The first meeting between Spider-Man and Daredevil happened in Amazing Spider-Man #16, and it happened early in Daredevil’s career. He is still in his yellow costume in this issue, penciled by Steve Ditko and written, as usual, by Stan Lee. It is also full of unintentionally funny stuff, as well as some enlightening insights into Matt’s senses. We’ll get to all of that, but first let’s look at how the first meeting came about. Why, it’s the classic super-hero saves blind man from being mugged! Not to be confused with not-yet-superhero saves blind man from being run over by a truck transporting radioactive goo… (Clicking an image will make it “pop” and let you view it at full size.)
To save some time getting back to the office, Matt changes to Daredevil and launches into the mandatory explanation of how his powers work. This makes sense considering that Marvel is trying to introduce Daredevil to a wider audience, but who he’s supposed to be talking to within the actual story is beyond me.
Yes, I’m a “Daredevil science” geek (you know it), but I find Matt’s explanation of his senses to be quite interesting. This is the first I’ve ever heard of Matt hearing the shapes of objects and this ability being separate from the radar sense. Of course, this was early in Daredevil’s history, and I don’t think Stan had really figured out the radar sense yet. Maybe he never did.
Meanwhile, we return to what Peter Parker is up to. This is his book, after all. Learning that his presence at the circus will be used to raise money for charity, he decides to make an appearance. This is, of course, just a part of an elaborate scheme to get people to show up, but Peter is a little slow. Oh well, his heart is in the right place.
Foggy and Karen always seem to be on the look out for things to do besides work and suggests that they go to the circus together. When Matt learns that Spider-Man will be there, he suddenly wants to go too. Outside, Peter recognizes Matt as the man he saved and delivers the first unintentionally hilarious gem of the issue
“Hmm… That’s the blind man I helped last night! I wonder why my spider sense tingles so when he’s near?”
It’s because you love him, Peter…
Dressed as Spider-Man, Peter launches into his act. The whole show is run by the villain of this issue, the Ringmaster, who has the power to hypnotize people by using a very special hat. Spider-Man doesn’t know this yet, and just goes on with the routine, clearly numbered above. Very pedagogical, Steve!
Before long, the Ringmaster decides to go ahead with his evil scheme to rob the audience and puts everyone in a trance. Everyone except the blind guy, of course. Matt quickly figures out what’s up and goes into action as Daredevil.
The Ringmaster decides to deal with the Daredevil situation by instructing Spider-Man, now under his control, to fight him off. This gives us a classic hero versus hero fight that lasts much of the issue. I must say though, as far as contrived ways of getting heroes to fight each other go, this one isn’t bad.
Daredevil decides to take the fight to new heights and gives us another peak into how his senses work, or rather how Stan imagines them to work. Using a combination of his senses and deductive reasoning, Daredevil figures out the details of his surroundings.
Finally getting his hands on the Ringmaster’s magic hat, Daredevil manages to take control of the situation and break Spider-Man’s spell.
Ah, here we see Daredevil turning his attention to the Ringmaster’s crew and we’re treated to unintentionally funny gem #2. Yeah, Daredevil rolling into a bowling ball and knocking over his opponents as if they were bowling pins strikes me as pretty funny. It looks great on the page, but it would take more than athletic prowess to make that work in real life.
Feeling that Spider-Man has the situation under control, Matt retreats to his seat. But not before getting dressed, of course. And complaining about it.
Spidey now has the situation firmly in hand and breaks the spell for the rest of the audience. While doing so, he throws out some pretty far-fetched ideas about how the hypnotic hat actually works. It all sounds like mumbo jumbo to me. On the other hand, Reed Richards doesn’t usually make a whole lot of sense either.
Matt ends his ordeal by letting out his inner laywer. He’s not quite an ambulance chaser, but giving the defeated villain his business card is a pretty smooth move.
I may have poke some gentle fun at this story with this post, but one thing that struck me about this issue was how much better written it is compared to most early Daredevil stories. The plotting is tighter, the fight scene is better choreographed, and there is much more attention to detail. We all know that Stan Lee ended up writing an insane number of books per month, aided in large part by the artists themselves in the great Marvel method tradition, but he clearly devoted more energy to certain books.
Thanks for joining me this time, and I’ll see you later in the week!