Daredevil Marvel Masterworks volume 7


By Roy Thomas, Gerry Conway, Gary Friedrich, Allyn Brodsky, Gene Colan, Don Heck & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-6644-3 (HB)

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him capable of astonishing acrobatic feats, a formidable fighter and a living lie-detector.

Very much a second-string hero for most of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in large part to the roster of brilliant artists who had illustrated the strip. He only really came into his own, however, after artist Gene Colan signed up for the long haul…

The natal DD battled thugs, gangsters, mad scientists and a plethora of super-villains (and – as seen in this collection – even the occasional alien incursion), quipping and wise-cracking his way through life and life-threatening combat, utterly unlike the grim, moody quasi-religious metaphor he’s been seen as in latter years.

Covering May 1970 to March 1971 and re-presenting Daredevil #64-74 plus and crossover material from Iron Man #35 and 36, this seventh swashbuckling compilation (available in both hardback and eBook formats) sees the once staid and so-very Establishment Murdock move with the shifting cultural mores as scripter Roy Thomas hands over the reins to newcomer Gerry Conway in an increasingly determined move to make the Man Without Fear cutting edge and relevant… …

Following Thomas’ revelatory and reminiscing Introduction the action opens here with Horn-Head prowling the rooftops of Los Angeles. He’s there to his find love-of-his-life, who quit New York after the pressure of sharing DD’s secrets proved too much…

After trailing the star-struck Karen Page to Hollywood he gets to take out his bad mood on a handy hood in ‘Suddenly… The Stunt-Master!’ (Thomas, Colan & Syd Shores) but eventually helps his old enemy in getting a TV show of his own…

Murdock remained in LA to oversee Karen’s first acting gig – a pastiche of then-hot spooky Television phenomenon Dark Shadows – and prevented her becoming part of a murder spree in ‘The Killing of Brother Brimstone’, a classy whodunit which cataclysmically climaxed one month later in ‘…And One Cried Murder!’

Still stuck on the West Coast, DD tackles another grudge-bearing villain as ‘Stilt-Man Stalks the Soundstage’ (Gary Friedrich, Thomas, Colan & Shores) with the now-reformed and respectable Stunt-Master ably assisting our hero. Matt finally leaves Karen to the vicissitudes of Tinseltown, landing back in the Big Apple just in time to become embroiled in a plot blending radical politics and the shady world of Boxing – ‘The Phoenix and the Fighter!’

The Black Panther returns seeking a favour in ‘A Life on the Line’ as kid gangs and the birth of the “Black Power” movement leapt from news headlines to comicbook pages. The same consideration of youth in protest also inspired the seditious menace of ‘The Tribune’ (written by Friedrich) as youthful ideologues, cynical demagogues and political bombers tear a terrified and outraged city apart.

The unrest peaked in Daredevil #71 as Roy Thomas contributed his swansong script by concluding the right-wing manufactured anarchy in ‘If an Eye Offend Thee…!’

New find Gerry Conway took over the scripting with the next issue, easing himself in with an interdimensional fantasy frolic wherein the Scarlet Swashbuckler encounters a strange rash of crimes and a mirror-dwelling mystery man named Tagak in ‘Lo! The Lord of the Leopards!’ before plunging readers into an ambitious cosmic crossover yarn which started in Iron Man #35.

Here the Armoured Avenger, seductive morally ambivalent free agent Madame Masque and S.H.I.E.L.D. supremo Nick Fury all sought ‘Revenge!’ (illustrated by Don Heck & Mike Esposito) for various vile acts and specifically the near-fatal wounding of valiant young American agent Jasper Sitwell at the hand of the mercenary Spymaster.

Their efforts – and those of their assembled enemies – were somehow fuelling an alien artefact called the Zodiac Key and, when its creators sucked Daredevil into the mix to battle Spymaster and a bunch of super-villains affiliated to the cosmic device, everybody is ultimately shanghaied to another universe for more pointless fighting in ‘Behold… the Brotherhood!’ (Daredevil #73, illustrated by Colan & Shores with plot input from Allyn Brodsky) before the epic concludes with extreme briskness in Iron Man #36.

So brisk, in fact, that only the first 8 pages of ‘Among Us Stalks the Ramrod!’ (Conway, Heck & Esposito) are reprinted here, leaving this potent brew of action and suspense to wrap up with Daredevil #74: an impressive and mercifully complete conundrum with DD trapped ‘In the Country of the Blind!’ (Colan & Shores) and calling on a group of sight-impaired volunteers to help him thwart a criminal plot to cripple New York…

The social upheaval of the period produced a lot of impressively earnest material that only hinted at the true potential of Daredevil. These beautifully illustrated yarns may occasionally jar with their heartfelt stridency but the honesty and desire to be a part of a solution rather than blithely carry on as if nothing was happening affords them a potency that no historian, let alone comics fan, can dare to ignore.

And the next volume heads even further into uncharted territory…

Rounding out the comics experience are bonus pages including the cover to all-reprint Daredevil Annual #2, and a selection of house ads.

Despite a few bumpy spots, during this period Daredevil blossomed into a truly magnificent example of Marvel’s compelling formula for success: smart, contemporarily astute stories, truly human and fallible characters and always magnificent illustration. These bombastic tales are pure Fights ‘n’ Tights magic no fan of stunning super-heroics can afford to ignore.
© 1970, 1971, 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Avengers Marvel Masterworks volume 9


By Roy Thomas, Harlan Ellison, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, Frank Giacoia, Herb Trimpe, Sam Grainger & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3501-2

The Avengers always proved that putting all one’s star eggs in on single basket paid off big-time; even when all Marvel’s all-stars such as Thor, Captain America and Iron Man were absent, it merely allowed the lesser lights of the team to shine more brightly.

Of course, all the founding stars regularly featured due to a rotating, open door policy which meant that most issues included somebody’s fave-rave. The increasingly bold and impressively ambitious stories and artwork were no hindrance either.

This sturdy hardcover and eBook compilation gathers the astounding contents of Avengers issues #80-88 and a cosmic crossover from Incredible Hulk #140 spanning September 1970-June 1971): evocative, socially-informed tales which confirmed Roy Thomas as a major creative force in comics whilst simultaneously consolidating John Buscema’s status as the foremost artist of Marvel’s second generation.

Following another candid reminiscence from Thomas – unravelling the behind-the-scenes secrets of the Dawning Marvel Age in his Introduction – this epochal tome opens with the debut of the company’s first Native American costumed hero in ‘The Coming of Red Wolf!’ (Thomas, John B & Tom Palmer) as the Avengers are drawn into a highly personal and decidedly brutal clash between ruthless entrepreneur Cornelius Van Lunt and a tribe of Indians he is defrauding and persecuting.

The dramatic dilemma (heralding the team’s entry into the era of “Relevant”, socially conscious tales) divides the team and concludes with Vision, Scarlet Witch and Goliath aiding Red Wolf in concluding episode ‘When Dies A Legend!’, whilst the remaining team pursues super crime combine Zodiac and the Black Panther pursues what he believes is a personal quest beside Daredevil. (This last tale occurred in DD #69 but is not included here. You’ll need to see the equivalent Daredevil Masterworks volume [#9, I think] for that).

Sadly, the malevolent mega-mob move first and take the entire island of Manhattan ‘Hostage!’, leaving only the solitary sightless vigilante Daredevil free to save the day, after which Militant Feminism raises its disconcertingly strident head as the Wasp, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch and Madame Medusa are seduced into joining a new team called the Lady Liberators (yes, I know how that sounds now but the all-male creative team meant well…).

However, the Valkyrie who declares ‘Come on in… the Revolution’s Fine!’ had her own dark secret and sinister agenda that has nothing to do with justice or equality…

Avengers #84 featured part-time paladin Black Knight who had become addicted to the bloodthirsty hunger of his Ebony Blade, resulting in an otherworldly confrontation with alternate-Earth barbarian king Arkon and his latest paramour the Enchantress in ‘The Sword and the Sorceress!’ The resulting acrimonious clash subsequently left half the team lost in a parallel existence…

In ‘The World is Not for Burning!’ (inked by Frank Giacoia), Vision, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver’s efforts to return home leave them stranded on an Earth where the Squadron Supreme are the World’s Greatest heroes and a solar Armageddon is only hours away…

Illustrated by Sal Buscema & Jim Mooney, ‘Brain-Child to the Dark Tower Came…!’ sees the extremely reluctant trans-Earth allies unite to save a very different world after which, back home, the Black Panther reprises his bombastic origin before taking leave of his comrades to assume the throne of his hidden African nation in ‘Look Homeward, Avenger’ (Giacoia & Sal B).

Novelist Harlan Ellison was a very vocal comics fan in the 1970s and occasionally collaborated on Marvel tales. Avengers #88 began a radical adaptation of one his best short stories, heralding ‘The Summons of Psyklop’ (Ellison, Thomas, Sal Buscema & Mooney) wherein an experiment to cure the Hulk of his destructive nature leads to the Jade Juggernaut’s abduction by a preternatural entity.

The saga concluded in Incredible Hulk #140 (Ellison, Thomas, Herb Trimpe & Sam Grainger) as ‘The Brute… That Shouted Love… at the Heart of the Atom!’ finds the man-monster experiencing truelove and idyllic peace in a sub-molecular paradise, only to lose it all when the demonic Psyklop tracks him down…

Following a reproduction of the cover of the all-reprint Avengers Annual #4, the romantic tragedy is somewhat leavened by a bonus yarn from Marvel’s spoof publication Not Brand Echh #5 (December 1967). Here Thomas, Gene Colan & John Tartaglione recount the sterling saga of ‘The Revengers vs Charlie America’, reinterpreting how – if not why – the heroes saved the Star-Spangled Simpleton of Liberty from icy entombment. Wrapping up the memorable magic is a brace of contemporary house ads and full biographies of all creative folk involved…

Thomas and John Buscema (and Sal too, actually) gloriously led Marvel’s second generation of creators in building on and consolidating Lee, Kirby and Ditko’s initial burst of comics creativity: spearheading and constructing a logical, fully functioning wonder- machine of places and events that so many others were inspired by and could add to.

These terrific tales are perfect examples of superheroes done exactly right and a pivotal step of the little company into the corporate colossus. They are also utterly fabulous stories you’ll never tire of reading
© 1970, 1971, 2015 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daredevil Epic Collection: volume 3 – 1968-1970: Brother, Take My Hand


By Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Gene Colan, Barry Windsor-Smith & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-0425-8

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him an astonishing acrobat, formidable fighter and living lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero for most of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in large part to the roster of brilliant artists who had illustrated the strip. He only really came into his own, however, after artist Gene Colan signed up for the long haul and wunderkind scripter Roy Thomas added an edge of darkness to the swashbuckling derring-do…

The natal DD battled thugs, gangsters, mad scientists, robots and a plethora of super-villains, quipping and wise-cracking his way through life and life-threatening combat.

Covering July 1968 to April 1970 this third tumultuous collection (in both trade paperback and eBook formats) sees a radical shift in treatment and content after in Stan Lee surrendered the scripter’s role to Thomas and an aura of barely contained escalating madness begins permeating the now staid soap opera narrative beats, peerlessly pictured by the masterful Colan, and a promising British fill-in artist named Barry Smith….

Having killed off his fictitious twin brother Mike Murdock, Matt briefly considered hanging up his scarlet long-johns but eventually retained his secret other-life by revealing to his closest friends that Mike was only one of a number of Men without Fear in the first part of a prolonged battle with a new nemesis as ‘Nobody Laughs at The Jester!’ (by Lee, Colan and inker Dan Adkins).

The Malevolent Mountebank only wanted to be more successful as a criminal than he had been as a bit-playing actor, but his motivation changed when crooked mayoral candidate Richard Raleigh hired him to spoil incorruptible Foggy Nelson’s campaign for the D.A. post.

The role grew, precipitating a protracted saga which kicked off with a temporarily befuddled DD ‘In Combat with Captain America!’ (inked by Vince Colletta) before Hornhead is framed for killing the Jester’s alter ego Jonathan Powers in #44’s ‘I, Murderer!’

Soundly defeated in combat by the Jester, our hero experiences ‘The Dismal Dregs of Defeat!’ and becomes a wanted fugitive. Following a frenetic police manhunt, he is finally arrested before snatching victory in thoroughly enthralling conclusion ‘The Final Jest!’ as inker extraordinary George Klein began a long and impressive association with the series.

With the Vietnam War raging, a story involving the conflict was inevitable but #47’s ‘Brother, Take My Hand!’ was so much more than a quick cash-in or even well-meaning examination of contemporary controversy as Marvel found another strong and admirable African American character (one of far too few in those blinkered times) to add to their growing stable.

Newly-blinded veteran Willie Lincoln turns to Matt Murdock and Daredevil for help on his return home. A disgraced cop framed by gang-boss Biggie Benson before joining the army, Lincoln is now back in America and determined to clear his name at all costs.

This gripping, life-affirming crime thriller not only triumphs in Daredevil’s natural milieu of moody urban menace but also sets up a long-running plot that would ultimately change the Man without Fear forever.

The return of Stilt-Man posed little more than a distraction in ‘Farewell to Foggy’ as Matt’s oldest friend wins the race for District Attorney but acrimoniously turns his back on Murdock, seemingly forever….

Stan Lee’s final script on the sightless crusader, ‘Daredevil Drops Out’ (#49), was illustrated by Colan & Klein, depicting Murdock as the target of a robotic assassin built by Mad-Scientist-for-Hire Starr Saxon. This tense, action-packed thriller grew into something very special with second chapter ‘If in Battle I Fall…!’ as neophyte penciller Barry Smith stepped in, ably augmented by veteran inker Johnny Craig.

Lee then left comics-scripting Boy Wonder Roy Thomas to finish up for him in ‘Run, Murdock, Run!’ (Daredevil #51, April 1969 with art by Smith & Klein): a wickedly engaging, frantically escalating psychedelic thriller which sees Saxon uncover the hero’s greatest secret after the Man Without Fear succumbs to toxins in his bloodstream and goes berserk.

The saga climaxes in stunning style on ‘The Night of the Panther!’ (Smith & Craig) as African Avenger Black Panther joins the hunt for an out-of-control Daredevil before subsequently helping contain, if not defeat, the dastardly Saxon.

The radically unsettling ending blew away all the conventions of traditional Fights ‘n’ Tights melodrama and still shocks me today…

Colan & Klein returned for #53’s ‘As it Was in the Beginning…’ wherein Thomas reprised, revised and expanded Lee & Bill Everett’s origin script from Daredevil #1, allowing the troubled hero to reach a bold decision, executed in #54 as ‘Call him Fear!’ featured the “death” of Matt Murdock and the triumphant return of long-vanished villain Mr. Fear.

‘Cry Coward!’ (beginning a superb inking run by legendary illustrator Syd Shores) reveals DD’s desperate reason for faking his demise (again!) and enacts the end of one of the Scarlet Swashbuckler’s greatest enemies.

‘…And Death Came Riding!’ then opens a tense 2-parter which forever changes Murdock’s relationship with the perennially loved-from-afar Karen Page whilst introducing a stunningly sinister new menace in Death’s-Head. By the end of ‘In the Midst of Life…!’ Matt and Karen are enjoying the most progressive and mature relationship in mainstream comics…

‘Spin-Out on Fifth Avenue!’ starts re-establishing some civilian stability as resurrected (again!) Matt Murdock becomes a special prosecutor for New York District Attorney Foggy Nelson and promptly goes after a mysterious new gang-boss dubbed Crime-Wave. As the fresh plot-threads take hold, new threats emerge, such as amped-up biker and reluctant assassin-for-hire Stunt-Master and #59’s far nastier hired gun who boasts ‘The Torpedo Will Get You if you Don’t Watch Out!’

‘Showdown at Sea!’ closes the career of the insidious and treacherous Crime-Wave, simultaneously signalling a return to single-issue action-based stories, starting with ‘Trapped… by the Trio of Doom!’ and spotlighting featuring a spectacular struggle against Cobra, Mr. Hyde and The Jester.

DD #62 features the nefarious Batman analogue from the Squadron Sinister who attempts to destroy the hero’s reputation in ‘Quoth the Nighthawk “Nevermore”!’ after which Horn-Head stunningly stops deadly psychopath Melvin Potter from busting out of jail in ‘The Girl… or the Gladiator’… but only at the cost of his constantly conflicted love-life…

To Be Continued…

Adding extra value to the proceeding are unused Colan cover pencils for #43, cover art for #44 and a delicious selection of original art pages concluding and complimenting a bonanza of bombastic battles tales that are pure Fights ‘n’ Tights magic in the grand Marvel Manner that no fan of stunning super-heroics can afford to ignore.
© 1968, 1969, 1970, 2017 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daredevil Epic Collection: volume 2 1966-1968: Mike Murdock Must Die!


By Stan Lee, Gene Colan & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-1-3029-1004-4

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him an astonishing acrobat, formidable fighter and living lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero for most of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in large part to the roster of brilliant artists who had illustrated the strip. He only really came into his own, however, after artist Gene Colan signed up for the long haul…

The natal DD battled thugs, gangsters, mad scientists, robots and a plethora of super-villains (and – as seen in this collection – even the occasional monster or alien invasion), quipping and wise-cracking his way through life and life-threatening combat.

Covering November 1966 – June 1968 and re-presenting Daredevil #21-41, crossover issue Fantastic Four #73, Daredevil Annual #1 – plus a bonus comedy caper from Not Brand Echh #4 – this second compilation (in both trade paperback and eBook formats) sees a marked improvement in overall story quality as scripter Stan Lee begins utilising longer soap operatic plot-threads to string together the unique fight scenes of Colan, who gradually shook off the remnants of his predecessor’s art style.

In a very short time John Romita had made the Sightless Swashbuckler his own before graduating to Spider-Man, so when Colan took over on DD, he initially kept the clipped, solid, nigh-chunky lines for rendering the Man Without Fear, but increasingly drew everything else in his loose, fluid, near-tonal manner. With these tales, his warring styles coalesced and the result was literally poetry in non-stop motion…

Without preamble the action opens with ‘The Tri-Man Lives’ (Lee, Colan, Frank Giacoia & Dick Ayers), containing Gangland themes and malignant machinations whilst sharing focus with super-menaces The Gladiator and Masked Marauder, whose eponymous killer android proves less of a threat than expected…

The villains had sought control of international organised crime syndicate the Maggia but their master plan to murder the Man Without Fear to prove their worthiness to lead goes badly awry after the kidnapped hero refuses to simply lie down and die…

Concluding in #23 with ‘DD Goes Wild!’ the ending sees our hero trapped in Europe, but soon making his way to England and a violent reunion with Tarzan analogue Ka-Zar who has become prime suspect in #24’s chilling puzzle ‘The Mystery of the Midnight Stalker!’

This tale contains my vote for the Most Obnoxious Misrepresentation of Britain in Comicbooks Award as a policeman – sorry, “Bobby” – warns, “STAY BACK, PLEASE! THE MILITIA WILL BE ARRIVING IN JIG TIME!”

After clearing the jungle hero’s name, Matt Murdock heads back to America in time to enjoy the less-than-stellar debut of a certified second-rate super-villain as ‘Enter: The Leap-Frog!’ introduces a thief dressed like a frog with springs on his flippered feet (yes, really…).

However, the big event of the issue is meeting Matt’s hip and groovy twin brother Mike

By the time ‘Stilt-Man Strikes Again’ (DD #26, March 1967) Colan was totally in command of his vision and a leaner, moodier hero was emerging. The major push of the next few issues was to turn the hopeless romantic triangle of Matt, best friend and Law-firm partner Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page into a whacky quadrangle by introducing fictitious twin Mike Murdock, who would be “exposed” as Daredevil to divert suspicion from the blind attorney who actually battled all those weird villains…

Confused, much…?

Still skulking in the background, arch-villain Masked Marauder was slowly closing in on DD’s alter ego. He gets a lot closer in ‘Mike Murdock Must Die!’ (with Giacoia inks) after Stilt-Man teams with the Marauder and the ever-fractious Spider-Man once again clashes with old frenemy Daredevil before the villains meet their apparent ends.

The Sightless Swashbuckler “enjoys” his first encounter with extraterrestrials in #28’s moody one-trick-pony ‘Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Planet!’ – an Ayers-inked thriller wherein invading aliens’ blindness-inducing rays prove inexplicably ineffective against the Crimson Crime-crusher.

John Tartaglione inked the next tale, a solid, action-packed gangster-thriller entitled ‘Unmasked!’ whilst issue #30 opened a protracted and impressive clash with former Thor foes the Cobra and Mister Hyde. The bombastic first bout comes complete with an Asgardian cameo in ‘…If There Should Be a Thunder God!’

Attempting to catch the rampant super-criminals, DD masquerades as the Asgardian Avenger only to encounter the real McCoy. Sadly, the mortal hero is ambushed by the villains once the Thunderer departs and, as a result of the battle that follows loses his compensating hyper-senses. Thus, he must perpetrate a ‘Blind Man’s Bluff!’ which almost fools Cobra and Hyde…

Naturally, it all goes wrong before it all comes right and against all odds Murdock regains his abilities just in time ‘…To Fight the Impossible Fight!’

Ramping up the devilish derring-do is the first Daredevil Annual: a visually impressive if rather lacklustre rogues’ gallery riot from Lee, Colan & Tartaglione, detailing five old foes ganging up on Daredevil as ‘Electro and the Emissaries of Evil!’

The Scarlet Swashbuckler quickly puts a pretty definitive smack-down on the electric evildoer and his acrimonious allies the Matador, Gladiator, Stilt-Man and Leapfrog…

Of more interest are the ‘Inside Daredevil’ pages, explaining his powers, providing the ‘Blueprint for an All-Purpose Billy Club’ and recapping the Matt/Mike Murdock “Faked News” situation, plus offering stunning pin-ups of Karen, Foggy, Ka-Zar, DD and a host of old foes such as Gladiator, Leap Frog, The Owl and Masked Marauder.

Rounding out the experience is comedy short ‘At the Stroke of Midnight!: An Actual Unrehearsed Story Conference with (and by) Stan and Gene!’

In the monthly comicbook, ‘Behold the Beetle’ sees the entire cast – Foggy, Karen and Murdock in the guise of his own (fictitious) twin brother – heading to Canada for World’s Fair Expo ’67 and encountering another borrowed costumed crazy in search of easy glory and untold riches…

With Daredevil crushed and captive, the prospects look bleak north of the border, but Hornhead soon outsmarts and outfights his techno-savvy foe in stunning sequel ‘To Squash the Beetle!’

Once safely returned to the Big Apple, DD’s undeserved reputation as a mere costumed acrobat induces another fearsome felon to attack in ‘Daredevil Dies First!’ The sightless wonder is targeted by old Fantastic Four foe The Trapster, who considers his quarry a mere stepping-stone in an overly-complex plan to destroy the World’s premier super-team.

Murdock manages to turn the tables in #36’s ‘The Name of the Game is Mayhem!’ (inked by Giacoia): a clash that leaves the blind hero triumphant but weakened: easy prey for another FF arch-foe. Tartaglione was back to ink the startling ‘Don’t Look Now, But It’s… Doctor Doom!’

Helpless before the Iron Dictator, DD is trapped in ‘The Living Prison!’ (Giacoia inks) as Doom swaps bodies with the sightless crusader to facilitate his own sneak attack on the FF: a devilish ploy culminating in a stupendous Lee, Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott crafted clash in Fantastic Four #73. The crossover conclusion sees the Human Torch, Thing and Mr. Fantastic battling Daredevil, Thor and Spider-Man in ‘The Flames of Battle…’

As always when involved in mind-swap cases, it’s perhaps most prudent to advise your friends when you defeat the bad guy and regain your original body…

The Man Without Fear finally found some of his own bad guys to bash in Daredevil #39 when old enemies the Ani-Men resurface with a new name and a different boss. Inked by George Tuska ‘The Exterminator and the Super-Powered Unholy Three’ reintroduces Bird-Man, Ape-Man and Cat-Man, now in the pay of a criminal genius working with time-based weapons, but the real meat of the tale is Foggy Nelson’s campaign to become New York City District Attorney.

That potential glittering prize is threatened, however, after the portly advocate unexpectedly revives his romantic relationship with ex-convict Deborah Harris, but at least now Matt Murdock’s only rival for Karen’s affections is “twin brother” Mike…

That story continued in #40 with DD banished to a timeless other-realm prison before leading to a spectacular cliffhanger in ‘The Fallen Hero!’ (inked by Tartaglione) before ending the only way it could with ‘The Death of Mike Murdock!’ as Matt takes advantage of his final catastrophic battle with the Exterminator to end the clumsy secret identity charade.

He still doesn’t come clean though, preferring to keep Daredevil’s secrets and let his friends grieve needlessly…

To Be Continued…

Rounding out the thrills and chills is a slice of exuberant slapstick schtick from Not Brand Echh #4 (November 1967) wherein Lee, Colan & Tartaglione again lampoon the romantic rollercoaster of Hoggy Nelson, Splat Murdock and secretary Miss Rage. Unable to win the comely lass Murdock decides on suicide by crook and as Scaredevil (the Man Who’s Scared of Fear) sets out to get ‘Defeated by the Evil Electrico!’

Other extras include original art pages and covers by Colan and the unused (presumed lost forever) original cover to DD #35, plus a Richard Isanove paint-augmented Colan cover originally seen as Daredevil Masterworks cover volume 3.

Despite a few bumpy spots, during this period The Man Without Fear blossomed into a truly magnificent example of Marvel’s compelling formula for success: smart stories, human characters and magnificent illustration. These bombastic tales are pure Fights ‘n’ Tights magic no fan of stunning super-heroics can afford to ignore.
© 1966, 1967, 1968, 2018 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daredevil Marvel Masterworks volume 4


By Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Jack Kirby & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-2072-8

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him an astonishing acrobat, formidable fighter and living lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero for most of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in large part to the roster of brilliant artists who had illustrated the strip. He only really came into his own, however, after artist Gene Colan signed up for the long haul…

The natal DD battled thugs, gangsters, mad scientists and a plethora of super-villains (and – as seen in this collection – even the occasional monster or alien invasion), quipping and wise-cracking his way through life and life-threatening combat.

Covering October1967-June 1968 and re-presenting Daredevil #33-41 and crossover issue Fantastic Four #73, this fourth compilation (in both hardback and eBook formats) sees a continuing gain in story quality as scripter Stan Lee blended soap operatic plot-threads with a string of guest supervillains to string together the unique fight scenes of the increasingly bold and artistically audacious Gene Colan…

Following another typically frothy Introduction from Stan Lee the action opens with ‘Behold the Beetle’ (Daredevil #33, and inked by John Tartaglione) and sees the entire cast – legal partner Foggy Nelson, secretary Karen Page and Murdock in the guise of his own (fictitious) twin brother Mike – heading to Canada for World’s Fair Expo ’67 and encountering another borrowed costumed crazy in search of easy glory and untold riches…

With Daredevil crushed and captive the prospects look bleak north of the border, but Ol’ Hornhead soon outsmarts and outfights his techno-savvy foe in the stunning sequel ‘To Squash the Beetle!’

Safely back in the Big Apple, DD’s undeserved reputation as a mere costumed acrobat induces another fearsome felon to attack in ‘Daredevil Dies First!’ The sightless wonder is targeted by old Fantastic Four foe The Trapster, who considers the Scarlet Swashbuckler a mere stepping-stone in his overly-complex plan to destroy the World’s premier super-team. Typically, Murdock manages to turn the tables in #36’s ‘The Name of the Game is Mayhem!’ (inked by Frank Giacoia): a clash that leave the blind hero triumphant but weakened and easy prey for another FF arch-foe. Tartaglione then returned to ink the startling ‘Don’t Look Now, But It’s… Doctor Doom!’

Helpless before the Iron Dictator, DD is trapped in ‘The Living Prison!’(Giacoia inks) as Doom swaps bodies with the sightless crusader to facilitate his own sneak attack on the FF, which culminates in a stupendous Lee, Jack Kirby & Joe Sinnott crafted Battle Royale in Fantastic Four #73’s crossover conclusion with the Human Torch, Thing and Mr. Fantastic battling Daredevil, Thor and Spider-Man in ‘The Flames of Battle…’.

As always when involved in mind- swap cases, it’s always prudent to advise your friends when you defeat the bad guy and regain your original body…

The Man Without Fear finally found some of his own bad guys to bash in Daredevil #39 when old enemies the Ani-Men return with a new name and a new boss. Inked by George Tuska ‘The Exterminator and the Super-Powered Unholy Three’ reintroduces Bird-Man, Ape-Man and Cat-Man, now in the pay of a criminal genius working with time-based weapons, but the real meat of the tale is Foggy’s campaign to become New York City’s District Attorney.

That potential glittering prize is threatened, however, after the portly advocate unexpectedly revives his romantic relationship with ex-convict Deborah Harris, but at least now Matt Murdock’s only rival for Karen’s affections is his imaginary twin-brother Mike…

That story proceeded in #40 with DD banished to a timeless other-realm world but still led to a spectacular clash in ‘The Fallen Hero!’ (inked by Tartaglione) before concluding the only way it could with ‘The Death of Mike Murdock!’ as Matt takes advantage of his final catastrophic battle with the Exterminator to end the clumsy secret identity charade.

He doesn’t come clean though, preferring to keep Daredevil’s secrets and let his friends grieve needlessly…

To Be Continued…

Rounding out the experience are number of bonus pages including the unused (presumed lost forever) original cover to DD #35, plus a gallery of original art pages and covers by Colan. Despite a few bumpy spots, during this period Daredevil blossomed into a truly magnificent example of Marvel’s compelling formula for success: smart stories, human characters and magnificent illustration. These bombastic tales are pure Fights ‘n’ Tights magic no fan of stunning super-heroics can afford to ignore.
© 1967, 1968, 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daredevil Masterworks volume 3


By Stan Lee, Gene Colan & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5953-7

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Everybody’s Truest Meaning of the Season… 10/10

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him an astonishing acrobat, formidable fighter and living lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero for most of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in large part to the roster of brilliant artists who had illustrated the strip. He only really came into his own, however, after artist Gene Colan signed up for the long haul…

The natal DD battled thugs, gangsters, mad scientists and a plethora of super-villains (and – as seen in this collection – even the occasional monster or alien invasion), quipping and wise-cracking his way through life and life-threatening combat.

Covering November 1966 through September 1967 and re-presenting Daredevil #22-32 and Daredevil Annual #1, this third compilation (in both paperback and eBook formats) sees a marked improvement in overall story quality as scripter Stan Lee begins utilising longer soap operatic plot-threads to string together the unique fight scenes of the increasingly bold Colan, who gradually shook off the remnants of his predecessor’s art style.

In a very short time John Romita had made the Sightless Swashbuckler his own before graduating to Spider-Man, so when Colan took over on Daredevil he initially kept the clipped, solid, almost chunky lines whilst drawing the Man without Fear, but increasingly drew everything else in his loose, fluid, near-tonal manner. With these tales his warring styles coalesced and the result was literally poetry in non-stop motion…

Following a fond reminiscence from Colan himself – in an Introduction first written in 2005 -the action opens with ‘The Tri-Man Lives’ (Lee, Colan, Frank Giacoia and Dick Ayers), containing Gangland themes whilst sharing focus with super-menaces Masked Marauder and Gladiator, whose eponymous killer android proves less of a threat than expected…

The villains had sought control of crime organisation The Maggia but their plan to murder the Man without Fear to prove their worthiness goes badly awry after the kidnapped hero refuses to lie down and die…

Concluding in #23 with ‘DD Goes Wild!’ the ending found our hero trapped in Europe, but he soon makes his way to England and a violent reunion with Tarzan analogue Ka-Zar who has become the prime suspect in #24’s ‘The Mystery of the Midnight Stalker!’ This tale contains my vote for the Most Obnoxious Misrepresentation of England in Comic-books Award when a policeman – sorry, “Bobby” – warns, “STAY BACK, PLEASE! THE MILITIA WILL BE ARRIVING IN JIG TIME!”

After clearing the English hero’s name, Matt Murdock returns to America in time to enjoy the less-than-stellar debut of a certified second-rate super-villain as ‘Enter: The Leap-Frog!’ introduces a crook dressed like a frog with springs on his flippered feet (yes, really).

However, the big event of the issue is meeting Matt’s hip and groovy twin brother Mike

By the time of ‘Stilt-Man Strikes Again’ (DD #26, March 1967) Colan was fully in command of his vision and a leaner, moodier hero was emerging. The major push of the next few issues was to turn the hopeless romantic triangle of Matt Murdock, best friend and Law-firm partner Foggy Nelson and their secretary Karen Page into a whacky quadrangle by introducing a fictitious twin brother Mike, who would be “exposed” as Daredevil to divert suspicion from the blind attorney who actually battled all those weird villains…

Confused, much…?

Still skulking in the background was arch-villain Masked Marauder who was slowly closing in on DD’s alter ego. He gets a lot closer in ‘Mike Murdock Must Die!’ (with Giacoia inks) after Stilt-Man teams with the Marauder and the ever-fractious Spider-Man once more clashes with old frenemy Daredevil before the villains meet their apparent ends.

The Sightless Swashbuckler “enjoys” his first encounter with extraterrestrials in #28’s moody one-trick-pony ‘Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Planet!’ – an Ayers-inked thriller wherein alien invaders’ blindness-inducing rays prove inexplicably ineffective against the Crimson Crimebuster.

John Tartaglione inked the next tale, a solid, action-packed gangster-thriller entitled ‘Unmasked!’ whilst issue #30 begins a protracted and impressive epic clash with old Thor foes the Cobra and Mister Hyde, complete with an Asgardian cameo in ‘…If There Should Be a Thunder God!’

Attempting to catch the super-criminals DD masquerades as Thor only to encounter the real McCoy. Unfortunately, the mortal hero is ambushed by the villains once the Thunderer departs and as a result of the battle that follows loses his compensating hyper-senses. Thus, he must perpetrate a ‘Blind Man’s Bluff!’ which almost fools Cobra and Hyde…

Sadly, it all goes wrong before it all comes right and against all odds Murdock regains his abilities just in time ‘…To Fight the Impossible Fight!’

Wrapping up the devilish derring-do is the first Daredevil Annual: a visually impressive but rather lacklustre rogues’ gallery riot from Lee, Colan & Tartaglione, detailing five old foes ganging up on Daredevil in ‘Electro and the Emissaries of Evil!’

The Man without Fear quickly puts a pretty definitive smack-down on the electric felon, plus his acrimonious allies the Matador, Gladiator, Stilt-Man and Leapfrog.

Of more interest are the ‘Inside Daredevil’ pages, explaining his powers, providing the ‘Blueprint for an All-Purpose Billy Club’ and recapping the Matt/Mike Murdock “Faked News” situation, plus offering stunning pin-ups of Karen, Foggy, Ka-Zar, DD and a host of old foes such as Gladiator, Leap Frog, The Owl and Masked Marauder.

Rounding out the experience is a short comedy tale ‘At the Stroke of Midnight!: an Actual Unrehearsed Story Conference with (and by) Stan and Gene!’ plus a gallery of original art pages by Colan, Giacoia, Ayers & Tartaglione.

Despite a few bumpy spots Daredevil blossomed into a truly magnificent example of Marvel’s compelling formula for success: smart stories, human characters and magnificent illustration. If you’ve not read these tales before I strongly urge you to rectify that error as soon as superhumanly possible.
© 1966, 1967, 2012, 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daredevil Epic Collection: The Man Without Fear


By Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, Bob Powell, John Romita Sr., Gene Colan & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-9548-1

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him an astonishing acrobat, formidable fighter and living lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero for most of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in large part to the roster of brilliant artists who illustrate the strip.

DD battled thugs, gangsters, a plethora of super-villains and even the occasional monster or alien invasion, quipping and wise-cracking his way through life and life-threatening combat.

As the remnants of Atlas Comics grew in popularity in the early 1960s it gradually supplanted its broad variety of genre titles with more and more super-heroes. The recovering powerhouse that was to become Marvel was still hampered by a crippling distribution deal that limited the company to 16 titles (which would curtail their output until 1968), so each new untried book would have to fill the revenue-generating slot (however small) of an existing title.

Moreover as the costumed characters were selling, each new similarly-themed title would limit the breadth of the monster, western, war, humour or girls’ comics that had been the outfit’s recent bread and butter. It was putting a lot of eggs in one basket, and superheroes had failed twice before for Marvel.

So in retrospect the visual variety of the first few issues of Daredevil, the Man Without Fear might have seemed a risky venture. Yes, the artists were all seasoned, talented veterans, but not to the young kids who were the audience. Most importantly, they just weren’t Kirby or Ditko, and new features need consistency and continuity…

Still, Lee and his rotating line-up of artists plugged on, concocting some extremely engaging tales until the latest Marvel Sensation found his feet with the hugely under-appreciated Gene Colan and the fascinating transition of moody masked avenger to wisecracking Scarlet Swashbuckler can be enjoyed in this collection gathering the first 21 issues (spanning April 1964 to October 1966) into one effervescent package of thrills and spills which begins with ‘The Origin of Daredevil’

This much-retold tale recounts how young Matthew Murdock grew up in the slums, raised by his father Battling Jack Murdock, a second-rate prize-fighter. Determined that the boy will be something, the father extracts a solemn promise from his son that he will never fight. Mocked by other kids who sarcastically dub him “Daredevil”, Matt abides by his vow, but secretly trains his body to physical perfection.

One day he saves a blind man from being hit by a speeding truck, only to be struck in the face by its radioactive cargo. His sight is burned away forever but his other senses are super-humanly enhanced and he gains a sixth, “radar-sense”. He tells no-one, not even his dad.

The senior Murdock is in dire straits. As his career declined he signed with The Fixer, knowing full well what the corrupt promoter expected from his fighters. Yet Jack’s star started to shine again and his downward spiral reversed itself. Unaware that he was being set up, Murdock got a shot at the Big Time, but when ordered to take a dive he refused. Winning was the proudest moment of his life. When his bullet-riddled corpse was found, the cops had suspicions but no proof…

Heartbroken Matt graduated college with a law degree and set up in business with his room-mate Franklin “Foggy” Nelson. They hired a lovely young secretary named Karen Page and, with his life on track, young Matt now had time to solve his father’s murder… His promise stopped him from fighting but what if he became “somebody else”?

Scripted by Lee and moodily illustrated by the legendary Bill Everett (with assistance from Ditko) this is a rather nonsensical yet visually compelling yarn that just goes through the motions, barely hinting at the magic yet to come.

Plot-wise, the second issue fares little better as Joe Orlando & Vince Colletta take over the art: ‘The Evil Menace of Electro!’ guest-stars the Fantastic Four and features a second-hand Spider-Man villain.

The FF call in lawyer Matt Murdock just as the electrical outlaw tries to break into their building and before long Daredevil deals with Electro by the numbers. Issue #3 finally offers the sightless crusader a super-foe of his own when he meets and trounces former Wall Street financier ‘The Owl, Ominous Overlord of Crime!’

Daredevil #4 was a turning point, and just in time. ‘Killgrave, the Unbelievable Purple Man!’ finally gave some character to the big, blind stiff as he strove to overcome a villain who could exert total control over anyone who saw him. Although Orlando & Colletta’s uncomfortable, over-busy art remained for one last episode Lee finally seemed to get a handle on the hero; just in time for a magician-in-waiting to elevate the series to spectacular heights.

With #5 Wally Wood assumed the art chores where his lush, lavish work brought power, grace and beauty to the series. At last this costumed acrobat seemed to spring and dance across the rooftops and pages. Wood’s contribution to the plotting didn’t hurt either. He actually got a cover plug on his first issue.

In ‘The Mysterious Masked Matador!’ a cool, no-nonsense hero who looked commanding and could handle anything started fighting hard and fast. The series began advancing the moribund romantic sub-plot (Foggy adores Karen, who only has eyes for Matt, who loves her, but won’t let her waste her life on a blind man) and actually started making sense and progress. Most importantly, the action scenes were intoxicating…

Although a bullfighter who used his skills for crime is frankly daft, the drawing makes it utterly convincing, and the following issue’s ‘Trapped by the Fellowship of Fear!’ is a minor classic as the Man Without Fear has to defeat not only the super-powered Ox and Eel (yet more recycled villains) but his own threat-specific foe Mr. Fear who instils terror and panic in victims, courtesy of his deadly fear-gas gun.

Daredevil #7 is a true landmark: to my mind one of the Top Ten Marvel Tales of all Time. Lee & Wood concocted a true masterpiece with ‘In Mortal Combat with… Sub-Mariner!’

Prince Namor of Atlantis travels to the surface world to have his day in court and sue all Mankind, but discovers too late that his warlord, Krang, has usurped the throne in his absence. The fiery monarch cannot sit languishing in a cell when the kingdom is threatened, so he fights his way to freedom and the sea.

This cataclysmic classic shows Murdock the lawyer to be a brilliant orator, whilst the hopelessly one-sided battle with one of the strongest beings on the planet proves the dauntless courage of DD and nobility of the Sub-Mariner. Most notably, with no fanfare at all, Wood replaced the original yellow-&-black costume with the iconic and beautiful all-red outfit we know today. As one pithy commentator stated “the original costume looked as if it had been designed by a blind man”.

Another villain debuted in #8’s gripping industrial espionage thriller ‘The Stiltman Cometh!’ pitting the acrobat against a villain who towered above the skyscrapers after which Golden Age Great Bob Powell came aboard as penciller to Wood’s layouts and inks with #9’s ‘That He May See!’

Relentlessly badgered by Karen, Matt finally agrees to see an eye-specialist who might be able to cure his blindness, only to become embroiled in a plot to conquer humanity by a Ruritanian maniac with a knights-in-armour fixation…

Wood was clearly chafing after a year on the book. He scripted Daredevil’s first continued story ‘While the City Sleeps!’: a political thriller which first saw Foggy run for District Attorney of New York even as mysterious mastermind The Organizer and his animal-powered gang, Bird-Man, Frog-Man, Cat-Man and Ape-Man terrorise the city.

With Powell now on full pencils and Wood just inking, Lee was left to write the concluding ‘A Time to Unmask!’ as Daredevil pulled out all the stops to confound a devious power-grab scheme which saw the villains defeated, but only at great personal cost to Nelson & Murdock…

With issue #12 Wood was gone, replaced by of an artist who was to eventually become Marvel’s top – and most loyal – star.

‘Sightless, in a Savage Land!’ was laid out by Jack Kirby and illustrated by John Romita, who had worked for Timely/Atlas in the 1950s before moving to relatively steady work on DC’s romance comics as well as freelance advertising.

He returned to take DD on an epic quest, guest-starring Tarzan-analogue Ka-Zar, that ranged from the dinosaur-haunted Savage Land via an extend battle with high-tech pirates led by The Plunderer to Jolly Olde England-land (#13’s ‘The Secret of Ka-Zar’s Origin!’) to a US Early Warning Base (#14, ‘If This be Justice…’, with what I’m sure is some un-credited assistance from George Tuska).

With this multi-part epic, Daredevil began to cement a persona as a wisecracking Scarlet Swashbuckler which would carry him all the way to the grim ‘n’ gritty Frank Miller days, far, far in the future.

Romita’s graceful, flamboyant style and expressiveness imparted new energy into the character (especially since Frank Ray Née Giacoia had been inking the series since # 14) and #15’s ‘…And Men Shall Call Him… Ox!’ showed his facility for explosive action superhero action as the dim strongman of issue #6 resurfaced, albeit in a new and sinister fashion as the lummox is made the subject of a brain-swapping experiment…

When a certain webslinger guest-starred in #16 little did anyone suspect how soon Romita would be leaving.

‘Enter… Spider-Man!’ introduced criminal mastermind, the Masked Marauder, who had big plans, the first of which was to get DD and the wallcrawler to kill each other.

With the next issue ‘None are so Blind…’ a sub-plot began that would lead to some of the highest and lowest moments of the early Daredevil after Spider-Man accuses Foggy of being the Man Without Fear!

Although the Wall-Crawler quickly realizes his mistake, others present don’t…

Issue #18’s ‘There Shall Come a Gladiator!’ introduced the manic armoured villain in a tale two-thirds scripted by legend-in-waiting Denny O’Neil, with Foggy trying to impress Karen by fostering the idea that he is Daredevil and almost perishing for the deception. Issue #19 saw the Masked Marauder ally with Gladiator in the action-packed big fight tale ‘Alone… Against the Underworld!’; a fitting farewell for Romita who was moving over to Amazing Spider-Man after Steve Ditko’s controversial departure.

Originally tipped for a fill-in issue, Gene Colan came aboard as penciller with #20’s ‘The Verdict is: Death!’, inked by Mike Esposito as Mickey DeMeo. Colan’s superbly humanistic drawing and facility with expressions was a little jarring at first since he drew Daredevil in a passable Romita imitation and everything else in his own manner, but he soon settled in and this two-part revenge thriller featuring the Owl (concluding with ‘The Trap is Sprung!’ inked by Giacoia, Dick Ayers & Bill Everett) is a fine beginning to his long, impressive run on the series, incorporating the Swashbuckler’s battle against his ferocious arch-foe, an army of thugs, deadly flying robots and even an exploding volcano to keep the readers on their toes….

Interspersed with glorious pin-ups by Wood, this bombastic full-colour compendium also offers a glimpse of original art pages by Everett and Romita & Giacoia; in-house ads; T-Shirt art and designs, layouts and sketches from Jack Kirby, Dick Ayers, Romita and Wood plus painted iterations by Dean White of Everett and Kirby art used for Marvel Masterworks covers.

Despite a few bumpy false starts Daredevil blossomed into a truly magnificent example of Marvel’s compelling formula for success: smart stories, human characters and magnificent illustration. If you’ve not read these tales before I strongly urge you to rectify that error as soon as superhumanly possible.
© 1964, 1965, 1966, 2016 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daredevil Masterworks volume 1


By Stan Lee, Bill Everett, Joe Orlando, Wally Wood, Bob Powell & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0785145639

As the remnants of Atlas Comics grew in popularity in the early 1960s it gradually supplanted its broad variety of genre titles with more and more super-heroes. The recovering powerhouse that was to become Marvel was still hampered by a crippling distribution deal that limited the company to 16 titles (which would curtail their output until 1968), so each new untried book would have to fill the revenue-generating slot (however small) of an existing title.

Moreover as the costumed characters were selling, each new similarly-themed title would limit the breadth of the monster, western, war, humour or girls’ comics that had been the outfit’s recent bread and butter. It was putting a lot of eggs in one basket, and superheroes had failed twice before for Marvel.

So in retrospect the visual variety of the first few issues of Daredevil, the Man Without Fear seemed a risky venture indeed. Yes, the artists were all seasoned, talented veterans, but not to the young kids who were the audience. Most importantly, they just weren’t Kirby or Ditko, and new features need consistency and continuity…

Still, Lee and his rotating line-up of artists plugged on, concocting some extremely engaging tales until the latest Marvel Sensation found his feet, and the fascinating transition of moody masked avenger to wisecracking Scarlet Swashbuckler can be enjoyed in this collection gathering the first 11 issues (spanning April 1964 to December 1965) into one effervescent package of thrills and spills which begins with ‘The Origin of Daredevil’

This much-retold tale recounts how young Matthew Murdock grew up in the slums, raised by his father Battling Jack Murdock, a second-rate prize-fighter. Determined that the boy will be something, the father extracts a solemn promise from his son that he will never fight. Mocked by other kids who sarcastically dub him “Daredevil”, Matt abides by his vow, but secretly trains his body to physical perfection.

One day he saves a blind man from being hit by a speeding truck, only to be struck in the face by its radioactive cargo. His sight is burned away forever but his other senses are super-humanly enhanced and he gains a sixth, “radar-sense”. He tells no-one, not even his dad.

The senior Murdock is in dire straits. As his career declined he signed with The Fixer, knowing full well what the corrupt promoter expected from his fighters. Yet Jack’s star started to shine again and his downward spiral reversed itself. Unaware that he was being set up, Murdock got a shot at the Big Time, but when ordered to take a dive he refused. Winning was the proudest moment of his life. When his bullet-riddled corpse was found, the cops had suspicions but no proof…

Heartbroken Matt graduated college with a law degree and set up in business with his room-mate FranklinFoggyNelson. They hired a lovely young secretary named Karen Page and, with his life on track, young Matt now had time to solve his father’s murder… His promise stopped him from fighting but what if he became “somebody else”?

Scripted by Lee and moodily illustrated by the legendary Bill Everett (with assistance from Ditko) this is a rather nonsensical yet visually engaging yarn that just goes through the motions, barely hinting at the magic yet to come.

Plot-wise the second issue fares little better as Joe Orlando & Vince Colletta take over the art: ‘The Evil Menace of Electro!’ guest-stars the Fantastic Four and features a second-hand Spider-Man villain.

The FF call in lawyer Matt Murdock just as the electrical outlaw tries to break into their building and before long Daredevil deals with Electro by the numbers. Issue #3 finally offers the sightless crusader a super-foe of his own when he meets and trounces ‘The Owl, Ominous Overlord of Crime!’

Daredevil #4 was a turning point, and just in time. ‘Killgrave, the Unbelievable Purple Man!’ finally gave some character to the big, blind stiff as he strove to overcome a villain who could exert total control over anyone who saw him. Although Orlando & Colletta’s uncomfortable, over-busy art remained for one last episode Lee finally seemed to get a handle on the hero; just in time for a magician-in-waiting to elevate the series to spectacular heights.

With #5 Wally Wood assumed the art chores where his lush, lavish work brought power, grace and beauty to the series. At last this costumed acrobat seemed to spring and dance across the rooftops and pages. Wood’s contribution to the plotting didn’t hurt either. He actually got a cover plug on his first issue.

In ‘The Mysterious Masked Matador!’ a cool, no-nonsense hero who looked commanding and could handle anything started fighting hard and fast. The series began advancing the moribund romantic sub-plot (Foggy adores Karen, who only has eyes for Matt, who loves her, but won’t let her waste her life on a blind man) and actually started making sense and progress. Most importantly, the action scenes were intoxicating…

Although a bullfighter who used his skills for crime is frankly daft, the drawing makes it utterly convincing, and the following issue’s ‘Trapped by the Fellowship of Fear!’ is a minor classic as the Man Without Fear had to defeat not only the super-powered Ox and Eel (yet more recycled villains) but his own threat-specific foe Mr. Fear who could instil terror and panic in victims, courtesy of his deadly fear-gas gun.

Daredevil #7 is a true landmark: to my mind one of the Top Ten Marvel Tales of all Time. Lee & Wood concocted a true masterpiece with ‘In Mortal Combat with… Sub-Mariner!’

Prince Namor of Atlantis travels to the surface world to have his day in court and sue all Mankind, but discovers too late that his warlord, Krang, has usurped the throne in his absence. The fiery monarch cannot sit languishing in a cell when the kingdom is threatened, so he fights his way to freedom and the sea.

This story shows Murdock the lawyer to be a brilliant orator, whilst the hopelessly one-sided battle with one of the strongest beings on the planet shows the dauntless courage of DD and nobility of the Sub-Mariner whilst most notably, with no fanfare at all, Wood replaced the original yellow-&-black costume with the iconic and beautiful all-red outfit we know today. As one pithy commentator stated “the original costume looked as if it had been designed by a blind man”.

Another all-new villain debuted in #8’s gripping industrial espionage thriller ‘The Stiltman Cometh!’ pitting the acrobat against a villain who towered above the skyscrapers after which Golden Age Great Bob Powell came aboard as penciller to Wood’s layouts and inks with #9’s ‘That He May See!’

Relentlessly badgered by Karen, Matt finally agrees to see an eye-specialist who might be able to cure his blindness, only to become embroiled in a plot to conquer the World by a Ruritanian maniac with a knights-in-armour fixation…

Wood was clearly chafing after a year on the book. The series’ first continued story ‘While the City Sleeps!’ was also scripted by him: a political thriller which first saw Foggy run for District Attorney of New York even as mysterious mastermind known as The Organizer and his animal-powered gang, Bird-Man, Frog-Man, Cat-Man and Ape-Man terrorised the city.

With Powell now on full pencils and Wood just inking, Lee was left to write the concluding ‘A Time to Unmask!’ as Daredevil pulled out all the stops to confound a devious power-grab scheme which saw the villains defeated, but only at great personal cost to Nelson & Murdock…

With a brace of glorious pin-ups by Wood, this sleek compendium offers a few bumpy false starts before blossoming into a truly magnificent example of Marvel’s compelling formula for success: smart stories, human characters and magnificent illustration.

If you’ve not read these tales before I strongly urge you to rectify that error as soon as superhumanly possible.
© 1964, 1965, 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Daredevil: Born Again


By Frank Miller, David Mazzucchelli & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-3481-7

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer whose remaining senses hyper-compensate, making him an astonishing acrobat, formidable fighter and living lie-detector. Very much a second-string hero for most of his early years, Daredevil was nonetheless a striking and popular one, due in large part to the captivatingly humanistic art of Gene Colan.

He battled thugs, gangsters, a plethora of super-villains and even the occasional monster or alien invasion, quipping and wise-cracking his way through life and life-threatening combat.

However in the late 1970s, under the auspices of Jim Shooter, Roger McKenzie and finally Frank Miller, the character transformed into a dark, moody avenger and latterly grim, quasi-religious metaphor of justice and retribution…

Miller’s tenure on the series was groundbreaking, transformative, commercially successful and critically acclaimed, but – as is the nature of comicbooks – brief. After thoroughly shaking things up, the auteur moved on to other landmark projects, but was occasionally enticed over the years to return for short stints and special events to the troubled advocate of both legal and vigilante justice.

Miller’s initial run was measured by a number of powerful relationships he wove for the sightless swashbuckler: primarily his doomed first love Elektra Natchios and his ultimate enemy Wilson Fisk, the undisputed Kingpin of Crime.

In 1988 Miller returned for a short run where, with artist-of-the-moment David Mazzucchelli, he wrote what is still considered by most fans as the definitive Daredevil tale, as well as one of the most memorable contests of Good against Evil ever seen in comics.

Born Again collects Daredevil volume 1, #226-233 (January-August 1985) and changed the way superhero comics were perceived by fans and by the vast world of casual readers beyond the confines of our art form.

Fisk has been untouchable for years. He has bribed, terrorised and colluded his way to a position of legal invulnerability and is, to all intents and purposes, beyond the reach of justice. This has resulted in an uncomfortable status quo and grudging détente with costumed vigilantes such as Spider-Man, The Punisher and Daredevil, but that is about to change forever…

Before all that however, a taste of things to come can be seen in ‘Warriors’ by Denny O’Neil, Miller, Mazzucchelli & Dennis Janke as former costumed villain and recovering mental patient Melvin Potter is blackmailed into committing crimes by crooks who have kidnapped his girlfriend.

In the past Daredevil had been a largely sympathetic opponent, but recent personal events have pushed the Man Without Fear to a dark, angry, unforgiving place, and when he confronts Potter in his Gladiator alter ego, the fight is brutal and without pity until the barely-resisting super-villain can explain the situation. Then, all that anger is supplemented by guilt as the Devil in Red deals with the real bad guys…

The main event begins as Miller & Mazzucchelli reveal the fate of a long-missed early cast-member. Karen Page had been Matt Murdock’s true love before eventually leaving him for an acting career in Hollywood. Now she resurfaces as a fading porn star and junkie, stuck in Mexico, who sells the secret of Daredevil’s identity for one more fix…

The revelation is toxic. As it inevitably makes its way into the hands of Fisk, the arrogant crimelord ensures everyone who passed the knowledge up the line to him is eradicated. He plans an epic vengeance against his foe and wants to share the joy with no one…

The mounting pressure of impending ‘Apocalypse’ first surfaces as an IRS audit and missed mortgage payments Matt knows he already paid…

He’s not even suspicious when his own accountant won’t talk to him and honest cop pal Nick Manolis formally accuses Murdock of bribing witnesses and committing perjury…

With his friends attacked and legal career destroyed, Daredevil goes on a rampage, trying to beat information out of underworld small-timers in a frantic search for the mastermind behind Murdock’s woes. Everything falls into place when his house blows up. Matt knows whose hand is behind the impossible procession of bad fortune…

In the heart of a New York winter, Matt Murdock vanishes. Penniless, homeless and pushed beyond all rational limits, his mind shuts down. ‘Purgatory’ sees the brilliant lawyer in the black depths of a breakdown, with Fisk’s spies dogging his heels. The Kingpin revels in each report of comatose depressive bouts or incidence of petty violence perpetrated on innocent bystanders. However, as Fisk revels in sending his enemy into a living hell, a woman already there breaks out…

Between moments of drugged oblivion, Karen Page is tortured by guilt. Finally, unable to contact Matt, she throws in with a most dangerous man who promises to bring her to New York for a few small considerations…

She won’t make it in time. Insanely galvanised to seek retribution, Murdock confronts Fisk in his palatial Manhattan skyscraper and is beaten almost to death. The brutalised Daredevil regains consciousness in a car rapidly filling with water at the bottom of the East River…

Kingpin’s euphoria turns to paranoia as the vehicle is recovered but no body is found…

Utterly beyond rationality, the thing that was once Matt Murdock roams the back alleys in ‘Pariah!’ His friends, however, have not forgotten him, and Daily Bugle reporter Ben Urich has been quietly digging. When he discovers why Manolis fabricated charges against Matt, Ben is forced to witness the cop’s fate as a warning…

Lost on the streets as Christmas dawns, Matt endures another brutal beating from petty thugs and crawls off to die. Is it destiny or something else that leads him to a church and a woman he thinks he knows?

…And time passes and Wilson Fisk knows no peace of mind. There is still no corpse…

‘Born Again’ finds the strands coalescing. In a church hospital ward, Matt Murdock emerges from the recuperating husk of his broken mind. The nun called Maggie is infuriatingly familiar but fierce in her determination to make him whole in both body and soul. Elsewhere, although the Kingpin’s ubiquitous tentacles keep Urich quiet and Matt’s friends fully occupied, the big man is not content.

His victory is incomplete and perhaps the vanished foe will return. Thus, Wilson Fisk makes an ill-judged decision and begins calling in carefully-hoarded favours from the high and mighty of the establishment…

As Matt slowly recovers, he has no idea Karen Page is about to re-enter his life, nor that Urich, fed up with being terrorised, is speaking both to the police and on record in the Bugle…

‘Saved’ begins with Murdock battling his way back to fighting fitness in time to save Ben Urich from Fisk’s grotesque assassin. He then reaches out to Melvin Potter. Soon, the resurrected Man Without Fear is ready to make his first move against Fisk…

All subtlety abandoned and gripped by mania, the Kingpin co-opts a military top secret to strike back. Through his illicit connections Fisk forces an Army General to unleash the military’s latest super-soldier in the heart of Murdock’s beloved Hell’s Kitchen, even as his usually impeccable attempts to ensure silence go spectacularly awry when a hit team fails to kill Urich and a vital witness…

Nuke is a Vietnam-obsessed, drug-fuelled, black ops killing machine spouting deranged mantras of ‘God and Country’ and his savage assault on the district certainly draws out Daredevil. Sadly, he also comes to the attention of the nation’s first patriotic guardian and ‘Armageddon’ finds the out-of-control human weapon also confronting his idol Captain America as well as the rest of the mighty Avengers.

From that point on, Fisk’s fate is sealed…

Epic, devious and still shocking, this is a blockbusting tour de force which ranks amongst the very best Fights ‘n’ Tights clashes ever crafted and remains one of the most accessible and entertaining.
© 1985, 2010 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.

Daredevil Season One


By Antony Johnson, Wellinton Alves, Nelson Pereira & various (Marvel)
ISBN: 978-0-7851-5643-7

Much as I’d love to believe otherwise, I accept that the Cold War era, transistor-powered, pre-cellphone masterpieces of my youth are often impenetrable to younger fans – even when illustrated by graphic gods like Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Joe Orlando or Wally Wood.

Perpetual renewal – or at least the constant tweaking of the background ephemera which passes for it in our business – is the irresistible force driving modern comics. There must be a constant changing of the guard, a shifting of scene and milieu and, in latter times, a regular diet of death, resurrection and rebirth – all grounded in relatively contemporary terms and situations.

Even for minor or secondary stars the process is inescapable, with increasing supra-comicbook media adjuncts (films, TV, movies, games, Films and FILMS) dictating that subjects be constantly updated because the powers-that-be believe goldfish-minded consumers of today apparently can’t understand or remember anything that’s more than one week or three cinematic releases old.

Alternatively, one could argue that for popular characters or concepts with a fifty-year pedigree, all that dogmatic back-history can be a creative deadweight and readership-daunting deterrence, so radical reboots are a painful but vital periodic necessity like a conceptual thinning of the herd…

Publishing ain’t no democracy, however, so it’s comforting to realise that many of these retrofits are exceptionally good comics tales in their own right and anyway, the editors can call always claim that it was an “alternate Earth” story the next time the debut saga is modernised…

Released in 2012, Daredevil: Season One was part of an all-new hardback graphic series intended to renovate, modify and update classic origin epics (accompanying Fantastic Four, X-Men, and Spider-Man): all clearly intended as background story-bibles for newer, movie-oriented fans and readers.

Written by Anthony Johnson (Dead Space, Wasteland, the Alex Rider graphic novels) with competent, workmanlike art from Wellinton Alves & Nelson Periera (Nova, Incredible Hulks, Red She-Hulk) it was far more of an in-filling exercise than radical restoration or reconstruction, leaving most of the canon untouched, and using signature battles against super-foes as background to tell a more contemporary story of City Hall corruption, as young lawyers Matt Murdock and Franklin “Foggy” Nelson fought to save a place of worship from civil malfeasance and racketeering depredations.

Young Matt grew up in the slums, raised by his father Battlin’ Jack Murdock; a second-rate prize-fighter. Determined that the boy would amount to something, Jack extracted a solemn promise from his boy never to fight. Mocked by other kids, who called him “Daredevil”, Matt stuck to his vow, but secretly trained his body to physical perfection.

One day he saved a blind man from a speeding truck, only to be struck in the face by its radioactive cargo. His sight was burned away but his other senses were super-humanly enhanced and he gained a sixth, “radar-sense”.

He told no-one, not even his dad…

Key events are all visited in swift, economic manner before jumping to Daredevil’s first night when the adult Matt donned a distinctive mask and costume to hunt down his father’s killers…

Battlin’ Jack was a boxer in dire financial straits. As his career declined he signed with The Fixer, knowing full well what the corrupt promoter expected from his fighters. Yet somehow his career blossomed. Never aware that he was being set up, Murdock got a shot at the Big Time, but when ordered to take a dive, he adamantly refused. Winning was the proudest moment of his life and when his bullet-riddled corpse was found, the cops had suspicions but no proof…

Heartbroken Matt graduated college with a law degree and set up in business with his room-mate Foggy. They hired a lovely young secretary named Karen Page and opened an office in Murdock’s childhood-home district of Hell’s Kitchen. With his life on track Matt now had time to resolve his father’s murder.

A old promise and his new limits as an officer of the Court stopped him from acting as Murdock…but what if he became “somebody else”…?

In the climactic clash the Fixer perished and the fresh revelations begin here as Daredevil lights a candle in St. Finnian of Clonard Catholic Church. Now that his mission of vengeance has concluded, serious doubts begin to bedevil him, but unbeknownst to the neophyte Man Without Fear, his accidental midnight meeting with the new priest are the start of a critical new relationship.

Just how much so he doesn’t realise it until after meeting the Fantastic Four and defeating high-voltage villain Electro. The next day Father Mullen hires Nelson and Murdock to save St. Finnian’s from being closed down by the City’s corrupt Land Board…

A further distraction occurs when Karen is kidnapped by Leland Owsley – the infamous Owl – and the city almost succumbs to the pheromone-fuelled mental-domination of Killgrave, the Purple Man

Daredevil still feels he hasn’t got to grips with his superhero persona and is oblivious as diligent Foggy proceeds with the case, uncovering an odd connection between Mullen, the Land Board and golden boy Mayoral candidate Councilman William Doyle. Whilst Daredevil and the media are distracted by the Mysterious Masked Matador, a hitman starts making Doyle’s problems go away, and, finally forced to use his brains instead of his fists, Matt finally starts connecting the dots of a criminal tragedy that goes back decades and spans the continent…

Despite pressure mounting from all directions to drop the St. Finnian’s case, Matt and Foggy persist, until Daredevil is again diverted, this time by the mighty-muscled Ox and electrified bandit the Eel, working for mad menace Zoltan Drago in a Fellowship of Fear…

After that climactic battle Matt finally realises his true place in the city’s superhero pantheon and makes some drastic changes to his modus operandi, but it might be too late as Foggy, Karen and Mullen have vanished. With no time to spare Matt swings into action, ready to give the Devil his Due…

Also included in this enticing, compelling hardback is the lead story from the then-latest reboot of the Man Without Fear: (Daredevil #1, 2011, by Mark Waid, Paulo Rivera & Marcos Martin), returning the grim Avenger to his swashbuckling roots in a bombastic battle against teleporting terror The Spot plus ‘A Bonus Tale’ by Waid & Martin, charmingly detailing how his super-senses work.

Fast-paced and action-packed, this entire package rips along like a TV show recap, spartan, on-point and tantalising, and despite poor response from comics aficionados remains a solid primer for newcomers looking for a little brief background to the history and the characters.
© 2011 and 2012 Marvel Characters, Inc. All rights reserved.