Yes, it’s time for one of those radar posts again, and we will finally be moving into post-Miller territory, and covering the Daredevil of Denny O’Neil. As we’ll see, there are a couple of noteworthy things about O’Neil’s interpretation of the radar, so let’s get on with the show and tell…

Radar image, from Daredevil #195, by Denny O'Neil and Klaus Janson
Radar image, from Daredevil #195, by Denny O'Neil and Klaus Janson

In this scene, from Daredevil #195, with art by Klaus Janson, we see the radar referred to as a “mysterious para-normal signal.” Like others before him, O’Neil clearly thinks of the term “radar” as being just a metaphor and not literally a radar signal, but it’s the first time I can remember seeing it described as para-normal. There is no doubt that the event that gave Matt his heightened senses was a supernatural event – in the sense that it couldn’t happen in our own universe – but earlier descriptions of the radar have suggested either radio waves, sound waves, or Miller’s “proximity sense” which was described as having a natural origin. Using the term para-normal suggests something a little closer to a sixth sense rather than the hard-to-pin-down yet definitely physical sense we’ve seen so far. A similar description of the radar sense occurs later in a different issue as well. Of note is also, the notion that this signal is sent forth on command, a description which also recurs later in O’Neil’s run.

Radar image, from Daredevil #198, by Denny O'Neil and William Johnson
Radar image, from Daredevil #198, by Denny O'Neil and William Johnson

The scene above, from Daredevil #198, with art by William Johnson, gives another example of something that will continue to be very common throughout the O’Neil run, that is Matt’s ability to detect things through walls, and often at distances much greater than simply the next room. This is hardly new, but O’Neil makes frequent use of this ability.

Radar image, from Daredevil #204, by Denny O'Neil and Luke McDonnell
Radar image, from Daredevil #204, by Denny O'Neil and Luke McDonnell

In Daredevil #204, with art by Luke McDonnell, Matt is shown picking up an intruder. This panel is included here more for the strange “third eye” artistic representation than anything else, though it also features the, by now, pretty typical delayed radar reaction, where the impressions are perceived more as an afterthought than as a primary sensation.

Radar image, from Daredevil #206, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image, from Daredevil #206, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

Above, in Daredevil #206, with art by David Mazzucchelli, we see Daredevil perform a nice radar-related trick when he notices the knife in someone’s pocket. Regardless of the interpretation, it makes sense that Matt would be able to sense a hard object on a person’s body, though how he knows the hand is mother of pearl remains a mystery to me. Does mother of pearl have a distinct smell?

Radar image, from Daredvil #207, by Denny O'Neil and William Johnson
Radar image, from Daredvil #207, by Denny O'Neil and William Johnson

As mentioned above, O’Neil often showed Daredevil scanning large areas and “seeing” past walls. Above is one such example, from Daredevil #207, with art by William Johnson.

Second radar image, from Daredevil #207, by Denny O'Neil and William Johnson
Second radar image, from Daredevil #207, by Denny O'Neil and William Johnson

Included for both the artistic representation and the unusual wording, the above panel, from Daredevil #207, with art by William Johnson, shows Daredevil taking a look at a rather crude scene. The use of the term “radar hearing” is also curious, but hardly new. Long before Brian Michael Bendis dropped the radar sense proper and replaced it with a sum of all senses, the occasional writer would talk about “radar hearing” or “radar senses” (plural). This may not fit with O’Neil’s earlier description, but writers being inconsistent in the radar department is hardly new either.

Radar image, from Daredevil #210, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image, from Daredevil #210, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

In Daredevil #210, with art by David Mazzucchelli, we get a look at the god Mow, the deity of choice for the Kingore tribe. Matt gets an impression of it that is fairly typical of the O’Neil run. While the range and ability to look beyond solid objects comes across as impressive, the radar i clearly shown as being more crude than vision would be. When coming face to face with this alien object, it takes a little deductive reasoning before Matt realizes what it is he’s “looking” at.

Radar image, from Daredevil #211, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image, from Daredevil #211, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

Daredevil #211 gives yet another example of how the artist, in this case David Mazzucchelli, can draw the objects perceived through the radar. This type of outline has, of course, been seen before, and looks similar to how Frank Miller would draw the radar. This scene also features another O’Neil trademark in that he would often have Matt deconstruct a scene as seen here.

Radar image, from Daredevil #212, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image, from Daredevil #212, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

All writers occasionally find themselves in situation where the radar needs to be played down a bit in order to challenge the main character. Here, in Daredevil #212, with art by David Mazzucchelli, Matt finds his radar sense confused by some bushes. Isn’t it odd how someone who can “see” through walls can’t see through leaves? Personally, I would prefer a happy medium in this case, but, as promised in the first installment of this series, I’ll try to keep my personal opinions out of it for the time being. πŸ˜‰

Radar image, from Daredevil #213, by Denny O'Neil, David Mazzucchelli and Danny Bulanadi
Radar image, from Daredevil #213, by Denny O'Neil, David Mazzucchelli and Danny Bulanadi

In the next issue, Daredevil #213, with art by David Mazzucchelli and Danny Bulanadi, Matt is back to seeing through metal and cement. Question: If someone waved some branches in front of him, would he still be able to spy on our underground suspects? Okay, there I go with the sarcasm again…

Radar image, from Daredevil #216, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image, from Daredevil #216, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

What is is with Matt Murdock and vegetation? In Daredevil #216, with art by David Mazzucchelli, he finds himself in a flower store, and once again taken out of commission. This time it’s both the scent and the “floral pieces.”

Radar image from Daredevil #221, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image from Daredevil #221, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

In Daredevil #221, we see the by now regular penciler David Mazzucchelli try something new in the art department with a rather blurry and crude rendition of a knight.

Second radar image from Daredevil #221, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Second radar image from Daredevil #221, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

In the same issue, we see a half-naked Daredevil have his trip to Venice go from bad to worse when a medieval caste threatens to fall on top of him. Again, we have the radar sense looking confused. On the other hand, the noise and chaos of falling rock makes this more understandable than the less threatening situations we’ve seen above.

Radar image from Daredevil #222, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image from Daredevil #222, by Denny O'Neil and David Mazzucchelli

Daredevil #222, with art by David Mazzucchelli, sees our hero back in a challenging environment that does look a little worse than the flower store. It makes sense that someone whose spatial perceptions are based on echoes (whether these, in turn, as based on sound or some other form of energy) would feel more comfortable in a city with hard straight lines than out in the woods. The rain, too, is another old enemy out on the battle field.

Radar image from Daredevil #226, by Denny O'Neil, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
Radar image from Daredevil #226, by Denny O'Neil, Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli

We’ll end this post with Denny O’Neil’s last issue, Daredevil #226. It was co-written by Frank Miller and lead directly into Born Again. The art is by David Mazzucchelli. This also brings us back to the very first panel. Once again, Daredevil is shown “letting the waves out” as an act of will, similar to what we saw in the beginning of the post. The image itself is also interesting in this panel, with the outline of the Gladiator being superimposed on top of the image of Daredevil.

To sum up Denny O’Neil’s radar, we see a sense with a possible “para-normal” origin, which is both powerful and vulnerable, available at will (though not necessarily active by default) and generally rather crude in terms of image quality. And with that geek-out, I’m off to bed. I’ll see you next week when we’ll look at recent sales numbers, and Foggy’s relationship with his mustache. Not necessarily on that order

Christine Hanefalk

Christine Hanefalk

Based in Stockholm, Sweden, Christine is a die-hard Daredevil fan who launched The Other Murdock Papers in 2007 to share her passion for Matt Murdock and his friends with other fans.

7 comments

  1. Nice “geek-out”, Christine. πŸ˜‰

    I think the most interesting idea in O’Neil’s use of the radar sense is the idea of DD sending forth a signal. I had always assumed that if DD had, strictly speaking, either radar or sonar, it was certainly passive radar or passive sonar, i.e., he simply received information via radio or sound waves, but did not send forth his own radio or sound waves to force reflection off of objects. To suggest that DD emits a radar-type signal is fascinating and… really weird.

    It’s one thing for Matt to collect radio/light/sound/whatever wave information and create an image of the world at large, which is what I think Bendis and Brubaker had him doing. It’s quite another to suggest that DD is like a bat, sending out ultra-sonic emissions or radio waves and then using the reflections of those waves, ala active radar/active sonar. This would seem to open the possibility that you could easily enough construct a Daredevil detector by determining what the heck he’s shooting out of himself in the same manner that we have bat-detectors that listen for their ultrasonic screeches. Of course, under O’Neil’s view, it would seem possible for DD to simply run silent and trust his nose and ears to navigate.

    More importantly, to state that DD is emitting a signal begs the question of what type of signal has no problem getting through concrete walls, bouncing off something, and then getting back to DD with little difficulty. (And yet can’t get through those damned trees!)

    I think it’s also worth noting that the modern DD, without an amazing built-in radar/sonar has much greater capabilities than does O’Neil’s DD. Nowadays, DD is practically omniscient concerning his immediate surroundings. Back in the day, he seemed to have to *actively* make inferences. That would slow you down to a crawl if you were worried about running into thugs around every corner.

    1. Thanks Aaron!

      I think the most interesting idea in O’Neil’s use of the radar sense is the idea of DD sending forth a signal. I had always assumed that if DD had, strictly speaking, either radar or sonar, it was certainly passive radar or passive sonar, i.e., he simply received information via radio or sound waves, but did not send forth his own radio or sound waves to force reflection off of objects. To suggest that DD emits a radar-type signal is fascinating and… really weird.

      Well, I think that the idea that it’s an actual signal that is sent out is pretty old, and that the idea that it’s a passive system is the much more recent one. I think most people (and writers) do imagine him being like a bat, though where the heck this signal is coming from sure beats me. I prefer a more down to Earth DD whose “powers” are easily explainable by his four remaining sense. Superhearing, by itself, is enough to give him a good idea of solid obstacles around him and a general idea of what they look like. It would give him the echolocating abilities of a normal blind person, except it’s passive echolocation on hard core steroids.

      I think it’s also worth noting that the modern DD, without an amazing built-in radar/sonar has much greater capabilities than does O’Neil’s DD. Nowadays, DD is practically omniscient concerning his immediate surroundings. Back in the day, he seemed to have to *actively* make inferences. That would slow you down to a crawl if you were worried about running into thugs around every corner.

      I agree, except I think the omniscient DD was limited to Bendis’s run and toned down quite a bit during Brubaker’s (I even saw him criticized on various message boards for making Matt less than the apparent demi-god he was under Bendis). As much as I liked Bendis’s DD generally, I really disliked some of the ways he wrote Matt’s senses. On the surface, the new “radar” (an ability composed of other underlying abilities more than a separate sense) came across as more realistic than a guy shooting radiowaves through his skull, but the things he was able to do were often completely absurd. I think I’m going to have to devote a post to this somewhere down the line. πŸ˜‰

      I think there needs to be a happy medium somewhere where DD is able to function realistically as a superhero without having him be magically aware of everything going on, even blocks away (where he was always able to sort out the exact piece of information needed). I’m of the strong opinion that his powers should abide by the laws of physics. It’s not possible to hear what someone is saying in the basement of a tall building while you’re comfortable seated on the roof (as in the Trial of the Century arc), because sound quite simply doesn’t travel that far through layer upon layer of cement. That’s no longer superhearing, it’s some kind of sixth sense. Generally, writers need to stop being so afraid of allowing for any kind of weakness. He’s a blind human with heightened senses, not some kind of omniscient antenna with a “useful information” filter. I think most fans actually appreciate his human side, as well as his characteristic vulnerabilities, though the latter is something writers are even more afraid of even hinting at. The guy can’t read a street sign from three feet away. There’s no need to highlight that, but there’s no need to hype up his senses beyond belief to get around it either. Okay, rant over. πŸ˜€

  2. So, I’m guessing you’re not a fan of the infrequent occasions when DD has sat on a tall building and somehow searched all of Hell’s Kitchen until he found that particular person/thing/smell/whatever that he was searching for, eh? How else is Matt going to keep his kidnapped girlfriends alive? (Incidentally, I do recall DD doing this to find Bullseye – who thought everyone was DD – way back when Frank Miller took over art duties, so this quasi-omniscience certainly has a substantial history to it before Bendis.)

    Off the top of my head, Brubaker had DD do this at least twice (kind of). Once, during the Mr. Fear story, DD sat back and listened for Fear’s metallic voice somewhere in the Kitchen. At the very end of Brubaker’s run, Master Izo found Milla by finding her scent in the city, something he claims Matt could’ve done if he had simply focused hard enough. (I’m just going to assume that Izo’s senses are roughly equivalent to DD’s without really having any evidence for this other than their shared history/type of training.) It doesn’t look like our modern writers are going to be abandoning DD’s one super power any time soon.

  3. You know what, I think I may have to devote a whole post to this… πŸ˜‰ I’ll get back to you (and everyone else) shortly.

  4. Now the suspense is killing me! Sorry to make more work for you. πŸ˜‰

  5. Don’t apologize! I love it when people take the time to comment, and when a conversation in the comments can inspire a whole post, that’s even better. First off, I’m going to do one of those posts that are a sure sign i need more inspiration or risk running out ideas (it’s about Foggy’s shaving habits, I kid you not). Tomorrow I’ll put together a new post, based on the half-baked response I already wrote. So, I hope the suspense isn’t killing you, because you’re going to have to wait another 24 hours. πŸ˜›

  6. Hi, I came here because I miss your fanfic! πŸ™‚
    Well, regarding Matt’s senses, I wonder whether the writers/pencillers know the series about Chinmi by Takeshi Maekawa. AFAK the newer comic is not available in English anymore but reader can pretty much understand the physic of the moves.

    I love how the writer explain every moves logically/physically. One of them involves radar ability on how Chinmi able to detect the exact location of person/thing behind big wall/obstacle.

    Just sharing. And I love your works πŸ™‚

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