Yes, it’s time for one of these again, because the villains don’t seem to be getting any smarter. With this installment of the series, we’ll even revisit an issue that has already been featured: The first Daredevil annual from 1967. Yes, the issue actually features more than one scene where Daredevil narrowly escapes due to the stupidity and megalomania of his adversaries.
Why, it’s Daredevil versus…
That’s right, the very epitome of silly villains. You know, I always thought his biggest weakness was the fact that the armor doesn’t have knees. Or does it? Okay, we’ll leave your speculations for the comments. Let’s move on.
When Stilt-Man finds Daredevil it’s the former who has the advantage. And the fight continues to go his way, even as Daredevil manages to escape his grip, as seen below. Oh, and isn’t it cute how Matt has a sore toe? Yeah, he hurt that one earlier.
This isn’t one of those “I’ll kill him later so I can do it in style” scenarios. It’s the “this is way too easy.” I can see why certain supervillains would like to take this route (at least early in their careers before they’ve been foiled by the same hero a dozen times). Stilts is feeling like he’s on top of the world – in more ways than one – and we all know how that over-confidence can go to a person’s head. Here’s how the situation unfolds.
“In fact, so sure am I of my power that I shall descend to your height for my final attack.”
Ah, what would a superhero do without these little problem-solving buttons? Thank you Stilt-Man for so graciously contributing to your own downfall! Silver Age villains, you’ve gotta love ’em. 😉
I may be cheating a little with this installment of the “indecisive villain” series, since Doctor Doom isn’t actually trying to kill Daredevil, but the plot is contrived enough that it makes the list anyway. The scenes we’re going to look at are from Daredevil #37, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, the issue which forms the first part of the two-parter in which Daredevil and Doctor Doom change bodies.
For a brief comment on the absurdity of one of these plot points, see my previous post “DD stands for Doctor Doom”. Here we are just going to look at the cat and mouse game that got Daredevil into Doctor Doom’s body in the first place…
It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and it’s not for lack of trying, but because villains seemed to be getting smarter after the first few issues. I had to keep browsing until Daredevil #32 (volume 1) before finding another solid example of a villain putting off killing Daredevil – due to megalomania or faulty logic – and giving our hero just the time he needs to escape.
Rarely do I find myself actually laughing out loud when reading a Daredevil comic, and that includes most of the Silver Age goofiness. But Daredevil #9 really is that funny. And it knows it’s funny. Daredevil himself is written in that self-aware way where he’s found commenting on some of the more absurd parts of the plot. This kind of tactic doesn’t always work, but it works fine here. It is more the absurdity of the plot than the villain’s failed plans at murder that that made me include it in this series, but it’s just so funny, I couldn’t resist.
So, what do we need to know? Well, Matt has agreed to have eye surgery after Karen went behind his back(!) and contacted the appropriately named Dr. Van Eyck, a Boston eye surgeon who has recently moved to the “tiny principality” of Lichtenbad. Karen’s meddling goes even further and she sets up a meeting between Matt and his old law school acquaintance Klaus Kruger, former exchange student and current ruler of Lichtenbad, hoping that he can unite Matt and the famous Dr. Van Eyck. When Matt and Klaus meet in his office, we are treated to some interesting tidbits: 1) Why is Klaus Kruger twice the size of everybody else?, 2) Why was Klaus playing around with test tubes as a law student and 3) Why would Klaus seem surprised to hear that Matt had lost his sight when he was already blind by the time he started college? Then again, continuity gets confusing a full nine issues into a new series, doesn’t it?
First off, sorry for the slight delay in my posting schedule. I’ve been a little busy lately (and some of it is due to DD stuff which will pay off later), so in the news department, I’ll just direct you to the Marvel Psych Ward link I posted earlier as well as to the Mondo Marvel panel at Comic Con International in San Diego where Joey Q made a couple of Daredevil-related comments.
Now to the more pressing issue of Electro getting his second chance to kill Daredevil. Once again, he can’t quite seize the moment. Let’s have a look:
Daredevil versus disgruntled baddies Electro and the Matador, both of whom have been mentioned in this category before. Later on in this issue (by Stan Lee and Gene Colan), the first Daredevil annual from 1967, Daredevil will also encounter the Gladiator, Stilt-Man and Leap Frog.
Ah, this time Daredevil is really just faking it, taking a break after being zapped in the shoulder by Electro. This adds to the humor of the situation as even the hero himself is surprised by the villains’ departure and had counted on them getting closer. But Electro and the Matador don’t know that Daredevil is not quite as unconscious as he appears to be and seem content to just leave him helpless on the ground, though still very much alive.
When even the relatively pacifistic Matador (see his and Daredevil’s earlier encounter) questions Electro’s decision to move along, you know there’s a problem: “But, why not finish him off now, while you have the chance?” Exactly. Good question. However, Electro seems to have the same problem as he did before. He’s like a cat who wants to play with his prey before he kills it; except that he also has to dress it up in sequins and fancy party hats. Everything has to be spectacular with this guy. Which, if I may consult my inner amateur psychologist, suggests that he’s really just very bad at committing to anything, and dreads having to make a decision which forces him to come up with all these excuses for why things can’t be accomplished in the here and now. Well, I guess we should all be grateful since ol’ hornhead is still with us.
So, the last time Daredevil found himself at the mercy of a villain was… last issue. That’s right, in part two of this series we paid a visit to Daredevil #4 and now we’ve reached Daredevil #5. Let’s analyze…
Daredevil vs The Matador, easily one of the silliest villains of Silver Age Daredevil (and that’s saying a lot).
Daredevil gets into a fight with the Matador at a costume party. The Matador uses his most powerful red blanket to stop our hero in his tracks by throwing it over his head, causing Daredevil to feel “the way an ordinary sightless man might feel in a battle!” At this point, our ridiculous themed villain is free to do as he pleases with his vulnerable adversary, which leads us to…
In the Matador’s defense, he really isn’t trying to kill Daredevil and doesn’t seem quite as homicidal as some of the nut jobs Daredevil has come into contact with thus far in the series. However, the I-just-want-to-ruin-your-career excuse seems a little far-fetched. In his own words: “Causing you bodily injury will afford me no pleasure! It pleases me to humiliate you instead… as a lesson to others! — And now, farewell! It is unlikely that we shall meet again! For I feel the Matador has ended your career, most emphatically!” Of course, this raises all kinds of new questions. Why does he talk about himself in the third person, and what career does Daredevil have to speak of at this point?
To everyone’s relief, Daredevil manages to get back at the villainous bullfighter, later in the issue, thus saving his career and his self-esteem.
You know how the baddies won’t just kill the good guy even when there’s a golden opportunity to do just that? Well, this has happened enough times in Daredevil history to warrant its own series of posts, starting right here. Be warned that this ride through the history of the contrived may cause headaches and nausea and may not be suitable for our more sensitive readers.
The poorly conceived plot device of having the villain not kill the hero for reasons that defy all logic was used as early as in Daredevil #2 (by Stan Lee, with pencils by Joe Orlando), an issue that seems to have been plotted out in full during a brainstorming session that might have lasted all of five minutes. Let’s analyze the situation below…
Daredevil vs Electro
Why “the kill” would be easy
Daredevil has been knocked unconscious. In Electro’s own words: “He struck his head against the giant dumbbell! He’ll be unconscious long enough for me to make sure he can never interfere with Electro again!” Electro obviously has the means and the motivation. So what’s keeping him?
Electro is clearly a megalomaniac with illusions of grandeur. He doesn’t want an easy kill, he wants to execute people in stolen space craft, wasting hundreds of gallons of rocket fuel. He wants everyone to know he can stage a death like no one else. In his own words: “I must find a fitting fate for him… One worthy of the ingenuity of the master of electricity! Here, among the marvelous possessions of the Fantastic Four, I’m sure to find what I want! Of course! Here it is!! How perfect! How simple… And how foolproof! Here is the world-famous skyscraper rocket launcer of the FF!!” How simple? Geez, if you wanted a theme-appropriate death that would have the whole town talking, how about just letting him take a swim with a hairdryer?
As we all know, letting him live was a big mistake, though apparently not big enough to keep Electro from making the very same mistake again in a later issue. But that’s for another day.
While I’m busy with work and feel like I’m about to drop dead every evening when I get home, I haven’t had the energy for anything really deep or insightful lately. I hope you’ll forgive me. Instead, I thought I’d just post a couple of panels that are more in the goofy and weird category.
Way back some forty years ago, when Stan Lee was still scripting too many books every month, it apparently seemed like a good idea to do some body swapping. And as far as the body swapping went, it must have seemed like a good idea to have the Man Without Fear switch bodies with a certain megalomaniac Latverian dictator.
Daredevil #37 and #38 were part of a cross-over with the Fantastic Four which, though enjoyable in its inherent quirkiness, suffered from illogical plot points galore. The last page of Daredevil #37 saw the actual body switch and us readers were forced to marvel at the fact that Matt, suddenly occupying the body of Victor von Doom, would be more surprised by seeing his hands “encased in metal gloves!” than the fact that he’s actually seeing them. This slight goof seems to have occurred to Stan between issues, so he makes sure to make up for it in the next issue. Doom himself, however, now walking around in Daredevil’s body and costume, seems a little dense, offering the following psedo-scientific explanation for his altered perceptions. Isn’t this guy supposed to be a genius?
I’m going to go hit the sack, you guys take care. For more on these issues, check out the summaries available on The Matt Murdock Chronicles.
While we usually think of major events like divine intervention or – in the Marvel U – a visit from Dr. Strange or Mephisto as being more typical instances of a deus ex machina plot device, the term actually has a somewhat broader meaning. From Wikipedia:
“The phrase deus ex machina […] describes an unexpected, artificial, or improbable character, device, or event introduced suddenly in a work of fiction or drama to resolve a situation or untangle a plot.”
Comic book history is full of these kinds of events, and Daredevil history is no different. I would even say that Daredevil’s senses have historically been used as deus ex machina devices on many occasions. Examples of this would be his radar sense suddenly detecting a hidden destruct mechanism just as our hero is to be robot snack. However, more traditional cheats have also been common. The below sequence of panels, from Daredevil vol 1 #91, is from the storyline by Gerry Conway which introduced Larry Cranston as Mr. Fear. What we have here is every lazy writer’s best friend – the magically appearing antidote!
All you need is foresight, apparently. An advanced degree in chemistry, a lab, a way of analyzing the chemical agent you seek to counteract, or a way of testing your antidote are all totally superfluous. I’m suddenly getting an image of Matt, Natasha and Ivan preparing this antidote on the stove while waiting for their dinner roast to cook in the oven. Too bad Matt doesn’t remember the recipe, in which case he could tweak it a little to work on Cranston’s new goods. I guess it just ain’t the good ol’ days anymore.