Book excerpt: “The In-Betweeners”

A really creepy shot of Mole Man, from Daredevil #9 by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera

Once again, here is an excerpt from my book, which I’ve been working on pretty diligently over the last two-three months. I’m having so much fun with it! Just like my first excerpt, this one is also from the first chapter and looks at the case of Mole-Man and why characters with partial sight are so rare in fiction. My next post will focus on something else entirely, and be a review of sorts of what I consider to be one of the strangest issues of Daredevil ever published: Daredevil #162!

Attentive readers – especially those of you with a knowledge of the Marvel Universe exceeding my own – may have noticed the absence of a certain character from the preceeding list of blind heroes and villains. He is a short, homely sort of guy who surrounds himself with monsters – most of his own making – and has made a home for himself far under ground. I am, of course, thinking of the Mole Man, also known as Harvey Rupert Elder, the first official villain of the Fantastic Four!

There are a couple of things that make Mole Man particularly noteworthy, and relevant to the the topic of this chapter. The first is that Mole Man is the first Marvel character to possess a “radar sense,” and the only such character besides Daredevil. Mole Man made his debut in Fantastic Four #1, which hit the stands in the fall of 1961, and thus predates Daredevil’s first appearance by over two years. With this timing of events, one can imagine that at least some of the thinking that went into the creation of Mole Man was repurposed for the creation of Daredevil.

According to his origin story, Harvey Rupert Elder was a man ostracized from his community on account of his hideous appearance. When he could stand this treatment no longer, he went in search of the center of the Earth. Yes, the literal center of the Earth. As one does. Finding at last a deep cavern on the aptly named Monster Isle, Elder fell to the bottom of the hole, and, upon regaining consciousness, discovered that he had lost most of his sight. Being trapped underground, “like a human mole!” he took up the Mole Man moniker and “carved out an underground empire!” When he meets Reed Richard and Johnny Storm of the Fantastic Four, Mole Man describes his newfound abilities as follows:

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Book excerpt: “Doctor Mid-Nite”

Dr. Mid-Nite perching on the top of a building, as seen in Secret Origins #20, by Roy Thomas and Mike Clark

As promised, I will occasionally be posting excerpts from my book. The first chapter is tentatively titled “Literary Origins” and discusses the way blindness has been conceived in myth and fiction throughout human history. Of course, there is a particular focus on the surprisingly common practice of ascribing special abilities to the blind. One part of the chapter deals with other blind superheroes, and below you’ll find what I have to say about Dr. Mid-Nite. I have written one previous post about this DC Comics character, but the longer treatment you find here is more in-depth. It has the added bonus of mentioning infrared light, which also ties in nicely with my last post.

Matt Murdock is not the only blind character with enhanced abilities, even in his own comic book. And, while Daredevil is by far the best-known blind superhero today, particularly after the success of his recent television show, he is not he the only one to fit that description. Nor was he the first. That distinct honor goes to the DC Comics character Dr. Mid-Nite who was created in 1941.

The original Dr. Mid-Nite, known in his civilian life as Charles McNider, made his first appearance in All-American Comics #25, written by Charles Reizenstein with art by Stanley Josephs Aschmeier.

At the beginning of his origin story, McNider is introduced as a physician and researcher. Within the first couple of pages, he is called on by the police to treat a mob informant who has been badly injured. While McNider is treating him, a gangster affiliated with the local mob boss appears, throws a grenade through the window, killing the man Dr. McNider had just miraculously saved, and permanently blinding the doctor himself.

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Did you catch the Daredevil season 2 references to the 2003 movie?

I have a few days off for Easter which is when I intend to start tackling the individual episode reviews. First though, let’s do something quick and fun. While the word “fun” (other than as a synonym for entertaining) may not be the first word that comes to mind when you think about Daredevil’s second season, it does have at least some humor in it.

There’s also a subtle running joke in the form of references to the 2003 Daredevil movie. Here’s a list of the seven moment that stood out to me, in chronological order. Some of these are subtle, but I don’t for a second think that they are accidental. Did anything else stand out to you guys? Put it in the comments!

“Watch it, asshole!”

In one of the very first scenes of the season, Matt and Foggy are walking down the street when Foggy bumps into a woman who yells at him to “Watch it, asshole!” This scene is eerily – and, if you ask me, not coincidentally – similar to a scene in the Daredevil movie. In that version of events, we see Foggy (Jon Favreau) guide Matt (Ben Affleck) across the street when they are yelled at by a driver who is forced to step on his brakes to avoid hitting them. The line used is the same, but it the original version, Foggy has a snappy comeback.

Matt and Foggy are told to "Watch it, asshole!" by a woman Foggy bumps into, as seen in the first episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Nelson & Murdock being paid in fruit and pie

Also in episode one, we learn that it’s apparently a common practice for clients to pay their legal fees with goods rather than standard currency. This is not something I can remember ever seeing in the comics, but it was definitely featured in the 2003 movie. Now, we’re talking bananas and baked goods.

Nelson & Murdock are being paid in fruit and baked goods, as seen in the first episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Matt and his wardrobe

This one, from the beginning of episode four, is very subtle. Including a scene of Matt picking out his clothes in the morning is not that strange, but there is something about how this scene is shot, and the simple mechanics of it, that instantly reminded me of a very similar scene of Ben Affleck’s Matt doing the same thing. I may be reading too much into this one, but I do suspect this scene is yet another nod to the 2003 movie.

Matt picks out a shirt to wear, as seen in the fourth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Love scene in the rain

Matt and Karen have a scene together in the rain, at the end of episode four, that is similar enough to the one with Matt and Elektra in the Daredevil movie that I half-expected him to “see” Karen by the sound of the rain drops. Our “new” Matt doesn’t, but the show’s creators do play with the imagery of the drops falling on Karen’s skin. There is no way the similarities are a coincidence.

Matt and Karen stand together in the rain, as seen in the fourth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

The ballroom scene

In the flashback to Matt and Elektra’s first meeting, there is a scene detailing Matt walking across a busy room to find her at a party that is very similar to the scene in the Daredevil movie where Ben Affleck’s Matt finds Elektra, then played by Jennifer Garner, at a formal event. While it doesn’t use the same blue radar effect as the original, the sounds and other effects are very similar, as is the camera position and general sequence of events. Coincidence? No way.

Matt finds Elektra, as seen in the fifth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

The “playground scene”

Remember the infamous playground scene from the Daredevil movie? Of course you do. Matt and Elektra sparring in the ring at Fogwell’s has none of the corny elements of the original – and makes a lot more sense – but they are play fighting, and it’s also in this scene that Matt reveals his abilities to Elektra. Look at it as the playground scene done right. 😉

Matt and Elektra sparring, as seen in the fifth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Fight Club

“Maybe you are an alcoholic, maybe you’re in a fight club, maybe you are sleeping with a whole harem of women. I don’t care. I’m done.”

I remember reading somewhere that Jon Favreau improvised the bit about Matt being in a “fight club,” when they shot the coffee shop scene we know so well from the 2003 movie. I’ll go out on a limb here (not really), and say that when Karen mentions Matt being in a fight club, in reference to the very same movie, it was carefully planned and scripted. The line above is from this scene, from episode eight.

Karen makes a reference to the movie Fight Club, as seen in the eighth episode of season two of Daredevil on Netflix

Let me know if I missed anything!

Female features and muddy shoes

Hey gang! Don’t worry, I’ll let you in on what’s hiding behind that mysterious title in a little bit, but first I just wanted to let you know that I made another (two!) guest appearances on the Fantasticast podcast with Steve and Andy. The Fantasticast is all about the Fantastic Four, as you might imagine, but since the Marvel Universe is all kinds of connected, I’ve had the great honor of being invited whenever the FF and Daredevil collide.

In the first of the two episodes I was in, we devote the entire 90 minutes to four issues of Daredevil (#36-39) that lead feature the FF and leads into Fantastic Four #73. The second episode is devoted to that very issue, which also features Daredevil. So check those out!

Let’s get back on schedule. Today I’m looking at two scenes from Daredevil #93 (vol 1), by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, for no other reason than that they are different kinds of hilarious. For some background information, this issue takes place when Daredevil and the Black Widow were sharing both the title and a rented house in San Francisco. At the start of the issue, Natasha attacks Daredevil after having been hypnotized (along with old associate Danny French with whom she cooperated on the mysterious Project Four) by madman Damon Dran.

In a rather startling case of Daredevil being jumped from behind and not immediately recognizing Natasha – for some reason, he doesn’t use her heartbeat, and it would be another few years before Frank Miller came along and started actually using Matt’s nose – he attempts to figure out his attacker’s identity. This includes feeling the features of her face to make sure he’s really dealing with a woman. I don’t know about you, but I could think of others for him gather that kind of information. 😉 Either way, there’s something rather amusing about these two pages.

Daredevil is attacked by the Black Widow, as seen in Daredevil #93 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan
Daredevil feels the Black Widow's face, as seen in Daredevil #93 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Later in the same issue, Daredevil has managed to subdue his girlfriend and carry her back to their house. This is when he goes into full C.S.I. mode. You see, there’s mud underneath Natasha’s shoes. Mud! And it hasn’t rained in San Francisco in a really long time. And it’s not as if there are any sprinklers, lakes, fountains or any other sources of water within the city limits that might translate into local deposits of wet dirt. Obviously, she must have been in Oakland. Where it rains, apparently.

Next, Matt calls fellow attorney Sloan to check if he knows any creepy, and possible deranged, rich people who live in Oakland. And of course he does! Ah, don’t you wish all crimes were this easy to solve? 😉

Daredevil does some quick detective work, as seen in Daredevil #93 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Well, that’s it for now! See you later in the week for a review of Daredevil #4. Now, you didn’t miss the preview, did you?

This time, it’s a cop!

As previously demonstrated, early Daredevil made a habit of assaulting innocent people. One reader even joked that this behavior is clearly still an issue after he gave a similar treatment to the little girl he had just rescued in Daredevil #1. In his defense, there are situations where the ends not only justify the means but are even in the best interest of the “victim” in question. On the other hand, the scenes where he stole a man’s coat and left his law partner unconscious in an alley in a fictional country in South America are just jerk moves. Necessary? Maybe. I still say Matt got a little slap happy there for a while. 😉

In the panels below, a page and a half of Daredevil #90 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, is another case of Daredevil doing exactly what he pleases. What’s odd about this scene is that his “victim” in this case is A) a cop, and B) someone who clearly doesn’t mind getting punched in the face. I’m sure people could write entire essays about the view of masculinity that’s on display in this scene. I’m more confused by how a case of property damage (which Daredevil has clearly confessed to and seems more like a civil matter in this particular instance) would lead to his arrest. And why does he have to hit friendly Paul with such a heavy punch? You’d think a simple shove would and some turned-over furniture would do the trick in facitlitating his escape.

And for those who are curious about how Matt ended up screaming at the “sight” of an old lady, I’ll let you in on a little secret: Mister Fear!

Daredevil having coffee with his cop friend Paul, from Daredevil #90 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan
Daredevil hits his cop friend Paul, as seen in Daredevil #90 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

While Lieutenant Paul Carson seems just a little too happy to have a superhero punch him in the face, I wouldn’t mind a little cameo appearance from this guy in the near future, now that Matt is back in San Francisco where this story takes place. Make it happen, team Daredevil! 😉

Wacky Power #24 – Another case of flight radar

Welcome back to another installment in the Wacky Powers series in which we look at Daredevil doing truly strange things. Once again, we’ll be looking at a case of Daredevil using his radar sense as bona fide flight radar. Thankfully, we haven’t seen much of this strange power for the last forty years, but it kept rearing its strange and ugly head from time to time, during the first ten.

What makes the scene below, from Daredevil #85, particularly hilarious is that it’s clear that the actual pilots of the Boeing 747 that provides the stage for this issue, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, are clearly within visual range of where they decide to land. Daredevil asks them to take the plane lower so that his radar sense can do its magic, but that would also allow for them to get the plane down safely just by looking at the terrain. In essence, they should be looking out the window, not at Daredevil while acting completely helpless. Also, what the hell is Daredevil doing trying to tamper with the equipment?

Daredevil assists in landing a Boeing 747, in Daredevil #85 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

For me, there are two major problems with the suggestion that Daredevil’s radar sense could act as flight radar. The biggest one has to do with the science of it (or lack thereof), which I’ll return to below. But, just as importantly, every time Daredevil is called on to do something this extreme, it also introduces some major inconsistencies into how the character normally behaves.

Even in early Daredevil, the radar sense is very rarely used to detect anything that is very far away, say farther away than a city block. On the contrary, there is a strong sense that it has a limited range, and the Marvel Universe Handbook states explicitly:

“Its resolution is not very fine, probably on the order of several feet at a distance of one hundred feet. By repositioning his head and adding input from his other senses, Daredevil is able to resolve the image of an average flagpole (three inch cylinder) at a distance of over 80 feet.”

While there is good reason to take most of what’s written in the MUH with a grain of salt (I have no idea whether creators are in any way required to abide by it – I suspect not – and it also contains highly questionable information pertaining to how the senses work in real life), it at least gives us some idea of what Marvel considers reasonable.

The biggest problem is that, provided that we assume Daredevil has an actual radar sense (rather than a metaphorical one), he has to generate his own signal. Regardless of whether this is some kind of high-pitched sound (i.e. sonar) or radiowaves, the intensity of the signal fades pretty quickly, in accordance with the inverse square law. This means that, in order to reach very far, the signal has to be strong. This in turn requires a lot of energy. Even if we imagined that the radar sense had the output equivalent to a 40 W light bulb, that would require almost 1000 kcal per day of just to fuel the radar. Which doesn’t sound too unreasonable. It’s probably a great way to lose weight, but it’s just not something that you could use to land a jet. 😉

You might argue that it’s superhero comics, so anything goes. But I don’t think even comic book publishers and creators agree with that, or else they wouldn’t feel compelled to try to explain how it is that certain characters can fly (such as by suggesting a mystical external power source). The explanations are always bogus of course, but there always needs to be at least an attempt at addressing the issue to allow readers to suspend their disbelief.

And, characters need to abide by the rules that have been laid out for them, or else the illusion that these stories make sense start to break down. If Matt Murdock started sticking to walls for no reason, and Peter Parker woke up on morning and started hearing heartbeats, readers would like to know why. And, given the usual parameters of Daredevil’s power set, we really shouldn’t expect him to be able to land airplanes. That’s just wacky.

Ivan the Terrible

Hey gang! I haven’t been as lazy as it seems, I swear. I’ve been working on a massive essay-type post that isn’t quite ready to post yet, so here’s a little something to entertain you (hopefully) in the mean time.

I went to see the new Captain America movie yesterday (I really liked it!), so at first I thought I’d post something Natasha-related. Then I realized that there are some delightful absurdities involving Matt’s first meeting with her chauffeur Ivan that needed to be ridiculed.

So, let’s go back to Daredevil #82 and #83, both written by Gerry Conway with art by Gene Colan and Alan Weiss, respectively. It starts something like this, on a page that follows the one discussed in another post, incidentally:

Matt finds a man in his home, from Daredevil #82, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

The scene begins with just some minor absurdities, such as the fact that blind people don’t generally use a cane in their own homes and aren’t expected to (a common head-scratcher in early Daredevil), as well as the weird notion that Matt wouldn’t notice if there was someone in the room watching him. He can easily hear heartbeats, not to mention relatively louder breath sounds, and it’s unlikely that someone would have had the time to mount some kind of elaborate camera equipment for remote viewing.

I also have to wonder why Matt would study the man’s features just to fool somebody else if it actually takes touching his face to determine that he doesn’t know him. Hm, I probably think too much… I love the brillo pad description though! And there’s also the colorful and semi-offensive mention of ”harsh peasant features” (seen below). 😉

Matt finds a note about the Black Widow being kidnapped, from Daredevil #82, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Matt now rushes off to save the Black Widow who has been kidnapped by the Scorpion. The trio end up fighting on the top of a tall building and just as the villain falls to his death while Natasha is trying to save him, the most annoying crime scene witness ever shows up in time to misunderstand the whole thing and accuse her of murder.

Which brings us to Daredevil #83 and Daredevil returning home to realize he forgot about Ivan lying unconscious on his floor. No Matt, you didn’t “almost forget,” you pretty much just left the guy there. But we understand, Natasha was more important. Anyway, this is where things start to get weirder…

Daredevil comes home to Ivan whom he left on the floor, from Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss

Somewhere along the line – I forget where – Ivan entered the conversation between Matt and Natasha which means that Matt has put two and two together and figured out that the man in his home is Ivan. But, the two haven’t been formally introduced so it’s perfectly reasonable that Matt would ask Ivan who he is.

Oddly enough, this seems to confuse Ivan who concludes that the only reason Matt would ask who is is because he’s blind. Unless Ivan is a very well-known public figure, this makes absolutely no sense at all. Things go from weird to violent, however, when Ivan learns that Natasha has been arrested…

Ivan goes nuts in Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss

Really, I don’t care how distraught Ivan is, this is not normal behavior. Ivan needs a psychiatric diagnosis or at the very least some serious anger management therapy.

At the realization that he’s hit a blind man, which I think is presumably more frowned upon that beating up a kid with glasses, he comes to his senses. Matt meanwhile, is amazingly forgiving.

Matt relates to crazy Ivan, as seen in Daredevil #83, by Gerry Conway and Alan Weiss

The scene ends with some odd ideas about manhood, and Matt going all wordy and overly dramatic on us, which was something he did quite a lot during Gerry Conway’s run. In his defense, I think Conway was still a teenager when he started writing Daredevil, so we’ll forgive him the lack of subtlety. 😉

That’s it for now! I will return shortly with something quite a bit more profound.

Oops, he did it again!

Today was one of those days I could have used some sweet Daredevil: Road Warrior #3 happening on my iPad. Sadly, it looks like Marvel has pushed up the publication until tomorrow. Oh well, what are you going to do? How about another look at Matt Murdock being an absolute jerk!

You may recall my post from a couple of months ago, “He did what, now?!” which revolved around a scene from Daredevil #45, by Stan Lee and Gene Colan, in which Matt beats an innocent man unconscious and steals his coat. It was all very heroic.

This time around, we’re going to watch him do the same thing to his very best friend. Yes, Matt is that much of an asshole. And it wasn’t even an emergency. He just needed to “get away.” Below, I give you this scene from Daredevil #75, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan, in which Matt hits Foggy over the head while they’re on a fact-finding mission in the made up South American country of Delvadia.

Matt beats Foggy unconscious with a blow to the head, from Daredevil #75 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Foggy eventually comes to, and is helped by a young local boy whose lines are written in the kind of deliberately broken English that you just can’t get away with these days. Matt, meanwhile, goes on to berate himself over this little incident in the following issue (by the same creators). Not because of the brain damage his friend may or may not have sustained, but because he actually feels guilty about it. Oh Matt, you should count yourself lucky that I still like you and will continue to chronicle your adventures…

”You’re even sorry that you had to knock out Foggy… Sorry, regardless of the need for you to get away from him and change to Daredevil.”

Daredevil berates himself for feeling guilty about hitting Foggy, from Daredevil #76 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

Speaking of liking Matt Murdock, despite his shortcomings, I suggest you read new Daredevil editor (former assistant editor) Ellie Pyle’s recent tweet, seen below, and write to Marvel to tell them what Daredevil has meant to you! I intend to myself.

I will see you back here shortly, as soon as Daredevil: Road Warrior #3 finally comes out!

The magically growing watch

So, Daredevil: Road Warrior #2 comes out tomorrow! I could really get used to this getting Daredevil once a week deal. For now, though, let’s make a very quick stop to look at a panel from Daredevil #71, by Roy Thomas (his last) and Gene Colan. Gene Colan was a freaking genius, as we all know, but apparently, even geniuses can have an off day.

Before suggesting something outrageous like that though, I want to remind readers of that one time I suggested that Gene Colan had given Karen an extra finger. That turned out to just be a case of me looking at it all wrong (see the comment section of that post). This may be yet another case of the very same thing, though I think I’m actually right this time. The third panel on the right, when compared to the middle one, just looks wrong.

Matt checking his watch in Daredevil #71, by  Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

So what’s going on here? Matt, worried they’ll be late for court, checks his watch (which, despite lacking a few dots here and there, looks like a pretty accurate braille watch). In the middle panel, the tip of his finger covers almost the entire face of the watch. In the panel on the right, however, the watch looks like it’s grown to about three times its orginal size. And move up to Matt’s elbow. And don’t his fingers look like they are at a very odd angle relative each other? Or is he feeling the hands of the watch with his ring and index fingers and the middle finger is somehow missing? I can’t make sense of it. Am I looking at this all wrong or did Gene Colan really have a case of the mondays? You tell me!

Never stop for an Orange Julius

I have to admit, I love it when the bad guys start bickering like an old married couple. The two fellows below have planned to rob the box office of a major movie theater right after an evening screening of a successful movie. Why only one of them would have the information about a sensitive deadline is beyond me. Why the one who does have that information would decide to put the entire operation at risk by stopping for an Orange Julius is even more perplexing. The only way it makes any sense is if Marvel had some kind of endorsement deal with Orange Julius at the time and this was literally the only way they could work that into the story.

We shouldn't have stopped for an Orange Julius, from Daredevil #62 by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

The scene above is from Daredevil #62, published in 1970, and is far from the only one that’s a little odd. The issue as a whole is not particularly good. There are pacing problems where some aspects of the story are left running too long while others are dealt with “yada yada” style, in a panel or two. The plot, by writer Roy Thomas, doesn’t hold up to closer inspection of the seams which just barely hold it together. Even the artwork looks a little rushed, which is unusual for the always excellent Gene Colan. Luckily for us, this translates into scenes and pieces of dialogue that are nothing less than mockworthy. Aside from the delighful Orange Julius reference, there is also…

Daredevil hogs a phone booth

After Daredevil deals with the Orange Julius guys (who incidentally also ran into parking trouble before they made it to the scene of the crime), he has a run-in with Nighthawk, who had just been introduced in the pages of The Avengers #69. Nighthawk initially comes across as a hero, but it turns out that he only wants fame for himself. Daredevil, suspicious of Nighthawk’s intentions, decides to dig up as much information as he can on this new character. It ends up costing him a lot of pocket change. Daredevil apparently makes so many phone calls that he has to get more change. Ah, the days before there were cell phones. And for those who, like me, are curious about how far you’d have to go back to make a phone call for just one dime in New York, the answer is apparently 1984. 😉

Daredevil makes phone calls, as seen in Daredevil #62 by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

Daredevil wears the creepiest mask ever

After he gets to the bottom of Nighthawk’s shady operation, Daredevil decides to set a trap for him by disguising himself as a really shady-looking dude. Love the moustache! (Another thing: What the heck is a sensitized microphone?)

Daredevil in disguise, from Daredevil #62 by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan

Daredevil must have a secret lab we don’t know about

When I mentioned that the plot this issue was a little shaky, this is the kind of thing I was thinking of. There is nothing more deus ex machina than the handy antidote against whatever chemicals and potions your adversaries are using on you. During their first encounter, Nighthawk gives Daredevil a small dose of something that makes him dizzy. Based on this, we are supposed to believe that Daredevil was somehow able to draw his own blood, analyze it for traces of foreign substances, purify the substance, figure out its chemical properties and cook up an antidote for it based on his presumably extensive knowledge of chemistry. I’d say that’s a pretty tall order for a blind lawyer. 😉 (That doesn’t prevent him from doing it again in Daredevil #91.)

Antidote62

Well, that’s enough with the nutty stuff for today. Later, gang!