In Defense of Armored Daredevil

One of the most controversial decisions in Daredevil’s history — and often derided as one of the worst — was to change Daredevil’s costume in Dardevil #321, the third issue of the ambitious “Fall From Grace”.  Abandoning the now-classic red costume he had worn since Daredevil #7, writer D.G. Chichester and penciler Scott McDaniel designed a new costume that provided armored protection against the heavier hitting bad guys with whom Matt was contending.  The result can speak for itself.

Plainly, Matt was getting serious.  Then and now, I unapologetically love this costume.  I recognize it has flaws, some silly 90s affectations that perhaps haven’t aged well, but, there is a lot to enjoy here.

Color Scheme/Design:  First off, the new color scheme is infinitely more interesting than either of Daredevil’s previous two costumes.  A costume composed entirely of one color is about as boring as it gets.  Even characters who are entirely red like Mephisto, Surtur, or Red Hulk actually have other colors in play at the same time.  Traditionally, Daredevil is simply a red body stocking with a tiny blotch of pink at his lower face.  By contrast, look at the way the red accents pop against the blue-gray background color on the new costume!  I think the designs on the arms are beautiful and intimidating for reasons I can’t explain at all.  Even the white/light gray shoulders and wrists add to the overall interesting color dynamic.  And menacing red eyes are always a win.

Armor Shape:  Second, the rather subtle manner in which Daredevil’s shape is changed makes him a much more physically imposing figure.  His chest and shoulders bulge powerfully.  I’m not sure if having his billy club on his forearm is more or less convenient than having it on his leg, but I think it’s a better look from a purely aesthetic standpoint.  While slightly bulkier, Daredevil’s lines are still lithe and graceful.

Practicality:  Third, putting Daredevil in some real armor just makes so much damned sense.  After getting his rear kicked a hundred times, you’d think Matt would have had this brainstorm considerably earlier.  How many other non-super-powered heroes who routinely fight big bad guys don’t wear armor?  Batman and Punisher aren’t that stupid.  Admittedly, body armor can limit movement, possibly negating one of Daredevil’s greatest strengths.  But, as evidenced by this costume, there is a happy compromise between armor and mobility.  Additionally, thanks to the darker color scheme, this costume is considerably more useful in Daredevil’s typical night environment than his bright red one.  (Even the disappointing Daredevil film saw the need to darken Matt’s costume to a deep red to make it work at all.)

Logo:  Fourth, has Daredevil’s logo ever looked better?  The design is basically the same as it has ever been, but now it pops off the costume.  If one is going to have a logo, there seems no reason that it should be barely noticeable.  This one certainly doesn’t suffer from that problem.

Overall:  While very different from the original two costumes, I do not see this costume and wonder who it is: it is obviously still Daredevil.  Whatever the essential nature of a Daredevil costume may be, I think the armored Daredevil preserved it.  (I suspect this may be the point that I lose everyone on.)

Legs:  I’ve got nothing here.  I have no idea what’s going on with the spiky things on the outsides of his legs, nor the strange knee pads.  This is the only part of the costume that makes me scratch my head a bit.  There must be a better option, though I like the intent to break up Daredevil’s monochromatic color scheme.

Sadly, the armored Daredevil costume did not last terribly long (it was shown torn to shreds in Daredevil #345) and has never been seen again.  Even Matt’s Shadowland-era costume, which drew comparisons, had little in common with this much busier outfit.  Perhaps this costume was doomed by the fact that it simply didn’t seem to look nearly as good when anyone other than Scott McDaniel drew it.  Others seem to agree with me on that point, as noted in this snippet from Kuljit Mithra’s truly excellent interview with Chichester, McDaniel, and inker Hector Collazo for the 15th anniversary of “Fall From Grace”.

Mithra: I’ve always felt that no one could really draw DD in his new costume better than Scott [McDaniel]. . . it just looked wrong when others drew it.

Chichester: That was the tragic flaw of the damn thing!  Whether it was a nod to the silly biomimetic conceit, or just ’cause he designed it, Scott had the toughness of the thing flow out of the character.  It always looked and felt very fluid and organic.  Everyone else seemed to interpret it as “armor”, and never bothered to think it through one pencil line further.  Then it was stiff and limiting, as if it was affixed outside the man.  I wouldn’t be surprised if someone had actually gone and drawn rivets on the thing. . . .

McDaniel: Like Dan [Chichester], all I see now are the flaws in my work, so I think it’s overly generous to say I drew the suit better than anyone!  But Dan articulated the idea well — the suit was to be a flexible part of the man, not a crusty add-on.  As long as DD’s body line was made graceful, the suit worked.  Supple, but tough as nails.

Considering how much Scott McDaniel’s style has changed over the last 17+ years, I don’t think even his return to Daredevil would save this costume from the dust bins of history.  Alas, alas!  There must be someone else out there who loves this thing as I do, right?  Right?

28 comments

  1. This is a fantastic piece! I happen to totally disagree with the author here (I’ve never been able to hurdle the knee pad/leg armor parts of this myself…and I never liked the rest of it!) Even though I disagree (I LOVE the red suit, it’s iconic!), this is a VERY well written discussion. Kudos!

  2. Thanks for the kind words, Eric. Looking back at the costume change, I wonder if there were any possible alternatives that would have been acceptable to red-suit purists. As you say, it’s an iconic costume after all! Some people will probably just never be all that happy with anything else. Regardless, the XTREME 90s was probably not the best time to give it a try. 🙂

  3. Like many things in 90s, this costume was a great idea that was taken several steps too far and the result was too drastic of a change. I too always loved this costume for the most part. Personally the problem with the costume, I think, are the silver parts which are what give it the “armor” look. Imagine that costume with the silver replaced with black and more of a traditional tights look. It would’ve played a lot better.

  4. I also am not a fan of the costume, but I enjoyed the article nonetheless. For me, I could stand Matt wearing some light body armor…but only along the shins and forearms. Much more than that just seems too restrictive. All just my opinion, naturally. 🙂

  5. I still like it, a better costume change than some I remember from around the same time. Love the staves attached to his forearms.

    The only thing I disagree with concerning this design is how Matt manufactured it. Can’t remember it exactly, but something about composite materials or biometrics, lots of computer fashioning, quite a bit for a blind man to accomplish on his home computer. 😉

  6. I, too, always thought that costume looked bizarre when anybody but McDaniel drew it–and it especially made Matt look too bulky and unwieldy. And in most depictions, Matt’s already a big guy, thanks to his boxer father. One of the descriptions of his build that stuck with me (because I read it early on) was from Christopher Golden’s Daredevil novel, where he mentioned that Matt should really be too big for what he does. He’s at least six feet tall, maybe a little over, and while that doesn’t stand out in superhero-land, it makes him a giant by the standards of a lot of really good fast-moving martial artists. He’s fighting at a profound disadvantage because of the extra stress on his joints, etc., that comes of putting a six-foot body through moves designed for five-footers. (Maybe that’s why he fights so many opponents who are even bigger than he is?) Why weigh him down or bulk him out further?

    That said, I agree that body armor makes sense. (But I’m amused by the people who want him to have armor only on his wrists and shins–what, not over his vital organs or the areas marksmen are trained to shoot for? Are we dressing him by the standards of female fantasy armor now?) And I agree that dark colors make more sense for him, unless you’re really desperate for jokes about a blind man’s fashion sense.

    I think that’s probably why I’ve always preferred artists who draw Daredevil with a lot of black on his body and carefully chosen red highlights. His logo pops a lot more, but he himself doesn’t stick out as much in all his nighttime scenes.

  7. I think it’s implied that Matt’s costume is more than just spandex in the modern age, even if it is visually the same. In Guardian Devil Smith said it was micromesh steel and designed by Reed Richards. In any case I have mixed feeling about the armor outfit. I was not a fan of the shoulder pads but I liked the relief of color (I think I said that right).
    The costume came with a story I really enjoyed (and still do). And it also came with an odd art direction that took away the black lines and made things hard to see.

  8. Personally i loved this costume, although i agree the leg ridges don’t look so good but the real flaw in this armor is that it’s armor.
    what you ask, well DD is supposed to be the man without fear, wearing heavy body armor screams fear

  9. Thanks for the post: I have always had a soft spot for this armoured version as it is more interesting and more practical than the monochromatic unpadded red suit (micromesh steel wouldn’t protect against broken bones). Given his lack of super-speed, mutant healing power or impenetrable skin, he’d not only be a man without fear but a man with less brains to go out without armour. But I guess the red suit is too iconic to lose, so he’ll be a victim of his “fearless” moniker forever…

  10. Thanks for the observations. Although FFG has many warts — I hope we got to all of them in Kuljit’s fun interview-go-round — I did enjoy what Scott accomplished. Clearly was one of those “in the moment” things. Glad to see someone other than us still gets a kick out of it. (In context, natch!)

  11. Thank you, Mr. Chichester for stopping by I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  12. Here is some of the original art on http://www.ComicArtFans.com/searchresult.asp (if the link didn’t work just type “Daredevil Armored” in the keyword section) and you can see a few different artists who have drawn DD with that costume. I agree with many of you that Scott is the best at drawing it. I love both the red and armored costume; the red will always be the main costume that identifies DD but I would like to see the armored costume every so often. A good way to do that is by bringing back D.G Chichester and Scott McDaniel for another run which I’ve been waiting for. I’m shocked that marvel didn’t think of using Scott to draw the armored costume on one of the 50th anniversary covers. Great points and write-up!

  13. Glad to know I’m not the only one who loves this costume. The book was about to be cancelled, no one was watching… The costume was as much, “well, if nobody cares anymore, I’m just gonna say…” as it was about being a bit more real world. We’re talking about surviving real world violence. I was following stuff about cutting edge materials at the time; this book, this costume made so much sense, and the story is my favorite DD story of all time. I knew that the costume would revert back before soon, instead of being added to DD’s wardrobe. Maybe if they’d gone red and yellow with it, it would have had a chance. Batman has alternate suits, why not DD? I could never read the book again after the reversion. Just de-evolution to me. In my mind, to this day, Matt’s story ended with “Fall from Grace”.

  14. You’re not alone at all–I love the hell out of this costume and always did.

  15. Finally, we are validated! 😉 LOL.

  16. Wow! Welcome, sir!

  17. I loved the concept of this costume, and wished it could have captured the imagination of some of the editorial and publishing staff, who had a gold mine in their hands as far as sales and marketing are concerned. The art was my favorite DD work since the deeps of Miller Time when DD fought Nuke.
    I couldn’t believe the vitriolic comments about DD needing to be stupidly fearless or his moniker would be a horrible, horrible lie like the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. I thought the costume gave him more opportunity to damage more opponents while giving himself staying power in a scrap. Think its a dumb idea to play NFL football or any ice hockey without pads, or would that be considered simple prudence? Not that any of the red costume purists could fathom the idea that it only takes one lucky stab or bullet to ruin a non-super’s crime fighting career. Its just common sense. If the costume design sucked so badly, why didn’t it get a redux under the milieu of DD simply tweaking it to more practical levels. Police officers select uniforms based upon profile, color and proportion to establish the assumed authority of the wearer. So does Batman. Why do these rules get tossed for DD? Man without fear means he’s not scared to get involved and put his body on the line for moral principles, yet he hides his identity: why? Fear of identification and reprisal at his most basic human level? Then he has fear, just far, far less than the average Joe. Zatoichi never wore a mask, but he didn’t like getting hurt, either. Like DD, he understood that an injury could severely adversely affect his ability to carry out a crusade, a risk he should have never had to think twice about. Another point, DD lives in a world populated by world-ending supers. We don’t. Furthermore, his fear is for someone else rather than for himself, same as what happens in this world, when someone runs toward danger.
    I say bring back the armor, with DDs personal touches and tweaks and lose the hideous red PJs that I always laughed at. Man without fear?!?!?? That makes two of us. Now quit fooling around and scare ME.

  18. I personally love this costume, the only time I saw it used though was in the Spider-Man story Web of Life, Mark Bagly’s rendering of the costume was awesome and it instantly won me over, glad to hear I’m not the only one who likes it, great article my friend.

  19. right on from everybody’s view.. red is as iconic (or, rather, anticonic) as it gets.. but, not because it’s murdock’s alter-wear of choice..

    there’s another.. er.. man(?) owning the true copyrights to red, invariably and infinitely boosting mwf’s image/appeal to the dilemmatic level which curses us to this day..

    (heard of a man that’s.. lowdead with deadones.. everyone’s ready to moe.. heard of some gaysights.. out by the biway..)..

    if red was presented as were most other superhero attire (as though preparing a stroll down catwalk) It more than most likely would have not attracted me at that age to investigate what lay on the pages in between the plain.. wally’s no-frills, commando execution is what made that work..

    (quite simple.. the marketing i mean.. so much so it’s insidious, actually)

    no win situation.. anything put up against red, without open mind as to effort behind attempt, would be shunned by the mob… yellow was very good attempt at uniqueness.. vest, diameter gradient spheres rising on outer side of boots/gloves having been quite a subtle touch (even though length/lambda cut aren’t, and hood should have been maroon, v’d to thorax, if wishing to follow matching theme)..

    practicality. ID preservation. agreed aaron. even the losers get lucky sometimes (bang!stab!etc) and flash wore red, ironman red/yellow, could be mistaken on the quick or a distance. no misunderstanding here.. (in fact venture to say it went a ways to detach and to increase, from infamy/folklore/confusion towards a more tangible, character specific and original ID, respectively)

    shoulder vs leg? thigh-calf/knee are 5/3 sections while shoulder is 4 (or is how i believe was intended but not always displayed so).. now, this may sound odd, or pretense/justification, some may feel it senseless, it’s ok.. but, like the keystone atop an arc, the odd # actually divides each side into an even # that are at once more readily identifiable while keeping the eye swinging backnforth longer in intrigue (closer to timelessness, if one believes in such).. think of the body, the column that is our torso with 2 arms/side, divides into 2 legs, and in all 5 limbs (head) from a center single.. i think a 3 section shoulder would’ve worked better, as it does on the knee..

    in all this was an exceptional effort for it’s time and especially comparing what it had to go up against.. flaws? ofcourse.. there are in all design (but not because the engineers (of who the good all know the same things) cannot deliver the real McCoy).. blindspot is not overdone either, perhaps a bit simple to some, better to play it safe..

    (bell showed his team at voltalab the theoretical foundations for activating relays via light(heat) and stretching a pigskin across a thin skeleton to pass current thru before the turn of the century.. fiberoptics and electroacoustic loudspeaker.. but hey, “we have to empty existing warehouses 1st”)

    colour/tone?.. up for grabs according to taste.. but the flame starts yellow to red to white to.. you guessed it in ascending order of degrees.. yes blue.. but i’m also biased and have a thing for blue.. eyes too. (hotst-ahw-uff, can’t get enough).. black and blue too robert.. for a mutant, gambit wasn’t overdone, “tree” is an even more intriguing story mark.. but it too isn’t lands “end” for me..

    here comes daredevil, the man with less brain.. haha.. funny blue..

    thank you for the tip on web of life symbiote.. trust your judgement so, gutta have it.. (wish i knew spanish)

    be well all

  20. btw forgot.. the clubs inline with forearm and attached to the rings at wrist, (not sure how well the idea should be “graded” on execution) convenience-wise? may be a bother for higher-concentration fidlin about or intricate maneuvering in confined area but.. if the task at hand is blocking a katana swipe or two.. well, believe they’ve outfitted cox with some form of scales type metal roughly about same area but wrapped around.. these should be better braced with a second snap at the other end and positioned closer to the side, although the rings do

  21. Electrostatic speakers i meant.. sorry, it’s been a while since active in mekanix..

    bell also was consul for sullivan as benefactor to keller.. and supporter of perkins school.. alex made it to almost 80 but helen to almost 90.. what a man and even more so what a woman

  22. sorry if the descriptives about the division of limbs came out a bit confusing (got carried away with the /es).. obviously meant to read an arm per side, and that the neck/head could be counted as keystone when torso (which includes upper bod -sometimes 1 in same in grk, as leg can refer to any part or the whole unless asked where.. “does it hurt?”) viewed as an inner center..

    “incorrect the assumptions heard that big(er) must necessarily mean slow(er) and small(er) fast(er)”.. fisk..

    and, just curious, since heard female fantasy armour mentioned, some of us (friends and i) are indeed curious as to the effect of the total eclipse of the trunk.. from the women’s viewpoint, ofcourse, but not exclusively.. (spidey? ok.. but lack of footwear goes way back.. as does the double D but in another configuration and place)

    lets see.. 930317.. hm, i wonder?.. hey mac?.. naw, shh.. suddenly start seeing pop ups everywhere (NOW! see red’s @#!$ scrabble blue’s &*$# like never seen before! ONLY for a ltd. time ONLY on ^%&* for the extra low $ of ONLY #&^!)

    oh, and 1 last (i think) thing.. aaron, you reference the red design on the arms.. inexplicable.. it is pretty reminiscent how the middle semi-arc is just about where woods’ original rendition ends between about 1/2 and 1/3 up the forearm, and in addition the lower 1st band also included as a second wrist glove which i find kind of double cool (even if it’s blue in the 1st panel and red in the 2nd (ha, comics.. gutta love it)

  23. there are a couple of tribute albums of their material by various other artists (and a few tribute bands.. at large), for a change or comparison (as to just exactly why. lalala).. and many covered singles, if one later wishes to seek, like on nirvana’s last..

    but,.. know what..

    a totally lovely acoustics versions compilation by Kris Delmhorst is a must hear.. she plays around a bit with the originals and comes up with something really smooth.. yeah, she’d give the originals a run for.. real peaceful, and godawful fun/ny.. gosh, i wish she’d do even more of them..

  24. “ahw.. fer christ’sake.. are we ever going to leave D.G. and McD. alone?”

    wondering now.. a 3 or 5 section shoulder? within a shorter length would 5 appear too.. scaley?.. you know.. reptilian? but again, is a 3 section enough? or, perhaps settling on a 4 was right on from the start? maybe in line with the 2 section wristlets.. usually depicted as 2, anyway.. so an even theme on the upper body?.. in this case?

    must chew it over a bit longer.. (ironman has used a few various well done variants)

    perhaps i was wrong here and jumped ahead of myself.. although there is NO denying the super execution of the shoulder (and the leg side, to a degree).. a nod to the samurai but not just squares.. in measure, again in a sort of ovoid-oblong kind of way, with a squaring-off of the circular on the sides.. so as not to appear a total ripoff.. and to flay-flap about when in action..

    “in the moment type thing”.. geesh.. imagine if they had a bit more time, support.. (takes at least 2 years to fully develop a new model (ka)..

    it’s a good thing being alive and human.. we can relish things being an individual and additionally enjoy the company and benefits that being part of a whole which provides..

    records were made to be broken.. so true.. i keep hoping “boy just when is a writer, a group, a painter that’s better than or as good as “”, “””, “”” and “”, or “” “”going to come along? wow, just think what they’ll bring!”..

    some things DO take longer.. hemingway.. einstein.. heston, porsche (jr. even moreso, doing the mex and the art.. (91)1 rare breed).. e.g. robinson.. loewy.. steinbeck.. f. L. wright to gropius, von neumann, etc.. in sectors where leeway is strictly governed.. but eventually.

    some things heard make one wonder who actually said what.. not that it really matters but.. i can picture miller, a grown man, sitting and reading eventually only his issues and saying “”ahh.. that’s it.. because I’M God” or something similar.. or is he, like most people would be, waiting, hoping as hard as any that some will come along and do MWF even more justice.. ha.. just to read and enjoy man!

    i have highest hopes for the new world.. our CHILDREN we think here.. and knowing that there is also same said consensus there (hoping for the next new cosmos) gives me confirmation to that hope.. knowing that the most intelligent people i’ve met are there (unfortunately the most &^$* #s too.. but assuredly far fewer) is reassuring.. what a wonderful world this will be. what a wonderful time to free.

    (now those confused kids from inner mongolia.. seem to think we don’t want them playing in the eurosandbox.. so? aha! they’ll TAKE the aegean!.. yea, that’s it!.. goodgod.. as if they cannot come anytime and stay as long as they wish as guests.. as if they don’t realize that the war over the adriatic coastal touristic sites (FORMER Yugoslavia) didn’t end in any real profit for anyone of them.. as if we ourselves can rely on tourism (just look at our economic state).. as if they have asked what all of the english, german, dutch, american, scandinavic, etc communities settled mostly on the islands and looking for peace of mind, themselves think.. even if for none of the above, please, someone inform them that (in fact.. rest assured), even if they’ve “got some jets inside”, our aero-force pilots rank tied 3rd after US and Russia.. please, lot of grief saved (who spends how much on a population ratio (or no, just total even) per year on.. ugh!.. yea, that?)

  25. hey, just thought.. i think chris you’re on to something here.. haha.. hey, maybe i should start my own of deardevil site.. waiting for all of your hardcore indepth analytics problem solving to help

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