Cover to Stan Lee Presents: The Marvel Superheroes (1979)

The first time Mark Waid mentioned a particular Daredevil story from the late 70’s, I was definitely intrigued. When it continued to pop up in interviews, I decided I just had to get my hands on it, particularly since Waid’s reasons for singling out this particular piece of superhero prose was writer Marty Pasko’s (under the pen name Kyle Christopher) impressive ability to get inside Matt Murdock’s head. “Blind Justice” is a 47-page prose story that appears in a book called Stan Lee Presents: The Marvel Superheroes, edited by Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. It was published in 1979 and was the ninth book in a series of Marvel novels.

Because there are no pictures to help tell this story, the writer has to spend more creative energy building Daredevil’s sensory world from the inside than if he had been writing this as a regular comic book which allows for a greater amount of “show and tell.” With no art to hide behind, so to speak, Pasko has to use words to describe what Matt percieves and how, and I have to agree with Mark Waid and say that I’m impressed with the way Pasko accomplishes this.

Of course, Blind Justice isn’t the only prose Daredevil story out there. Having read the Daredevil movie novel adaptation by Greg Cox, along with Madeleine E. Robins’ The Cutting Edge and Christopher Golden’s Predator’s Smile, I can safely say that there is quite a bit of variation in how successfully writers are able to translate Matt Murdock’s unique experience into something we can understand. In this regard, Pasko’s rendition is above and beyond the rest.

“Now he had a sensation of waves creeping out from somewhere behind his eyes. The waves lapped against the sliding door that opened onto the balcony and carried back the flat hardness of plain glass: he had forgotten to draw the blinds last night. He felt warmth and knew that he would not need a heavy jacket today, but the smell of ozone in the air meant he should carry a light raincoat for later. He stood in his darkness and let the sunlight warm him for a moment.”

Another thing that I found remarkable about this story is how mature it seems. These days, I have a hard time imagining that very many under the age of eighteen read Daredevil, but this story is from just around the time Frank Miller took over the book when readers had yet to be acquainted with the darker side of Daredevil and comics in general had more of an “all ages” appeal. In contrast to the comic book title at the time, Blind Justice feels fairly dark.

The appeal of the story rests to a great degree on the general tone and the innovative way of describing Matt Murdock’s world from the inside. The plot itself, on the other hand, is a fairly standard crime story that fails to make a big impact by itself. The few surprises that do exist are mostly in the strange departures from established canon that Pasko introduces. I’m generally pretty open to writers (particularly in a non-canon story) taking liberties with the material if that helps the story, but in this case, changes are made for no real reason. The more noticeable things are that Battlin’ Jack Murdock is described as a father who openly and enthusiastically encouraged his son to take up boxing – the opposite is true in the comics – and that Matt has now been endowed with an ability to tell time exactly without having to check a watch. Does that sound weird? It sure did to me. Classic Daredevil villain The Owl, who appears in this story, has also been given a new civilian name, though this is more curious than jarring.

In short, this was a story that I was very glad to find and one that I can certainly see a writer draw inspiration from when it comes to imagining Matt’s senses. It goes a step further than any other prose Daredevil writing I’ve seen in truly describing the sensory content and make-up of his experiences. Considering how vision dominates the sensory input of ordinary humans (in those of us with all senses intact), it takes quite a bit of creativity on behalf of any writer to take most of that ability out of the equation – save for a crude and colorless sense of space and obstacles – and fill the void with other things. This is where Marty Pasko really shines and if this is indeed someone Mark Waid is drawing inspiration from, I think that’s very positive news for those of us who enjoy seeing writers emphasize Daredevil’s unique physiology.

If you want to check out this book for yourself, you should be able to find it pretty easily through online used book vendors. The ISBN number is 0671820915.