struggle to control the animalistic side of his personality – and he once had help doing so from Stick!
Having reverted to a feral state of mind and devolved into a dangerous berserker, Wolverine encountered Stick. Seeing that his help was needed, the revered tutor then deployed his usual teaching techniques to cure the Canadian mutant – he flogged Wolverine with his staff and barked snide remarks at him.
Now, you may not approve of this sort of “tough love” approach to mental health care – and in fairness, many would argue that it constituted abuse rather than psychotherapy.
10. His Ultimate Incarnation Became A Vampire
Back in the early 2000s, Marvel launched the Ultimate line of comics: a separate continuity featuring fresh takes on their most popular heroes, stripped of decades of storytelling baggage.
Within this new history, Stick was still depicted as one of Daredevil’s teachers, who (along with a guy named Anthony) trained Matt Murdock in ninjutsu in order to fight vampires, no less (he would, also go on to train Hornhead’s replacement, after Murdock is killed).
Where things really get interesting – not to mention kinda crazy – is when this version of Stick is bitten by a vampire himself, transforming him into an undead bloodsucker as well!
From there, things get even more complicated (and outrageous), but suffice it to say that the blind warrior is ultimately teleported to Iran by Captain America, where he is summarily dispatched by vampire hunter Blade.
9. He Was Portrayed By General Zod
For a generation of Superman fans, Terence Stamp is General Zod, thanks to his iconic performance as the despotic escaped Kryptonian convict in Superman II.
But what a lot of fans might not know – or at the very least, may well have forgotten – is that the acclaimed British thespian also once portrayed Stick, in the widely panned Elektra movie.
A spin-off from the equally maligned Daredevil film starring Ben Affleck, Elektra saw Stick resurrect Jennifer Garner’s titular assassin, after she was turned into a human shish kebab by rival Bullseye.
Similar to the comics and Netflix series, the aged sensei initially tries to take Elektra under his wing, only to cast her out for being spiritually impure.
8. He Didn’t Develop His Powers Via An Accident
As we’ve already established, there’s not a lot we know about Stick. But one thing seems fairly certain: he didn’t develop his powers because of an accident.
Unlike Daredevil – who received his abilities following a head-on collision with a radioactive isotope – Stick claims to have honed his own powers through good old fashioned training alone.
Taking things a step further, according to the Netflix series, Matt’s mentor was actually born blind, making his accomplishments all the more impressive.
Intriguingly, Stick once suggested that Daredevil’s powers (much like his own) weren’t a side effect of the radiation he was exposed to. Rather, he hinted that this merely served to kick-start Matt’s heightened senses – however, frustratingly, the mysterious old coot died before he could elaborate any further!
7. He Was Nearly Played By Sonny Chiba
Stick is brought to life in the Netflix series by veteran actor Scott Glenn, who – with his close-cropped grey hair and gruff voice – is a close match to Frank Miller’s original character design.
That said, Daredevil season 1 showrunner Steven S. DeKnight nearly went in a very different direction when filling the role, as he desperately wanted to cast Japanese performer Sonny Chiba.
A legend of Japanese cinema, Chiba is probably best known to Western audiences as retired swordsmith Hattori Hanzo in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1.
However, fans of international cinema will recognise him as an award-winning actor and skilled martial artist – not to mention accomplished director, singer and producer – who has starred in over 125 films!
Sadly for DeKnight and fans of Chiba’s work, his dream casting never came to fruition. Still, Scott Glenn does a fine job regardless, so perhaps it’s best we appreciate the Stick we have (rather than lament the one we missed out on!
6. He Can Evade Daredevil’s Senses
Daredevil’s heightened senses – including his radar-like ability to detect his surroundings – make it rather tough to catch him unawares.
This doesn’t seem to apply to Stick, though, as the sneaky customer has shown himself able to avoid detection by his former pupil on several occasions!
Much of this can be attributed to Stick’s lengthy martial arts career. The old fella has been making like a ninja for so darn long, his stealth skills are simply off the charts!
And yet there may be more to it than that. As we’ll get into in more detail soon, Stick’s powers often appear to go beyond even the superhuman, landing in the domain of the outright supernatural.
5. He’s 90 Years Old (According To The MCU)
In the Daredevil comic books, we never find out exactly how old Stick is – although it’s taken as a given that he’s no spring chicken.
In the Netflix series (set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe), however, he’s apparently well into his 90s!
This surprising nugget of information comes courtesy of Scott Glenn (who is incidentally much younger at 76), who revealed his character’s age during a promotional interview for the show.
According to Glenn, it’s only thanks to Stick’s ninjutsu background that he’s managed to remain so physically vital despite qualifying as a nonagenarian.
Indeed, the old master isn’t just in great shape for his age, he’s allegedly as strong and fit as someone decades his junior – which explains how he can fight alongside (and occasionally against) young whippersnappers like Matt and Elektra from time to time!
4. His Powers Are Far Greater Than Daredevil’s
Daredevil may not be on the same power level as a true Marvel powerhouse like Thor or the Hulk, but he’s still demonstrated some impressive talents over the years.
This makes it all the more notable that Stick’s own abilities don’t just equal Hornhead’s – they actually surpass them!
For starters, his radar sense is considerably better developed than Matt Murdock’s (whether or not his more conventional senses are also superior is up for debate).
Then there’s the skills Stick has that Matt doesn’t, including several mystical powers developed over decades spent mastering the art of ninjutsu.
Not only is he able to manipulate his Chi (or life force) in order to communicate telepathically with others, he can also undertake other more amazing feats, like fatally draining the life force of his opponents.
3. He’s The Leader Of The Chaste
As mentioned before, Stick has other allies outside of Daredevil – he’s also the leader of the warrior order known as The Chaste. The elite members of this group each possess abilities similar to their boss, and are all just as committed to bringing down the Hand as he is.
They also possess a weird penchant for adopting names based around their key distinctive trait. Hence, Stick goes by “Stick” because he uses a staff, Stone adopted his moniker because of his resistance to pain, and so on and so forth.
The Chaste’s base of operations can only be accessed by climbing an absurdly high, sheer mountain face known as “The Wall” (not too dissimilar from that seen in Game of Thrones, come to think of it).
2. He’s Handy With A Pool Cue
Say you’re a blind elderly gent in need of cash and possessed of a preternatural gift for pinpoint accuracy – your best (nay, only) option is to become a pool hustler, right?
This certainly seems to have been Stick’s logic, as when Matt Murdock crossed paths with his former sensei years after they split, he discovered him making like Paul Newman in The Color of Money!
If you think about it, there’s no better hustler con than fronting up as a sightless person, knowing that your superhuman senses will allow you to school practically anyone you play.
1. Nobody Knows His Real Name
In all the time Stick has been kicking around the Marvel Universe, nobody appears to have learned his real name.
True, the members of the Chaste could conceivably know his true handle, but considering he was their leader and presumably recruited and trained them all, this seems unlikely.
One thing’s for sure, however: Daredevil definitely doesn’t know. Heck, Matt Murdock possesses so little concrete information about his former teacher, they could almost be strangers!
Whilst any chances of uncovering Stick’s name seemed to die with him, his subsequent resurrections do provide a slim hope that this might one day come to pass.
On the other hand, given just how secretive Stick is, it’s far more likely that this will remain one of comics’ great, unsolved mysteries!
Got a favorite bit of Stick trivia that didn’t make this list? Let us know in the comments!
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