Well, it’s been a while since the first installment of this series, that looks at how Daredevil’s consistently hard to pin down radar sense has been imagined over the years. With this chapter, we cover issues from the early teens all the way through Roy Thomas’s run. We’ll be looking at relatively few panels because after the first year and a half of issues of the book, the radar sense seemed to more or less stabilize in how it was depicted, while also largely being absent from the art. There were, for instance, no “radar rings” for most of Gene Colan’s time as a penciller on the book.
Let’s start with Daredevil #13, which was penciled by Jack Kirby John Romita. Daredevil has just lost his powers for the first (though certainly not the last) time. Below, he feels his powers returning, something that is apparently accompanied by a tingling sensation. I decided to include this panel because the “tingling” here is an interesting nod to the original radar sense in Daredevil #1, where young Matt claims that: “I feel a strange tingling sensation when I approach any solid obstacle.”
A few pages later and the radar sense is back in full swing, as pictured below. There are no radar rings this time, but a faithfully rendered image of Ka-Zar, detailed enough to let DD think to himself “I can ‘see’ Ka-Zar rushing to attack me as clearly as if I were truly sighted!” The art below was, of course, yet another take by the artist trying to figure out how to draw the radar sense. In later issues, as we’ll see, the radar goes back do dealing mostly in rough outline.
Below is a sequence from Daredevil #14 (art by John Romita) that demonstrates the radar’s “on again, off again” status as a power, and I’m not sure Stan Lee was really sure what to do with it at this point. As a contrast to the picture perfect image of Ka-Zar, above, DD here decides to just go by the sound of the engine of the car that is just below him.
I have to love his thoughts here: “Lucklily, the high-powered engine is roaring so loud that I wouldn’t be able to miss it even if I had normal hearing!” You’re probably right, Matt. Hearing a car from thirty feet away shouldn’t be a challenge, but go ahead and give yourself a pat on the back.
Below is a panel from Daredevil #15 (art by John Romita), once again showing the ability of the “uncanny” radar sense to also become X-ray vision. It is interesting to note the sequence of events though, the radar sense presumably coming into play only after the other senses have been tapped for information.
Another panel from Daredevil #15, seen below, shows how laughably easy it can be to take Daredevil out when you know how to do it. Going up against the Ox, the radar sense it taken out by, you got it, the shrill sound of a woman’s voice.
“In the next split-second, Karen Page shouts a warning to Daredevil in an effort to help him — little dreaming that the shrill sound of her cry momentarily blanks out the masked adventurer’s radar sense, giving his huge opponent the needed advantage!”
Below is a panel from Daredevil #17 (art by John Romita), included here because it contains a direct reference to the sharpness of the radar (which, quite seriously, has gone up and down depending on the demands of the plotline ever since it was first conjured up). On the other hand, it is an interesting admission on behalf of Stan “I can do everything better than a sighted man” Lee that Matt himself doesn’t consider his radar sense to necessarily be quite as acute as normal vision.
Another thing to notice about this panel is that it is perhaps the only time I can recall, outside of Daredevil #1, of Matt actually using his ability to tell how many bullets are in the gun.
Okay, I admit it, this one (below) probably belongs in another category, possibly in Wacky powers because it’s just that goofy. Daredevil is seen here, in issue 22 (art by Gene Colan), prowling the rooftops of Manhattan looking for the Owl, and thinking to himself: “Wherever the Owl may be holed-up, I’m pretty sure of one thing… He’s nowhere in this vicinity of New York! My radar sense could hardly miss his powerful birdlike emanations!” “Birdlike emanations,” huh? Oh well, I’m sure that made some kind of sense when they wrote it.
Before making a huge leap and skipping about fifteen issues, in which nothing radar-related of any particular interest happens, here’s a look at issue #30 (art by Gene Colan) where Matt is impersonating Thor. That’s right. That’s not Thor. That’s Matt pretending to be Mike being Daredevil dressed as Thor. From his thoughts we gather that he is not a big fan of capes, and that his decision to go without is not just based on an impeccable sense of taste: “Too bad I have to wear the nutty cape! By fluttering this way, it muffles some of the sound vibrations that guide me!”
This and a handful of other sources is what I would point to in arguing that the radar sense has never been definitively defined, as the radar is indirectly described as sound-based in this panel and sounds more like classic echolocation.
The radar rings return! After having been absent for about three years of publication, the rings are back in issue #41 (below, with art by Gene Colan).
I have to love the full page below, from Daredevil #46 (art by Gene Colan). Why? Because it actually makes sense. Stan Lee appears to have really put some thought into this, for once.
First of all, I’ve never been a fan of the radar sense arbitrarily penetrating solid objects. I think it’s counter-intuitive, something of a cheat and completely unnecessary. It’s not that actual radio waves don’t go through walls and the like. They do. However, the also go through people. If the idea of the radar is that you get information about things around you by perceiving an echo (be it electromagnetic, sound-based or something else), then having the signal go through a wall, reflect off of something that’s usually less dense than the wall, and then go back through the same wall with most of the energy intact just strikes me as goofy.
Here Stan Lee does what actually makes sense, he lets Matt gather information about what’s in an adjacent room by utilizing a sound, in this case of the door opening, to figure this out. This actually could work, assuming that the wall that has another room behind it is relatively thin with a lot of empty space on the other side. Thank you Stan for making sense!
“It’s empty, but judging by the sound of the door opening, there’s another room behind it! Having a built in sonar sense can be mighty handy at a time like this!”
Damn it, Stan. You were doing so well. “Something about his electronic circuits must be deadening my radar sense!” Huh? By what mechanism? The panel below is from issue #50, Stan’s last issue as a writer, art by Barry Windsor-Smith.
The story of Starr Saxon’s “plastoid robot,” also featured in the post Death by gym equipment, continued in issue #51 with Roy Thomas as the writer and Barry Windsor-Smith as the artist. I’ve noticed that whenever a new writer comes on board, or when there is a one issue guest writer, Daredevil’s powers tend to take strange quantum leaps in various directions. Below, we see Daredevil once again, gaining the ability to “see” the exact construction of a robot, in great detail (he accomplished a similar feat early during Stan Lee’s run). Don’t ask me how he knows what piece of micro-circuitry is actually the destruct mechanism.
Another panel from the same issue shows a new artistic take on the radar, though I suppose it might be an attempt to draw a headache. Here, Matt is beginning to suffer the first adverse effects of exposure to radiation and his radar and other heightened senses are slowly beginning to fail him. The mysterious man here is Starr Saxon who has just found out Daredevil’s secret identity.
The two panels below, from issues 58 and 63 respectively (art by Gene Colan), have been included here for featuring yet another artistic take on the radar sense where the image of DD and what he’s sensing (though this presumably includes input from all senses) are merged into one panel.
Ah, the gladiator saying hello… Nothing says “nice to see you” like a pair of spinning serrated blades aimed at your throat.
Well, that wraps up this chapter in the eclectic history of the radar sense. In the next installment, we’ll cover the entire seventies from Gerry Conway’s run through Roger McKenzie’s. Frank Miller will get his own chapter after that.