Reevaluating early Daredevil

Daredevil swings down and lands on a car in Daredevil #14, apparently guided more by its sound than its shape.

If you were thinking that I had gone back into hiding, I certainly wouldn’t hold it against you. It’s been over a month since my last post, and I’ve had my share of false starts over the past few years. However, I do have a few posts planned that I would like to get out there before too long, and I’m hoping to finish the year with a total of at least twenty for 2021.

For this post, I would like to talk about a rather surprising epiphany I’ve had over the summer, while working on my book. Or to be more specific, while rereading every single issue of Daredevil and taking detailed notes about how Matt Murdock’s senses are actually used. What I’ve discovered is that, contrary to the idea I’ve had that Daredevil’s senses have stabilized and gotten more “grounded” over time, a case could be made for a very different kind of evolution. Depending on what aspect of the character’s senses we’re talking about, Daredevil has actually been getting more powerful in at least some respects.

Considering that this is not my first time reading every issue of Daredevil (I have, in fact, read most runs many times), how could I have missed the things I’m now noticing? Where does my bias against the sensory portrayals of early, “pre-Miller” Daredevil come from? Well, I think it comes down to a few different factors:
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Recommended stand-alone issues of Daredevil

For my first proper countdown post – as we await the release of all thirteen episodes of Daredevil on April 10 – I wanted to take a look at some of my favorite stand-alone issues of Daredevil. Not all of these are perfectly self-contained, of course, but they stand well enough on their own that you don’t need to know much going in, and you get a full story with each issue. The issues I chose for this list also meet the criteria of being reasonably friendly to new readers and at least minimally relevant to the Netflix series.

That last bit would really only exclude stand-alone issues like Daredevil #92 (vol 2) which is told from the perspective of Milla Donovan and deals with her and Matt’s relationship. It wouldn’t make my list anyway, but since Milla isn’t going to be in the Netflix series, I wouldn’t even consider it.

Having said that, I should also mention that while technical quality is certainly an important consideration, I’ve put greater emphasis on whether these issues have important things to say about Daredevil and/or other characters or can serve as a good introduction to Matt Murdock and his world. Let’s get started! All issues are listed in chronological order, not by individual merit.

Exposé (Daredevil #164, vol 1)

This issue, written by Roger McKenzie, and penciled by a very young Frank Miller does require some background information going in, namely that Ben Urich is a journalist who, over several issues, has begun to piece together that Matt Murdock and Daredevil may be one and the same. Daredevil is in the hospital after a recent bout with the Hulk, but that’s not really relevant to what happens next, which is that Urich confronts Daredevil with his findings. After Daredevil fails to identify a photograph of his father, he confesses and begins to tell the journalist about his life.

Ben Urich confronts Daredevil in Daredevil #164 by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller

This issue marks the beginning of the close relationship between Matt and Ben, and is important to the continued stories of both characters. Ben Urich gradually uncovering Daredevil’s true identity was an important plot element in the 2003 Daredevil movie, and we can likely expect elements of the same in the coming Netflix series where Ben Urich – played by Vondie Curtis-Hall – is a central character. If you want to know how it all began, and get a bonus recap of Daredevil’s origin, this is a good place to start. I’ve also written extensively about this issue and the ones leading up to it in the post “Meet Ben Urich” from 2008.

Where can I find it? This issue is included in the first volume of the Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller trade paperback, as well as other collections that cover the same era. It is also available on the Marvel Unlimited digital platform.

Roulette (Daredevil #191, vol 1)

Daredevil #191, written and penciled by Frank Miller (with inks by Terry Austin) may be my very favorite single issue of Daredevil. It is the perfect stand-alone story in that, while it certainly helps to know who Daredevil and his nemesis Bullseye are, it’s not crucial to appreciating the story. The artwork, with generous amount of negative space, interesting panel layouts and elegant simplicity, is the perfect match for a story that does a perfect job of nailing down, defining and explaining Matt Murdock.

Daredevil and Bullseye, as seen in Daredevil #191 by Frank Miller

This issue showcases his fears and weaknesses through the torment he suffers, not just in the wake of Elektra’s death, but in the way he feels complicit in the shooting of a young boy by being, not just a hero, but a role model for violence. I have nothing negative to say about this issue, it’s as close to perfection as they come, and it’s truly innovative in its approach. See also my previous post on this very issue.

Where can I find it? This issue is also easy to find in the many collection that cover this era. Of course, it’s also available on the Marvel Unlimited digital platform.

Promises (Daredevil #192, vol 1)

Another great one-shot is writer Alan Brennert’s sole contribution to the Daredevil archives, with art provided by Klaus Janson. It’s just a nice little slice-of-life story focusing on Ben Urich (more so than Exposé above, which is really more about Daredevil’s own story), but also featuring plenty of insight into Daredevil, as well as the Kingpin who also makes an appearance. You also get a great sense of Daredevil’s world and the corruption that runs rampant in it. The story revolves around good people doing good, good people doing bad, and the many shades of gray in between. It also reminds us never to presume to know what anyone else is going through, and doing the best with what we have. It is a tale which is both tragic and optimistic, and surprisingly moving.

Daredevil and Ben Urich talking, from Daredevil #192 by Alan Brennert and Klaus Janson

Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

The Price (Daredevil #223, vol 1)

On the surface, The Price, by Denny O’Neil and David Mazzucchelli, may appear a little campy. The Beyonder appears in Matt and Foggy’s office and asks them to argue his case, a case that is pretty much based on the alien visitor’s wish to own the entire world. It’s certainly a little out there. As is what happens to Daredevil during the course of the issue when the powerful Beyonder restores his sight.

Matt has his sight back in Daredevil #223 by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

The outlandish aspects of the story aside, this issue is surprisingly moving. It’s really the first time that Matt has had his sight back and actually been able to enjoy it for any length of time. The experience is also pretty heartbreaking for out main character who has to deal with some delayed grief when he realizes exactly what it is he’s been missing all these years. In the end though, he decides that he cares about his principles even more than this new gift. It’s pretty powerful stuff and says a lot about the character. I’ve written about this issue before as well.

Where can I find it? This issue hasn’t never been collected and isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

34 Hours (Daredevil #304, vol 1)

On the title page, 34 Hours is introduced as “A story about New York.” This sums up the issue well, and also explains why I love it so much. I like this issue almost as much as Roulette, as they both do a fantastic job of stripping away the fuss and focusing on what makes Daredevil such a great character. Aside from that, the two issues really don’t have much in common though. Where Roulette is tragic, 34 Hours is brimming with optimism. The latter issue, by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney, is also much more traditional in its format.

Panel from Daredevil #304, by D.G. Chichester and Ron Garney

I’ve written about this issue before as well so I recommend giving that post a read for more information on this tale of a day in the life of New York and the title character!

Where can I find it? Sadly, this issue hasn’t been collected either and also isn’t available through Marvel’s online channels so look for it in back issue bins.

Honorable mentions

Other issues that meet the above criteria, and can be found in collected editions and digitally through Marvel, are the following:

  • Daredevil #1, vol 1

    The very first issue of Daredevil, by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, is actually pretty good. It does a good job of introducing this brand new character, uses quite sophisticated storytelling techniques, and obviously managed to capture enough interest to make up for the very inconsistent quality of the first couple of years of the title.

  • Guts (Daredevil #185, vol 1)

    This is a clever Frank Miller issue (inks by Klaus Janson), that focuses almost entirely on Foggy Nelson, as he sets about doing his own crime fighting. While I like this issue, it has to be said that most modern readers have gotten used to seeing Foggy as a more serious character compared to how he appears here, but it’s still a good read. For another, more recent take on Foggy, see The Secret Life of Foggy Nelson (Daredevil #88, vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and David Aja

  • Return of the King: Prologue (Daredevil #116, vol 2)

    Also by Ed Brubaker and David Aja, this issue is all about the Kingpin, and his new life in Spain where he finds love again after the death of his wife Vanessa. It all comes to a tragic end, of course, but the story really highlights the complex nature of the Kingpin, something which appears to be a big part of the Netflix series.

  • Daredevil #7, vol 3

    This stand-alone Christmas issue by Mark Waid and Paolo Rivera is another favorite of mine. Waid and Rivera skillfully take Matt out of his element as he goes on a school trip with a class of blind school children and they’re stranded in the woods after a bad bus accident. I like the idea of Matt doing volunteer work. It goes well with a character who’s always cared about his community, regardless of what costume he’s wearing.

Well, that’s it! What did you guys think of my choices and what are some other issues you’d like to add to the list? Let the rest of us know in the comment section!

And the mastermind is…

Wall of news clippings, from Daredevil #24 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

Obviously, I don’t know any more about who the mastermind is than anyone else. But based on the discussion in the comment section of my Daredevil #24 revisited post, I think I’m ready to call it. I know, I know. I said in the follow-up post to Daredevil #25 that the most recent issue didn’t make me any wiser as far as the big secret villain was concerned, but that was because I hadn’t done my homework yet. After I decided to explore that lead from last month in light of Daredevil #25, it seems pretty convincing. If you don’t want to know where I’m going with this (and I may be dead wrong), don’t continue reading past the image below.

Wall of news clippings, from Daredevil #24 by Mark Waid and Chris Samnee

I hereby nominate… Death-Stalker!

First of all, credit where credit is due. While this set-up smells of classic villain and Death-Stalker is on a short list of classic villains who aren’t either laughable (Stilt-Man) or over-used (Kingpin), I didn’t initially think of Death-Stalker. I was leaning more toward Purple Man or Mister Fear. It was regular commenter Dan Without Fear – and what a great alias that is – who got the little gears in my head turning by making a really good case for Death-Stalker. His initial comment was this:

“I’m now wholly convinced that the mystery villain is Death-Stalker and his female assistant is actually the second iteration of the character! Exhibit A: The condition the original Death-Stalker was left in after his last fight with Daredevil would explain the need for the casket. Exhibit B: The silhoutte of the female assistant perfectly matches the outline of Death Stalker II without her hat and cloak. Exhibit C: The original Death-Stalker got his powers via a TIME displacement ray and for those of you really paying attention you’ll notice that the scene with the mystery villain in this issue takes place inside a CLOCK tower.”

You can read the rest of our back and forth here, but after doing my homework, I think I’ve found even more evidence that supports Dan’s (and others’) initial hunch. Here’s the full list:

  1. Death-Stalker really hates Daredevil

    In order to go to the trouble of orchestrating this plot, you have to carry a massive grudge. This isn’t some simple revenge plot against the guy who made you look back in last week’s battle. We are talking years of obsessive planning. Few characters from Daredevil’s rogues gallery actually have sufficient motive to go to these extremes. Death-Stalker, however, had tried to kill Daredevil repeatedly even before Daredevil made sure he made close contact with a tomb stone. In his own words, from Daredevil #158, by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller:

    Death-Stalker, from Daredevil #158, by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller

    Mister Fear probably feels that he already got his revenge on Daredevil during Brubaker’s run and I can’t honestly think of a reason why various other characters of interest would be this angry at Matt.

  2. Death-Stalker has a history of
    working with and through others

    One of the reasons I’ve been suspicious of the Bullseye hypothesis (aside from his being even more dead than Death-Stalker), is that he’s really not a team player. He’s worked on orders from others, but he’s not the big master plan type. If he wanted Daredevil dead, he might play with him a little, but not go to these extremes. He doesn’t really have the attention span for it.

    Death-Stalker, on the other hand, has a history of hiring henchmen to do some of his dirty work. He has teamed up with the Gladiator and the Unholy Three (never a wise choice, if you ask me). More importantly, if the current mystery villain is in fact Death-Stalker, this wouldn’t even be the first time he “created” a super-human. In Daredevil #138 (vol 1), by Marv Wolfman and John Byrne, Death-Stalker takes on the identity of Death’s Head and sends the suitably named Smasher to go after Daredevil.

    Another “Smasher” appears in Daredevil #149, by Jim Shooter and Klaus Janson (yeah, Death-Stalker killed the first one in Ghost Rider #20 which tied into Daredevil #138), talking about how the Death-Stalker gave him strength and that all he has to do to pay him back is kill Daredevil. Interestingly, this issue also contains a reference to rain messing with Daredevil’s radar sense.

    Daredevil and Smasher, from Daredevil #149 by Jim Shooter and Klaus Janson

  3. Craziness and elaborate death traps run in the family

    Daredevil #208 (vol 1), by Harlan Ellison and Arthur Byron Cover, with art by David Mazzucchelli, is a very entertaining issue. The story revolves around the Death-Stalker’s mother who has set up an intricate trap for Daredevil to be activated automatically after her death. The scope and insanity of this house of horrors suggest that the Death-Stalker himself wasn’t the first in the family to be more than a little nuts. And, if my working theory is correct, they both shared a flair for the ridiculously elaborate.

    It is also interesting to note that inducing fear seems to be a main objective of Mrs. Sterling. There is even a scene where Daredevil makes a comparison to Room 101 in George Orwell’s 1984 (and a reference to Stick!)

    Daredevil experiences fear, from Daredevil #208

  4. Death-Stalker is very wealthy

    Okay, so his mother blew up his childhood home and probably spent a great deal of the rest of the family estate on turning it into a deathtrap in order to avenge her son’s death. Still, the Sterling family likely had other assets and we can assume that Death-Stalker had some stashed away or invested in his own ventures prior to his apparent death. Whatever this mystery villain is up to, we can assume that he needed a lot of money to do it.

There are actually more things that stand out to me while re-reading Daredevil and Death-Stalker’s past encounters, but time won’t allow for me to recount them all. As Dan also pointed out, the Celtic cross pattern seen in Daredevil #24 might be highly significant. It was the type of tomb stone that Death-Stalker ended up in, but not before tying Matt Murdock himself to it, as seen below from Daredevil #158.

Matt tied to a tomb stone, from Daredevil #158

So, what do you guys think? Let further speculation begin! 🙂

A Daredevil team-up with Captain America (from 1979)!

Daredevil flying a plane, from Captain America #236

Thank you Mark, aka The Comics Professor, for alerting me to the panels below and being kind enough to scan them for me!

This will just be a brief post since I’m gearing up to record the next issue of the TOMP podcast this weekend, but I hope you guys will enjoy the panels below, from Captain American #235 and #236 as much as I did. This arc was written by Roger McKenzie (who was also on Daredevil at the time), with art by Sal Buscema. For Captain America #236, Michael Fleischer is listed as scripter, which I assume means that McKenzie just handled the overall plot. You can read about said plot, and see more panels at SuperMegaMonkey’s Marvel Chronology page for this story. Do take a look, or you’ll miss such gems as Daredevil asking Cap to stop calling him “son” and Steve Rogers vacuuming his apartment with his shirt off. I kid you not.

As for this post, let’s just feast our eyes on the three scenes below. The first one features Daredevil making a classic joke (that I’m a little surprised he hasn’t made more often): “Believe me, I could hit it with my eyes closed!” Yes, you could, Matt. Good for you.

Daredevil makes a joke, from Captain America #235

Below, we see Daredevil and Cap dive into the water. I really don’t know how the heck that jump is going to work out for Cap. He looks like he’s trying to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere. Daredevil, on the other hand? Dix points. Yes, that’s the second time I’ve used French on this site in under a month. Maybe I subconsciously want to go to Paris.

Daredevil and Cap jump into the water, from Captain America #235

Last, but certainly not least, we have the blind man flying a plane scene. Strangely enough, this is something like the third time Matt has flown a plane, not counting the rocket he landed in Daredevil #2 (vol 1). I was almost going to stick this post in the “Seeing things” category on account of Daredevil’s reference to the plane as an orange crate. However, I realized that Matt was likely referring to the race car, not the color of the plane. Which, by the way, isn’t orange at all.

Daredevil flying a plane, from Captain America #236

Okay, that’s it for now! Everyone have a great weekend!

Did your boyfriend give you that?

Black Widow fights Bullseye in her apartment, from Daredevil (vol 1) #160

Hey gang and sorry for not posting for a few days, but I’ve been a very busy bee cleaning out my apartment from top to bottom (I’m very proud of myself!). As you may already know, the preview for this week’s Daredevil: Reborn #1 went up on CBR on Friday. It’s Matt Murdock being, well, Matt Murdock and I’m really looking forward to a nice change from the last few months where we didn’t get to spend much time at all with the man behind the mask.

I have a slightly longer post planned for tomorrow and on Thursday or Friday, I hope to get to my review of Daredevil: Reborn #1. Meanwhile, I just felt I wanted to share a little finding I made while looking through some old issues. The panel below features an encounter (a surprisingly violent and graphic one at that) between Bullseye and the Black Widow, from Daredevil #160 by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller. This attack takes place in Natasha’s home, and a particular piece of decor caught my eye. Do you guys see it too?

Black Widow fights Bullseye in her apartment, from Daredevil (vol 1) #160

I mean, really, what is she doing with a statue of her ex-boyfriend’s head? True, it could be the actual devil or some other random guy with horns growing out of his head, but I suspect that’s really meant to be our very own “hornhead.” It’s probably a little in-joke supplied by then penciller Frank Miller, but it does raise all kinds of questions: Did Matt buy that for her? Before or after they broke up? How big is his ego, really? Did Natasha buy it herself? What the hell is wrong with her?

So many questions, so little time. Now, it’s time for bed on my side of the planet. You guys take care and I’ll get back to you soon!

"Thank God I’m blind"

So, not an actual quote, but that’s what Matt should be thinking with regard to the outfit you see below. These panels are from Daredevil #166, co-written by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller, inked by Klaus Janson and with colors by Glynis Wein. The colorist is too often overlooked when it comes to talking about the artwork in comics, but in this case it’s the color choices that makes me wonder who decided to make Foggy’s tuxedo a not so delightful mix of pink and green. Is Miller to blame or does this one rest solely on the colorist? Either way, the pattern is all on Miller, I’m afraid.

To offer some background, this issue deals with the wedding between Foggy Nelson and Debbie Harris, and the other lovely and equally fashion impaired fellow you see below is Foggy’s old fraternity brother “Porkchop” Peterson. With this hideous tuxedo, Foggy’s marriage was doomed from the start, although it could be argued that “Mike” Murdock could give Foggy a run for his money in the style department. Then again, the guy is blind. What’s your excuse, Foggy?

Foggy meets Porkchop Peterson, Daredevil #166, by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller
Foggy meets Porkchop Peterson, Daredevil #166, by Roger McKenzie and Frank Miller

A history of the radar sense #3

Well, it’s time for part three of my insane quest to chronicle the radar sense. Why the radar sense, one might ask? Well, it’s the only one of Daredevil’s senses which doesn’t have a real-world counterpart in human physiology. His other senses are just heightened, but the radar sense requires that writers and artists actually try to figure out what it is and what it does and how it does it. It’s also a challenge for artists to try to render Daredevil’s monochrome “shape world” in two dimensions.

In the first part of this series, we looked at the very first incarnation of the radar sense and what happened when Stan Lee & Co. tried to reimagine it as something a little more powerful. In the second part, we looked at the rest of the sixties through Roy Thomas’ run, and here we’ll be looking at the entire seventies up until Frank Miller came onboard. In the next installment, I’ll start with the issues where he was the pencillier and McKenzie was the writer so this post will only cover the beginning of Roger McKenzie’s run.

Early on, the radar seemed to be here there and everywhere, but it stabilizes somewhat during the 70’s. That’s not to say that it’s perfectly consistent or doesn’t occasionally defy logic, but there is something of a steady pattern emerging. Below you’ll see more than twenty samples of writers and artists doing various things with the radar sense while offering the rest of us some insight in to how they, as Daredevil creators, imagine it.

Below is an excerpt from Daredevil #76, by Gerry Conway, with art by Gene Colan. The nineteen-year-old Conway’s writing was often on the verbose and slightly pretentious side (if you ask me), and here he has Matt once again wallowing in whatever his problem was this particular issue. We also learn that he “sees” in the “dusk red mind-colors of [his] radar senses.” Note that Conway talks about radar senses in the plural, at practice that creeps up from time to time.

In Daredevil #80, by the same creators, we once again see red, as DD describes an approaching helicopter as a blotch of churning red. One has to wonder where this idea comes from, though I suspect that more than one writer has actually imagined the radar sense appearing as it would on a radar screen or something like that. And, yeah, this is some pretty strange inner monologue, if you ask me.

Below is an excerpt from the letters’ page of Daredvil #80. This was included here to 1) prove that I’m not the only radar geek and 2) show that the Marvel people seem a little sketchy on the whole idea of the radar sense. I’m imagining them just throwing their hands up in the air and going “heck, we don’t know, stop writing!”

“Dear Stan, Gerry and Gene,
I am writing this letter in reference to Daredevil’s superhuman powers. This is my second letter to Marvel, and I’m gonna keep doin’ it ’till I get it right! To be specific, this letter is about DD’s radar sense. I suspect that Daredevil is incorrect in assuming that it is truly radar. I have an idea that what he really has is sonar.
Reason #1: In many issues of DAREDEVIL, we find Matthew thinking (wishfully) about how a loud noise can temporarily “short out” his radar sense. I, for one, don’t see how a noise can interfere with radio waves (which, as if you didn’t know, is what radar depends upon). However, such a noise could interfere with a sonar system (which operates on sound), causing DD’s ears to send a warped picture to his brain.
Reason #2: If Daredevil really does have sonar, as I suspect, his highly developed hearing system would be branched from it, as it must be present to receive the sound waves necessary to sonar.
With the above statements in mind, I ask for my second no-prize, on the grounds that I have found a large mistake (see reason #1).
So, until John Romita returns to Daredevil, Make Mine Marvel (even when Johnny returns (if he returns), I’ll still hang around so don’t worry)!!!”

Below are panels from Daredevil #81, by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan. This scene is not only Daredevil and the Black Widow’s first encounter, it’s also a nice take on the radar sense from the artist’s point of view. What I like about this is that it gives a sense of three-dimensional perception, and is a step up from the contours – or outlines – we’ve been used to seeing. I’ll save my own thoughts on how I personally imagine the radar sense for when I sum up this series (probably about four or five installments from now), but this comes pretty close for me.
Daredevil #83, once again by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan. Here, we are definitely talking about advanced echolocation, and not radiowaves. Below this first panel is another example from the same issue, where movement is described as being perceived as touch.

In Daredevil #85, below, we’re back to a more boring rendition of the radar, though it’s probably easier to draw.

In Daredevil #86, below, we see a clear example that supports my argument that the radar sense has never been clearly defined. Or, if it has, that this is not the kind of information that gets passed down from editorial or from one writer to the next. Radiation doesn’t interfere with radiowaves. Nor does it interefere with sound waves (just a few issues ago, we were talking about echolocation, remember?). There is, of course, the half-baked idea that since the changes Matt’s body underwent at the time of his accident were caused by radiation, this should affect his future encounters with it. That idea is, as I mentioned, half-baked. Or not baked at all, really.

Below is an interesting panel from Daredevil #87, featuring Matt getting some extra information by tapping his cane. Hmm, did I just exhonerate the movie radar? Oh, and that’s definitely getting it’s own post, by the way.

Here’s a leap forward to Daredevil #96 – still Gerry Conway – which offers another artistic rendition of the radar along with some narrative describing the radar impressions as “vague and ill-defined.”

In the next issue, the same artistic technique is still used. We also have the “too many figures jamming my radar sense” going on. This is a recurring factor throughout the history of the comic.

Strange things tend to happen when you have writers come onboard for one or two issues. This can be seen below in, issue #102, written by Chris Claremont and pencilled by Syd Shores, where we are back to Stan Lee-style x-ray vision. Note the cute concentrated rings coming from DD’s head.

Below, we’re back with Steve Gerber in issue #104, pencilled by Don Heck, and Matt is losing Natasha in the crowd due to noise. If you follow Francesco’s blog, you might recognize the “keep screaming!” set-up from a much earlier issue, though there wasn’t an unusual noise level to explain his difficulties that time.

Oh, come on! 😉 You know how DD’s radar can sometimes penetrate solid objects? While I find that a little silly, the idea that a gas cloud would present an obstacle is just as silly. Below is a panel from #109, by Steve Gerber. Bob Brown did the pencilling.

In the next issue, #110, Gene Colan is reunited with Steve Gerber. We also see Daredevil dealing with the nightmare combination of both too much noise and too many moving shapes. Once again, we have a very confused radar sense.

The panel below is included due to what I think is a very nicely drawn radar image of DD’s attacker. We also have a subtle example of what has become the standard “now I hear it, and NOW my radar is picking it up.” This is Steve Gerber and Bob Brown in Daredevil #111.

Below, in issue #119, we have another case of “guest-writeritis” in the radar department. One would be inclined to blame the artist for this odd take on the radar (some weird beam coming from his eyes?), if it weren’t for the fact that this is Bob Brown doing the pencilling and he was hardly that much of a newbie (it was his ninth issue). So, I’m pinning this on the writer, Tony Isabella.
In issue #123, below, Tony Isabella is getting warmed up, and maybe I shouldn’t be calling him a guest writer at all considering he did a five-issue stretch, ending with this issue. Bob Brown is the penciller here and gives us a nice coming to scene.

Below, we have Marv Wolfman on writing duties. The issue is Daredevil #127 and Bob Brown is doing the pencilling again. Included here, due to the odd art choice of having the radar rings circle around an incoming fist. There is also no mention of the radar sense here in DD’s monologue.

Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown team up again in Daredevil #132, below. Daredevil is confused, once again, and we see more smoke. Certainly, the crowd looks wild enough in and of itself, but I doubt the smoke would do much except maybe cover people’s scents. And DD appears to have grown a second head…

Later in the same issue, there’s more confusion. Although I think that maybe it’s Marv who’s confused since we have Matt hearing things with his radar sense. Unless it actually is based on hearing after all. We’re looking at more than ten years of publication history here and we’re no closer to any kind of definitive answer here, are we?

Below, in issue #141 (Marv Wolfman + Bob Brown), we have Daredevil getting caught in the rain, literally. This isn’t the only time he complains about the weather, but here he actually explains why in the panel following this one (click HERE to see it, the shape of it didn’t make for a seamless inclusion in this post), where he says: “I’m in for a fight! This drizzle is playing just enough havoc with my radar-sense and ultra-sensitive hearing so that the fact that he can see and I can’t could give him the edge!” What’s interesting is that we’re back to his hearing and radar being separate senses here. Writing the radar consistently obviously isn’t easy.

Here, in the same issue, Marv Wolfman tackles one of the mysteries of Daredevil’s radar sense, i.e. evading bullets. Of course, why radar should be better than vision at reading someone’s movements I’m not sure I get (though being able to do it without “looking” is a nice perk). I prefer to chalk this ability up to insanely fast reflexes, personally. 😉

The next issue sees Daredevil strapped to a huge arrow heading for the New Jersey Palisades. “Doesn’t take much to bounce my radar off whatever I’m rushing at.” Does this suggest that Marv Wolfman, at least, imagines the radar as a transmitter to actively be turned on? Who knows?

Roger McKenzie gives us an example of that third well-known radar disruptor: pain. The panels below are from issue #153 with art by Gene Colan. The blurring image in this case is shown as DD “seeing” double.

Well, I’ll get back to this issue, looking specifically at Frank Miller’s work, in the next installment. Thanks for reading!

Meet Ben Urich

Ben Urich, who made his return to the pages of Daredevil in #106 (no, I don’t think that qualifies as a spoiler) after being absent since Brubaker’s first arc, has been a member of the Daredevil cast since issue #153, which came out in 1978. The writer who breathed him into existence was Roger McKenzie. Starting with issue #158, McKenzie was joined by new penciller Frank Miller who later took over the writing chores as of issue #168. With the exception of the first two pictures, all of the art below was supplied by Miller.

Since I wrote a post a while back about the introduction of Becky Blake, I thought I’d to the same with Ben. Ben is introduced as something of a mystery element; we see him working in the shadows, his story providing something of a subplot running in the background until issue #164, Exposé, when he surprises Daredevil with the knowledge of his secret identity. The rest, as they say, is history. But, let’s start at the beginning…

The very first page of issue #153 shows us Ben’s typewriter. Ben is working on a story that doesn’t make sense to him. At the end of issue #152, Matt was called to Heather Glenn’s apartment after a frantic phone call from his then-girlfriend. As he arrives at her home, he is surprised by Mr. Hyde and Cobra and Heather herself is nowhere to be found. At the end of the issue, Daredevil is dragged into the sewers by the two villains, and it is here that Ben’s story begins, as the rest of the issue is told in sort of a flashback. What Ben can’t figure out is why Daredevil would be at Heather Glenn’s apartment to begin with:

“After fifteen long years covering the nightside police beat for the Daily Bugle, Ben Urich thought he’d seen it all. He was wrong…”

After this panel, we don’t see Ben again until issue #159, where he’s following up on what Matt has been up to. You get the feeling that he’s been doing some research since his last appearance, and that he may have had some kind of hunch even before the events of issue #153.

“Ben Urich takes a final drag on his cigarette. The veteran reporter doesn’t realize it yet, but he’s just embarked on what will prove to be the most astonishing story of his career.”

In Daredevil #160, we see DD himself seek out Ben Urich for information on Bullseye. Their relationship, if we may call it that, appears out of the blue in this issue, but it seems like Ben and Daredevil have met many times before. However, no information on their previous encounters is ever given. It is possible that Ben may have gotten some additional clues about Daredevil’s most peculiar trait after meeting him a few times and observing his behavior. (Since he is beginning to suspect that Matt Murdock and Daredevil are one and the same, something as innocent as the latter not asking to view any of Ben’s information personally might be a hint.)

On the next page, after Daredevil disappers through a window, we see that Ben has started gathering information…

…which he keeps in a separate file…

…”A folder that he has carefully cross-indexed under ‘M’ as in Murdock…”

In Daredevil #161 we see no further interaction between Ben and DD, but we see Ben following up on his story, visiting Jack Murdock’s old gym and asking some question…

On a “hunch,” Ben correctly guesses the name the local kids used to taunt Matt as a boy: Daredevil.

We meet Ben again in Daredevil #163, where he is watching DD take on the Hulk. Heather Glenn, next to Ben in the crowd, proves to be a very unreliable girlfriend, yet again (it wasn’t her first time), calling out “Matt” as she witnesses the horror on the street.

“For the past few weeks he has been carefully assembling the myriad pieces of the biggest exclusive of his career. Today, with a single world, his journalistic puzzle has been completed.”

In an epilogue to this issue, we see Ben at his typewriter and also get the first glimpse of his wife Doris. Daredevil, meanwhile, has taken a bad hit for going up against a mightier foe and lies unconscious in the hospital. On the page in front of Ben, the beginning of his story reads:

“Few people remember battling Jack Murdock now. He was a second-rate boxer who lived and died in and era of second-rate boxers. All he wanted was a shot at the top. Instead he was shot in the back. It was his murder that prompted his son, Matthew, to become Daredevil…”

In Daredevil #164 (just click the pictures to see them enlarged), Ben Urich confronts Daredevil by going into his hospital room. At first, Matt tries to deny the allegations, but in a few classic panels, Ben Urich calls his bluff by asking him to describe a photograph of his father. He sees no other option but to confess. He begins to tell Ben his life’s story, beginning with how his father raised him and how the other children teased him…

…continuing with his accident and his heightened senses (I included this in part, because I thought it was an interesting take on the original in DD #1). He finally tells him about his father’s murder.

“But, Matt, why did you become Daredevil?”

“I think you already know the answer to that, Ben. Justice. Blind Justice.”

Ben burns his story, and goes on to become one of Matt Murdock’s closest allies, as well as an important character in his own right in the Marvel Universe. This is why we love Ben Urich, and why he’d make such a lousy paparazzo.

Meet Becky Blake (for the first time)…

After bringing up Brubaker’s “reintroduction” of Becky Blake in my review of The Devil in Cell Block D, I thought it might be interesting to go back to her very first appearance in issue #155. Becky Blake was created by Roger McKenzie (another one of those solid half-forgotten writers who seem destined to always remain in the shadow of Frank Miller) and is drawn here by Frank Robbins. Becky, is quite a hottie on wheels in this issue (I’m kind of getting a Charlie’s Angels vibe here), and she would keep this look for about four issues, before then-penciller Frank Miller gave her her current appearance in issue #165.

When we enter the scene, it’s been a very rough day for Matt. He has a splitting headache (which will later be revealed to be the result of concussion), just fell from a building that morning, and has had to interview job applicants all day. A misunderstanding and hurt feelings ensue, and Foggy is once again written as something of an ignorant goof.

Matt hunched over his desk in pain, Daredevil #155
Matt hunched over his desk in pain, Daredevil #155

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