Elektra Natchios is a true antihero: she's dangerous and deadly with a dark past, and she's a woman motivated more by revenge than by righteousness. Elektra has been a presence in Marvel comics since the '80s and she lurks in a gray area between hero and villain, which has resulted in a lot of rich stories. She's an assassin who cuts a striking picture in her distinct red costume, all long dark hair and functionally questionable straps, with her trademark blades in either hand. She once overpowered a mercenary by spitting her own broken tooth down his throat so he'd choke on it. She's hardcore.
Elektra's brutal history has earned her a number of fans eager to see her story done right on screen, especially after the failure of 2005's Elektra. Those fans might finally get that chance in season 2 of Netflix's Daredevil, which plans to introduce actress Elodie Yung as the character. Elektra is known primarily as the love interest and sometime antagonist of Matt Murdock, but there's a lot more to her than that. Given the apt handling of rough-around-the-edges heroines like Jessica Jones, it seems like Netflix is more than capable of delivering on Elektra's viciousness.
Until then, prepare yourself for her arrival with 15 Things You Need to Know About Elektra.
15 She was originally intended as a one-off character
Elektra was originally the invention of comic artist and writer Frank Miller for an issue of Daredevil in 1981. It was going to be her first and only appearance, but Elektra had staying power that had her sticking around long after that initial introduction. That issue (#168) marked Miller's transition from artist to author and also boosted Daredevil's straggling sales. Miller is known as a definitive writer for Daredevil, setting the tone for the comic and introducing many of its most lasting themes.
Visual inspiration for Elektra came from bodybuilder Lisa Lyon but her history was a nod to another comic character, Sand Saref from The Spirit, which was written by Will Eisner. Miller was apparently quite a fan of The Spirit, and even directed the film adaptation in 2008. Sand and Elektra certainly share basic qualities in being the hero's love interest who is on the wrong side of the law, but Elektra is undoubtedly a singular creation.
14 She has a family history straight out of a Greek tragedy
Daughter of Hugo Natchios, the Greek ambassador to the United States, Elektra was born in Greece under disastrous circumstances. While pregnant with Elektra, her mother Christina was attacked and killed, giving birth to her daughter with her dying breath. The specifics of Christina's death have changed over time, with one version attributing her death to revolutionaries and another to Elektra's brother Orestez, who was responsible for hiring the men who killed their mother. Either way, it would have a profound effect on Elektra throughout her life.
And her troubles were far from over. In the same comic which posited Orestez as responsible for putting a hit out on his mom (which would be Elektra: Root of Evil), a young Elektra was being harassed by a group of men when Orestez rescued her, presumably trying to make up for the shame he felt over his part in his mother's death. He was the first to suggest Elektra learn self-defense, starting her on her journey towards being one of the deadliest women in the Marvel universe.
13 Her relationship with her father and the effect his death had on her
After the loss of her mother, Elektra grew incredibly close to her father. In some comic runs, their relationship is normal and affectionate, with Hugo spoiling Elektra with gifts and doing his best to protect her. However, Frank Miller's Elektra: Assassin painted a darker picture; an institutionalized Elektra questioned whether her father had molested her or not, eventually determining that it was a false memory.
As a teenager, Elektra accompanied Hugo to the U.S. and enrolled in Columbia University, where she first met Matt Murdock. It was there that one of the most defining events of Elektra's life occurred: the death of her father. With her father's political position making the family a target, it wasn't long before problems arose; she and Hugo were taken hostage by terrorists and, despite Matt's attempts to help, Hugo was killed. It devastated Elektra. In the wake of the incident, she broke up with Matt, dropped out of school, and left the country to immerse herself in martial arts.
12 Her relationship with Matt Murdock/Daredevil
Elektra appears in Daredevil at a point when their relationship has already been relegated to the past. They met young and fell in love fast, in the way of first loves, but even from that early time, they didn't necessarily bring out the best in each other. Elektra was always something of a thrill seeker, which fed into Matt's – ahem – daredevil sensibilities, and the two had a courtship that involved speeding car rides, jumping off cliffs, and mansion break-ins. Elektra was also the very first person he showed his heightened abilities to.
The loss of Elektra's father was also Matt's first foray into heroics, unsuccessful as it was. In a way, she represents what Matt could have been; they both lost their fathers at young ages under extreme circumstances, but whereas Matt turned towards a life of fighting crime, Elektra went totally off the rails. They've come into each other's orbit regularly throughout the years, but were never able to fully overcome the boundaries between them.
11 She was trained by the same man who trained Daredevil
After everything went to hell in a handbasket for Elektra in New York, she left for East Asia, where her childhood sensei had referred her to Stick, the man who trained Matt Murdock. Stick belonged to a mystical sect of warriors called the Chaste. Despite Stick's abrasive exterior, the Chaste were a good organization determined to eradicate rival order the Hand, who were evil and power-hungry. However, Stick was known for being an exceptionally tough teacher, and Elektra received no special treatment from him; Stick eventually turned Elektra out of the Chaste because she was unable to free herself of her all-consuming anger. After this, Elektra joined the Hand, though she would struggle to free herself from them and eventually became an independent assassin, even fighting the Hand with Matt's help.
Elektra's original introduction ushered in the entire Chaste/Hand conflict, which would become a huge part of Daredevil's arc and, if the recent trailer is anything to go by, will be a huge part of the Netflix series' second season.
10 She’s a mercenary
Marvel has had no shortage of troubled assassins and well-loved mercenaries throughout the years, though Elektra was certainly leading the trend. In Daredevil #168, she first comes into contact with Matt because he's trying to apprehend the very man she's looking to collect a bounty on. She tells Daredevil he can help her or die, and that determination and lack of stringent morals would be an important characteristic for Elektra going forward. "I serve no cause - no law - and no man," Elektra says in her initial appearance. She only serves herself and her needs – whatever those might be at the moment. She will kill if she has to; she will do whatever she has to do.
Elektra is one of Marvel's most dangerous characters and a highly trained martial arts expert. She's known for her use of Okinawan sai, a long blade with a curved handle; a deadly but elegant weapon that she can wield without getting too close. Though she will use whatever is at her disposal, Elektra's most iconic image is that of a red-clad ninja with a sai in either hand.
9 She worked for Kingpin
As an assassin for hire working in New York City, Elektra came to the attention of the Kingpin, the organized crime boss who was an enemy of Daredevil. Unsurprisingly, this brought her into a lot of conflict with Daredevil himself – and with those close to him. The first person Elektra struck out against was reporter Ben Urich, who was investigating the Kingpin. When it seemed like he was getting too close, Elektra was ordered to put a stop to it; she ran him through with one of her blades, but he luckily survived the attack.
Next she was ordered to kill Matt's best friend Foggy Nelson, but despite Elektra's intimidating credentials, she failed at that too. Elektra went after Foggy with the full intention of going through with it, but when he recognized her as Matt's college girlfriend, she couldn't kill him. Elektra wasn't doing a great job at her chosen profession, but she was able to give the Kingpin the one thing he truly wanted: information on Daredevil's real identity.
8 She was killed by Bullseye & resurrected
Taking the job with Kingpin also put Elektra on the villain Bullseye's radar in a bad way. Bullseye had his own history with Kingpin; after several botched attempts to assassinate the crime lord, Bullseye was hired and fired by Kingpin in quick succession after also failing to assassinate Daredevil on Kingpin's orders. Bullseye became obsessed with regaining his briefly-held position as Kingpin's chief assassin, so when he found out Elektra had the job, he went after her.
Even though, up until that point, he had been something of a fumbling hitman (and Elektra was top of her game), he succeeded in impaling her on one of her own sai. Elektra died in Matt's arms (for maximum drama). Her body was later stolen by the Hand with plans to resurrect her in a ritual that would make her totally loyal to them, but Matt and Stone (another member of the Chaste) prevented it. In his grief, Matt tried and failed to resurrect Elektra himself, but unbeknownst to him, Stone was the one to actually bring her back later on. Elektra was supposed to be one of the few comic characters to stay dead, with creator Frank Miller even working out a deal with Marvel to keep her gone, but the character proved too popular to be kept out of the action.
7 She was impersonated by Skrulls
Skrulls are aliens with a penchant for invasion and impersonation that make them incredibly useful for retconning beloved characters' actions. They can change shape to look like anyone, and it's definitely something they take advantage of. In the planned large-scale Secret Invasion, a Skrull named Siri was chosen to take Elektra's place on earth and act as a spy. However, in the process of trying to get Elektra out of the way, Siri and several other Skrulls were killed. Elektra wasn't going to go down easy.
But, unfortunately, alien forces did finally overwhelm her. Another Skrull named Pagon was able to defeat her and send her back to Skrull Ships; while Elektra was their prisoner, Pagon acted as her and took over the Hand, making everyone think Elektra had been totally corrupted. It wasn't until PagonElektra was killed that it was revealed to the other characters – and to readers – that she hadn't been the real Elektra the whole time.
6 Her team affiliations
Although Elektra's temperament might be better suited to being a lone wolf, she actually finds herself teaming up with other heroes and villains on a regular basis. Aside from her attachments to the Chaste, the Hand, and Daredevil, Elektra joined many a superpowered team-up.
Heroes for Hire has been a recurring team-up title since the 70s, when it merged the solo series Luke Cage, Hero for Hire with the canceled Iron Fist title. It became something of a revolving door for mostly street-level heroes, with Elektra joining up in 2010. She was also in the lineup of Code Red and the Thunderbolts (two different but not dissimilar teams) that aligned her with similarly anti-heroic characters like Red Hulk, Deadpool, Venom, and Punisher; they were a team where no one quite trusted each other, but they still got the job done. Elektra also had a notable stretch of time working with S.H.I.E.L.D. After HYDRA and the Hand joined forces to possess and control heroes, Nick Fury hired Elektra to lead the mission to stop them. Which leads us nicely into our next point.
5 She helped out Wolverine
Wolverine was one of the heroes affected in the Hand/HYDRA collaboration, where the plan was to kill heroes and then resurrect them as devoted warriors for their cause – just like they planned to do with Elektra after her first death. Wolverine became a mindless killer in service of the Hand, and Elektra was the one to lead the charge to put an end to the Hand's antics, then to help Wolverine return to his normal self again. Elektra allowed herself to be killed (again) so she could insinuate herself into the Hand's mindless killer army (fortunately, she was able to keep her sanity) and destroy things from the inside.
Elektra and Logan had worked together previously, and were often painted as characters who understood each other, who knew what it was like to be a killer and to struggle with being a hero. Though perhaps an unexpected connection on its surface, through the years Elektra and Logan developed a strong bond. They even have a kid in an alternate universe (Rina Logan, aka Wild Thing).
4 She struggles with mental illness
It comes as no surprise that someone with as dark as history as Elektra's would sometimes have trouble coping. She not only lost her parents young, but lost them under incredibly violent, traumatic circumstances; she may or may not have been the victim of abuse. She suffered constant danger growing up because of her father's high-profile job. She has been institutionalized, struggling very everyday concerns like therapy and her dosage of medication. There have been times in her history where her memories were fragmented and unsure, where she was plagued with dark visions and voices, and she hurt herself in an attempt to deal with it.
Seeing a character who is otherwise as composed, beautiful, and skilled as Elektra battle such normal issues as mental illness can be comforting to some readers. It's the way comics are able to bridge the gap from the fantastical to the mundane, making extraordinary people with extraordinary abilities not so different from those that might be reading their stories.
3 She has vague mystical powers
Elektra is not a hero with superpowers, for the most part; she is exceptional in her dedication to her training and an expert at fighting but she doesn't have any physiological advantages. However, she has grown from just a normal girl who can kick some ass into something more (hanging out with mystical ninjas will do that to you).
Elektra has shown herself to have some telepathic abilities, gained through her association with either the Chaste or the Hand, depending on the day of the week. She has been able to communication mentally with other characters, as well as briefly take over the minds of others – seeing through other people's eyes as a way to track her targets. She has also been able to make others see visions or illusions. But these skills come and go as suit the needs of her given story and whoever is writing her at the time.
2 The 2005 movie was a flop.
Following on the heels of 2003's Daredevil, which earned mixed-to-negative reactions and certainly hasn't aged very well, a spinoff film starring Jennifer Garner as Elektra was produced, perhaps to capitalize on Garner's Alias fame. But Elektra was a complete failure, performing poorly in the box office and garnering mostly negative reviews. The story follows a post-resurrection Elektra (who was killed in Daredevil) being hired to kill a man and his daughter, but ultimately bonding with them too much to follow through on it. It was a thin story with a self-serious tone that was just too flat and humorless, making it not very much fun to watch and robbing it of any emotional shading. Elektra just didn't feel like Elektra.
The unenlightened will generally point to Elektra and its contemporary Catwoman (2004) as examples of why female-led superhero movies don't work, ignoring the margin of error afforded to male heroes (how many Hulks and Spider-Men does one need, exactly?). Elektra was not a good movie by any parameter, but it's probably not as bad as you remember it.
1 She will be played by Élodie Yung in Daredevil.
Netflix's Daredevil did a beautiful job of washing away the aftertaste of the less-than-stellar film, creating a dense, lived-in world that felt true to the characters of the comics. The second season will be bringing in more familiar names (in addition to Elektra, the Punisher will play a huge role) and, considering the good will the series has worked up until now, audiences are eager to see them tackle characters that might not have had a fair shot yet.
French actress Élodie Yung will be portraying Elektra, pictured in promotional shots in a much more demure and practical black ensemble, and she is already receiving early praise for her performance. She seems to have a good grasp on her character too, saying of Elektra, "I think [she] isn't a bad person, but she isn't a good person. She's a person with different traits, with layers, and she's seeking who she is." The recent trailer depicts her as just as dangerous and cool as one could hope, so it seems we might finally have an Elektra that does justice to the character on the page.
Can you think of anything else audiences should know about Elektra before she debuts in the second season of Daredevil on March 18? Let us know in the comments!