While I always tend to write about things I want to write about on this blog (with the odd exception of some mandatory news reporting), this series of posts – more so than others perhaps – is one I’m putting together knowing that many of you might find it a bit anal. Not all of you – judging by the decent number of people who land on this blog after searching for “Daredevil radar sense” on Google – but probably a majority. And yet, I keep at it. Call it self-indulgence or the simple curiosity to try to understand how writers and artists imagine Daredevil’s most exotic trait, his unique window on the world.
In the last post of this series, I quoted an excerpt from an old Miller interview where he was able to talk about his take on the radar sense, putting words to the ambiguity I know many fans, and presumably a fair share of writers, feel about the radar. I’ve seen some people refer to it as a cop-out, and I’ve seen others who have wanted to see it removed altogether and replaced with something more subtle. What I think Miller was striving for with his talk of a “proximity sense” was to portray the radar sense as something that performs some of the functions of vision, while also being something quite different. He also added his own take on the origin of the sense, seeing it as an innate ability that could be unleashed, or possibly enhanced, but a far cry from Stan Lee’s all-purpose radio-transmitter and antenna set-up. An ability brought out by radioactivity and mysticism while also being rooted in human biology.
Below, I’ll just post some panels that highlight Miller’s take on the radar sense, offering some brief comments when necessary. Feel fee to provide your own comments on how you view Miller’s work in this regard, and how you’d like to see Daredevil’s radar sense portrayed. All panels below are written and penciled by Frank Miller, except Daredevil #185 (penciled by Klaus Jansen) and Daredevil: The Man Without Fear #1 (penciled by John Romita Jr).
Above is FrankMiller’s first issue as Daredevil writer, #168, where he introduces Elektra and has Matt tell her about his abilities, describing his radar: “I’ve even got a kind of ‘radar’, which lets me feel objects around me. It’s not like sight — it’s like touching everything at once!”
Later in the same issue, we see that same radar both penetrate walls and determine the location of the gun relative Elektra’s position. Clearly more than just a “proximity sense” here.
The next issue, Daredevil #169, famous for Daredevil’s fight against Bullseye in the subway, Matt’s senses are torn to shreds by the sound of a passing train. Here the radar is described as waves flowing from the brain while the brain is unreceptive to the signal.
In Daredevil #170, we see Matt coming into work and finding Foggy at his desk. It might seem strange for me to include this panel, but this kind of scenario of having Matt’s radar appear to be more of an afterthought is common in and out of the Miller run (the snoring is more noticeable to him than Foggy’s shape despite his being right in front of him, in a sort of reversal of how us mere sighted mortals would experience the situation). This is also evident in the scenario below, from Daredevil #174…
“And now, my radar is picking up silhouettes to match.”
Later in the issue, after Matt fights off the ninjas, his office is bombed which lands him in the hospital where he wakes up missing his radar sense. The interesting part about it though is that he doesn’t notice that it’s gone until it’s not there to cover his ass.
Even later in that issue, Matt decides to go out and fight without his radar sense (something I must admit always seemed strange to me…). In the panel above he relates this to his experiences right after his blinding accident, talking about the time before his radar developed.
In issue #177, an increasingly desperate Matt finally hunts down his old master Stick so that he can help him get his radar back. Stick explains: “We all got radar. It’s a sense, just like smellin’ or hearin’…”
At the end of the issue, Matt gets his radar back, talking once more about feeling the things around him.
In Daredevil #185, Foggy is the main character of the story, and Daredevil hangs around in the background. First, there is an introductory page where Matt serves as the narrator. Again, what stood out to me here was the wording of “I even have a built-in radar that lets me know where things are around me when my other senses don’t.” (Emphasis mine.) If it seems like I’m focusing a lot of attention on this one aspect, you’re absolutely right. That’s because one of the things I was curious about when I started looking at “radar history” was the extent to which writers portray the radar sense as always being active or dominant. It appears that Miller, at least, often has the radar come into play on an as needed basis, which I thought was interesting.
Finally, let’s skip ahead to 1993 and Man Without Fear (and the reason Born Again isn’t mentioned in this post is because the radar sense is barely mentioned in that story arc). Here, Miller takes a further step away from the literal interpretation of the radar, having Matt essentially notice and respond to air currents. My suspicion is that Bendis’s all-the-senses-together-make-the-radar is based in this notion. Not something I can now for sure, of course, but there are certain similarities.
And thus ends another post on the radar sense. I hope I didn’t bore you to tears, but I have to assume I’m not the ONLY one to find this interesting. Right? Guys?
I will see you tomorrow! It’s a big day, and if you come around these parts, you can test your knowledge of Daredevil trivia with a quiz!