When a character has decades of comic book history behind them, their life isn’t always full of bright moments and happy endings. Instead, comic book writers introduce conflict after conflict to keep readers coming back for more. One character who experienced more conflict than most is Karen Page.
Karen appeared primarily in the Daredevil comics since her debut, and as a result, she’s been embroiled in some of the biggest conflicts in the titular hero’s pages.
She’s been kidnapped by his enemies and used as a bargaining chip, manipulated by heroes and villains around her, seen several people she cared about fake their own deaths without telling her, had her heart broken over and over again, and lost her life to protect a hero.
Even in the live action versions of her story, Karen hasn’t fared much better. She’s been framed for murder, kidnapped, and lied to repeatedly. Karen Page could really use a bit of a break.
While we can’t give her the break she deserves, we can tell you just what some of the worst moments in her comic book and screen history are as she joined Frank Castle on the screen in The Punisher with the 15 Worst Things To Ever Happen To Karen Page.
Season one of Netflix’s Daredevil series opened with Karen being framed for murder, kicking off her story arc across the MCU and turning her into the woman willing to help Frank Castle escape a city-wide manhunt in The Punisher. In the comics, her being framed for murder went a little differently.
Mister Fear, a villainous persona taken on by a former law school classmate of Matt Murdock, wanted to ruin the lawyer’s life. He decided to make it appear as though Karen had murdered a policeman, forcing Matt to become her lawyer, but also to make him question Karen and the legal system, messing with his head.
In reality, the policeman who was killed had been stalking Karen. While she was imprisoned during the trial, she was saved from too much danger at the hands of angry guards by Black Widow, who was in disguise in the prison as a favor to Matt. Eventually, just as in the television series, Karen’s innocence was proven and she was released.
After so much heartbreak in her life, Karen got one big hit to knock her down -- quite literally.
Karen was present during a huge confrontation between Daredevil and Bullseye. Bullseye intended to kill Daredevil, picking up the hero’s billy club during the course of the fight, and throwing it at him. Bullseye’s name comes from the fact that his aim is impeccable, so you wouldn’t expect him to miss, but Karen got in the way.
The throw was done with enough force to be a killing blow, causing Karen to sacrifice herself so that Matt Murdock could live to fight another day.
Arguably, having your life ended by a villain should be the worst thing to happen to you, but in comics, there’s always a chance for a resurrection, so there’s still plenty more horrible moments in Karen’s life to come.
In just the fourth issue of Daredevil, Karen Page was already a regular kidnap victim, but the Purple Man didn’t just kidnap her -- he also took away her free will.
Anyone who watched the first season of Jessica Jones knows just how creepy Killgrave AKA the Purple Man can be. He can make anyone do anything he wants. In Marvel’s comics, he wasn’t quite as creepy when introduced as he became in the Jessica Jones story.
He did, however, still get everyone around him to do whatever he wanted. When he appeared in Daredevil, that involved robbing a bank, building himself a civilian army, and deciding Karen was his new assistant.
Karen was never physically harmed during the time that Purple Man decided she would work for him, but she couldn’t do anything unless he wanted her to. No free will of your own is not something that sits well with anyone.
To be fair to Matt, he didn’t even know he was cheating on her. That doesn’t mean it hurt Karen any less, though.
Karen and Matt, after a couple of attempts at a relationship before breaking up, were on unsteady terms when Matt started dating a villain named Typhoid Mary.
Mary was a woman with multiple personalities and Matt, even with his keen senses, saw the different personalities as distinct people when Mary dissociated, so he didn’t realize the woman who had seduced him (under Kingpin’s orders) and he started dating was actually a villain.
Mary and Matt also began seeing each other during a time when Karen and Matt were starting to work together to track down and catch criminals, gradually getting their old relationship back.
Matt even went missing for a time and Karen employed other heroes to make sure he was okay. When she discovered that Mary knew his Daredevil identity -- and everything else about him -- she felt betrayed.
Heroes die and come back to life all the time in the comics, but the friends they have within the pages don’t know that. Karen Page was in for a hefty betrayal when Matt did just that.
During a saga that involved Daredevil’s former flame Elektra having her psyche split in two, there was a demon created by Matt’s blood who took on his human features. When the demon died, he looked just like Matt Murdock, providing him a convenient body with which to fake his own death.
Matt had been on the verge of being outed as Daredevil; every reporter in New York was out to break the story first. Matt decided to escape it all by “dying,” though he didn’t tell Karen, whom he had just claimed to want a relationship with again right before he did it. She was lonely and heartbroken.
As kidnappings go, Masked Marauder and Stilt-Man probably weren’t the worst to target Karen, especially since she wasn’t kidnapped alone.
Just two years into the Daredevil comic book run, Daredevil had fought Stilt-Man, but missed out on turning him in for his crimes thanks to the Masked Marauder recruiting the other villain.
With their particular skill sets, and a helicopter with a force field around it, the villains decided to team up to take down Daredevil once and for all. The ended up kidnapping Karen, Matt, and Foggy Nelson to lure him out, knowing he’s connected to the Nelson & Murdock law firm.
Karen is disappointed in Matt when he tells the villains that it’s his twin brother who is Daredevil, and it’s Karen who ends up putting up the most fight when she thinks the villains have killed him, thanks to Matt untying her hands before he was pushed out of the helicopter.
It’s one of the earliest instances in the comics where Karen had the chance to fight back instead of simply being a damsel in distress, even though she thought Matt died for about 30 seconds.
During a flashback in Karen’s life while she was pursuing an acting career, Karen was approached by plenty of people of questionable ethics who wanted to give her a leg up. During one eventful day, she decided to stop at a roadside bar to clear her head, but she got more than she bargained for.
While she was there, Karen witnessed the Kingpin get rid of one of his henchmen who had betrayed him. In fact, the entire bar witnessed it, and since Kingpin didn’t want anyone turning him in, he tortured and drugged everyone in the bar to make them forget.
It was a harrowing experience for her, but it wasn’t over as the henchman who had been targeted actually survived the experience as well and set out to kill her.
When Karen’s acting career didn’t take off right away, she had a hard time finding work and ended up doing adult films. She got plenty of offers from people who weren’t exactly on the up-and-up to help her out. One of them was a drug dealer who did manage to help her when people were trying to kill her.
Not only did the drug dealer help her escape from people trying to kill her, he also gave her a lift back to New York from the West Coast. Of course, he didn’t do that for free, and as a fan of her “movies,” he told her all he wanted was company in exchange for his help.
The dealer also tried to kill Foggy Nelson when Karen went to him for help, but Matt Murdock was there to save the day, as usual, and the crisis was averted for both of them.
While pursuing her career in Hollywood, Karen’s life took a downward turn, and ended up with the kinds of problems a superhero couldn’t save her from.
While working on adult films and turning to a shady drug dealer for help escaping a killer, Karen began to indulge in drugs herself. Heroin was her drug of choice, and it became nearly impossible for her to kick the habit.
While she was addicted, Karen’s need for a fix was so bad that she even sold information about Daredevil in exchange for drugs. Some of that information happened to be the identity of the man behind the mask, and the information even made its way back to his nemesis Kingpin.
It was Matt Murdock who did eventually help Karen overcome her addiction and the two set out to help others do the same.
Even though television shows about Marvel heroes exist in our world, there are even some that exist within the comics too, as Karen discovered when she was auditioning for acting jobs.
Karen was offered a role on the first season of The Incredible Hulk in a special issue of Marvel Two-In-One, but there were some who didn’t like that very much. It wasn’t that they took an issue with Karen, but with the show itself.
Former stunt performers for the series were unhappy to be out of work, so they kidnapped Karen in some sort of retaliation. Luckily for Karen, the Hulk himself was around to save the day with the help of the Fantastic Four’s Thing, who really wanted his own television show.
Hulk wasn’t so happy to have a show made about him, but he didn’t let that get in the way of his heroics.
About five years into the Daredevil comic book’s run, Karen Page went home to visit her family and discovered that her father had vanished. However, it was a little more sinister of a disappearance than she originally thought.
Karen had a great upbringing. From a wealthy family, she did well in school, was popular, led her high school’s cheerleading squad, and went on to college.
There was nothing particularly sinister about her family, as far as readers knew. It turned out that her father wasn’t the nice guy people thought he was, as his experiments for the government had twisted his mind.
Her father had faked his own kidnapping and subsequent death, becoming the villain the Death’s-Head. He went up against Daredevil when Karen tried to find out more on her visit home.
Of course, he wasn’t all bad as he sacrificed himself to make sure he didn’t hurt Karen in the course of the fight.
After a career that involved adult films and an addiction to heroin, Karen had already been through quite a lot. In keeping with the habit of being tested for STDs thanks to her time onscreen, Karen got regular blood tests, but one came back with a surprise.
Karen was led to believe that she was HIV positive at a time when that was a death sentence. The advancements in medicine weren’t what they are today.
Karen died from Bullseye’s blow before she ever learned the truth, but Daredevil discovered what happened not long after. He was never able to exact revenge on Mysterio either as the villain took his own life before the brain tumor could.
Just when Karen had made a clean break from Daredevil, and long after her father’s death, she ended up getting pulled back into both of their webs in a kidnapping attempt.
Karen had left the East Coast behind while pursuing a career in acting. It was while she was in Los Angeles that a new villain, taking on her father’s Death’s-Head persona, kidnapped her. The villain was obsessed with her father’s research once the Death’s-Head took over and wanted to use Karen to get to the information.
While living in Los Angeles though, Karen had become acquainted with Ghost Rider Johnny Blaze (and was actually a supporting character in his comic book), and he set out to find her in a team-up with Daredevil. Even when she thought she’d escaped the danger of knowing superheroes, Karen couldn’t get away.
As seems to be par for the course with civilians in comic book stories, Karen Page’s life is forever changed when she starts hanging out with a superhero -- even before she knows he’s a superhero.
While some of the tragedies in her life can’t be traced back to Daredevil, so many of the kidnappings she endured were a direct result of her being associated with him, not to mention the many times people manipulated her for their own ends.
If she had never become a secretary for Nelson & Murdock, she likely would have been able to avoid many of the bad things in her life.
She also wouldn’t have been the recipient of a broken heart over and over as Matt Murdock went back to Elektra, refused to give up his superhero persona, or faked his own death. The truth of the matter is that it’s hard to be someone who doesn’t wear a mask when you fall in with crime fighters.
When 20th Century FOX had the screen rights to Daredevil, they cast Ben Affleck in the title role and the lesser known Ellen Pompeo as Karen Page. Unfortunately for audiences, they never got the chance to get to know Karen on the big screen as most of her scenes didn’t make it into the final product.
When it came to relationships, the movie placed the emphasis on Matt Murdock meeting Elektra, and then ending up tangled in her father’s criminal activities. Karen Page was relegated to the background as the receptionist for Nelson & Murdock, the role she originally began with in the comics.
Audiences didn’t get to see Karen get her own live action storyline until Marvel got the rights back and created a Netflix series. While that may have been disappointing for fans of the character, it probably worked out well for Ellen Pompeo, who went on to a leading role for more than a decade on Grey’s Anatomy instead of being known as a girl in the background of a superhero movie.
Did we miss a particular tragedy in the life of Karen Page that you think should have made the list? Be sure to let us know in the comments!
Don’t forget to catch Karen in the latest addition to Marvel’s Netflix series. The Punisher is streaming now! She’s also set to return when Netflix brings Daredevil back for a third season.