Chris Samnee and Daredevil’s evolving radar

I wrestled a bit with the name of this post. First, I was going to call it “Chris Samnee under the radar.” You know, like the term “under the microscope” but with a radar instead (hey, they’re both optical devices, sort of). But then that would suggest someone flying under the radar, so I couldn’t have that. Then I thought maybe I should call it “Chris Samnee on Daredevil’s radar.” Which works, but that would suggest he’d made some kind of statement. Which he does all the time, through the art on the page, but that’s not what people would read into it. So, I landed on the title above, which is kind of boring, but apt, I think. Daredevil’s radar, as it’s appeared for the last year, is based on the the revamped radar that Paolo Rivera introduced in Daredevil #1, but Samnee has succeeded in putting his own spin on it as well. It has, in a word, evolved. And, a great deal of the evolution is seen in the coloring of the radar sense as well, so major kudos to colorist Javier Rodríguez!

Before reading on, I suggest you check out the post I wrote a little over a year ago on Paolo Rivera’s radar. My initial reason for writing it was to answer a question from a commenter regarding an apparent conflict between the art and the writing. I started by offering my two cents on the limits of any two-dimensional rendition of the radar sense in showing us what Daredevil “sees.” (I suspect that if Matt Murdock were real and we could inject ourselves into his brain for a day, not much would actually “look” like anything we’d recognize.) Then, I went on to talk about certain aspects we would expect from a radar sense and how those compare to what we see in the comic.

Now that we are more than a year into Chris Samnee’s stint as Daredevil artist, I figured this would be a good time to check back in with the radar and see if there are any trends that might be fun to comment on. At the very bottom of this post is a gallery featuring twenty-five Chris Samnee radar panels (all colored by Javier Rodríguez, of course), in chronological order. Just click them to zoom in, and click anywhere on the screen to pop them back down (this works for all in-post images on this site, if you didn’t know). Some of them, I’ll use as examples too.

Faceless faces

Matt confronts the office staff, as seen in Daredevil #16, art by Chris Samnee

The question that spurred last year’s post had to do with Daredevil and his impression of faces (specifically, Mole Man’s). Since Samnee took over, however, the faces have become much less distinct. This may just be a natural consequence of a difference in art style, but I have to say that I really like the subtle change. The most prominent feature of any face seems to be the nose, which makes sense, but aside from that faces appear indistinct.

One of the reasons I prefer less distinct faces is not just that I think it’s slightly more realistic, but because it forces the reader to shift from their normal way of thinking about things. One constant in Daredevil history has been the natural inclination on behalf of creators to overestimate Matt’s visual nature while underestimating just how much he could do with his other senses. The sense of smell was all but neglected more or less until Frank Miller came along. As “microsmatic” primates with very good vision, we naturally have a hard time imagining a different ordering of the senses where things like faces just aren’t that important, and other impressions take priority.

People versus backgrounds

Daredevil against the mob, as seen in Daredevil #19, art by Chris Samnee

One thing that has caught my attention lately is that people are colored a little differently than the background. As seen above, and in many other panels, the people in the panel seem a little brighter than the background, and the radar lines are a little more blurred. This is pretty neat from an artistic angle since it makes people, often in motion, stand out a little better. I don’t have anything interesting to say about this from a science perspective though. 😉

Near and far

Daredevil versus Superior Spider Man, from Daredevil #22, art by Chris Samnee

Like i mentioned in last year’s post, one thing to keep in mind with the radar is that it behaves differently close up than it does for things that are far away, which may appear much more faint. Normal vision, on the other hand, doesn’t really have any such restraints. As long as there’s a light source, we can see things that are very far away, even when they obviously appear much smaller.

In all three panels I’ve used as examples so far, we see that the radar lines fade away into completely black areas of the panels or (as seen above) that the buildings in the background are just hinted at. This may be because it saves time or because it gives the radar panels a nice amount of added depth and texture, but it also has the distinct advantage of making sense. Isn’t it nice when that happens?

Dialing down the details

Radar fades out, as seen in Daredevil #14, art by Chris Samnee

In the last year, we’ve seen a lot of interesting things happen to Daredevil’s senses. In Daredevil #14 (above), Matt loses his radar sense, which Samnee illustrates by making the radar lines thinner and farther apart, to suggest that it’s fading out. In a scene from Daredevil #16, we instead see the radar come into focus, in a flashback sequence of sorts showing young Matt in the hospital. I really dig that whole scene. One of the nice things about the whole wireframe radar model is that there are so many paramaters to play with: spacing, line width, intensity and so on. Another great example of this are the radar panels from Daredevil’s big fight with Ikari.

Final thoughts

Not much to say except that I’m really digging what the art team is currently doing, and their take on the radar is certainly no exception. The only property I haven’t seen explored yet is the transparency setting! (Which might be a another cool way of fading things out.) I’m looking forward to seeing what else might appear on Daredevil’s radar in the coming months!


Radar panel of a crowd, from Daredevil #12, art by Chris Samnee
Radar panel of a crowd, from Daredevil #12
Radar shot of Latverian street, from Daredevil #14, art by Chris Samnee
Radar shot of Latverian street, from Daredevil #14
Radar fades out, as seen in Daredevil #14, art by Chris Samnee
Radar fades out, as seen in Daredevil #14
Hank Pym versus nanobots, from Daredevil #16, art by Chris Samnee
Hank Pym versus nanobots, from Daredevil #16
Young Matt's radar comes into focus, as seen in Daredevil #16, art by Chris Samnee
Young Matt’s radar comes into focus, as seen in Daredevil #16
Matt confronts the office staff, as seen in Daredevil #16, art by Chris Samnee
Matt confronts the office staff, as seen in Daredevil #16
Matt finds Milla in his bed, as seen in Daredevil #18, art by Chris Samnee
Matt finds Milla in his bed, as seen in Daredevil #18
Daredevil sees Coyote shoot a mobster, as seen in Daredevil #19, art by Chris Samnee
Daredevil sees Coyote shoot a mobster, as seen in Daredevil #19
Radar image of the street below, as seen in Daredevil #19, art by Chris Samnee
Radar image of the street below, as seen in Daredevil #19
Daredevil against the mob, as seen in Daredevil #19, art by Chris Samnee
Daredevil against the mob, as seen in Daredevil #19
Daredevil facing his own headless body, as seen in Daredevil #19, art by Chris Samnee
Daredevil facing his own headless body, as seen in Daredevil #19
Radar image of Coyote, from Daredevil #20, art by Chris Samnee
Radar image of Coyote, from Daredevil #20
The Spot strung up, from Daredevil #21, art by Chris Samnee
The Spot strung up, from Daredevil #21
Daredevil versus Superior Spider Man, from Daredevil #22, art by Chris Samnee
Daredevil versus Superior Spider Man, from Daredevil #22
Superior Spider-Man, as seen in Daredevil #22, art by Chris Samnee
Superior Spider-Man, as seen in Daredevil #22
Daredevil faces chaos, as seen in Daredevil #23, art by Chris Samnee
Daredevil faces chaos, as seen in Daredevil #23
Matt inspects Larry, from Daredevil #25, art by Chris Samnee
Matt inspects Larry, from Daredevil #25
Sensory split screen, from Daredevil #25, art by Chris Samnee
Sensory split screen, from Daredevil #25
Blurred panel of Ikari, as seen in Daredevil #25, art by Chris Samnee
Blurred panel of Ikari, as seen in Daredevil #25
Daredevil's radar is dampened by the water from the sprinklers, as seen in Daredevil #25, art by Chris Samnee
Daredevil’s radar is dampened by the water from the sprinklers, as seen in Daredevil #25
Matt interviews a sweaty Mr. Benson, from Daredevil #26, art by Chris Samnee
Matt interviews a sweaty Mr. Benson, from Daredevil #26
Matt in a subway tunnel, from Daredevil #26, art by Chris Samnee
Matt in a subway tunnel, from Daredevil #26
Matt on the ground, from Daredevil #26, art by Chris Samnee
Matt on the ground, from Daredevil #26
Daredevil versus the two Bullseyes, as seen in Daredevil #27, art by Chris Samnee
Daredevil versus the two Bullseyes, as seen in Daredevil #27
Static radar, Daredevil #27, art by Chris Samnee
Static radar, Daredevil #27
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.

2 comments

  1. Oh wow, i’d completely forgotten about that original post and the discussion that had led to it (Daniel D was me by the way!).

    I just love Chris Samnee’s first crack at the radar, from that panel from way back in issue #12. It’s a thing of beauty, with an almost 3D quality to it. But there’s an interesting reason why it looks so different, which is (for those who missed Christine’s podcast featuring Mr Samnee himself) that Chris actually hand drew the blacks in that panel! Rather than just drawing the “wireframe” outlines and then inverting the colours (making them white and the background dark) which is what was done for his subsequent depictions of the radar.

  2. I have to say I love the artwork on all of Vol. 3. Samnee really filled the large shoes left by Rivera and put his own spin on it, and couldn’t be happier. I really like the wire frame approach and how it gives a 3-D like quality to the radar. I do think its the best way to visually represent a non-visual sense. And your science explanations on its accuracy just makes it that much better. Unfortunately im not sure im going to be able to appreciate the radar as much if/when they change back to a more flat looking portrayal.

    BTW Do I need to go by Daniel T? lol

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