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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What really happened when Daredevil met Hawkeye

Happy New Year everyone! I hope 2015 has been treating you well so far. One of the first things on my agenda this year, as far as the blog is concerned, is to put together a longer post about Daredevil on Netflix. That’s something that might take a few hours, however, and I didn’t want to put off my first post of the year for much longer.

So, for this first post, I thought it might be fun to look at the fight scene between Daredevil and Hawkeye that was referenced in Daredevil #11.

The first meeting between the two heroes took place in Daredevil #99 (vol 1), written by Steve Gerber with Sam Kweskin and Syd Shores listed as designer and embellisher, respectively. First we’ll look at how Chris Samnee’s take on the events compares to the original, and then we’ll cover some other gems from the issue! (As always, click the image to zoom in, click again to “pop” it back down.)

Daredevil punches Hawkeye through a window, as seen in Daredevil #11 by Mark Waid and Chris SamneeDaredevil swings Hawkeye through a window, as seen in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

The perspectives are a little different. The more recent issue has a clearer focus on Daredevil, which seems apt under the circumstances, and the angle brings the Black Widow into the scene. Daredevil #11 also leaves out the part about the Black Widow bemoaning the destruction of her beautiful windows. Probably a wise decision.

More importantly, in the original version Daredevil uses his billy club to grab Haweye and then swing him out the window. When Matt retells the event in the present, he lets his fist do the talking instead. Though to be fair, there was some punching action earlier in the issue. Except Daredevil was on the receiving end of it. I guess this is what present-day Matt boils down to “embellishment.”

Matt remembers Hawkeye's trick arrow, as seen in Daredevil #11 by Mark Waid and Chris SamneeDaredevil shields his eyes from one of Hawkeye's trick arrows, as seen in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

Well, this part happens pretty much the way Foggy tell its, but the original unsurprisingly offers a longer, and even more hilarious scene. In my head, I’m going to imagine that “Archer, you’ve flipped” is now something Matt works into conversations when he meets Clint Barton, as an inside joke reminding the two of their first, spectacularly absurd meeting.

As for what happens on the very next page, right after the phosphorous arrow business, I decided to just include the whole page. There’s no other way to do this scene justice. It has a wonderful mix of melodrama and awareness of that very same melodrama. Matt pretty much nails it with:

“This has to be the most bizarre, ridiculous battle I’ve ever fought. Not to mention the least gratifying.”

Daredevil ponders his encounter with Hawkeye, as seen in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

Interestingly, this isn’t even remotely the most quotable line of the issue. Daredevil #99 is full of them. First off though, let’s just cut to who actually won the fight:

After Hawkeye leaves the scene, he runs into a gang of street thugs to do battle with (because, why not?) when Daredevil shows up. The latter is then attacked by an arrow that releases a gas which does a real number on Matt’s senses. This is followed by a sonic arrow that really has him begging for mercy. I guess Clint just got really lucky choosing among his trick arrows because they seem perfectly suited to Daredevil’s weaknesses, which he knew nothing about at the time. Daredevil then rebounds, breaks Hawkeye’s bow – and makes it look way too easy, by the way – before they both get to play with Daredevil’s billy club. Finally, the two settle things and call it a draw.

Daredevil and Hawkeye decide to call it a draw, in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

So, the encounter ends amicably enough. But what prompted it in the first place? Well, call it a take on the age old tale of two men doing battle over the same woman while she watches – and rolls her eyes – from the sidelines. Hawkeye simply shows up, as Daredevil and the Black Widow return to their San Francisco home following the events of the previous issue, to tell his ex-girlfriend what she means to him. Yup, he traveled across the country on a whim just to do that. Though in his defense, this issue predates the invention of email and “sexting.”

On the second page, Clint delivers a juicy comeback for the people expressing their disapproval of his impromptu visit:

“I’ve been perched like a partridge in that pear tree over yonder… for two hours and 38 minutes — just waiting for you clowns to get home!”

There are many things to like about this quote. The play on the lyrics to The Twelve Days of Christmas, the use of the word “yonder”, the suggestion that Clint keeps immaculate track of time, and the juicy clown insult at the very end.

As you can imagine though, things go downhill from here. Both Daredevil and Hawkeye act like jerks, while the Black Widow – the only reasonable person for most of the issue – tries unsuccessfully to get across that she is capable of choosing her own boyfriend. Here are some highlights.

The blind joke

Daredevil: “Cool it, William Tell. Can’t you see you’re upsetting the lady?”
Hawkeyes: “My eye are as good as yours, fearless.”
Daredevil: “I’ll just bet they are.”

Daredevil’s pose in this panel

Daredevil does a sexy pose on the stairs, in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

Hawkeye insults the Vision

At the very end of the issue, the two combatants return to the home of Matt and Natasha, and find some of the Avengers. They are there to ask Daredevil to join them on a mission – he later accepts – but the self-proclaimed ex-avenger Hawkeye is not happy to see his old team mates, especially not the Vision, with whom he’s had a falling out (in Avengers #109).

Hawkeye yells at the Avengers, in Daredevil #99 by Steve Gerber and Sam Kweskin

And I think “Stuff it, synthozoid! The Avengers ’n me are thru!” is about as good a place as any to round off this little trip through the often hilarious archives of Daredevil canon. And thanks to Mark Waid and Chris Samnee for the slice of nostalgia! 😉

The bespectacled Matt Murdock

A while back, when I wrote a post about Matt Murdock’s hair – because, apparently, no subject is too mundane for this blog – I got a request for a post about Matt’s sunglasses. Yes, I write weird posts about Daredevil minutiae and you surprise me by asking for more. So, let’s once again take a journey into the Daredevil archives and check out Matt’s shades.

Before getting to the show and tell part of this post, however, I wanted to talk a little bit about why he’s wearing them in the first place. While sunglasses are often associated with blindness (in people’s minds at least), not all blind people wear them. In fact, a majority do not and there are only two real reasons anyone would. The first is that many eye conditions make people light sensitive, meaning that bright light actually becomes painful or prevents the full use of whatever residual vision that person might have. The other reason is cosmetic. While some blind people have perfectly ordinary-looking eyes, some conditions or eye injuries obviously alter the appearance of the eyes. To save oneself and others from whatever discomfort this might presumably cause, some choose to cover their eyes. While I have no statistics to support this, I suspect wearing sunglasses solely to cover up some kind of eye deformity was much more common back in the days when Daredevil was first created (i.e. 1964), if only for the reason that society generally has become more aware and accepting of physical differences.

In the case of Daredevil, I don’t think any of the early creators even considered letting Matt go without dark glasses. In fact, the artists seemed to really go out of their way to hide them from the readers’ for the first few years (one notable exception being a scene in Daredevil #9 where he has his eyes examined by a doctor). One of the first times we get a good look att Matt’s exposed face that isn’t partly obscured by a shadow or at a strange angle is in Daredevil #51 (written by Roy Thomas and pencilled by Barry Smith, see panel below), and even in this case the eyes aren’t really visible. On a side note, isn’t this a fantastically dramatic couple of panels? Also, why does that barbell look all crooked, and is that an ashtray I see?

Matt's eyes are revealed (sort of) in Daredevil #51 (vol 1), by Roy Thomas and Barry Smith

Over time, it has become much more common for artists to draw Matt’s eyes, even in close-up panels, but how they are drawn differs quite a bit. I suspect a separate post could be devoted to this subject alone (wait a couple of years until I’ve really run out of things to write about…), but suffice it to say that some artists – David Mazzucchelli comes to mind – have drawn them looking completely normal whereas others (I suspect a majority) have drawn some version of what one would expect damage from a chemical spill to look like. In case you needed another reason to avoid getting nasty stuff anywhere near your face, high doses of radiation are actually known to cause cataracts (i.e. a clouding of the lense), so artists who choose to draw Matt’s eyes looking a bit pale and semi-opaque probably aren’t far off. Of course, cataracts would likely be only one of several signs that something is amiss and it’s pretty unrealistic that he could have made it through a chemical accident bad enough to blind him almost instantly and walk away without fairly obvious visible reminders of the ordeal.

Either way, Matt clearly wears sunglasses for cosmetic reasons. On the one hand, as a lawyer, it might be wise to eliminate any cause for distraction that would lead a client or jury to focus more on a physical peculiarity than on the case he’s trying to argue. On the other hand, there could be more to it than that. Matt has always struck me as relatively vain, or at least concerned about looking presentable (see my post The fashionable Mr Murdock), but it’s also quite telling that he only ever shows his eyes to people he knows extremely well, even in very private settings where professional considerations wouldn’t be necessary.

There are several recent examples that hint at what might be a genuine insecurity on Matt’s part. In Daredevil #107 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker, Greg Rucka and Michael Lark, Dakota comes knocking on his door. Matt at this time is in a really bad place, having just lost his wife to insanity, and he isn’t even showing up to work. When Dakota decides to pay him a visit, he’s wearing nothing but the bottom half of his Daredevil costume, but when he gets to the door to let her in, he’s put his glasses on and thrown on a shirt, though not bothering to button it. Apparently, Dakota is a close enough friend at this point to get a good look at his chest, though not close enough to see his eyes. Four issues later, in Daredevil #111 (by Ed Brubaker and Clay Mann), their relationship reaches a new level of intimacy when the two train together in Matt’s private gym. Despite the fact that wearing glasses seems downright inconvenient in this kind of setting (especially when they don’t actually do anything for him), he keeps them on. Well, until we see him wake up next to her in bed the next morning, that is.

In stark contrast to the kind of modesty he seems to show around most people, Foggy is clearly a close enough friend that Matt won’t bother hiding anything from him. This distinction between Foggy and other people is evident in the 2003 Daredevil movie, but it’s something I’ve noticed many times in the comic as well, especially in the last several years. His choice to “hide” behind a pair of dark glasses does seem to be less about putting others at ease and more about what he feels comfortable with personally. The only instances that come to mind of Matt not bother to wear glasses for an extended period of time is during Born Again (in a story that saw him descend into madness) and during his time as Jack Batlin, an alter ego he assumed while pretending to be dead…

Well, enough psycho-analyzing for now. For whatever reason, Matt Murdock and his shades have seemed nearly inseparable for almost fifty years. Let’s take a look at some of the trends, as drawn by some of Daredevil’s artists through the years.

Wally Wood

Once upon a time, Matt was really attached to his shades. Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say that his shades were attached to him. Possibly with glue. Below, we see Matt work out in the pair of black aviator-style sunglasses he wore at the time. We also see him come to the odd conclusion that blind people shouldn’t get married… The scene is from Daredevil #8, written by Stan Lee.

Matt works out in his shades, Daredevil #8 by Stan Lee and Wally WoodA real world example of these glasses might look something like this.

Gene Colan

Whenever I think of classic Daredevil, I think of Gene Colan’s artwork, and I guess this is true for a lot of fans. In his hands, Matt’s eyewear got a little heavier and I suspect he was trying to emulate another the typical 60’s version of men’s horn-rimmed glasses. Below are panels from Daredevil #25, written by Stan Lee. As a small bonus, I also included a look at “Mike Murdock’s” decidedly crazier eyewear. 😉

Matt's glasses as drawn by Gene Colan, from Daredevil #25, written by Stan LeeReal-world example of the above look.

Mike Murdock, as seen in Daredevil #25, by Stan Lee and Gene ColanIn the event that you’d like to emulate this particular look, you can get your own here, fortunately more neutral in color and more modest in style.

It’s worth noting that Gene Colan pretty much stuck to this style for his work on Daredevil, which spanned decades. Here is an example from the 90’s, as seen in Daredevil #366, written by Joe Kelly.

Bob Brown

In Daredevil #115, written by Steve Gerber, we see Matt in a different look. More precisely, a flat top metal rim creation that I had a hard time finding a real-life example of (follow this link to see one of the closest matches I could find). In case you’re curious, Daredevil #115 came out in 1974.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #115, by Steve Gerber and Bob Brown

Frank Miller

Another classic look is the one from Frank Miller’s run, as seen below in Daredevil #173 (finished art by Klaus Janson). These aviator glasses are still fashionable today and don’t look too different from how Paolo Rivera would draw them.

Matt's glasses, as seen in Daredevil #173 by Frank Miller and Klaus Janson

David Mazzucchelli

Mazzuccheli also stuck to the aviator look, even though these frames don’t look quite as light-weight as the ones seen above. Below are panels from Daredevil #210, written by Denny O’Neil.

Matt's glasses, as seen in Daredevil #210, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

John Romita Jr

John Romita Jr’s take on the shades is heavier yet and have a definite late 80’s feel to them. Maybe something like this? The panels below are from Daredvil #254, written by Ann Nocenti.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #254, by Ann Nocenti and John Romita Jr

Lee Weeks

Lee Weeks continued in the same vein as Romita Jr, though the lenses below (from Daredevil #292, written by D.G. Chichester) look slightly less opaque.

Matt's glasses, as seen in Daredevil #292, by D.G. Chichester and Lee Weeks

Cary Nord

We are now firmly into the 90’s, and Matt’s look has been updated a bit. As you might recall, rounder glasses were in fashion there for a while. The panels below are from Daredevil #254, written by Karl Kesel.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #354, by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord

Alex Maleev

Somewhere along the line, in 2003 to be precise, the Daredevil movie happened. In the movie, Matt Murdock wears red-tinted glasses and this was a trend that spread to the comic as well. I kind of like the red lenses myself, and Maleev obviously incorporated the look in his take on Matt. The panels below are from Daredevil #43 (vol 2), written by Brian Micahel Bendis.

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #43 (vol 2), by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev

Michael Lark

The red tint stayed during Ed Brubaker’s and Michael Lark’s run, though Lark’s take was a little less round and a little more like this. The panels below are from Daredevil #82 (vol 2).

Matt's glasses as seen in Daredevil #82 (vol 2), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

Present day

Not going to say much about the current run since it’s ongoing and you can all check for yourselves (you’re not going to make me do all the work, are you?). What little I will say is that it’s interesting the Paolo Rivera abandoned the red tinted lenses in favor of the more classic Miller-esque look whereas Chris Samnee’s take is more of a Maleev meets a late Gene Colan. I like that each artist has his own take on this little detail. Besides, I would imagine that Matt owns more than one pair of glasses. Maybe he’s got a drawer somewhere of all the different pairs he’s worn through the years. 😉

Which look is your favorite? Let us know in the comment section!

Update 2018: This post now has a follow-up. Click here to read The other “mask.”

Locks without fear – Matt Murdock’s fabulous hair

“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.”

– Mark Twain

I occasionally joke about how no Daredevil-related subject is too obscure for this blog. And this is certainly proof of that (long-time readers may recall that I’ve already devoted a post to Foggy’s facial hair and his tattoo!).

With Chris Samnee’s work in Daredevil #12 – where he juggled two time frames and two different hairstyles for Matt – I knew I had to do a post about Matt’s hair. When I think about it, it’s actually a little strange that I haven’t covered it already considering it’s such a trademark feature. It’s not only the character’s blindness that makes Daredevil unusual, there really are not that many red-headed heroes out there. I’ve seen more than one redheaded fan comment that this was something they appreciated growing up. My best friend is a gorgeous redhead, and I’ll be sure to read Daredevil to her strawberry blond son as soon as he’s old enough. 🙂

So, for this post, we’re going to take a trip into the archives of Daredevil canon and check out Matt Murdock’s impressive head of hair!

Classic Colan

This is the classic, suave look I most associate with early Daredevil and Gene Colan’s long run on the book (the panel below is from Daredevil #29). Shorter on the sides and more length on top. Bright red and sexy!

Matt, sporting his classic Colan hair do, changes on a window ledge, from Daredevil #29

70’s hip

The seventies brought a new varied line-up of artists, such as Bob Brown who supplied the art below (from Daredevil #115, written by Steve Gerber). It also brought a slightly shaggier look and, depending on the colorist, a lighter tone to Matt’s hair.

Matt's hair, as drawn by Bob Brown, from Daredevil #115, written by Steve Gerber

Miller magic

Miller kept Matt’s hair on the long side, with noticeable bangs combed to the side. The color throughout his run was a medium orange. The panels below are from Daredevil #182.

Matt's hair during the Miller run, from Daredevil #182

Nearly blond

Some color artists have given Matt a very blond look with few traces of red. Below is an image from Daredevil #249, by Ann Nocenti with pencils by Rick Leonardi. Colors by Max Scheele.

Matt as almost-blond, by Rick Leonardi. From Daredevil #249, written by Ann Nocenti

Nice and short

By the mid-nineties, someone (Cary Nord, apparently) decided that it was time for a hair-cut and switched to something a little shorter, as seen below in Daredevil #360, by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord. It stays short for the rest of volume 1 and the first issues of volume 2, before temporarily growing back out for the Parts of a Hole arc.

Matt on the couch watching Law & Order, from Daredevil #360 by Karl Kesel and Cary Nord

Goatee? Why not!

While Foggy has been able to play around with his facial hair, Matt has only had any to speak of while he’s been on hiatus as Daredevil (such as during the King of Hell’s Kitchen arc), not counting the times he’s simply forgotten to shave. So, for a while he had an honest to goodness goatee. The image below is from Daredevil #56 (volume 2), by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev.

Matt and Milla, from Daredevil #56 (volume 2), by Brian Bendis and Alex Maleev

“Hair cut? I’ve got a ninja cult to run!”

While Matt looks reasonably well-groomed in the below panel, from Daredevil #506 by Andy Diggle and Antony Johnston, with art by Marco Checchetto, there’s no denying that the longish shaggy do made its return in the Shadowland era.

Matt and Elektra, from Daredevil #506, by Diggle, Johnston and Checchetto

Not even trying anymore

Whether you liked the “Abe Lincoln” beard of Daredevil: Reborn or not, it sure gave Matt that look of not really caring. At all. Panel below from Daredevil: Reborn #1, by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice.

Matt from Daredevil: Reborn #1, by Andy Diggle and Davide Gianfelice

Volume 3 goodness

Since the relaunch, Matt has definitely settled into a more relaxed look, which I guess goes well with his new attitude. From left to right, below is art by Marcos Martín, Paolo Rivera and Chris Samnee.

Matt's hair as seen in volume 3

Fashions may have changed, and Matt’s hair along with it, though we haven’t seen anything too extreme. Whether on the short or long side, it looks like the kind of low-maintenance swirl of coppery goodness that even a guy with no use for mirrors can trust to look half-decent no matter what. 😉

Daredevil and the big cats who attack him

Daredevil is rescued by Ka-Zar, panel from Daredevil #12

Before I get to anything else, I want to tell you about an interview that the law blog Abnormal Use did with Mark Waid earlier today, with a particular focus on Matt’s job as a lawyer. The interview also contains spoilers for Daredevil #4 which is due out in stores tomorrow, though these are clearly marked and easy to avoid.

And, speaking of Daredevil #4, anyone who’s seen the preview will know that Matt is going up against some cats. Big ones. One might think that this would be a rare occurrence in Matt Murdock’s life, but as we’re about to see, it certainly isn’t the first time he’ll be battling – or in other ways engaging with – a larger member of the Felidae family. And, before we get to some flashbacks, I’d like to thank fellow fan Francesco for the comment on TOMP’s Facebook page which inspired this post. 🙂

Daredevil #12 by Stan Lee and John Romita

The issue in which Daredevil meets Ka-Zar and is carried off on the back of his kitty. This is going to sound weird, but I think early Daredevil has a real knack for looking like an adorable little rag doll while unconscious.

Daredevil is rescued by Ka-Zar, panel from Daredevil #12

Daredevil #23 by Stan Lee and Gene Colan

The issue which sees Daredevil battle the Gladiator and the Masked Marauder (also known as the world’s creepiest landlord) while beating up a lion with what looks like a lawn chair.

Daredevil beats up a lion with a lawn chair, Daredevil #23

Daredevil #72 by Gerry Conway and Gene Colan

The really strange issue in which Matt first battles, then befriends, the blind Tagak, who telepathically uses the eyes of his jaguar to see. Unrelated, but this issue also sees Matt smash a mirror, thus strengthening the otherwise superstitious notion that doing so causes a bad and prolonged case of bad luck.

Daredevil battles a jaguar in Daredevil #72

Daredevil #111 by Steve Gerber and Bob Brown

The issue which sees Daredevil fight alongside Shanna the She-Devil and her large furry companions. Curiously, Shanna spends the entire issue wearing a barely there lace night gown. By her standards, this means she’s covering up much more than usual.

Daredevil and Shanna the She-Devil, from Daredevil #111

Daredevil #143 by Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown

The issue in which Daredevil learns about the existence of a jungle atop an eighty-story skyscraper which has apparently escaped the attention of city officials. It is, in the words of the man responsible for its construction:

“A jungle paradise eighty stories above Manhattan […] This place is a compromise between reality and my fantasies. A place for survival where a man can really be a man.”

Daredevil battles a lion in Daredevil #143 by Marv Wolfman and Bob Brown

Daredevil #89 (volume 2), by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark

The issue which sees Matt Murdock marvel at Ed Brubaker’s decision to make The Matador a legacy villain (and one who is made only marginally cooler by also being able to fight lions).

Daredevil watches the new Matador in Daredevil #89 (volume 2)

Okay! I hope you all had fun making this little journey through the archives with me. I will see you when it’s time to post my Daredevil #4 review.

“Oh, the blind thing? It comes and goes…”

Matt bonding with the Uni-Power

One common element used a lot in superhero comics consists of the hero temporarily losing his (or her) powers. This has happened to Daredevil enough times – and may get its own post one of these days – but another thing that’s happened a few times in Daredevil is the opposite: Matt having his sight temporarily restored.

Within the first year of publication, Karen Page tried to talk Matt into seeing the appropriately named eye surgeon Dr Van Eyck and even intervening on his behalf (and in doing so broke a number of unwritten social rules about not sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong).

Matt leaving for Lichtenbad, Daredevil #9

Of course, with this being Silver Age comics, this little intervention goes south when it turns out that Dr Van Eyck is held against his will by a former law school classmate of Matt and Foggy’s turned despotic ruler of a medieval little hell hole called Lichtenbad. The good doctor is killed at the end of the issue, Daredevil #9, before he gets the chance to work his surgical magic.

Matt, who for some irrational reason is under the impression that having his sight restored might screw with his other senses isn’t particularly disappointed to see the opportunity pass him by. He will get another chance to see again soon enough, well about another thirty issues later, at least. This one involves another despotic ruler of a another fictional country…

Viewing the world through the eyes of Doctor Doom

We’ve covered the odd story told in Daredevil #37-38, in which Daredevil switches bodies with Doctor Doom, before (see “DD stands for Doctor Doom” and “Because I can’t just kill him – Part 7”). The premise itself is goofy enough and it only gets worse as we realize that Doctor Doom goes through an entire issue inside Daredevil’s body not even realizing that he’s blind. Sure, Matt Murdock may not be an ordinary blind guy, but you’d think that a supposed genius like Doom would notice the world suddenly turning pitch black.

Matt, meanwhile, is too busy trying to get back into his own body to even find the time to appreciate getting the chance to see again. At first he doesn’t seem to realize he’s actually seeing since the last panel of Daredevil #37 shows him reacting to wearing armor rather than reacting to having the “lights” switched on. This must have been an unintentional slip-up, because Stan Lee makes sure to address the issue first thing in Daredevil #38.

The story ends with Matt demonstrating his cunning by blackmailing Doom into giving him his body back. He does so by threatening to start a war with Latveria’s neighbors… Unlike the next issue on our list, the Doctor Doom body switch is more a case of Matt experiencing sight again than it is a case of having sight restored to his own eyes.

A sighted journey into space

The next time Matt gets to experience the world in color is in Daredevil #106, by Steve Gerber and Don Heck. And, it’s not even his own world. You see, in Daredevil #105, Matt was transported to Titan by Moon Dragon as her prisoner. When Moon Dragon realizes that she was mistaken in unleashing three villains on San Francisco and kidnapping Daredevil, the two become allies. In Daredevil #106, Moon Dragon is injured and needs Daredevil’s help. That’s when his blindness complicates things and Moon Dragon, who is a very powerful character, restores his vision in order to get them both out of a jam.

Daredevil admits his blindness, Daredevil #106

(Oh, and apparently, the magic extends to temporarily removing the dark lenses from Daredevil’s mask…)

Daredevil has his sight restored, Daredevil #106

Moon Dragon doesn’t just restore Daredevil’s vision, the transformation also leads to his radar sense disappearing. Not being used to fighting without it, he soon finds himself at a disadvantage and asks Moon Dragon to restore him to the way he was. As with the Doctor Doom body switch, Matt isn’t given much time to enjoy his sight and none of these issues offers much emotional depth. That’s all about to change with the next item on our list.

The Price

“The Price,” also known as Daredevil #223, has also been covered before on this site. In this case, it’s an enigmatic character called the Beyonder who gives Matt his sight back when looking to hire his legal services to take over the world(!). As usual, order is restored at the end of the issue and Matt goes back to his usual blind self. The main difference between this issue and the previous ones mentioned above is that Daredevil #223, by Denny O’Neil and David Mazzucchelli, actually takes the time to explore what Matt might want to do and experience if he were given his sight back and how this might affect him.

For most of Daredevil’s early history, it seemed creators had a tendency to downplay the magnitude of the loss that young Matt suffered in his fateful accident, suggesting that all his newfound powers were more than enough to tip the balance in favor of his new state of being. This is understandable. Having readers feel pity rather than awe for the main character was probably not something to strive for. However, a modern view of the character can accommodate a more complex take on Matt Murdock’s unique way of being. Having Matt acknowledge that his loss of sight occasionally puts him in the position of wishing he could have it back doesn’t preclude his enjoying and utilizing his other sensory enhancements. The Price touches on some of the things Matt actually does miss out on and doesn’t feel the need to apologize for doing so.

Through the confused eyes of Laurent Levasseur

The next time Matt finds himself sighted once again is the first time this is achieved by the means of medical technology. On the other hand, not only did Matt not seek out this treatment, he doesn’t know he’s Matt Murdock, doesn’t look like Matt Murdock and can’t remember being either blind or a superhero named Daredevil.

The four-part story Flying Blind, by Scott Lobdell and Cully Hamner, took place toward the very end of volume one, in Daredevil #376-379, and is a very strange story that sadly fails to impress on so many levels. The story begins when Matt, now with dark hair and different facial features (due to some superficial cosmetic surgery) wakes up in a hospital bed in France, where he has been sent on a top secret S.H.I.E.L.D. assignment. As it turns out, he has had his brain “rewired” and had new memories implanted. As far as he knows, he’s a French artist (yes, he apparently speaks French throughout the story), but from the very beginning he reacts to things and experiences feeling alien to him. The rewiring of his brain has also lead to his vision being restored. Naturally, this feels strange to him as well.

Laurent realizing he can see

After spending the better part of the first two issues of this story arc trying to figure out who he is, order is restored in the last issue when he suddenly remembers who he is again. As soon as his own memories return, his sight begins to fade. Apparently, the two are somehow linked. Yeah, it makes no sense to me either (also his eyes begin to get cloudy when the brain rewiring is reversed, how is this supposed to work exactly?). At least he gets a brief look at his best friend Foggy who has come all the way to Paris to pick him up before his sight is completely gone.

Laurent losing his sight again

This story is highly forgettable and I’m not sure I’d even consider it in continuity, it’s that strange. Heck, it’s the only story I can think of that actually features both ninjas and Stilt-Man – in Paris…

Everything’s more fun with the Uni-Power

The last item on our list is a relatively recent one-shot that ties into the 2005 series of one-shots featuring the Uni-Power (which transforms its host into Captain Universe). In the issue dedicated to Daredevil, by Jay Faerber and Juan Santacruz, Matt becomes a host for the Uni-Power and experiences a heightening of his already heightened senses as well as the restoration of his sight.

Matt bonding with the Uni-Power

In the end, having his senses of hearing and smell heightened even further becomes a liability for Daredevil and Matt asks the Uni-Power to leave his body. He has a hard time revealing this information to Foggy, however, who is thrilled that his best friend can now see again, and offers him to take a look at a photo of his wife Milla (why he wouldn’t take the time to seek her out in person is not revealed). Not wanting to disappoint his friend, Matt decides to play along a little longer.

Foggy shows Matt Milla's picture

Well, that puts the tally at five instances of Matt getting his sight back! Not too bad for a guy who should be blind permanently. Most of these cases involve magic (or body-switching), with only the nonsensical Flying Blind story suggesting that Matt’s sight can be restored through any kind of medical procedure (though apparently only as long as he doesn’t remember that he’s blind).

The problem with having a character like Matt Murdock live in the Marvel Universe is that one might easily suspect that he could just pay a visit to Reed Richards or Tony Stark and ask for robot eyes. Then again, one might wonder why not every hero asks for the same thing. It seems to me that all the spare parts people get usually work better than the real thing. Just ask Misty Knight. 😉

News Roundup, October 19

News

  • It was just announced today that Daredevil #501 sold out and will be going back for a second printing! In the current economic climate, and with so many books gradually shedding readers (for various reasons), this is really good news for both Daredevil fans and the new creative team. Read more about this news at Marvel.com.

  • Marvel released their solicits for January today, and I must say that Daredevil #504 is looking mighty interesting! As always, there are spoilers, but the fearless can have a look at this and other solicits at Newsarama.com. Daredevil will also be making a guest appearance in Black Widow: Deadly Origins #3.

  • Check for more items coming out in 2010 at ManWithoutFear.com. Items of note are a new Nocenti TPB and Essential Daredevil vol 5, featuring issues from Gerry Conway’s and Steve Gerber’s runs (with art by Gene Colan, Bob Brown and others).

Links

My good friends from Monkey on my Back (you meet all kinds of people hanging around Twitter all day…) recently posted a review of Guardian Devil. They are also generally cool people with a cool podcast, so any comics fan would be well-advised to check them out.

That’s it for now! Everyone have a good week!

Wacky power #17 – Sensing color by touch

In his most recent review of Daredevil #106, Robert of the Matt Murdock Chronicles discussed an instance of Matt talking about his color sensing ability, and a dialogue on the topic ensued in the comments. Well, in all honesty, it was mostly me giving a (very confusing) lecture. So, I thought I’d try a more pedagogical approach here. First let’s look at some instances that showcase “color sensing.”

Daredevil’s ability to determine color is one of those tricks that has gone away almost completely over time, despite being prominently featured even in the very first issue, as seen below. “I can even blend colors, for each colored fabric has a different feel to me!” You sure about that, Matt? That first costume of yours, while iconic, hardly features an impressive blend of colors…


Continue reading “Wacky power #17 – Sensing color by touch”

Random Reviews – When Strikes the Gladiator! (vol 1, #113)

So far in the “random reviews” series, we’ve looked mostly at Brian Michael Bendis’s run. This time, we’re taking a trip back to 1974 and the Daredevil of Steve Gerber, with Bob Brown on art duties.

The first thing that strikes me about this issue is the title. I guess “When Strikes the Gladiator!” is supposed to be Marvel’s way of adding some kind of Shakespeare twist to the otherwise dull “When the Gladiator Strikes.” Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the “Gladiator Strikes Back!” banner on the cover is not actually the title of the issue as it appears on the first page of the story. Unless it is and someone somewhere goofed up. Let’s move on.

This issue features a wide variety of players, including the Deathstalker (who appears for the cliffhanger ending), the Gladiator, Man-Thing, the FBI, and Foggy’s sister Candace Nelson. While the premise of the story – which I’ll get to shortly – is a little goofy, it’s a good fun ride with a plot that actually holds together quite well.

This also happens to be a groundbreaking issue of sorts, as we see Matt bid Natasha farewell in San Francisco to return to New York where then district attorney Foggy Nelson is recovering from a gunshot wound. You can tell that Marvel editorial is testing the waters here because it appears to be completely open at this point whether Matt will return to San Francisco when Foggy recovers or stay put in his native city.

The issue starts with Daredevil brooding on the top of a building back in New York, thinking about the recent events of his life. We follow his thoughts through caption boxes that run for pages, but at least we get a nice recap of what he’s been up to. He contemplates both the state of the country, which was recently very nearly overtaken by the Mandrill (now that’s a politically incorrect character if there ever was one), and that of his own life. If it weren’t for the rather pretentious tone of the writing, and the bizarre events remembered, this almost reads like a post-Miller version of Daredevil. As an airplane passes overhead, Daredevil revisits another memory from the recent past: having to say good bye to Natasha, aka the Black Widow, at the airport in San Francisco.

Returning to his apartment, Matt just barely misses a call from Candace Nelson who has just received an unwelcome visit from the FBI. Just as they are about to take her off to headquarters and start talking about impounding some papers – “the Sallis papers” as we’re about to find out – the Gladiator crashes through the window (these villains and their stealth manners…) and takes off with both the hapless journalism student and her secret papers.

The next day, we see Matt and Foggy contemplating the situation in Foggy’s apartment. Matt decides to get right on it by going to visit Candace’s journalism professor at Emerald State University, a Dr. Charles Laing. Foggy, meanwhile, laments his condition and complains to himself that he can’t even keep up with a blind man.

In his office, Dr. Laing explains to Matt that the papers Candace stumbled upon had to do with the relationship between the military and the university, specifically a project called Operation: Sulphur (hey, throw some brimstone in there and you’re all set), which was the work of a chemist called Theodore Sallis. Sallis had developed a serum that could turn men into pollution-breathing monsters, which would allow humans to continue to pollute the environment. Sallis himself disappeared in the Florida Everglades after the project was abandoned. Matt is basically being told the origin of Man-Thing (whose solo title Gerber was writing at the time).

Matt sets off to the Everglades and manages to talk a local radio newsman into driving him out to the shack Sallis used to rent before he went missing. The Gladiator is at the scene, holding Candace hostage in the shed, and the newsman is conveniently knocked unconscious which lets Matt go into action as Daredevil. Three pages of fighting follow, ending with DD tacking a knock to the head. While DD is unconscious, the Gladiator is joined by the Deathstalker and Man-Thing and… Nope, that’s the end of the issue. To be continued and all that.

One thing that occured to me while I was reading this issue was the idea that developing life forms that are able to digest environmental toxins would be a bad thing. I mean, it would be if you had to create these beasts out of other organisms, but these days using micro-organisms to aid in the processing of sewage is seen as a good thing. Yeah, I used to work in the life sciences, and apparently it affects how I read 35-year-old comic books. 😉

Anyway, this is a fun issue. It’s very rough around the edges, and it’s not “good” in the way that modern DD is good – they’re like two different animals – but in terms of entertainment value, I give this a solid 3 out of 5.

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!